Thursday, January 11, 2007

Voluntary Simplicity - My Definition

I’ve been reading about Voluntary Simplicity (VS) for a while now. I like the idea of living a simple life – a life with reduced stress, a life without all the “hurry-up-and-go”, a life where making a ton of money is not the goal, a life where the people matter more than the things.

But after reading scores of web sites, I’ve realized that what I am looking for isn’t a typical VS life. My goal is not to live off the grid, or learn to grow all of my own food, or learn to cook on a wood stove.

All of those goals are wonderful, and they can certainly lead to a reduction in needed money, but in my opinion, they do NOT lead to a simpler life. I’m looking to make my life easier, not more complicated. I have no interest in going backward when it comes to technological progress. I like having water, electricity, heat, A/C, and automatic appliances at my fingertips.

I’m not trying to be political or save the planet (although that is certainly a noble goal). I'm trying to make life better – for me and my family – while making as small an impact on the planet as I can.

So, what do I mean by living a simple life? A simple life to me means an unpretentious life – a life in which a façade is unnecessary. I want to go back to the “good old days” when simple living meant frugality and non-consumerism were the norm, not something to be ashamed of because you were poor and couldn't do any better.

I want to have a simple house, and not be looked down upon because of it. I want to buy furniture that is good enough for us, whether new or used, and not feel anxious when I have company. I want to clothe and feed my family as decently as possible, based on what I think is important rather than on what advertisers tell me I must have.

I want to feel good about turning the heat down in the winter, and turning the air conditioning up in the summer. I want my old – but functional – appliances to be a testament to how well I am managing our money, rather than an embarrassment that we hope no one will comment on.

I want to be proud that I don’t have to work outside our home, and not have to feel that I am judged as lazy, nonproductive, and a drain on society’s resources. I want my lifestyle to be considered an acceptable alternative to consumerism, rather than a pitiable way to live.

Voluntary Simplicity has as many definitions as there are web sites about VS. I thought I’d add mine to the mix.


Elderwoman said...

Angie, I like your definition. Please bear in mind that creating a life like the one you describe is not going back to the old days, it is going forward to the new days. Those are the new days and the new ways that we will get to once we manage to move beyond the current madness of corporate consumerism and rediscover sanity. We'll get to that sooner if more people like you set an example - and that's already happening. (And in any case, we'll have no choice but to live simply when the oil runs out. It is the only hope for survival of our species).
You're right - a lot of people confuse voluntary simplicity with homesteading and yet homesteading can often be energy-intensive and not simple at all. There are many different ways of living simply. That's what my book "The Lilypad List: 7 steps to the simple life" is all about -- choosing the way that works best for you.
Good luck and many blessings,
Marian Van Eyk McCain

Angie said...

Marion, thank you for your comments. I see what you mean about us moving forward to the good new days rather than going back to the good old days.

It does seem that VS, homesteading, and frugality seem to get so mushed together that it gets confusing, and nearly impossible to define.

I used to think I wanted to homestead until I read enough about it to realize that homesteading is a lot of hard work. Like I said, I'm looking to make my life simpler, not more complicated.

Whatever it's called, I am on a mission to stay in my down-sized lifestyle. Hopefully more people will realize just how silly it is to judge people based on what logo is on their clothing or how new their car is, and stop buying in to the greedy spiel of advertisers.

Syn said...

Good for you, Angie. I've been reading a number of frugal living newsletters and they are so focused on things, shopping, money, etc., that I'm beginning to turn off. It's like all the magazines that have the "New Wonder Diet" headline with a big picture of a chocolate cake in the background. My definition of frugal definitely includes not having to agonize over every penny.

I'm feeling I've always known how to get the most out of my money, and even how to get more money if I need it, but I want to focus LESS on things and spending, not more. I'd like help doing less recreational shopping (at thrifts and yard sales), getting rid of clutter, and "spending" time doing tasks that are mere obligations rather than fulfilling activities.

For instance, I'm involved with several charity quilting groups. It's the quilting, the friendships and the giving that appeal, but out of (bad) habit, I end up on too many boards and organizational committees.

I have a spending mantra: "Did you need it before you left home?" Now I'm working on finding one that will help me hang on to my TIME so I'm free to spend that on what really matters. Maybe "Will the world stop spinning if I don't get out and push?"