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I just returned from Italy and had a wonderful time traveling around with a girlfriend that

Soaking up Siena!

I’ve known since high school.  We relaxed and soaked up as much of the Italian life as we could!  While there, we started contemplating the American way, “More is always better”.

One evening we were enjoying walking around inside the walls of Siena before a later dinner, truly Italian style.  We had wanted to get some time while in Siena to visit the shops but had spent more time wine tasting instead!  (Which is not at all a bad thing!)  As we were walking we noticed that all but a few shops were closed by 7 pm.  We thought these shops could make a killing if they were open until 9 to catch the tourists on the way to or from dinner.  Why wouldn’t they be open when the tourists were out and about?

After considering this for a moment and reflecting on what we observed of Italians while we were there, we realized that keeping the shops open late would require someone to work into the evening.  Doh! (Side note, I did not see any teens working in shops as they do at the mall here at home!)  And what Italian would want to be the one to close up the shop late each night?  Yes, they could make more money and maybe the shop owner could even hire an additional employee or two and reap greater profits.

But then I thought about how their culture is not driven by money alone like I often feel we are here in America.  It seems Italians enjoy their lives, each other, their food, wine and culture and value these things over earning more Euros.  They don’t live in the “bigger is better” mentality as we do.

And this is where our desire for more money and “bigger is better” gets us into trouble.  Why not buy 2 because it’s on sale, supersize it, stock up, choose the 36-pack instead of the 2-pack? We choose to buy more stuff, commit to more activities, work more hours, commute the farthest and take less vacation than most nations.  And what does this get us?  Too much stuff, too little time, exhausted bodies and minds and complicated lives hanging in the balance of everything needing to go as planned or it all falls apart!

I do subscribe to the American way at times but I don’t believe I’m as deep into it as most Americans. For example, I often say no to requests and only stock up items that will easily fit into my storage spaces.  (I am blessed with a nice size home that I keep well-organized so it makes this easier. But if you cannot fit into your current home, a bigger one will only multiply your problems!)

As I parked my car in the garage outside the walls of Siena and hauled my crap up the cobble-stone hill, I thought about my stock up shopping at Target and how I wouldn’t buy as much stuff if I had to walk it from the garage to my tiny apartment (up 3 flights of stairs, I’m sure!).  It just wouldn’t make sense.  Ahh, Italy, an eye-opening experience, as always…

Do you subscribe to the American way of more and bigger is always better?  If not, how do you simplify or downsize?