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Aroung the House: Complicated Life 

When stuff gets in the way.

Besides (I'm back to birthday parties here), the kid doesn't care! He just ingested enough cake, ice cream and sugary carbonated beverages to fill a one-gallon bucket, then he turbo-metabolized the brew with 30 minutes of gymnastics or bowling or $20 worth of Chuck E. Cheese's video games. He's so jacked that his mom will have to knee him in the stomach to get him strapped into his car seat. Do you really think this kid cares if he gets a plastic bag full of useless toys?

And remember, even when kids aren't high on sugar, "the other white powder," they think a stick and a cardboard box are the two best toys ever invented. Why are we working so hard to impress these little people? Isn't throwing the birthday party challenging enough?

For that matter, isn't life already complicated enough without adding all this additional complexity? Need more examples?

ú Researching your own vacations. Time was you could telephone someone called a travel agent who knew all about your desired vacation destination and the best deals and could set it all up for you. Now we leverage the Internet and spend more time researching our vacation than we actually spend on the vacation itself.

ú Buying computer programs that boast more capabilities than we could learn to use in a lifetime and yet are obsolete before we can manage to get them installed.

ú Using the debit card. I swear those receipts reproduce as they sit in a pile next to my computer. After two weeks it's time to pay the bills, and my computer desk looks like an astronaut's convertible after a ticker-tape parade. This situation leads to the one simple thing in my life: my Ziploc bag filing system.

ú Junk rooms. How many do you have? Be honest. I know — us too. There is something really wrong with that.

ú Even this: How many plastic cups and water bottles does one family really need? If we recycled just the ones that fall out of the cabinet every time we open it, we could save a dozen plastic trees, or wherever that stuff comes from.

The life we chase as Americans "lives too fast," as Thoreau also said. How much do we really need — I mean really, really need — to be happy? Put another way, do we really need the one-gallon bucket of excess or the bag full of useless toys? Or could we live easier, and even happier, without them? Simplicity. It might be worth a try.



Chuck Hansen is a Richmond-based writer and the author of "Build Your Castles in the Air: Thoreau's Inspiring Advice for Success in Business (and Life) in the 21st Century."

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