Cozy Living

Now I Have a Name For It: Dwelling

Now I Have a Name For It- Dwelling 2

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Call it cocooning, hunkering down, being a homebody, or whatever. It is me. And it especially describes my life over the past ten years or so.

Now I’ve discovered it has yet another name: dwelling. From What consumers do in a downturn:

Roughly speaking, consumers have two modalities: surging and dwelling.

In the surging modality, consumers have momentum. We have a vivid sense of forward motion. Life is getting better. Each purchase is an improvement on the last one. Clothes change with fashion. The material world teems with new features, new things, new opportunities, new excitement. We look ahead constantly, keeping one foot in the present, putting one in the future. The good life is America is always a better life. That’s the fundamental promise of the consumer society.

In the dwelling modality, the consumer is not forward looking, but concentrated on the here and now. Now most of life’s pleasure comes from counting one’s blessings. This is a dwelling modality, because the individual is no longer in transit, racing towards a better tomorrow. Now the consumer is focused on what is good about what one has. The consumer stops anticipating and starts savoring.

My goodness! That summary of dwelling describes David and me very well!

How We Are Dwelling

When David and I started to take steps to simplify our lives, we knew we were not interested in trying to keep up with the Joneses or a lot of the consumer culture. To be sure we still enjoy a great deal of the blessings in this country. But we took a definite step away from chasing after every new advancement. We chose to evaluate things on their own merit and how they would fit in with our lives rather than racing to the next new and exciting thing. So we don’t have iPods, public cell phones, game systems, Blackberries, etc. Not because they are intrinsically evil, but because we really don’t see that they will improve our lives or our home. And so we have been living in the dwelling modality that McCracken talks about.

In a follow-up post, Finding joy in a joyless society, he writes:

Yesterday, I offered a couple of thoughts on what consumers do in a recession. They cease surging, I argued, and started dwelling. By “dwelling” I mean the metaphor, not the literal activity.

But in fact the pun is apt. When consumers slow down and begin to concentrate on the here and now, the what and the where of their activity is often the home. Dwelling is what consumers do instead of buying.

One of the things we especially savor is the home. Home, and hearth and heart, this becomes the new geographical center of our lives.

And, lastly, McCracken writes in the third of this series of related posts, Homeyness triumphant:

A couple of days ago, I argued consumers would respond to the present economic downturn by “dwelling” instead of “surging.” I argued that this change would be governed by cultural subroutine called “homeyness.”

Making the Choice of Homeyness

In recent days I’ve been reflecting on the current economic climate and our decision so many years ago to move toward a simpler, less frantic, less consuming-oriented lifestyle. I’m very thankful that we made the choice to alter our lifestyle. I’m thankful we made a choice and were not forced into something against our will. Many people are finding out what it means to make do with less and they are not going to see the joy in it because it is not where they want to be. Over time, some will discover the joy in appreciating the simple things. But some will not and for those folks this economic downturn will be made that much harder.

For me, the decision to change my lifestyle came about due to several different factors. I got married and wanted to be at home. I was tired of teaching. The non-event of Y2K played into it as it got me thinking about the potential fragility of our systems in this country. The events of 9-11 certainly impacted it. And little things like losing our water for a few days at our house due to a main break and losing our power for almost a week due to straight-line winds. Reading about the housing bubble and learning about the no-win financial situation in the US. Each one of these events (and many others) made me step back again and think – What is truly important?

So I am thankful that we have already moved in this direction. That is not to say we won’t be impacted by the economic conditions. We may at some point. But right now we are in the position of being able to say “This is enough” and already know in our hearts and minds that it is very true.

Now I Have a Name For It- Dwelling


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  • This partially describes my life, too. In fact, back when I had one young child, dwelling *was* my life. Then a funny thing happened; my son got a little older. Even though he was homeschooled and I knew all his friends and his exposure to TV was extremely limited, he somehow KNEW. He knew what eveyone else “out there” was wearing and buying and he knew what the new gadgets were. I have no idea how he knew other than that every time we stepped out the door, his radar was up. I never notice stuff like what kind of sneakers someone is wearing but he says that is the first thing he notices about a person! So now my life is filled with cell phones Ipods, laptops and dozens of pairs of shoes (he works and buys these things himself or receives them as gifts). It doesn’t happen to every family but I sure have seen many families where the kids are just not on the parents’ program. They are just their own little people right from birth. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Excellent post, Sallie! Y2K was a turning point for me also. Getting out of debt 5 years ago also influenced me greatly. I am in dwelling mode, as well, and am there happily in these crazy times.

  • Hey Sallie!

    I enjoyed this post! It gave me a fresh perspective on being “okay” with the fact that I am a dweller too! ๐Ÿ™‚ It is who I am too. At times I have felt so behind, or out of it in that I don’t desire to keep up with all the current trends (fashion, technology, decorating, whatever…). But in reality I am content just being where I am and not always having to have one foot into the next thing. Interesting things to think about~

  • Great Post Sallie! While we are not 100% in the ‘dwelling mode’ (we work and have some entertainment gadgets) but we’re close. We learned many years ago (when my hubby bought his first Blueberry and within a month resold it on ebay since it was a big disappointment and useless!!) that gadgets, and the money that they cost, drain our resources, divert us from ‘real relationships’ and worst of all – brings a form of ‘addiction’ to consumerism. I’ll probably get some strong responses to that last statement, but I have found it to be very true in my personal life – and the world around me.

  • Sallie, I’ll agree with you 99.9%. The only argument you’ll get from me is that ipods will really change your life. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I can’t imagine life without my ipod…free podcasts to listen to in the car, my collection of music goes with me in the car, anywhere I go, work, home, school….

    Beyond that I totally agree!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Great post, Sallie. I like how the concept of “dwelling” has such a positive aspect to it. I also agree with you about the fact that we can enjoy dwelling so much more when we come to it on OUR terms, instead of being forced into it.

    I must admit that there are times when I appreciate my cell phone, but I’m with you on the other stuff. Don’t have it! Don’t need it!

    Thanks for your gentle, timely, insightful thoughts.

  • Sallie, I quietly read you in bloglines but slipped over here to say thank you for all you do… this post struck me on many levels….

    I checked out your links and read:

    “You will remember Scitovsky’s book The Joyless Economy and his argument that the trouble with a consumer society is that the pleasure of ownership soon degrades into mere comfort. It’s not long before we take our new possessions for granted.

    What the consumer does in a down economy is roll back the Scitovsky effect. We begin to treasure things. We re-engineer the comfort to get back to pleasure. We begin to savor things again.

    One of the things we especially savor is the home. Home, and hearth and heart, this becomes the new geographical center of our lives.”

    Could God use a downturn economy to compel us towards eucharistic living: living thankfulness? Perhaps: in a recession/depression, the Scitovsky effect reverts, and people begin to look at being grateful, at savoring what is. Is savoring another way of expressing gratitude?

    These are things I’m thinking about, writing about, exploring.

    Thank you, Sallie. This post resonated for me deeply….
    You bless.

    May GOD become the geographical center of our lives….

    All’s grace,

  • Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Sallie, they so perfectly articulate many of my own thoughts and feelings regarding simple living and thankfulness. I spent some time yesterday searching through scripture observing how the words “dwell” and “dwelling” are used in God’s word and was struck by how often God speaks of “dwelling” in Him… meaning to be content, grateful, and secure within the shelter of His wings.

  • I think you made a good point, that even in the midst of an economy that is going to force many people to “dwell” as opposed to “surge,” there is still something satisfactory about choosing to dwell. Deciding that it is what you want, and seeing the good in it, and not even wanting to go back to the old ways even if you could.

    I have to say, we have quite a few, what I consider, luxury items in our budget right now (namely a cleaning service, a landscaping service, eating out, buying books and clothes). Even with these items, I feel ok, because I know that all of these things could be eliminated from our budget in a second if we had to, if times tightened. Oh and wait! Times have tightened for us, as a portion of our income that we were counting on has now evaporated, which will make things a bit tougher for the next six months. Most of these things will have to go.

    I’m also not sure, no matter how much one simplifies their wants, how that is going to play if the main source of income is taken away. There is a difference between living frugally while paying the important bills and not being able to make your bills at all anymore and losing your health insurance etc. I think there are going to be a lot of very unhappy people should this economic crisis worsen and more jobs are lost, that no amount of “dwelling” is going to help.

    Very interesting post!

  • This wretched adding machine thing is blowing my mind – all my comments are eaten because I forget!

    I have been mulling over this post for a few days now, and have discussed it with my friends as well. The word “dwelling” has such profound meaning. I read the link. I am wondering if, when the surge begins again, as it surely will, the surge for acquisition will be more dwelling related, and not success focussed. For things to improve the contentment in the dwelling place – perhaps a fireplace, or a sofa or larger wood piles, or blankets, or games to play etc etc. It would be interestign to find out. Plenty to think about and speculate too – I can see many dinner party conversations centring on this subject ahead!
    Excellent post, Sallie.

    PS About the physio – I always ask for the price when makign the appointment – there has to be a set price for assessment at least. Treatment varies, but rarely starts on day one. Ask around – see if you know anyone using the same practice!

  • (Sorry – We just fixed the daylight savings time thing on the blog so these comments are out of order. Read Linds’ comment below mine first or this won’t make sense.)

    Linds – Sorry about the math thing. I know it is a pain, but the spam that flows in without it is just overwhelming.

    It is interesting what you mentioned about future surging be more dwelling-related. I thought about that in relation to what Ann said here:

    I have to say, we have quite a few, what I consider, luxury items in our budget right now (namely a cleaning service, a landscaping service, eating out, buying books and clothes).

    When I read her comment, I thought – some of those aren’t luxury items. They’re necessities! Now technically they aren’t necessities. They aren’t food and shelter. But some of those items are dwelling items for me. By that I mean that they are a part of being content with what I have and where I am in my life. It may sound contradictory, but improving our home and our yard is part of our dwelling – that is, being satisfied with what we have. Since we have accepted the fact that we are going to be in this house for at least a few more years given the state of the economy, we have chosen to be thankful and invest in our dwelling here. By dwelling I don’t mean the physical house itself, but the action word dwelling. But in that dwelling (verb) we are doing things to make our home a more pleasant place.

    Does that make sense?

    So, too, do books fit in with that. I have a really hard time with books. I love them but they are expensive and take up too much space. And yet part of our dwelling (verb) is anticipating that we will homeschool and continue to try to learn more skills for ourselves. And usually those things involve books.

    I was also thinking about what Ann @ Holy Experience wrote about more eucharistic living. I do think even Christians feel that compulsion to surge and buy and chase the next best thing. You have to make a conscious effort to swim against the tide, especially at first. But after a while it becomes much more second nature. That isn’t to say I don’t like and buy nice things, experiences, etc. But I am also very mindful of the basics. Some people probably think it is weird when I say in posts here how grateful I am for heat and water and indoor plumbing. But I am. How much of the world can’t even fathom having some of the most basic services we take for granted? I AM thankful for a dry home after living with a leaky roof for three years. Every time it rains I am thankful now that I don’t have to be anxious about the situation.

    Well, anyway, just some of my rambly, I need another cup of coffee thoughts! ๐Ÿ˜†


Sallie-Schaaf-Borrink-060313-B-250x250I'm Sallie, teacher by training and now homeschooling mom of Caroline. My passion is to provide products, encouragement, and information that helps others discover and do what works with their children. I also write about living a cozy life as a highly introverted person. Welcome! โ™ฅ

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