By now we’ve all read about the studies that show how more money and more stuff doesn’t mean more happiness. That said, many of us have a hard time getting off the consumerism treadmill — and an even harder time feeling that what we already have may actually be enough.

Others, like me, are ready not just to stop accumulating but to start downsizing — but don’t quite know where to start. That’s why I wanted to read “Get Satisfied: How 20 People Like You Found the Satisfaction of Enough,” a collection of first-person essays from people who themselves found satisfaction — often by downsizing, or smart-sizing, their lives, goals and dreams.

First thing I discovered by reading “Get Satisfied”: Many would-be downsizers dream of being freelance writers! More than half of the essay-contributors seem to have new, happier lives as full- or part-time freelance writers, with quite a few seemingly cobbling together an income from a combination of writing and other creative and professional pursuits. Perhaps one key to a more satisfied life is a more diversified life — one that lets you blog, write poetry, sing, paint, and spend a lot of time in nature — versus a single-track career that consumes the majority of your time.

But “Get Satisfied” isn’t written by hard-core, anti-consumerists who’ve signed on to The Compact. Essays run the gamut. Sure, there’s the guy who quits a highly paid editor’s position to become a park ranger paid largely with sunsets and sunrises — but there’s also the woman who basically just seems to have learned to value what she has after having a house burned down. There’s the woman who moves from a high-pressure job in L.A. to a farming community in Kentucky (I can’t say I envy her) — but others seem to find ways to simplify and discover joy right where they are.

What do these satisfiers do with all the consumerist desires they once harbored? I loved how one essayist, Galen Warden, described the sense of freedom she now possesses, minus so much stuff — even while recognizing that she’s not immune to the desire to consume:

It is amazing how items themselves are somehow infused with the spirit of those desperate to possess them. There is a strange satisfaction in conjuring up that sensation in ourselves, recognizing it for what it is, and then watching it evaporate. Our power to overcome the siren call of an item that beckons, “Owning me will improve you,” is a good skill to hold on to throughout life…. Not a single thing has the power it once had to hurt me. The threat of losing my things was a painful feeling that won’t be repeated.
“Get Satisfied” isn’t a how-to book for downsizing. You won’t find a step-to-step guide for finding your own sense of enough. But in the diversity of experiences shared in the essays, you might find some tools to help forge your own path towards simple satisfaction.

Green Books CampaignPublished by Easton Studio Press, “Get Satisfied” is printed on FSC-certified paper processed with non-chlorine bleach and eco-friendly inks (more green details of the book on Webcom). Find it in paperback for $14 at a store near you.

This review is part of the Green Books campaign, in which 200 bloggers simultaneously publish reviews of 200 books printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper. The campaign is organized for the second time by Eco-Libris, a green company working to make reading more sustainable.

Also on MNN: Get on board the non-consumption train