Living the Dream: Kim Knuppel, Community Volunteer

by Lisa Mastny   |   June 3, 2016

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For several years, Kim Knuppel has been involved with TrustWorks, a citizen-led organization in her hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin, that helps people make strong community connections, engage in shared projects, and develop as leaders. Kim believes in living by example and is very active in the organization's time bank as a way to support her community and create a more meaningful life outside of the consumer culture.

Kim has generously volunteered her time for New Dream and was thrilled to use our SoKind Registry for her baby shower, which prompted several of her friends to ask for used clothing and books for their own showers. We spoke with Kim in April about her work and her approach to family life and community activities.

What does “the good life” mean to you? And how did you come to this vision?

The “good life” to me means prioritizing your life to revolve around your values and dreams and cutting out the clutter that can sidetrack you from those things. I think this vision has slowly formed over the last 10 years or so when I really began to evaluate the way I spend my time and took the time to ask myself what is important to me.

What’s the one thing you enjoy most about your lifestyle?

What I enjoy most about my lifestyle is when I talk to someone about my worldview and they get it! And they want to know more about how to achieve that in their own life. I like helping people to achieve their own life satisfaction by evaluating their priorities.

Is there anything at all about your life these days that you really wish you could change or improve?

Even though some people get it, a lot of people don’t, and I wish I had a way to break through to those people.

Tell us a little about the work that you do. 

I am part of an organization called TrustWorks, which includes a time bank and partnerships with a seed library and another local organization implementing a “Pay it Forward” program for their clients. We’ve been really interested in the way we can help other organizations in our community better connect people with each other. We also focus on trying to connect people who want to make positive changes in their community.

Describe some ways in which you are involved in your community.

I am on the board of directors of TrustWorks and participate in the time bank. I also run a local Facebook group helping moms find drop-in child care, which is sorely lacking in our community.

For many, your lifestyle is considered “outside the mainstream.” Does this present any challenges, and, if so, how do you deal with them?

I think the biggest challenge is gift giving and receiving. We have a toddler, and it is hard sometimes for the rest of our family to understand that we’d rather not have brand new, expensive, plastic toys for him. We try to stress that if they want to buy him something, we’d like it to be used or very durable that it could be passed along to someone else. Christmas is especially difficulty with gift giving and trying to get out of the expectation that everyone has to buy everyone else something. We’ve been trying to move toward group gifts that are maybe more meaningful than several $20 gifts.

Please describe any new skills or hobbies that you’re really excited about or that you would love to learn if you had the time and resources.

I’ve developed an interest in economics over the last several years and find books on social economics, like Freakonomics and Nudge, to be particularly interesting.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

I am a sucker for a good deal, and the best advice my mom ever gave me was that it isn’t a deal unless it is something that you need. She told me a story of how she and my aunt went shopping for clothes and my aunt needed her to come into the dressing room to get out of the shirt she had tried on, and didn’t even particularly like, but then she went on to buy it because it was only a dollar! Now, whenever I come across a “good deal,” I am reminded of that story and always stop to think if it is something I need, want, or is useful to me. That way I don’t end up taking advantage of a bunch of “deals” on things that just clutter of my life and add no value.

New Dream's "Living the Dream" series profiles folks from around the world who are living lives focused on “more of what matters.” If you or someone you know is living the New Dream, please contact us—we're looking for inspiring stories to share!