When we talk about voluntary simplicity, we automatically think of an austere life. However, adopting voluntary simplicity does not take a vow of poverty. Usually it’s about living a material life easier for a richer inner life, as defined by Duane Elgin and Arnold Mitchell, author of Voluntary Simplicity in 1977. This is not an entry into religion, but a way to simplify your life. No recipe is given, only a few boards filled with common sense, that’s all what it takes. Voluntary simplicity is a choice, its practice varies from one person to another.
It is difficult to find a precise definition of voluntary simplicity. The concept is evolving and may vary according to the understanding we have of it. It is more complex and diverse than not having television, cars, and being vegetarian. All these are practices of voluntary simplicity, but I always refused that practice is a long list of “must…” Everything depends on our situation and on ourselves.
If you use public transit, but you buy two cars, it’s not voluntary simplicity. But if you take public transit, because you sold one of your two cars is the voluntary simplicity. Voluntary simplicity is a change in life that some people are practicing without even knowing it!
A life easier and richer
Usually, it’s about living a material life easier for a richer inner life, as defined by Duane Elgin and Arnold Mitchell. A broader concept of voluntary simplicity is a lifestyle that is expandable and adaptable. Some will say it is a reduction in consumer purchases, but voluntary simplicity is not limited to only that.
Before launching headlong into voluntary simplicity, it is better to clearly identify its priorities in life. This was done by the Smith family. “These are our goals in life – our children, their health, education and harmony in our lives that we have brought to the voluntary simplicity. The road was fairly easy, because decisions have not been imposed, they are ours,” said Lory Smith, a resident of the New York area.
It is also not to be distracted from its core values, develop a spiritual dimension (different religion), values of social justice and does not take more than necessary for life. The fans like to repeat the famous words of Gandhi: “Live simply so that others may simply live.”
Reduce its ecological footprint
Besides simplifying the aspect of the life, the environmental side is also important. Practice voluntary simplicity is also concerned about its ecological footprint. That is to say the extent of biologically productive area of land and water needed to produce the resources we consume and absorb the waste it generates.
Preference is given to properties whose ecological footprint is reduced or were repaired instead of throwing. Another tip to reduce its non-essential purchases: they are always pushing for a week, eliminating the compulsive consumption. Often the needs are changing from one week to another. The society lives by setting more and more desires.
Reducing your debt
Different courses on finance and debt will sometimes include voluntary simplicity as a means of reducing our dependence on money. We talk mostly about live within the income. It’s common sense. Certainly there is a wall between what is taught and the voluntary simplicity.
But being a fan of voluntary simplicity, it does not mean refusing the credit card if you pay the entire balance every month. We restore power by being less dependent on the consumer society. We can thus have more time to get involved in our community.
The majority of the population complains of a chronic lack of time. One of the principles of voluntary simplicity is to find the time to live. Look at the side of “time eaters” screens. We lose many hours in television, computer and video games.
Transport wastes a lot of time. When one spends several hours in the car to get to work, one can consider a potential move or opt for public transit. People complain of being stressed out, but then they can read during transit in collective transportation.
In conclusion, we emphasize that voluntary simplicity is not a religion. Those people are rare who follow all the principles consistently. Tips and advice are numerous. The important thing is to take a pause and wonder about its priorities and goals. Voluntary simplicity is a way to review your life, your way of eating, your relationship with money and to give pause to our planet and breathe.