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As simple as a pass through airport security
Scripps Howard News Service


April 18, 2006

Simplicity's all the rage these days, and many lifestyle gurus urge us to simplify our lives.

We're told we should get more exercise by walking everywhere like our simple ancestors, the hunters and gatherers. We're told we should maintain the diet of simple Mediterranean goatherds. We're told we should embrace the simplistic, old-fashioned values of South Dakotans and other primitive peoples.

Mostly, we're advised to own less stuff. All our swanky possessions and elaborate electronic gizmos drag us down, the gurus say, leading us to want more, more, more of everything, while denying us the spiritual fulfillment that comes from leading a simple life.

The experts pass along this advice in books and articles in which they try to encapsulate simplicity in catchy ways that make it appear desirable. For these efforts, they are rewarded with tons of money, which they then use to buy more stuff.

In an attempt to tear off a piece of that action, I've come up with the perfect motto for the simple life: Live every day as if you're about to go through airport security.

What better way, in our helter-skelter world, to sum up simplicity? Is there any time when we're more embarrassed and inconvenienced by our possessions? When glowering, latex-gloved security guards fondle us all over, don't we regret that Rolex? Don't we wish we'd left our rodeo belt buckle at home?

At airport security, we're stripped down to nothing but clothes and sock feet. As our inconvenient stuff goes through the X-ray machine, aren't we given the perfect moment to examine modern life and its complexity?

Ask yourself: Why do I go around with my pockets full and my briefcase bulging and my personal digital assistant surgically grafted to my hand? Why can I not live, even for a few hours, without e-mail or a cell phone? Why do I need so danged many keys?

Use the Airport Security Simplicity model to get back to basics. Limit jewelry and the stuff you carry in your pockets to items that will fit in that little plastic cereal bowl they give you at airport security. Briefcases and other life baggage should be limited to two carry-ons _ one that would fit in an overhead bin and a personal item such as a purse or laptop computer.

(You might want to eliminate shoes altogether. Why hassle with them? Flip-flops, baby, flip-flops.)

I reached this epiphany only recently, when I realized that I'd simplified my life to the point where I can prance right through airport metal detectors. Because I work at home, I've eliminated from my repertoire most of the stuff that regular folks carry around. In my pockets, I'm down to two keys, a wallet and a comb. My wristwatch, with its leather band and fake gold case, doesn't set off alarms. Neither do the cheap plastic ballpoints I favor.

You can't get much more simple than I am. Wait, what I mean to say is: Your life can't get much simpler than mine. I've streamlined and jettisoned and simplified to the point where I go out into the world (or at least into airports) all but naked of material things. Guys entering prison carry more stuff than I do.

This should qualify me as a lifestyle guru, one who has fully embraced the simplicity trend. I plan to sit back now and wait for the riches to come my way.

Then I'm going shopping. I need some stuff.


Redding, Calif., author Steve Brewer's latest book is called "Bank Job."
Contact him at ABQBrewer(at)
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Scripps Howard News Service.

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Ketchikan, Alaska