Silk Purses

Living on the edge of modern ag has kind of become the subtext here at the blog. I'm a Junker/Cobbler/repurposing aficionado at heart and enjoy the functionality of a well turned out Sow's Ear Faux Silk Purse.

But beyond the simple satisfaction of a successful kludge, my overall goal is to negotiate my life to a simpler and lower energy level, whether as a preemptive move in the face of lower fossil energy availability or just as an escape from the brass ring grabbing contest, the plan is the same. Hopefully a side benefit is leaving a place and a way for my kids and grandkids to adopt if they want or need.

About three years ago, after racking my brain repeatedly distilling my thoughts on "powering down" to bumper sticker sized morsels for posting on message boards,  I came up with my Five Rules. I use these to judge how/what/where to spend my time and meager resources and to what extent I'm successful.

Here are Pops' 5 Rules for Living on the Edge of the Rich World:
  • Don't buy
  • Don't borrow
  • Don't specialize 
  • Don't starve
  • Don't be dependen

I want to talk about these one at a time so I'll start with the firstest and hardest, Don't Buy - or the longer version, Quit buying worthless stuff and learn to live on less.

If I add together what the SS Administration says I've made in my life to what I've made selling the houses we've lived in and fixed up over the years, it comes to over a million bucks (inflation adjusted it's more like about $756.38 but whatever). Boone Pickens says the first billion is the hardest! Point being, I don't want to come off like some monk sleeping on the floor in a lotus position and eating air. I was up there in the 80th percentile a few times and by golly I tried to spend it before it stagnated and I caused the downfall of the entire economy.

But hey, buying stuff is the American Way. The self evident, god given right to pursue stuff was in the opening line in the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. And even though "property" was replaced by "happiness" in the final item, we all knew what they were talking about and so we all became the undisputed champions of stuff consumption. As a good American, I've made myself happy by buying every kind of stuff from candy bars to bass boats.

We left California for the Ozarks for a couple of reasons, first and foremost, it was clear the run in home prices was way overdue for a fall. I learned at the time the typical cycle since WWII was 7 years peak to peak - in '04, prices had not peaked for 20 years - that's 2-0 years! When I read the execs at the big home builder Incs were selling off their stock in their own companies to "diversify", well...

Real estate prices, or any price really, makes no difference if you aren't buying or selling. The thing is, as we sat and watched the "value" of our house double over about 3 years we had that pile of airball equity staring us in the face. But it was only accessible 2 ways, borrow against it (and inevitably find ourselves underwater) or sell and move to a lower valued area.

I was almost 50 and chained to the merry go round. I had a huge nut to crack each month and any little blip in the economy (oh, I don't know, RE bubble, credit bubble, commodity bubble) would cause my little free lance graphics business to go poof! The same old roundy round, chasing a buck just gets old. And most importantly Susan, my wife, and Miss, my daughter, were ready to abandon the coast - finally!

Anyway, when it came time to jump the shark, the first step was deciding we could get by without buying so much stuff. Turns out, buying stuff  is a hard habit to break and is what keeps most people working 50 hour weeks. We've been here almost 6 years now and we still get to jonesing for stuff from time to time. Stuff seems to multiply spontaneously (though of course this is illusion), and as it does there is an equal and opposite decrease in wallet mass.

But stuff is like food, you need to have some to survive, the key is deciding what and how much.

After chores post more...