Simple Living/Downshifting


I was at an outdoor art show last summer in Minneapolis. There were all sorts of works by local artists, mostly paintings, necklaces, jewelry, and pottery. Some of it was a bit amateurish, but most of the work was amazing. One guy was running a photography shop that was filled with unbelievable pictures. He had taken images of canyons, forests, oceans and had added colors in random spots that were surreal and otherworldly. While I was examining his work and questioning whether photography would be a fun thing to get into I overheard a group of girls talking about his work.

“That’s cool, I want that!”

“I want that one!”

“This would look good in my room.”

I continued observing other people a bit as I looked at more of the art. The jewelry and accessory booths were similar. Different people, same thing.

“I want this gold necklace”

“I need one of those!”

It struck me that day, and still continues to do so when I hear it. People have this need to collect things. We think that having will enrich us. Simply appreciating is not enough. What is wrong with seeing art and appreciating it for what it is?

waterfallsTo me, a picture of a waterfall is nice to look at. There are many waterfalls near where I live, and I could go visit a live one if I wanted to. I don’t need to own the waterfall. And if I did, it would just make me wet, angry, and I’d have to avoid it on my way to the shower in the morning.

This may sound absurd, but how much different is owning an expensive car?
I can look at a Mustang and think, “That’s a cool-looking car. It’s owner probably compensating for something and as a result, has less in his wallet.” To me a car is just a means to an end. My ego is not tied up with who manufactured it, how many horses are under the hood or how quickly it can go from zero to 60 (and subsequently, how quickly I can be hauled off to jail.)

My point is this: Sometimes it is nice to just appreciate what is in front of you without needing to possess it. The more you possess, the more complicated life can become. That expensive mustang needs to be paid off somehow. And it’s owner can expect to have to work a greater number of hours, harder, or perhaps have a second job to support the steel beast of burden while it sits in a parking lot all day getting admired by envious people.

There are ways you can work on appreciating more and wanting less. Take this challenge, for instance. It’s obviously not easy to visit a friend who lives in a larger house than you do without making any comparisons to your own situation. It’s called, “Keeping up with the Joneses.” But do you know what is even more difficult? Try visiting this house and appreciating some of it’s intricacies without comparing or wanting.

rosesyellowishReally! Try it sometime! It’s not easy. Go hang out with a wealthy person. (Don’t ask me how to do this! You probably know at least one millionaire, though they tend to not advertise the fact that they have money.) Explore their home in secret when they go to use the facilities or prepare the Quiche Lorraine. Instead of saying, “I want that kitchen,” or “I wish I could have my own garden,” say to yourself, “This garden is beautiful,” or “this garden is ugly.” You don’t have to like the damn garden. Just notice what is there and appreciate it for what it is.

You’ll probably find that once you remove the “need to own” from the equation and make a habit of this, life becomes a little bit easier to appreciate, and maybe a little more beautiful.


Leave a Comment