In this economic climate, there's never been a better time to live with less stuff and discover a life rich with meaning. It's a truth Oprah has known for some time: "What I know for sure," she says, is "having the best things is no substitute for having the best life."
And it's a scientific fact. A 2005 study by Tim Kasser, associate professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, and Kirk Warren Brown of Virginia Commonwealth University, compared 200 people who voluntarily simplified their lives with 200 typical Americans. According to their results, those who cut back were found to be "significantly happier." Kasser says their results suggest wealth, status and prestige can lead to persistent feelings of depression and dissatisfaction. "If you orient your life around personal growth and family and community, you'll feel better."

The Oprah Show gave five families their own "What Can You Live Without?" Challenge. The rules included: no eating out, no working late and no cell phones, computers, television or video games for a week. Though difficult, each family says they came away with life-changing lessons...
Gratitude: Chicago couple Pam, Ron and their kids, Kristina and RJ, were so plugged into technology that they disconnected from one another.

Since the challenge, the family appreciates one another more than ever. RJ even started a gratitude journal—and his video games aren't on the list. "If you have family like the family I have," Ron says, "nothing else really matters."

Love Doesn't Cost a Thing: Michelle wanted to buy her kids everything their hearts desired, but that meant working overtime and missing family dinners. Cutting back made Michelle realize what her kids really want is time together. Now, eating dinner as a family is a priority.

"All of the time that I had without all the distractions ... made me consider that I needed less technology and more time with my family," Michelle says.

You Are Enough: In 1997, Candice's husband died saving one of their two sons from drowning. Candice admits that shopping became a form of therapy since his tragic death. "My husband was taken away from me, but nobody can take away my stuff," she says.

On the first day of Oprah's challenge, Candice says she had an aha! moment. "No TV allowed me to sit down with my children and just have a conversation about their day, my day," she says. "I don't need the stuff. I know my children don't need the stuff. All I ever needed was them, and all they ever needed was me. And that's been the most amazing feeling."

Living with Less Is Not a Punishment: Fifteen years ago, Kay Jean was happy to fit everything she owned into two suitcases. Now, this wife and mother of two can't stop shopping. She stockpiles food as if a natural disaster is looming. When confronted with Oprah's challenge, her children cried at the thought of living with less.

Now, life revolves around family, not things. "I think the first day or two, it's a shock," she says. "But we really have adjusted, and I think as long as you don't treat this as a punishment ... it really is a better life."

Start Oprah's challenge—get the rules!

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