Voluntary simplicity, or simple living, is a way of life that rejects the high-consumption, materialistic lifestyles of consumer cultures and affirms what is often just called ‘the simple life’ or ‘downshifting.’ The rejection of consumerism arises from the recognition that ordinary Western-style consumption habits are degrading the planet; that lives of high consumption are unethical in a world of great human need; and that the meaning of life does not and cannot consist in the consumption or accumulation of material things. Extravagance and acquisitiveness are accordingly considered an unfortunate waste of life, certainly not deserving of the social status and admiration they seem to attract today. The affirmation of simplicity arises from the recognition that very little is needed to live well – that abundance is a state of mind, not a quantity of consumer products or attainable through them.
This is a concept that has been on my mind a lot lately. As we plan our move and I see the amount of crap we accumulate, I can’t help but think we need a better strategy when it comes to the goods we acquire. When I was trying to write out a personal manifesto in my journal, one of the things I landed on that was important to me was my use of goods and resources. Here are the bullet points:
- Actively looking for ways to reduce my waste
- Only keep things that are frequently useful, or which I like to look at
- Think more carefully when acquiring new things about sustainability, utility, and aesthetic value
This ‘simple living’ doesn’t mean buying cheap stuff. In fact, to me it means the opposite in many cases. I want to acquire less stuff, but I want it to be higher quality. I want to buy things that last and that I enjoy seeing in my home.