Real simple, real lucrative

I keep getting cards in the mail enticing me to subscribe to a magazine called Real Simple, which, for just $23.95 per year, says it's going to help me simplify my life.

I'm all for simplification, so I browsed the magazine online. Here's a simple time-saving tip for busy moms: Make an Excel spread sheet with the columns representing aisles in your grocery store. As you run out of food items, mark them on the appropriate "aisle."

Here's a simple life-enhancer for women with several small children: At 6:30, drink wine from a real, grown-up wine glass because you're tired of being around sippy cups all day.

Here's how to make gift giving easier: Buy a gift everytime you go into a store so you have them on hand.

Here's a way to use old stuff: Turn your plastic napkin holder into a bill organizer. I don't know about you, but my house is not exactly full to the brim with plastic napkin holders. I want ideas for those plastic milk jugs we use at the rate of two per week. (Here's my free tip: Cut the tops off, but leave the handle on the side, so you have a kind of bucket. These are handy, portable storage containers for small tools, Legos, yarn or sewing projects, Legos, impromptu watering cans, Legos. And they make great disposable barf buckets for a sick room.)

Well, you get the picture: All the stuff you now have is complicating your life, so you need to organize it or get rid of it and buy new stuff that is simpler (and much nicer and more expensive) than what you already have.

Real Simple is only one of many attempts to cash in on the "simplify your life" movement. A Google search for "simplify your life" yielded more than a million returns, many of them sites hawking books, publications, seminars, charts and other "tools" to help me simplify my life by spending even more time and money on stuff. What purports to be a movement to help people cut loose from mindless consumerism has become a lucrative industry all on its own.

For all that Americans protest their religiosity, belief in God and family values, we are first and foremost a nation of consumers in which we often define our communities by our belongings? How many of us feel more affinity with, say, our fellow Starbucks customers, hybrid vehicle owners, Fiestaware collectors (mea culpa) than with our neighbors, parishioners or family members?

To truly simplify our lives, there has to be an overarching belief that we are saving our time, money and energy for something that transcends the next gimmick, for something that will fulfill our hunger and thirst, not just make us hungrier and thirstier for the Next Big Thing.

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