by Anneli Rufus
Five years ago, Tom Brewster persuaded his wife Tina to stop buying presents. For anyone. Period.
"I remembered how much satisfaction I used to get out of making little gifts for my mom out of clay and seashells," Brewster recalls, "so I thought this would be a perfect way to simplify."
The Brewsters were in step with the times. The couple, both Web designers, had heard about the Voluntary Simplicity movement from a friend who was growing his own wine grapes in the garden of his Silicon Valley split-level and only driving his Lexus on weekends — and pointing out relentlessly that consumerism was utterly crass.
While that wouldn't have been big news to, say, the Unabomber, to the Brewsters it was a bolt from the blue. That Christmas they gave jars of homemade jam, and dolls made out of buttons and stuffed socks.
"It was a kick," says Brewster, who remembers trading furniture-repair tips for hours on end in VS chatrooms whose users congratulated themselves on "getting rid of all the clutter and chaff so that we can really appreciate the important, beautiful, and fulfilling." On cold nights, he and Tina proudly donned mohair sweaters rather than turn up the heat.
Keeping the costs down, like all games, was fun.
But that was before the Brewsters' company shut down.
And the job market turned into a sad little yard sale.
And the gas bills started soaring.