Living Room Revolution — A Conversation Blog of 4 People

Living Room Revolution, the latest work from “simplicity circles” founder Cecile Andrews, is now in bookstores!

This blog is intended to be a sort of gathering ground for comments, discussions and dialogue related to Cecile’s themes of happiness, sharing, living simpler and slower, and — above all — the power of a small group to change the world.

Buy your copy today!

Never doubt the power of a small group

Living Room Revolution, published by New Society Publishers, may be ordered now from or, as Cecile prefers, your local independent bookseller.

Cecile’s previous works also remain available, including Circle of Simplicity (Harper Collins, 1997), Slow Is Beautiful (New Society, 2006) and Less Is More (New Society, 2009).

Everyone is looking for a way to put change into action … it starts right in your own living room.

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Sharing as a Subversive Activity

[Note: Adapted from the new book Living Room Revolution: A Handbook for Conversation, Community, and the Common Good, by Cecile Andrews. The following piece was also posted on]

Not long ago I was invited to a clothing swap. I didn’t really know the people, so I felt a little awkward. But I did know one person there and she walked me through it. Essentially, I could take anything I wanted. I only took a few things because I’m really a committed minimalist, but — not surprising — the best thing about it was standing around and chatting with the other women.

I realized that the new sharing revolution gives us lots of new ways to interact with others and build community. And this, it turns out,  is incredibly important because research shows that the biggest contributor to happiness and well being is social connection.

Unfortunately, as we know, our culture encourages consumerism, which leads to emotional isolation. Instead of turning to each other for help or fulfillment, we turn to things. We buy ourselves out of dilemmas instead of helping each other. We  spend our time enjoying things instead of other people.

So sharing is attractive because it makes us happy. But it is even more significant than  that! It’s not a big step between swapping clothes and creating a healthier democracy!

Sharing and Trust

So how does this work?

When people  first hear about the sharing revolution, they’re excited. But then they start to worry. What will happen if they lend out a power saw and someone gets hurt? Will the person sue? What if someone rents your car and gets in an accident.Who pays? We discover that we’re not very trusting of others.

What’s important, though, is that at last we’re confronting the issue of trust. Apparently, trust is a significant measure of the health of a society, and it’s been on the decline. As trust declines, we quit believing in each other; we don’t feel safe because we trust no one. So essentially, we quit believing in democracy, because democracy means trusting in the people. And without democracy we will not survive — continuing to believe in the idea of “Every man for himself ” really means “Last man standing.”

Ultimately, sharing with others helps you feel like you belong. This is how you build up trust. We trust people more when we’ve shared something with them; so the more people share, the more we trust.

Sharing and the Government

Ultimately, sharing is more than just about stuff! It can become a new way of looking at life.  For instance, let’s look at the Declaration of Independence. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

In other words, government itself is a form of sharing! It’s coming together to do things that are better done together than done alone. Having a fire station is a form of sharing. We can’t each fight our own fires. The same with police, with roads, and on and on. Sharing is at the heart of civilized society.

Maybe the sharing movement will help us better understand that government is a way that people come together to share in the tasks of caring for each other. We’ll begin to see that taxes are a form of sharing the costs of taking care of a country’s people. Maybe we’ll learn to share the jobs and the wealth; ultimately, we need to share power —create more equality —as they’ve done in  places like Denmark, a country that is ranked one of the most egalitarian, happy, and sustainable countries in the world.

Maybe the sharing movement will help us challenge the right- wing attempts to privatize everything — from social security and medicare to schooling and health. We say we believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, so we need to help people understand that the pursuit of happiness involves caring and collaborating with each other; that sharing gives us freedom from control by the corporate consumer society; that you feel truly free only when you can feel secure from worries that you will someday find yourself alone and abandoned. When you know people believe in sharing and caring.

Sharing as a Subversive Activity

The idea of sharing, then, is much more significant that it first appears— it’s subversive to a cold, uncaring culture. It’s more than sharing stuff, it’s sharing our lives. It’s a dramatic challenge to our selfish, cutthroat culture that seems to value profit more than people.

Fortunately, the sharing movement looks so benign and innocent! Who could object to someone sharing their tools or a ladder? It doesn’t look revolutionary.

So for awhile, maybe we can fly beneath the radar, because when you start thinking about sharing, it leads to revolutionary ideas like profit sharing, participatory budgeting, or cooperatives and worker-owned businesses.  And that’s going to scare the powers that be.

Ultimately sharing may be one of the most subversive things we can engage in.

Cecile Andrews is the author of Circle of Simplicity, Slow is Beautiful, Less is More, and the new Living Room Revolution. She is a community educator and holds a doctorate in education from Stanford University. She divides her time between Seattle and Santa Cruz CA, where she is a member of Walnut Commons Cohousing.

To find out more about the Sharing Revolution, go to

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The Pied Piper and the support group

When Cecile talks glowingly of making connections, I picture her as a 21st Century Pied Piper, playing her flute, leading crowds away from the shopping malls and flickering television screens.

Fortunately, Cecile would lead us somewhere nice – towards a caring community where conversation thrives.

And yet …

If you read the fine print, getting together is just the beginning. To live closely with other people is to open yourself to complications and uncomfortable feelings.

Is there anything as frustrating or as rewarding as a small group?

These thoughts were on our minds, when a group of us sat down at a cafe several years ago to discuss starting a new Transition group. We recounted horror stories from our pasts of idealistic groups that had gone sour. We vowed we would never let that happen again. Three years later, the Transition group seems to be flourishing.  It has a positive culture and many people have developed good group skills.

A key reason for the success is the “activist support group” that Cecile helped us set up.  About a dozen of us would meet  twice a month to share experiences.  We’d discuss problems like how to keep meetings on track without hurting people’s feelings.  How to handle people who consistently disrupt a group?  How to keep from burning out?

The real benefit was not the specific answers we came up with for specific problems.  If all we wanted were recipes, we could have read books and taken courses on facilitation skills.  Abstract knowledge “out there” is of limited value.

What was valuable was getting into the habit of recognizing issues and articulating them to a sympathetic group.  After someone had described a problem, we did *not* want a self-appointed expert within the group to give advice. Instead,  we insisted that people respond by talking about their personal reactions and experiences. Overly intellectual discussions were not discouraged.

Meeting like this changed my perception of problems.   I won’t say that I looked forward to difficulties, but when something came up, I was able to label it as a problem I could bring up with the group. Somehow this took away the sting and sense of futility I had often felt in groups.

I came to believe that group dynamics make or break a social movement.   Get the dynamics right, and your group will grow and adapt.  Get them wrong and people will trickle away, discouraged.

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Understanding Loneliness

What’s the recurring phrase we hear about the people who massacre others? He was a loner.

But have we connected our murder rate with our increasing isolation and loneliness? Do we even  see loneliness as a problem?

People go to a psychiatrist for depression, and they get a pill. Maybe what they really need is help figuring out how to make more friends.  Loneliness isn’t even a diagnosis!

All the studies say we’re increasingly isolated. We live alone; we have fewer friends; fewer people we can talk to in times of crisis. In fact, a quarter of our population says they have no one to turn to! No one!

Unfortunately, this seems to be part of our American heritage. The lone cowboy;  but “every man for himself”  leads to“last man standing.”  All alone.

If it ever worked in our past, it’s not working anymore. At least we used to have barn raisings. When do we gather to help out our neighbors these days?

But it’s not just our wild west past. Growing up I learned to say, “I’m not a joiner,” as if that made me somehow superior. I learned to think that hanging out with my friends was a waste of time — much better to be reading or writing something.

And our American belief that if we’re rich we’ll be happy has led us on the pursuit of wealth at any cost. And what does wealth buy? Distance from other people. Bigger houses, more cars, private swimming pools instead of public parks.

There are things we can do, but first we need to realize that our lack of connection  — our loneliness —is a problem!

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