Simple Living/Downshifting

Voluntary Simplicity – An Overview

The simple living movement is a wonderful thing. A direct reaction to the consumerist madness of post World War II America (and perhaps some other nations, more recently) this way of life seems to be gaining more and more steam as we progress deeper into the 21st century.

What exactly is voluntary simplicity? There are so many definitions out there for it that it’s difficult to come up with a universal term that fits. Someone who turns all their used cans of beans into roofing follows the practice to be sure, but so is another person who simply refuses to buy a car because they have found an effective way to live without one.

A common link between every simple-liver is the deliberate avoidance of the consumerist lifestyle, with an emphasis on less of everything. Less work, less clutter, less “stuff” and less stress (as a result.) But the biggest thing I have come to love about people who practice living with “less” is that many have found ways to escape the 9-to-5 grind as a result of their lifestyle!

Escaping the Office Through Voluntary Simplicity

I have always said that it’s much easier to get out of that cube and into a life of more freedom, time and authenticity if you have fewer living expenses. It’s much harder for a family of 5 that is feeding a mortgage, two cars, flat-screen TVs, and subscriptions to deal with a loss of income than it would be for someone who can squeeze by on $1,000 per month.

867008_leather_shoesThere are many ways to practice frugality, but one can be frugal and not live a lifestyle of “voluntary simplicity.” One example is the woman who shops at all the¬†discounted shoe stores to get the best deals, yet still buys 15 pairs of shoes. There is nothing simple about that! The true practitioner voluntary simplicity has one pair of shoes per purpose. I follow this advice. I have a pair of sandals, a pair of athletic shoes, and a pair of nice shoes for going out, going dancing, or for interviews (ha!) That’s all I need. 3 pairs. Nobody needs more. (Ok, so maybe some boots could come in handy.)

The key to getting closer to a life of voluntary simplicity is understanding that that everything you own should serve a purpose (bonus points if the same item serves more than one purpose!) You don’t need a new flat-screen TV if your decent color TV from 1995 works perfectly well. You don’t need a new Ford F-150 if you have a bike and live in the city. You don’t need rims on your car unless you are a show-off.

If you follow these lines of thinking, you are well on your way to the first part of escaping your dreadful office job. It’s not just about being frugal and skipping your favorite latte. Voluntary simplicity doesn’t ask that you deny yourself pleasure. It asks that you let go of the idea that more things give you pleasure. It is a lifestyle, and a good one.

Things cost money, and as a result, cost freedom.

Resources is a wonderful website that has pretty much everything you want to know about voluntary simplicity. The forums are the best part, as it’s filled with many friendly people who are helpful and will answer any questions you may have about frugal living and escaping your stressful office job.

Your Money or Your Life is a great book on financial advice with a twist: unlike many other books that teach you how to “Get rich” (and assume that this is the path to happiness), this one focuses on the value of time, the true value of money, and a focus on freedom and personal sustainability.

Downshifting is another book with a similar theme, but with an emphasis on how to work less and as a result, enjoy your life more. Honestly, I have not read this one myself, but have heard good things!

And finally, here is my favorite site of them all. An answer to the age-old question about the greatest consumer holiday of them all: Is it Christmas or not?

I hope that answered your question!

Happy November 12th to all! And to all a good night…



  • Ross November 14, 2007 at 11:44 am

    Interesting! I definitely think that just having less “stuff” simplifies so many things. Otherwise, you just end up with more errands and things to take care of, which is crazily stress-inducing…


  • Mike November 15, 2007 at 12:40 am

    So true. The more you own, the more “stuff” you have to upkeep, and the less time you have as a result. This is especially true of vehicles.


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