Buying Happiness

I have just finished You Can by Happiness (and It’s Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too by Tammy Strobel. Tammy is the creator of the popular blog Rowdy Kittens.

In the book Tammy describes the process that she and her husband Logan went through when making the decision to simplify their lives. She talks about finding happiness through simple living, which in the case of Tammy and Logan involved buying and living in a tiny house on wheels. She describes the process of downsizing their belongings to fit in their very small home and the freedom which comes from having less stuff.

Also covered is the process of reclaiming work which becomes possible when debt is eliminated and expenses are significantly reduced. Tammy gradually shifted her career away from the finance industry into the welfare sector, then ultimately to being self employed as a writer and photographer.

I enjoyed the book for the description of the personal journey that Tammy and Logan went through as they gradually learned to want less, and live with less in a much smaller space. Although there is useful advice on how to simplify your life, the story is much more than that. Its the story of a marriage and how a couple can grow together as they construct the type of life that is meaningful for them. I find writing about simplicity richer and more meaningful when it includes the personal story as well as advice.

I find Tammy’s model of alternate ways of earning an income encouraging, as I am exploring my own work options. Keeping needs modest means greater flexibility when it comes to work. Although I live quite cheaply in many ways, I still have some spending habits and expectations that hark back to when I had a reliable full-time job. I need to earn more than I do now as my current position is not sustainable, but maybe I don’t need to earn as much as I am accustomed to earning. I felt encouraged that it is viable to explore some very different work options than what I was doing before.

In that vein, I have quit the gym. It was the last thing on my list of things I had committed to that I didn’t want to be doing. Having a gym membership direct debited from your bank account each fortnight is something you do when you have a steady job. I am glad I did it for a few months, as I feel much stronger, and I think I will be able to take on my own fitness plan for a while. I felt that I had to go three times a week to “get my money’s worth”, but in the humidity of the Sydney summer, that was becoming a strain. I need the freedom to listen to my middle-aging body and speed up or ease up accordingly. But more than that, I found myself saving my energy for the gym, rather than doing natural exercise like going for a walk. Or else I was too tired to work on my projects because I had pushed myself to go to the gym while my stamina was low.

When I got home from the quitting the gym, I began singing an old sunday school song:

H-A-P-P-Y

I am H-A-P-P-Y

I know I am

I’m sure I am

I’m H-A-P-P-Y

Since I am not prone to frequent bouts of spontaneous happy singing, I’ll take this as a sign I am on the right track.

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