Minimize Stuff, Maximize Happiness

Woman taking time for herself

The choice is yours. Knowing that makes you very powerful. You choose the life you live.

Our happiness comes not only from having our needs met but from power to choose our own way forward. As you green your life and reach for the ideal of sustainable living, own your choices. Set your own priorities. Check your own happiness.

That’s where I sometimes forget to act. Taking and making the opportunity to check in with yourself takes discipline.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned making enough space for your children to play and be themselves. The same goes for you. You need space to focus on yourself and the people you love. Checking in to ask yourself if you are happy encourages that moment of consciousness where you can make a course correction if necessary.

How do you change course? Look at what you are doing and ask yourself if this is what you want.

This involves asking yourself as you make changes, am I happier when I do this? I’m not saying you should avoid painful choices. Sometimes we look more for our long-term happiness. For example, eating Girl Scout cookies makes me happier in the short run—sugar high, feel-good support of girls, evoke happy memories of being a Girl Scout myself—but will the ingredients in a Girl Scout cookie bring me long-term happiness? The sad truth is: no. Simple, maybe even superficial choice to be made, but a surprisingly sad one for me as I read this article sent from a friend this morning. Would I be happy eating Girl Scout cookies right now that I know more about the potential long-term health effects of the ingredients? No. When I suggest that you ask whether you are happier when you take an action, you may need to think about your long-term happiness.

To give a more immediate example (and to stay on the subject of sweets, for some reason), there has been less chocolate in my house since I wrote about choosing fair trade chocolate. That’s mostly OK. I’ve tried some great, dark, flavored chocolate recently. What about cookies, though? I needed chocolate chips to make cookies. As my husband left with a shopping list, I told him, “Don’t buy the chocolate chips unless they are fair trade.” I thought this would be a difficult choice, but it was so easy. He found bulk fair trade chocolate chips that were the same cost as major-brand chocolate chips. Choice made. Happiness maintained—both mine and, presumably, that of the people who grow and process the chocolate.

If what you are doing doesn’t make you happy, either short-term or long-term, STOP!

Maybe you will start to see patterns in your answers as you check in with yourself. You may not need to go as far as the country of Bhutan, whose Gross National Happiness measure finds that plastic bags don’t make people happy, therefore they are banned. Actually, maybe you will go that far! The important point is, you get to and you NEED to decide what drives your happiness as you create a more sustainable life for your family.


There are many people sharing their experience of creating more sustainable lives. There are many organizations dedicated to helping you wade through your choices. I love the positive approach of the Center for the New American Dream. Their actions list includes a narrative on why each is important.

Throughout March we will offer guides to getting started with some of the basic practices of attachment parenting and sustainable living. This is Environmental Living Week with tips, products, resources, and personal experiences.

Image © Jenkedco |

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