Some people still think that to choose Voluntary Simplicity means turning into a Hippie, with flowers in your hair, no shoes, and perhaps even living in a commune somewhere; Or living in a cave, renouncing all creature comforts, and rejecting modern life. But far from glorifying poverty, the simple life is simply a life of fewer material possessions and less consumption – it’s as simple as that. And less stuff and consumption translates to more Life.
The simple life is about discovering the freedom and contentment that comes with knowing how much consumption and ‘stuff’ is truly enough.
Leonardo da Vinci: ‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.’
The idea of living simply isn’t new. The benefits of moderation have been central to most ancient wisdom and spiritual traditions throughout history, and to many of the Indigenous peoples around the world. Simplicity is an empowering expression of freedom, where we let ourselves be happy and content with the virtues of a seemingly ordinary life.
A Consumer culture might be booming financially/economically, but dedicating too much time and attention to consumption and acquisition of wealth, to the detriment of family, community, and the greater environment. It can distract us from what is needed for healthy, whole lives, and functions to keep many locked in a work-and-spend cycle that has no end and little lasting satisfaction. This certainly doesn’t deserve the social status and admiration it seems to attract by so many today.
Indeed, many of the world’s most sophisticated psychologists are hired by corporations to think up ways to make us, potential consumers, feel dissatisfied with what we have, despite our plenty, in order to get us to buy things we didn’t even know we wanted and certainly didn’t need. Corporations, mass media, and our politicians, are telling us that more money and more consumer products are the key to a better life.
Rather than dedicating our life to the pursuit of riches or status, those seeking a simple life are more likely to seek fulfilling employment, work less hours and accept a modest income, rather than getting too hung up about ‘needing’ more and more money. With less time devoted to acquiring things, we will have more time to spend with friends and family, and more time to spend pursuing personal interests and passions. In short, many are drawn to simplicity because they want to escape the rat race and Live more.
We live in a world of diminishing resources.
As Gandhi once said, ‘Live simply so that others may simply live.’
It is becoming increasingly clear that simpler living, is needed to save ourselves and our planet from permanent harm. The major cause of the continued deterioration of our personal and the global environment, is unsustainable consumption and production, with diminished ethics, particularly in the industrialized countries.
There is enough on the planet for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed. Our planet and our future generations urgently need us to explore a Better Way of Living.
Simple Living can involve:
- Installing a water tank and thinking up ways to use less water.
- Rather than using central heating, put on a sweater.
- If you already have it and it still works well, use it, it doesn’t need replacing. Newer is not necessarily better.
- Buying pre-loved clothing and furniture; create your own style, and fashion. The historic purpose of clothing was to keep us warm and for reasons of modesty. Today its primary purpose seems to be ‘in’ fashion and the conspicuous display of wealth and status.
- Recycle. Used can be just as good as new, if not better sometimes. Once you have bought something and used it, it is now ‘used’ anyway.
- Create and cultivate a garden, instead of going to the Theme Park again. Make it a joint family project, eating simply and creatively healthy food at home together afterwards, can be both economical and satisfying.
- It might involve riding a bike instead of driving a car where possible, or car share.
- We can choose a washing line over a dryer.
- Choose to make or create something yourself instead of watching television.
The ideas are endless. It is time to resurrect some of the good ways life used to be lived. It is time to redefine what is seen as success and wealth in our culture.
Money is the currency of this culture, and how we spend our money is how we vote for what exists in this world.
This is an interesting exercise: Over a one month period, record where you spend every cent, and then categorize your expenses. Multiply each category by twelve to get an idea of the annual costs. Examine not only the amount of money you spent on each category, but also the categories themselves. What does your spending pattern show you? What is your money voting for in this world?
What steps can you take towards a Simpler Life?