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Senior Correspondent

Over the past few years one of the bigger trends in the world of blogging has been the number of sites that promote living a simpler life. If you do a computer search for phrases like voluntary simplicity, zen living, minimalism, or frugality, the number of hits will be in the millions.

What is the attraction? It could be a desire to spend more time on things you like. Travel, becoming deeply involved in gardening or photography are more fun than constantly dusting, cleaning, repairing, and maintaining stuff you own. Living a simpler life has strong appeal for many. Eliminate things that take you away from what you really enjoy. Get back to basics. Play that creative music that is inside you.

I have found a tremendous interest in this topic among readers of the Satisfying Retirement blog. To have a happy retirement lifestyle you must have a firm handle on your finances. You may be looking to move to a smaller home or condo and aren't sure how you decide what stuff to get rid of. Maybe you are tired of all the work lots of possessions entail. Whatever the motivation, simple living strikes a real chord for many.

Most of the things listed here I have been doing for quite some time. There are a few recent additions as I have become more sensitive to the negative impact an overly consumptive lifestyle has on the planet and my own happiness.

I don't enjoy shopping so I don't buy much. I shop when I must for what I need. To some people, shopping is a form of entertainment or relaxation. To me it is a chore to be completed as quickly as possible. That saves me money and clutter. Maybe this is a guy thing, but I avoid malls. Clothing covers me and keeps me warm or cool. That's it. For me clothing is not a fashion statement or an indicator of my economic status. If it performs its function, is within my budget, and I need it, then I buy it.

A car is transportation. It takes me from point A to Point B with a minimum amount of fuss. It must be dependable, relatively safe, and have good air conditioning (this is Phoenix after all). Its year, make and model don’t really matter. Even the color is not terribly important (ask my wife about the baby blue Mustang I had in 1976). I use it up, wear it out. Only then do I replace it. If something does what I need it to I don't feel the need for a replacement that does it 2 seconds faster, or is in a different color. I don't even require it to have all its parts as long as it still works.

We repaint, repurpose, reuse. My wife is amazingly creative in looking at something and finding a whole new use for it. We find it much more satisfying to do that than simply throw something away that can be used in another way.

I buy very few books or new music. I read books constantly and listen to lots of music. I just don't feel the need to own them. That's what libraries are for. That's what the Internet offers. Part of that belief came during my radio days. I was given thousands of free CDs (I still have most of them). So, I got out of the practice of buying music and never regained the habit. Of the books I did own, I got rid of 80 percent of them. I realized I would never reread them. All they did was take up space and get dusty. Someone else might enjoy them. So, I took many of them to a used bookstore for credit, and donated the rest to charity. Then my wife repurposed the bookcases!

We use our own photos and painting to decorate. My wife and I like to take photographs and she is a painter and mixed media artist. Why buy someone else's work to decorate our home? We have the photos blown up and framed, or printed on canvas. Her paintings grace several walls in the home. It is much more satisfying to be surrounded by something you created.

Simplify lawn and yard work. Over the last few years I have cut back considerably on the number of potted plants I maintain. It was getting to be a chore, not a pleasure. We converted most of our bushes and shrubs to low water, low maintenance varieties. This saves time and money.

Cook enough at once for 2 meals. It is very unusual for us to make a dinner that doesn't produce enough leftovers for another time. And, if an ingredient is required for a meal we find another recipe that requires the same stuff so it doesn't go to waste. 

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