This I Believe

LOREEN LILYN - Seattle, Washington
Entered on May 8, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe the less stuff I have, the happier I am. I know this is a different kind of American Dream. But isn’t the pursuit of happiness a matter of personal choice—of having stuff or not having stuff?

I am selective about the kind of stuff I have. For example, I value technology, but I can live without the newest, fastest, coolest.

If you call me and I’m home, I will pick up my land-line phone. If you get a busy signal, I could be on the phone or online using my dial-up service provider. Sorry, you will have to try again later. I don’t have call-waiting, an automated message service, or a cell phone.

For long-distance calls, I use a prepaid card. Punching in series of numbers can be tedious, I admit, but I pay only pennies per minute.

Among my friends, I may be the only one without a cell phone. I agree they are convenient; when away from home or office, it’s not always easy finding a payphone and having the right change. But I don’t have a high-powered job or one that requires me to be on the road. I have no dependents and live alone so I don’t share my phone or computer.

Unless something changes, I don’t foresee getting a cell phone anytime soon. Though tempting, it’s too expensive for my budget. My phone and telecommunications systems may be archaic in today’s digital world, but with a free internet service provider, I only pay for phone service ($21) and a personal voice mailbox ($11) for a grand total of $32 per month.

At home, my old laptop works perfectly well. I bought it second-hand loaded with Windows 98 five years ago. Not having the most current operating system is an unplanned blessing: computer viruses target the newest systems, not old operating systems like mine, which makes my computer immune from the nasty viruses floating in cyberspace.

I drive a 1990 Toyota Corolla. I paid cash when I bought it. It has 135,000 miles, and my mechanic says this engine could easily keep going for over 200,000 miles. So, no car payments now or in the near future.

You can probably guess I don’t have a mortgage. I love my small, heat-efficient apartment and can walk from home to office in fifteen minutes. And no worries about household repairs—I just call my landlord.

I probably sound like an old geezer, but living with older technology and old stuff that still works isn’t an age thing. I don’t mind being uncool. I prefer living simply and debt-free. And being conservative with personal spending lets me save for retirement.

For me, less is more. Less stuff gives me more freedom, more balance, more time for those things truly precious: literary pursuits, experiencing the world, music and dance, love and laughter, peace of mind and spirit. I am living my American Dream today.