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.

4 comments:

  1. Great observation! It's all relative.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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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