September 30, 2009

My Mom Would Think You're Lazy

Anyone seriously considering downsizing, or living with less, is going to be up against formidable opposition. Courage, perseverance, and a tough leathery hide are required to venture into the Simple Zone. When troubled times call for us to go shopping in order to do our part, not doing so is risking being unpatriotic. Being seen as a penny-pinching tight-wad pales in comparison.

When I first decided that I wanted to delve deeper into simple living, some thought I was making a colossal mistake, or worse. I could have stayed in my teaching position until I was 65, rather than retire at age 40.

Thing is, over the course of my career I heard of many colleagues that passed away shortly before, or just after retiring. All that financial planning is rendered ineffective if you die before the first pension check hits your mailbox. I had to change my life before it happened to me.

I took a two year sabbatical first, wanting to ease into a life with less. After the freedom of these two years I couldn't go back. I quit.

"If you don't teach what will you do?" I was asked. My mind was reeling thinking of the infinite possibilities. Don't get me wrong, teaching was one of the most incredible and satisfying things I have ever done. But it has a way of consuming your time; it takes over your life, becomes your life. It is 'right livelihood' but at what cost?

Someone else asked, "What about retirement?" Since I try to live in the moment, considering this was not at the top of my list. Sixty-five felt like a long way away, and I wanted to retire to a simpler life immediately.

My favorite reaction, though, came from two individuals I didn't even know. I explained to these friends of friends, that I had quit teaching to live a slower-paced, environmentally responsible, low-income life.

The young couple were silent as they shook their heads in response to my words. Finally the woman looked at me, and proclaimed, "My mom would think you are lazy."

Ouch. Move over Big Brother, Big Mother is here.

Call me a slacker, call me a hippie, a radical even, but don't tell me your Mom thinks I'm lazy. That's just mean. I guess what she was saying was she thought that my work ethic sucked.

This is what 20th-century French philosopher André Gorz wrote about the work ethic:

The work ethic has become obsolete. It is no longer true that producing more means working more, or that producing more will lead to a better way of life. 
The connection between more and better has been broken; our needs for many products and services are already more than adequately met, and many of our as-yet-unsatisfied needs will be met not by producing more, but by producing differently, producing other things, or even producing less. 
This is especially true as regards our needs for air, water, space, silence, beauty, time and human contact. Neither is it true any longer that the more each individual works, the better off everyone will be.

- Critique of Economic Reason, 1989

Go tell your momma that.

We have to become smarter about work and consumption and quality of life. We have to lift our foot off the gas pedal as we speed toward the precipice. If that means affecting the 72% of the economy that consumer spending accounts for, then so be it.

It has to happen or we are going over the cliff. I do not intend to do a Thelma and Louise thing. I am getting out of the car before it takes the plunge, even if your mom thinks I'm lazy, and wants to see me disappear over the horizon.

Oh, and by the way? Your mom is wrong.


  1. Anonymous10/06/2009

    I very much agree with your comments on the work ethic. I would love to be able to work less myself, but I feel pressured from everyone around me that I need to work as much as they are. I don't have any debt, but I feel like I do because of the influence of those around me.

  2. Start slowly. Don't hesitate to take care days from work when you need them, mentally or physically. Does your workplace offer flexibility in your schedule? Without debt you are free to make the decisions about work that make sense to you. Show those around you that we are going through a fundamental shift in how we live. Lead by example, and good luck. I look forward to hearing the good news of your progress here. Remember that there is a growing community of like minded individuals out here to support you.

  3. Anonymous3/14/2018

    Life is such a precious gift - do we really want to hurtle through it in a state of complete exhaustion?

    Being thought of as lazy is a hard thing to swallow. When my kids were babies so many people asked when I was going back to work, as if it was lazy not to earn money whilst raising children. I still struggle with guilt if I spend a day doing nothing much, now that I have reduced my working hours. But the whole point of reducing work was to be able to 'be' in my life more, and have more time for just living. Today I have prepared food for the family, checked on my vegetable garden and walked the dogs. Now I'm drinking tea....surely this is not a crime?


    1. Madeleine,

      "...asked when I was going back to work" - I know what they mean, but it's as if keeping a home and raising kids isn't work. Not only is it work, but it Is the most important work in the world.

      And its not as if living simply isn't work, too. And raising kids while living simply? Going to most jobs would be easier. Growing your own food, sewing/repairing, cooking from scratch, and community participation are all work.

      It is NOT (yet) a crime for us to to be in life more. Good thing, too. Once we make the decision to experience more in life than the standard script, everything changes. Your beautiful day is evidence of that.

      It is hard for those of us in western civilization to break free of the obsolete, all-pervasive work ethic (that wants us to work ourselves to an honourable death for corporate interests). Guilting people who say, "no thanks" is one way they try to keep us going.

      But it can't be true that only paid work is worth doing, or is somehow more important than unpaid work. And doing nothing as just as important as doing something. Balance.


Comments will be printed after moderation to eliminate spam. We are proudly a no buying, no selling website.

We enjoy reading all comments, and respond when time permits.

If you put a name to your comment we can all recognize you for your contribution.

Thank you for visiting and commenting.