A Student of History

October 1, 2008

The Zen of Decluttering

Filed under: Simple Living — John Maass @ 12:11 pm

A nice post at “Compost Studies” blog talks about “The zen of decluttering,” part of simple living, downsizing, etc. 

It starts out: “When I left home almost 30 years ago, all I owned fit into the family car and was enough to make a life with.  In the ensuing decades, I have done what every American does–accumulate belongings. Some requiring many months of saving and sacrifice to cross the threshold of our house, some sliding in with the weekly shopping or left at the door by the postman. Some came wrapped in bright paper on holidays and happy occasions. Some were inherited and carry the heavy weight of history and loss. Some things were purchased impulsively or ON SALE. Some are still waiting to be useful or loved.”

September 5, 2008

2 Bucks a Day

Filed under: Simple Living — John Maass @ 2:06 pm

Could you live on $2 a day for one year?  A British woman did.

2 dollar bill by orangejack.

The Telegraph reports that “Kath Kelly was in the middle of bemoaning her money worries on a night out with a group of friends when she came up with the idea of living a more frugal existence to ease her financial troubles. She successfully completed the challenge she set herself, spending 12 months eating at free buffets, shopping at church jumble sales, and visiting supermarkets an hour before closing time to pick up bargains.”

August 23, 2008

Money, but not their time

Filed under: Simple Living,The world today — John Maass @ 7:40 pm

I find this Yahoo News article interesting, and it confirms my experience with many people and family members I know, myself excluded.  ”

“When asked to volunteer their time to charity, Americans are likely to give more money,” the column reports. In one major student that asked folks to donate their time, it turns out guilt may be a factor also: “Participants in an online survey read a statement about lung cancer and a cancer research foundation‘s mission. The participants who were asked to donate time eventually pledged more than those who weren’t asked.”  A second trial also found this result: In the second test, “the same researchers introduced undergraduate college students to HopeLab, a nonprofit organization that serves children with chronic illnesses. The average donation level was nearly five times higher for participants who were first asked about donating their time to the organization.”

Now to be sure, lots of organizations need time from people and their money.  Groups that need to lobby need cash to pay their lobbyists, buy advertisements, create publicity, etc.  Some causes are by their very nature set up to take money for their causes rather than time: what can I do to find the cure for cancer, for example, other than donating money to fund current research? 

On the flip side, I have more than a few times offered to donate my time when I did not have any money, but have been rebuffed repeatedly.  The example here is my undergrad alma mater, W&L, which really just wants a check, and could care less about my willingness to actually do something for them. 

Nevertheless, having been involved with charities (esp. through church) I also would have to state that people don’t want to be bothered with others, despite Christ’s frequent call for us to do acts of charity or “good works,” and strive to assuage their guilt by forking over cash instead.

June 24, 2008

Golden coffins

Filed under: Simple Living — John Maass @ 12:50 pm

First we had “golden parachutes,” the excessive retirement packages awarded to retiring or ousted CEO’s usually negotiated prior to their taking up their duties as corporate top dogs.

Now we learn about “golden coffins”:  huge severance packages after they die.  According to reports, “the practice is time-honored but was largely hidden until a recent change to disclosure requirements.”


More details here

June 10, 2008

100 Things

Filed under: Simple Living — John Maass @ 5:40 am

Could you get by with just owning 100 things?

Some folks are trying to do just that, as we learn from a TIME article.

Excess consumption is practically an American religion. But as anyone with a filled-to-the-gills closet knows, the things we accumulate can become oppressive. With all this stuff piling up and never quite getting put away, we’re no longer huddled masses yearning to breathe free; we’re huddled masses yearning to free up space on a countertop. Which is why people are so intrigued by the 100 Thing Challenge, a grass-roots movement in which otherwise seemingly normal folks are pledging to whittle down their possessions to a mere 100 items.

There is also a link to help “unclutter” stuff as well.  Here is a good point from that piece:  “If you think about it, the reasons why a lot of people buy stuff are exactly the same reasons why a lot of people run out and eat inappropriate food—to make themselves feel better.”

June 6, 2008

Could they not see the irony?

Filed under: Simple Living,The world today — John Maass @ 8:00 am

As world leaders met recently to discuss hunger around the globe, they sure did not miss many calories as they dined on a sumptuous feast.  Could they not see the irony?

Hat tip to Christina Dunigan.

Menus at food summit feature Italian specialties

The luncheon menus for the U.N. Food and Agriculture summit in Rome feature Italian specialties:



• Vol-au-vent (pastry puffs) with corn and mozzarella

• Pasta with a sauce of pumpkin and shrimp in cream

• Veal rolls with cherry tomatoes and basil

• Spinach Roman-style

• Fruit salad with vanilla ice cream

• White wine from Orvieto



• Cheese mousse

• Pasta with vegetables and cherry tomatoes

• Chopped beef

• Butter beans

• Pineapple with ice cream

• Cabernet



• Zucchini pie

• Parmesan Risotto

• Ragout of veal with legumes

• Sauteed potatoes

• Lemon mousse with raspberry sauce.

• Pinot Grigio

Source: Associated Press

April 15, 2008

The Pope and Simplicity

Filed under: Simple Living — John Maass @ 11:00 am

The Pope’s message to stress simplicity.  “Benedict feels that Western, secular societies don’t take profound, supernatural religious faith seriously, a condition that he believes leads to rampant consumerism and nonchalance about such things as poverty.”

That’s good.

April 11, 2008

Vulgar Corporate Pay

Filed under: Simple Living,The world today — John Maass @ 6:12 pm

In the category of “give credit where credit is due,” I give credit to Barrak Obama (who for many reasons I regard as comically unprepared and unqualified to lead this country) for his thoughts on the vulgarity that is part of America today:

From Yahoo!:

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama denounced huge pay packages for U.S. corporate chiefs on Friday in a drive to convert middle-class anger about the U.S. economy into votes.  “Some CEOs make more in one day than their workers make in one year,” Obama said. 

“We’ve seen what happens when CEOs are paid for doing a job no matter how bad a job they’re doing,” Obama said. “We can’t afford to postpone reform any longer.”

The first-term Illinois senator has introduced “say-on-pay” legislation that would give investors more of a voice in setting executive compensation packages.


March 24, 2008

Where are the parents?

Filed under: Simple Living,The world today — John Maass @ 5:37 am

From the UK

“A generation of children is being ‘raised online’ because of the amount of time they spend on the internet, new research claims.  Youngsters spend more than 20 hours a week online, says a report from the Institute for Public Policy Research.”

20 hours per week!  Where are the parents?  Also:

Many young people are now “constantly connected” to the internet, the report says, staying up until the early hours of the morning on computers in their bedrooms.  Many leave their mobile telephone on overnight in case they receive a new text message.


Filed under: Simple Living — John Maass @ 5:33 am

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has issued an outspoken attack on the “greed” consuming the world’s civilised nations, warning against the rush for oil, power and territory.

He also says that we need to let go of “selfish, controlling, greedy habits”.


March 20, 2008

Money does not buy happiness

Filed under: Simple Living — John Maass @ 5:46 am

Happiness has not risen in the past 50 years even though incomes have almost trebled, a study claims.

Money is only part of a person’s “standard of living”, and many worry about their health in old age and how much money they will have in the future, researchers say.

However, those who give to charity feel happier and report feeling a “warm glow” about their behaviour, says the report, presented at the Royal Economic Society’s annual conference.

More here

Similarly, “The secret of happiness is to spend around £2.50 every day on somebody else.”  To give a couple of pounds each day rather than to splurge on treats, fashion and consumer goods for yourself is the recipe for contentment, according to a new study.

March 14, 2008

The New Hermits

Filed under: Simple Living — John Maass @ 6:16 am

The New Hermits, The Flight from the World in Modern Italy-and many are women.

The modern hermit can usually be found in a city apartment, and is even sometimes connected to the internet for convenience.

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