Philadelphia, PA

Why I'm Happy to Live with Less -- And You Could Be Too!

Roz Warren

I work at a circulation desk of a public library, and I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent watching people rooting through their purses, handbags and backpacks trying to find their library cards.

I stand there patiently as they remove bulging wallets from mammoth pocketbooks and start sorting through the plastic.

Credit cards. Health club membership cards. Insurance cards. Department store loyalty cards.

“It’s here somewhere,” they’ll mutter. “I know I’ve got it. I really should be more organized.”

I refrain from agreeing, “Yes, you certainly should.”

And I certainly don’t add, “What you really ought to do is get rid of most of that stuff.”

I just keep my mouth shut and marvel at the huge collection of crap most people carry around.

Finally, they’ll locate their library card and hand it to me. Or fail to locate the card. “What happened to it?” they’ll wonder.

Who knows? It probably is in there somewhere. The problem is, so is everything else.

I’m a minimalist. I only have one credit card. And just four other cards in my wallet. My driver’s license. My AAA card. My insurance card. And, of course, my library card.

And that’s it.

I enjoy not being weighed down by stuff. Yes, I know, that’s almost un-American! Still, I resist consumer culture.

I live in a small house. I buy clothes rarely and wear them until they actually wear out. I own a 2002 Toyota that I almost never use because I’d rather walk than drive.

Twenty-one years ago, I left the practice of law to work at my local public library when I realized that having fun was more important to me than having money. Now I make a tiny fraction of what I’d be making if I’d continued to practice law.

But I enjoy my life a lot more.

I can’t afford the world travel, the pricey coffee table art books and the expensive restaurant meals that I used to enjoy. Do I miss those things? Not enough to return to the rat race that makes them possible.

This is what I’ve discovered — having less means having less stress.

I’m not talking about being poor. Obviously, that’s incredibly stressful. I’m talking about having just enough. But not too much.

I don’t own a television. I don’t shop for recreation. I never go near the mall. So what do I do for fun? I read. I spend time with my friends. I swim. I go for long walks with the dog in my suburban Philadelphia neighborhood. (Where I can and do, literally, stop and smell the roses.)

Going for a walk with a good pal and having a great conversation is my favorite pass time.

Cost to me? Nothing.

The best things in life really are free.

The culture we live in is urging us to buy things. Drive a newer car! Wear the latest fashion! Live in a great big house! Get the latest gadget! Get two!

Big is better than small, and more is better than less.

All I’m suggesting is that we can choose not to buy into this. (Pun intended.)

Do I have a better life? A more enjoyable life? I have no idea.

If having a bunch of stuff is working for you, that’s great. All I know for sure is that not having a lot of stuff makes me happy. (Plus, it’s better for the planet.)

And I probably spend a lot less time searching for stuff than you do.

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Roz Warren, the author of JUST ANOTHER DAY AT YOUR LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY, has appeared on both the Today Show and Morning Edition, writes for everyone from the Funny Times to the New York Times, and has been included in 13 Chicken Soup for the Soul collections. Drop her a line at

Bala Cynwyd, PA

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