Get Satisfied: How 20 People Like You Found the Satisfaction of Enough” recently landed on my desk. It caught my attention not just because of the topic but because one of the essays—the first, in fact—was written by a Capital Region resident: J. Eva Nagel, of Stillwater, New York.
I spoke with Nagel and Carol Holst, the book’s editor and the co-director of Get Satisfied, a non-profit affiliated with the CRESP Center for Transformative Action at Cornell University. Holst, who lives simply—and by all appearances joyfully—in Glendale, California, discussed the book, the campaign and the concept of “enough” with me.
What motivated the “Get Satisfied” book?
The number one myth we are dispelling is the idea that simple living is about deprivation. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Less truly is more!
Our main objective was to draw a cross-section of views about what’s “enough” and not just to preach to the converted. This campaign is our effort to reach the mainstream in a positive way.
Scientists have shown that materialism and consumerism are creating so much stress and depression in this country. It’s a false basis on which to build an economy and a society. Our addiction to stuff is really poisonous. We can get out this information now, especially, because people are opening up to new possibilities. We can really begin to question a society based on materialism and consumerism, and present an alternative that’s more enjoyable.
Do you think the economy has changed the way people view consumption?
There’s been such an uptick (in interest) similar to after 9/11. After 9/11, people were questioning the brief time that we have on this planet and what we do with it.
Then folks got settled back into wanting the compelling sorts of “brightly-coloured baubles” that run our lives. I think for the last year there’s been such a surge of interest not only in the simple-living field but in the satisfaction of “enough.”
We aren’t judging anyone; we’re just raising the question of what is “enough.” It is wonderful when people are able to see down the road a bit and come at it with desire and not a budget. These days, it’s mostly budget-driven. People are scared about their savings and their jobs.
How can people figure out what “enough” is?
To me, step one is to just take a few minutes or a few days to think deeply about these questions: “What do I want out of life? What tends to be the current way my life is being directed? Am I happy with that, or do I want to establish a different life?” It’s about aligning [one’s] self to one’s values.
Once that happens, there are so many ways to tap into the exploration of “what satisfies me.”
If it turns out that materialism and consumerism is not the centrepiece, I would suggest talking with like-minded people. Peer support and those friendship ties can become so important.
Reconnecting with nature, organic gardening, camping, hiking—anything that gets you out of the store-bought mentality and taps into creativity can be transformative.
Reducing exposure to the TV and advertising is an important step. It takes a pretty strong person to be able to resist that!
Do you buy much?
I rarely do because I feel like I have enough, but I personally love thrift stores. I have a good relationship with Goodwill and the Salvation Army. Buying used not only impacts the environment but social justice. I just feel better not to be using something that hasn’t already been used.
What is your own life like?
There are two rooms in my apartment: One’s an office, the other is my living space, with a bed, chairs, table… It’s just the right amount of space.
I have a wonderful computer; I have a wonderful answering machine, my phone. I don’t have a cell phone because it would be another number and another expense. I find I can’t communicate as well [with a cell].
Do you feel attached to any of your things?
Old photographs of when my kids were growing up? I’ve become pretty unemotionally involved with stuff, which is a nice place to be.
I’ve never been so free in my life, even though I’m tremendously busy. I’m really content, possibly for the first time. I’ve always been the kind of person yearning in some way. I’m really no longer yearning because I’ve found the satisfaction of “enough.”
What books would you recommend to those interested in learning more?
I recommend anything by Wanda Urbanska (the host of the public television show “Simple Living with Wanda Urbanska”) and these landmark books:
- “Voluntary Simplicity,” by Duane Elgin
- “Your Money or Your Life,” by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
- “The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the Good Life,” by Cecile Andrews
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”—Leonardo Da Vinci.[box]Naomi Seldin’s interview with Carol Holst. Get Satisfied is now Postconsumers.org, but the message remains the same. To learn more and contribute your own story, visit the Get Satisfied website. Originally published on March 26, 2009.[/box]