Thursday, January 23, 2014

Living Simply?

Last week, I was out wandering this fair city of mine via bike.  As you are likely aware, I signed myself up for a January challenge to see how many (non-training) cycling miles I could get in this month. One afternoon, I decided to check out a neighborhood that I always buzz past when I'm out on training rides in the summer months. Just wanting to see the 'hood, I decided to venture down several streets. Sam and I had actually looked at some of the smaller homes in the area when they were being built almost a decade ago, but things have definitely changed since the tract first started up. I was amazed by the number of gigantic homes in the area. They were so large that I actually believed they were condo/apartment complexes, but then realized that the structures had only one large garage attached and came to the realization that they were actually single family residences. I estimated that some must have been closing in on 5-7,000 square feet between the main level areas and basements.
This home has some gorgeous views of the mountains, I would presume (though it was outside of the neighborhood I was pedaling through).
Caught up in the grandeur of it all, I kept pedaling, wondering if all the homes were so large. It's quite a stark contrast to the neighborhood I reside in, which mostly contains homes under 1,000 square feet. True, most of those in our area were built prior to 1940, and it was a completely different time that had different needs and requirements in a home, but I nearly found myself gasping at the size of some of these, what I would term, "estates" rather than houses. I certainly don't begrudge anyone their home, and if they can afford to purchase a house of such size, I am by no means stating that they shouldn't own it. However, I couldn't help but think about the massive economic differences just a few miles makes in one city.  Because my mind wanders when I ride, I couldn't help but ponder what these individuals careers might be and how anyone locally could have enough income to support what I assume must be quite a substantial mortgage.
This is an adjacent neighborhood, in the processing of being built. For some parts of the country, I am aware that a $700k starting price doesn't seem so outrageous - and I suppose for this area in our county/city, it wouldn't be either - but it is definitely not accessible for most of the population.
As I continued to ride and twist through the neighborhood, I passed a home with a 4-car garage and a single open door that revealed an array of sundries being stored. At the opposite side of the driveway sat a late model, mid-level vehicle. As I slowly pedaled by, I noticed a bumper sticker on the rear of the car that read, "Live Simply." The sticker caught me so off guard that I actually laughed aloud. Then, I started to think... perhaps for this family this is living simply? Maybe they once had an even larger home with more "things" that this now seems to be a pared down life for them? After all, I have an acquaintance who recently shared that she was "downsizing" her family into a 3,000 square foot home. While it may seem mansion-esqe to me, for her it was a huge adjustment to fit life into a smaller space. Still, she has never once stated that she is learning to live a simpler life with the move. Is it really possible that this is living "simply" for some?

All of this had me thinking about how one defines such a thing as a simple life. Is there any one definition that can be universally acknowledged? When Sam and I moved to our current home a few years ago, we knew it would be a smaller space in order to live in a location that we deemed desirable for our lifestyle. We also wanted the mortgage to be affordable so that I could attempt to make it in a career that has incredibly unstable/unreliable income. I don't know that we ever actually said the words that we were looking to live a simple life, but in essence, we knew that we would have to donate excess items and any time we wanted to bring a new item into the house, something else would need to be donated or sold because there just isn't space to house superfluous items. I don't view this as giving up anything, but rather a choice that we made to (hopefully) provide a better life. I don't feel as though I'm lacking anything, but maybe it's because I haven't ever had that sort of life? I think for some people a simple life has very different meaning, or perhaps the saying/term is reserved for certain portions of their lives.

Perhaps riding a bicycle is part of a simple life to one person, while someone else considers a bicycle a sign of prestige, wealth, or something else entirely. After all, I live in the land of people who frequently own bicycles worth 2-3 times the cost of their motorized vehicle(s). I often wonder if some of these folks realize how truly simple riding a bike can be, and that it doesn't take a great deal of monetary investment to participate in a great means of transportation, fitness, and pure pleasure.


  1. Great observation! It's all relative.

  2. People do not live simply, It's so very, very complicated. Particularly when it's accessible, you live above and beyond what is necessary. Bikes are the beauty of simplicity.

  3. I have those moments quite often here in Nashville as well. It blows my mind at how big the houses are and how vulgar it seems sometimes... then I wonder how the hell these people afford to live like this.

  4. i agree. The bigger the house, the more "things" you need to buy to fill the house. A smaller home forces you to make do with what you have.


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