Growing up, I recall my dad regularly saying, “I don’t need much; I can live a Spartan existence.” I was confused by that, because didn’t the Spartans hide in a huge horse and then jump out and attack their enemies? (No, it turns out, those were the Trojans.)
Spartans led a particularly simple lifestyle. They didn’t accumulate much and, aside from the clothes on their backs, could probably count on two hands the material possessions to their names.
One social change researchers are beginning to see take root in the wake of the recession is a return to simplicity among a growing segment of Americans. Not only simplicity in living, but downright purging of stuff. New websites and blogs are popping up all over the place chronicling the journey these Americans have embarked upon in an effort to let go.
Tammy Strobel (www.rowdykittens.com) and her husband have made it a point to live life with no more than 100 personal items. They live in a 400-square foot apartment in Oregon. She owns four plates, three pairs of shoes, and two pots. They got rid of their cars and dumped $30,000 in debt.
Today, Tammy is a freelance writer making just over half of what she used to as a project manager for an investment company. And yet, she and her husband can afford to take trips to visit family and friends, focusing more on building relationships instead of accumulating possessions, because they have very low expenses.
Researchers are studying the impact of these decisions and have found that humans are happiest when involved in strong relationships with others, not when they are spending money. However, when spending money, the greatest levels of happiness are derived from spending on experiences – travel, recreation, leisure – that facilitate the building of strong relationships.
So, if we choose to live like Spartans, it appears we’re choosing a life of simple significance over a life of stuff (including big wooden horses).