Finding Happiness in Simplicity
In our apartment in Portland, we are still sleeping on our camping pads. Our furniture ownership is limited to a borrowed folding table, a cheap folding chair, a donated dresser, and a bunch of cardboard boxes. It looks completely ridiculous, as if we were still broke college kids. But after all of our experiences of the past three and a half years, we are wary of accumulating stuff again. We have learned, deeply, that we are perfectly happy with just a few possessions, and what matters most is the people we meet and the experiences we enjoy.
At it’s heart, this is the message of Tammy Strobel’s new book, You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap). Simplifying our possessions, Tammy posits, creates the space to cultivate rich friendships and pursue meaningful experiences. And it’s through these actions that we are able to actually find the happiness we crave in our lives.
“Humans are notoriously bad at predicting what will make them happy. We guess, ponder, and try to plot our lives. … One major reason for simplifying my life the way I have has been to reverse this equation: to emphasize right now over what may or may not be tomorrow.”
We met Tammy and her husband Logan nearly three years ago, when we tumbled into Sacramento, California. We were tired from the previous two months of traveling by bike, we were coming down with the flu, and Russ had just burnt his hand in a cold-induced lapse of judgement. Tammy and Logan were our saviors, opening up their small apartment to us and giving us the space and support to get healthy. We have been friends ever since.
Over the years, we have watched their progress from small apartment to smaller apartment to tiny house. We have laughed and shared stories and gone bike camping together. And, now, we get to celebrate with them as Tammy’s book finally hits shelves.
What’s great about Tammy’s book is that it’s a collection of stories. From her and Logan’s experiences in simplifying possessions to the experiences of friends and family who are making decisions based on what they want their lives to be, You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap) is a demonstration of simple living rather than a cozy hypothesis. Tammy’s writing allows you to connect with each of the people she profiles, gently encouraging you to think about how your lifestyle supports your values.
“Simplifying and downsizing your life doesn’t necessarily mean living in a tiny house. It’s the philosophy of prioritizing happiness and actively shaping your life and circumstances so that you can focus on what truly matters.”
While I appreciate all of the stories within the book, what stands out most to me is the openness with which Tammy shares her and Logan’s journey over the past several years and their struggles to simplify. Knowing who they are now, I never would have believed that Logan was once a TV lover, or that Tammy used to commute over an hour by car. And it’s important to know this, because change happens slowly and deliberately; all it takes is a shift in awareness and attitude.
“My morning coffee date and daily cycling trips with Logan don’t appear in any GDP metric, but I guarantee our time together has helped me become a productive writer, a more engaged community member, and a better friend and daughter.”
I also appreciate that Tammy isn’t focused on some “right” way to simplify your life. Rather, she wants to inspire us to turn off the autopilot. The stories throughout the book, alongside a lot of impressive research and a variety of “micro-actions,” are designed to create a conversation about what we really want to build in our lives. That can be a hard question to ask and answer, but it’s also an enormous opportunity and an idea that Russ and I can really get behind – because, as you all know, in March 2009, we asked ourselves what we really wanted to do with our lives, and it has led us down an incredible path that just gets more awesome by the minute.
If you’re thinking about simplifying your lifestyle or making some shifts in the way you interact with the world around you, we highly recommend picking up your own copy of You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap).