I first picked up a copy of Doris Janzen Longacre's book Living More With Less when I was living in Haiti. I was searching for models of simplicity and simple living, that made sense considering the poverty I was seeing, juxtaposed with the unbelievable conspicuous consumption machine that is the United States.
The first edition was largely practical and I'm not sure how much of it I found helpful in Haiti or when I returned home. However, I recently got my hands on the 30th Anniversary Edition of Living More With Less, and it's been an amazing inspiration.
It's interesting that what was came out of the Mennonite Church in the 50s, 60s and 70s is considered cutting edge in dominant culture now. What Living More With Less called “voluntary simplicity” people now call “living green.” The ideas of making do, borrowing items rather than buying them new, using libraries instead of bookstores, finding ways to use less water, less chemicals are not something a university professor just invented. These ideas were being discussed, considered and processed long before somewhat ridiculous terms like “upcycling” were even thought of.
One of my favorite things about Living More With Less is that it borrowed ideas—and great credit for those ideas-- from cultures outside the dominant US culture. Even Canada could share ideas with us because, as it turns out, no one is better at waste than Americans. With the current financial crisis caused by greed and overcrediting, and a natural environment on the very verge of collapse, it makes me a little sad that the mainstream never read Living More With Less in 1980 when it first came out. Thirty years of simple living could have made a difference.