Simple Living Works!

Archive for April 2013

2-A325Let’s see, what pledges do we remember? Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, of course. Maybe the Girl or Boy Scout Oath. Definitely the Apostles’ Creed. What else might be worthy of a pledge? I pledge allegiance to the Earth. . . .

Pledges are usually serious, though they could be fun too.

Come up with your own pledge. Could be a fun family activity. Could lead to a personal or family Mission Statement.

Some other folks and organizations have already fashioned their Simple Living Pledges and you can read their efforts.

Simpler Living Pledges

img-08I’ve worked with Carol Holst in the Simplicity Forum when she specialized in simplicity education for children. Visit her latest and subscribe to her free biweekly eNews Get Satisfied! at or

The site contains a free interactive handbook and a terrific cartoon gallery.

Postconsumers is an educational company helping to move society beyond addictive consumerism. We are consuming mindfully with an eye toward the satisfaction of enough. In other words, we advocate mindful consumption based on every person’s core values, rather than an endless quest for stuff driven by society. It’s up to each person to decide what’s right for him or her at any particular time. Whether postconsumers choose to be satisfied with a little or a lot, they are all wealthy in their contentment.

There’s nothing like celebrating the centrality of family, community, nature and meaning in all our lives, while reducing the pressures of materialism. It casts a whole new light on current economic upheavals and stress levels, to say the least. To say the most, it contributes not only to healthier people, but also to a healthier planet. It just doesn’t get any more mainstream than that.

Postconsumers offers several ways to Get Satisfied with life at last. Our broad-spectrum book, published by Easton Studio Press, is Get Satisfied: How Twenty People Like You Found the Satisfaction of Enough. Recommendations in O, The Oprah Magazine state that it “presents inspiring case studies. . . If they can do it, so can you.” Now we also offer an exciting “how to” interactive web course, produced in cooperation with the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA. Get Satisfied: How to Find the Satisfaction of Enough is guaranteed to change your life or your money back. Then want to chuckle all the way to satisfaction? Visit our Get Satisfied Cartoon Gallery and Get Satisfied Game Show.

Here’s an excerpt from review of the Get Satisfied Interactive Handbook in the April 2010 newsletter of Dr. April Lane Benson, a leading NYC psychologist who treats shopaholics:

To be a postconsumer is to evolve beyond the inevitable disappointments of consumerism, with its hyped-up treadmill of buy after buy, to the satisfaction of enough. seeks to foster this evolution in individual consumers through its Get Satisfied Interactive Handbook, a light-hearted albeit serious-minded online primer for the journey.

Another Tip

Did you feel compromised this April 15th? Read How to Not Pay Taxes by David M. Gross.

Peace, Gerald

ClustersOptAlternative Lifestyles for Families and Single People

Alternatives’ Legacy Publication

Anyone who wants to understand a people of another time or place will find in their rituals and celebrations a telling evidence of who those people were: their beliefs, their values, their social relationships and responsibilities. Rituals give a more concrete picture of the people than the words they speak. In festivals and celebrations and their attendant symbols, the society’s meaning is bodied forth. Ritual is a means of remembering and transmitting values.
In ritual, a person’s unity with the natural world and with brothers and sisters is expressed. One’s own importance and growth is affirmed by the community. People in ritual understand their own lives as part of a rich fabric of celebrations and rites marking the changing of the seasons, seed time and harvest, conception and birth, puberty, betrothal and marriage and death. In ritual, status and role are affirmed, responsibility is reiterated.

But what about us? The rituals and celebrations and festivals which used to define us are dried up. We no longer embrace the values and relationships they were intended to manifest. Our patriotic holidays are a source of embarrassment and shame. In the echo of the salvo at the Memorial Day cemetery we hear the bombs of useless destruction in Asia. At the roll of the drum on the Fourth of July our wrath, rather than our pride, is stirred.

Cluster life revives the hope and possibility of authentic celebration once again. We need not hope to revive old symbols. Symbols come from event and memory and, when forgotten, are unlikely to be revived. But life together suggests new traditions to be established which body forth who we are in relation to our world and to each other and what we are becoming.

Although we can spoil the Christmas season by excessive expectations, modest attempts by clusters to seize upon the holiday as a time to redistribute wealth, and to affirm solidarity with the poor and lowly, may be very satisfying. And the ritual embodiment of what the cluster believes about a community of goods and property may be launched.

– Excerpt from Final Word

Here’s the complete Table of Contents.

courage_brochure-frontThis collection of essays by many well-known writers takes a look at our culture and asks, “Do you have the courage to think differently?” The book is tenacious and passionate. It is a rich resource for missional thinking about the Christian church.

Written and edited by George S. Johnson.

In the Preface, Walter Brueggemann says,

Johnson sees clearly that the Gospel in its central intent is not about saving of souls, as in much traditional piety. It is about the rule of God in the world and the ways in which that rule impinges upon matters of economics and politics. Johnson has recruited a remarkable cast of our most courageous activist thinkers.

In the Foreword, Frances Moore Lappe says,

As I see it, today’s hyper-tribe, herded by global institutions of media and corporate expansion, is paddling right over Victoria Falls. That is, we appear headed toward mega-catastrophe, whether it’s the specter of massive climate dislocations, species decimation or “simply” economic inequalities so vast we can no longer communicate as a single species.

So, today, staying with the pack, which once ensured life, now means certain death for all we love. Simply put, we must break with the pack to protect life, even though it’s the scariest thing of all. That’s why I rank courage as today’s critical virtue.

And it is why I love this book. It calls us to think deeply about what it takes to “think differently.” How do we build courage? How do we spread it?

Courage to Think Differently falls squarely into several of the five Life Standards of Voluntary Simplicity – Do Justice, Non-conform Freely, etc.

Self-published with the help of friends, 300+ pages for $10 with generous quantity discounts for an Adult Forum or book club. Order direct from the publisher, or 1-800-678-7006 (or, if you dare, from

George S. Johnson is the author of Beyond Guilt and Powerlessness, Critical Decisions in Following Jesus, and co-author of Evangelism and the Poor. He has served as the Director of the Hunger Program for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and Third World Opportunities. He served parishes in MN and CA, and now lives with his wife, Vivian, in Laguna Woods, CA.

Read his essay Grace Yes, But Not Only Grace.

Read my brief blog about meeting George. Click, then scroll down to Post #71.


Thinking toward Earth Day, April 22, I hope the following free media will inspire you as much as they do me!

  • Eco-Justice Ministry helps churches go green. You might like to subscribe to their weekly eNews.
  • is the Sierra Club’s excellent weekly podcast. (30 minutes)
  • Living on Earth, the radio show from Public Radio International. Check out their podcast or find the show on your local public radio station.
  • Earth Focus is a 30-minute environmental news magazine that puts a human face on environmental issues by featuring under-publicized stories about how environmental changes are affecting everyday people.
  • Enviro Close-Up is a 30-minute TV interview series that can also be found on Blip.TV.
  • is an international movement to stop the climate crisis. The best way to take part is by organizing in your community. Read “Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet” by Bill McKibben, co-founder of
  • Watch Learn how you can support local food systems and benefit personally as well as enhancing your community and our environment. We will examine the special relationships that develop between the growers and the chefs and the consumers. By searching through the steps and the interactions of all the factors involved in bringing Food from the Farm to the Plate, we hope to show the deeper values and hidden benefits of supporting your local food systems.

EarthScore: Your Personal Environmental Audit & Guide

This book will make you aware of your connections to the Earth. Physically, we interact with the Earth in hundreds of different ways, most often indirectly through things we buy like food, consumer goods, and electricity—but also directly in acts such as driving and gardening. EarthScore takes you through a fun and educational exercise and tallies Impact Points, which assess one’s impact on the environment; counts Action Points, measuring positive contributions, and provides a score and rating on your own EarthScore chart. Used by many organizations and colleges.

Only $5 (including shipping). 48 pages, 8.5 × 11 with pullout EarthScore chart, paperback. To order a copy just e-mail your name and address to or write Jack Howell at Morning Sun Press, 1240 Quandt Road, Lafayette, CA 94549. Phone/fax (925) 932-1383. Visit Morning Sun Press for information on the book and solar cooking.

BONUS: Tips for simpler celebrations for the holidays and festivals in May-August.

ImageI count Bob Sitze as one of a handful of real champions of contemporary faith-based voluntary simple living. His twice-a-week blogs at make me think. And they make me chuck more than all the other blogs I read put together. (Anyone can read his posts but only subscribers to The Lutheran can leave comments. Lucky me.) I read Bob’s new book in installments.

Here’s what Bob says about his latest.


I’m pleased to announce that the Alban Institute has now published my first e-book, available at Amazon or Barnes and Noble, Simple Enough: A Companion for the Journey. The book is a collection of about 150 entries that span an imagined year’s journey through life. (The entries were originally published at the Web site for Lutheran Magazine, and adapted to an e-reader format.)  If you’re seeking simplicity in your life, I think these 300-word entries could serve as periodic nudges or encouragements for your persistence in trying to walk lightly on the Earth. Sometimes the writing will make you fret, at other times chuckle — and perhaps wince a little bit, too. My intent in all these entries is to encourage you along the way.

ImageI hope you find Simple Enough worthy of your consideration as an e-book e-companion.

God keep you joyful!

Bob Sitze

And his publisher says. . .

In his newest work, simplicity blogger Bob Sitze offers readers a year’s worth of periodic observations into the universe of simple living. Sometimes whimsical, often challenging, and always encouraging, Simple Enough wanders through the landscape of contemporary society, helping readers make sense out of their earnest attempts to find joy in managing their lifestyles. Over 150 short and sturdy entries fill the book, casting the author’s insistent eye on parenting, consumerism, faith-based decision-making, technology, daily-life stewardship, and congregational life. A special bonus section helps church leaders approach annual fund-raising efforts in simple ways.

ISBN# 978-1-56699-438-5
Alban No. 438
Digital Only

About the Author

Church consultant, writer and self-styled neuroecclesiologist Bob Sitze brings decades of significant congregational and denominational leadership to this book. His previous works for Alban Institute include Starting Simple: Conversations About the Way We Live. An ardent critic and beneficiary of contemporary church life, Bob lives and works alongside his spouse Chris in Wheaton, Illinois.


Graphic: Spirit of Simplicity
1. Voluntary Simplicitiy

Planning for retirement is much more than socking money away.

When we were in our early 50’s, Rita and I pledged to each other that in preparing to retire, we would reduce our possessions by ten percent per year for ten years. Doing the math, we’d end up with 30% of what we started with. We planned to retire in my hometown on the California Central Coast. We figured we could move there with 30%.

We discovered that it takes time to find a good home for usable stuff. When I retired from ministry of music, I gave all my choral music to our daughter’s alma mater, Augustana College, Sioux Falls, SD. I gave my organ music to our son’s alma mater, Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa. They were appropriately grateful. And after the third car-load they said they had plenty, thank you.

Rita devised her own plan to reduce. She really likes clothes. So each January she would reduce her wardrobe by 10% and give it to a worthwhile non-profit thrift store. Then she practiced the one-for-one rule. One item in, one item out. As we got closer to the end of our ten-year pledge, she had to start with two-for-one. Two items out for each incoming.

Because we gave away rather than selling – garage sales are such a pain – we got a nice tax deduction each year.  That’s important to us because we don’t want our tax money used for war.

The plan worked well. We were able to move to Calif. in two compact cars. No moving van, no trailers.


Most parents pass some of their precious possessions to their children. They’re called hand-me-downs. We have a similar tradition but in reverse – hand-me-ups. Our kids give us their obsolete items. After college our son gave us his old car. It gave us five more years of service. In fact, we’ve never bought a new car. Our daughter gave me her old laptop when she needed a faster one. It serves me very well.

On my speaking tours I’ve met elders who complain, “I’ve been saved all this stuff for my kids, and now they don’t want it!” Rita and I vowed that we would not make our possessions a burden for our kids, so we save the few things they do want – memorabilia mostly – put their name on the bottom, and find a new home for the rest.

If you are set to inherit over 20 tea cup/saucer sets like Rita was from her mother or hundreds of old pop bottles from her father, then save one or two to focus all your love and attention on. Remember, it’s not about tea cups. It’s about memories.

Another way to preserve memories is to take a picture of some precious objects. Put the pictures in a scrap book, go through it from time-to-time to bring back that flood of sentimental memories. But don’t keep all the cups and bottles. They slow us down and collect dust!

Is it time for you to make or update your retirement plan? Give yourself time so that useful items don’t end up in the landfill or as a burden to you kids.

The podcast Simple Living – Practical Implications contains these and other ideas to hear and share. | Program notes.