More of us are rethinking the consumer culture we find ourselves immersed in and instead are choosing voluntary simplicity and learning to live with less. Here are the steps we took to change the direction of our life.
Dreaming of the Simple Life
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” –Henry David Thoreau
When I was an adolescent, I dreamed of living as a wildlife artist in a small cabin in the mountains. I imagined my days sketching and painting nature and the beauty of the untouched wilderness. I would have a small garden and sell or barter my art for the few things I needed to live. Without consciously being aware of it, I had a dream of living with less and choosing voluntary simplicity.
My life moved in another direction as I decided on a career in nutritional sciences. I forgot about my vision of a simple life and living with less. I pursued a master’s degree, married, traveled to Asia and Europe, and started a family.
For many years I was on the common path of more. More stuff, more convenience, more money. And of course, to support all this ‘moreness’, there is more work to earn more pay, to have more convenience and more good stuff. Life was full and although I felt “successful” in every sense of the word, I never felt satisfied nor truly happy. Something was missing.
Revisiting the Dream – Living With Less
My dream of a simple life and living with less was revisited again in 2004. The devastation of losing both my parents in a short 18 months caused me to take a hard look at my life and the unhappiness I experienced daily. As I struggled through the grief, I began to consider a different future for myself and my family.
But then, my marriage of eight years ended and I became a single mom. For the next several years, I lived in “survival mode”. No time for contemplating a different life or for pursuing dreams. I was caught up in the frantic pace of life as I struggled to support myself and my two young children.
But life keeps changing. My vision for living a simple life and choosing voluntary simplicity now includes a new life partner and three children. My husband and I decreased our expenses, downsized our home, and made the choice to minimize the time spent earning an income in order to devote more time to the things that really matter. We are choosing to live with less and enjoy the dream of living a quiet, creative life.
Steps Toward Voluntary Simplicity and Learning to Live With Less
I am not alone in the wanting to live a simple life. More and more of us are rethinking the consumer culture we find ourselves immersed in. Voluntary simplicity is being pursued and accomplished by people from various backgrounds. Liberal, conservative, urban, and rural, many people are making the choice to live with less. But how do we pursue a simple life and learn to live with less?
Small Steps Over Time
It didn’t happen all at once. Over the years we have taken many small steps to simplify our lives. And we are still making changes as we adjust to new circumstances. But the biggest change comes with adjusting our mindset. Letting go of the false belief that we need more to be happy. Finding the strength and the courage to find ways to be happy with what we have.
Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things. ~Elise Boulding
Here are the steps we took to change our lives:
- Examining our values and deciding to make our health, family, and freedom of time a priority over personal belongings and the pursuit of money
- Spending less and saving more. Creating a budget, eliminating unnecessary expenses, and being aware of how we spend our money is absolutely necessary to make informed decisions about how we choose to work, play, and live.
- Eliminating a lot of the stuff from our home. We donated, sold, and trashed a lot of our “stuff”. Several times each year we go room-to-room and decide what needs to go. Moving into a smaller house forced us to downsize our belongings, and to think carefully about what we bring into our home.
- Learning skills to produce instead of always consuming – growing our own food, cooking from scratch, knitting, learning to sew useful things, making our herbal medicine, lotion, soap, hair wash, and deodorants.
Everyone’s path to living with less and enjoying the benefits of a simple life will look different. But having the right mindset is absolutely essential. Practicing gratitude has helped me experience more joy in my life. Investing more time and energy in pursuing non-materialistic sources of happiness has provided a deeper satisfaction than any of the previous ways I used to have fun. Finding joy and contentment in being home with family and doing simple activities together. And avoiding as much as possible the advertising and marketing that create more “wants”.
I strongly believe you must have a clear vision of what you want. While being open to what life brings you and remaining flexible are important, how will you get where you’re going if you don’t know what the destination is?
“Life isn’t about finding yourself.
It’s about creating yourself.”
George Bernard Shaw
What does voluntary simplicity and living with less look like for you?
What is holding you back from living a simple life?
Wishing you peace and contentment,