how much is enough? virtual bookclub #1

So the other day my copy of How much is enough? The love of money and the case for the good life arrived.


I’m only a few pages in and already excited. The authors Robert and Edward Skidelsky (father and son), hit the nail on the head for me when they write:

“To say that my purpose in life is to make more and more money is like saying that my aim in eating is to get fatter and fatter.”

Indeed. And this:

“The irony is... that now that we have at last achieved abundance, the habits bred into us by capitalism have left us incapable of enjoying it properly.”

Yep.

I also came across this short video recently, from The Centre for a New American Dream, which illustrates (quite literally) how, I believe, we really want to live. Deep down, at a guttural level, don’t we all want to have more time to spend with friends and family, doing the things we love doing, doing things that are meaningful and purposeful, having fun, connecting – really connecting – with the people and places around us?




The gist of the Plenitude Economy outlined in the video is this...

We can’t save the world by buying things. We can’t buy our way out of our unhappiness and our environmental problems.

Which happens to line up nicely with this next key point:

We live to work, work to earn, and earn to consume. Yet our consumption (over consumption) is squandering the earth’s natural resources and f*ing things up for our planet. And, in the end, making us unhappy and sick.

So perhaps the key is to say “STOP”. Let’s reassess what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Let’s commit to breaking this vicious cycle of overconsumption and overwork (that sadly resides alongside underemployment and poverty) and say enough is enough.

The video and the book poke at the same answers:

  • We need to work less. 4 days, 3 days.
  • Working less would free up more time to live our lives in a way that doesn’t impact so heavily on the environment. We know for a fact that carbon emissions go up when working hours go up. 
  • Working less give us more time to do meaningful, life-assuring things, like growing our own food, DIY-ing, building relationships, building communities... these are also the things that make us happy. 
  • Working less would see us consuming less, which would ease the pressure off resources. We know material goods don’t make us happy anyway.

Slow living
.

I know this works because I recently scaled back my working hours, down to 3 days. It’s forcing me (in a good way) to consume less, be more creative and make better use of the stuff I do have. Actually, it’s forcing me (again, in a good way) to be happy (grateful?) with the stuff I do have. Since going part-time:

  • I haven’t purchased anything I didn’t truly need (besides two books, but I rationalise books that enrich my mind and soul).
  • I’m not wasting anything at home. I’ve taken to freezing produce a lot more so I can avoid food wastage.
  • If something breaks, I don’t go out and buy a new one. When our fridge malfunctioned a while back, we got it fixed, even though the fridge is old and ugly.
  • I don’t buy bottled drinks, and I make more of an effort to pack food from home to eat at work. And the meals I’m eating are simpler (still delicious) with less meat and more veg (which is key to good health and longevity).
  • I was given a sewing machine for my birthday a little while ago. I can’t actually sew yet, but a lesson or two and I’ll be making my own clothing in no time ;)
  • I'm becoming more mindful, more... philosophical, if you like. For instance, I've stopped flicking on the ducted heating to warm the house, and instead put on more clothes. I figure this doesn't just save resources and money, but it makes me more appreciative of my clothes and the hard work that went into producing them (thanks farmers, designers and clothes-stichers).

You get the gist.

What do you think of all this? Do you agree that cutting ‘normal’ working hours to a 3 or 4 day week would help us overcome some of the challenges we face today, like overwork, underemployment, overconsumption, poor wellbeing and environmental pollution?

What do you do to consume less? 

And, has anyone started on the book? 

If you haven't got yourself a copy of the book yet, or you're not really sure you want to, you might like to opt for reading this free publication instead, which is in the same vein as the book, by the New Economics Foundation, in the UK. It's free to download (scroll down to bottom of their page).


9 comments:

  1. I love this. I honestly believe that we would be much happier as indivuduals and more fulfilled as mothers/fathers/husbands/wives/friends if we had less work load. I feel consumed by my work with very little 'me' left over for my children and husband let alone for myself. It's a personal choice isn't it? Live simply or have it all? We can choose at an individual level how much we work vs how much leisure time we have. You've hit my ah-ha button with this post, thank you!

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    1. Ah, I know that feeling of 'feeling consumed by work'. Going PT has made me so much more relaxed. People have commented on how much more relaxed and well I look. I'm glad I hit your 'ah-ha button'!

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  2. Hi Maria

    I started How Much is Enough the other day and have just got to chapter 2. It's a good read so far, outlining a lot of the things I have been reading elsewhere and thinking about for the last few years.

    I scaled down my work hours a few years ago when I decided to go to uni. After 18 months my partner and I decided to buy a house so I had to go back to full time work in order to get a mortgage. While I knew in my head this was a smart financial move, it left me depressed and annoyed with the fact that I didn't seem to have any other choice. After a year of full time work I'd had enough, this was not what life was about! I decided to scale back, to do whatever it took to be able to not work all the time and to somehow get off the endless treadmill of working, sleeping, spending.

    So, I sold my car. I stopped buying things I wanted and instead only buy what I need. I started cooking all my own food from scratch and growing herbs and veggies in the garden. I cancelled my gym membership and started running. I joined the library. I got rid of the TV. I stopped buying magazines (as well as all the ads, even the articles are just thinly-veiled attampts to make us buy, buy buy!).

    As well as saving money and allowing me to reduce my work to 4 days a week, this shift has been absolutely life-changing. I no longer get depressed or anxious and I have learnt so much about myself. I am fitter and healthier than I have ever been in my life. I take enormous pride in the things I can make and the way I can make do. I have gained so much self-esteem from not having endless media messages of insufficiency forced at me. And I spend a lot more time doing the things I love - studying, seeing friends and family, getting dirty in the garden.

    What worries me now is the dawning realisation that our entire culture (Western capitalism) thrives on people NOT doing these things. While it is all well and good for a minority of individuals to voluntarily step off the treadmill, I have a feeling that it's going to take some pretty major events to get any kind of systemic change off the ground. I look forward to reading what the Skidelsky's have to say about this...

    So thanks for the book recommendation, I'm looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts on it too :)

    F xx

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    1. I love this! Thanks for sharing x

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    2. Inspiring story, F. You said: "... I had to go back to full time work in order to get a mortgage. While I knew in my head this was a smart financial move, it left me depressed and annoyed with the fact that I didn't seem to have any other choice." Ah, yes. The Great Australian Dream. It's a bit of a false dichotomy, choosing a mortgage over renting I think. There are other options such as going it debt-free and building a small house on cheap land.

      My dream is to build a tiny house (maybe from a shipping container) on a cheap block in rural Tasmania or Victoria. This way I can go mortgage-free and I don't have to feel the stress of a mortgage dangling around my neck for the next 30 years. Nor feel fulfilled by paying off somebody else's mortgage and having nothing to show at the end.

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  3. I have yet to get the book, but for me you really sum up the idea when you said:

    "I know this works because I recently scaled back my working hours, down to 3 days. It’s forcing me (in a good way) to consume less, be more creative and make better use of the stuff I do have. Actually, it’s forcing me (again, in a good way) to be happy (grateful?) with the stuff I do have."

    Being at home, unemployed while my partner 'earns the bacon', has forced me to rethink what I value. While I spent the first few months fretting over not working and BORED, I found my way out of my boredom by reading and learning more about living a more healthy and sustainable life and how I can start implementing it.

    Less work for me, means the ability to do the 'DYI' concept as mentioned, by taking the time to plan and cook more healthy and thoughtful means for the home, and soon to grow our own food, which has so much more value than just saving money (to me that's the side benefit), but rather growing HEALTHIER food (non-GMO, organic, non-chemical touched). I have also been able to explore a home-based business and have learned to LOVE sewing (have always liked it, but it's definitely evolved). I'm able to use my creative side, which has been fairly dormant for 15 years +, and I'm LOVING IT!

    I think this book needs to go on my MUST BUY ASAP list!

    Thanks for sharing! Love reading your posts :)

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    1. Thanks Laura. Yep, when I first went PT, it was quite a shift in my mindset, and I remember feeling really odd about it, like, 'what am I going to do with myself'. The feeling wore off pretty quick!

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  4. I have the book waiting for me to read on my kindle (trying to lessen the books) but I wake up every morning feeling totally overwhelmed by the 'stuff' we have in the house. Slowly things are changing but I'm a bit impatient - I'm trying to set an example to my boys (along with my husband and myself) that we really don't need "everything".
    Had my wake up call the other day - the reason I can't fit things to be packed away is not for the lack of storage - we just simply have too much stuff!
    That's going to be my mission - to minimise the stuff but maximize our living.
    Happy reading - can't wait to see how others 'minimize' their world for maximum impact!!

    have a great day - ps - love your blog!!

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  5. I happened to wander past a book store a few days after reading this and found the book tucked away by the university philosophy books, and simply had to make a budgetary exception to buy it. And I'm so glad I did! I'm a few chapters in now and it's pretty awesome - it's wonderful to read a sort of 'scientific' defence of my desire to work less. (even typing the words "work less" out makes me cringe - but I'm trying!) I'm in my second year of AmeriCorps, leading a team doing service in a school, and 10 hour days combined with an hour and a half of public transit on either end take me away from the home for 14 or more hours a day. Granted service is only really meant to be a year (I'm one of the crazy ones who decided to do two), and it's not the grind that bothers me - I absolutely love my job - it's just the time away from home, and having to pack all my farmer's market shopping - cooking - baking - soap making into the weekend, when all I really want is quality time with my fiance and loved ones. This book makes me feel so much better because it shows that that desire to work less is TOTALLY OK and even GOOD - despite what we (and I) have been conditioned to think - especially in my world in America, more work means more respect. But I'm realizing that is not all that matters. Thanks so much for the recommendation!!

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