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Thread: What does simple living mean to you?

  1. #1
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Jan 2011

    What does simple living mean to you?

    On the recent minimalism thread, some challenged that the concept of minimalism is not interchangeable with the concept of simple living and vice versa. Minimalists may be simple livers but not all simple livers are minimalists.

    Wikipdeia describes simple living as:

    Simple living encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one's lifestyle. These may include, for example, reducing one's possessions, generally referred to as minimalism, or increasing self-sufficiency. Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they have rather than want.[1][2] Although asceticism generally promotes living simply and refraining from luxury and indulgence, not all proponents of simple living are ascetics.[3] Simple living is distinct from those living in forced poverty, as it is a voluntary lifestyle choice.

    Adherents may choose simple living for a variety of personal reasons, such as spirituality, health, increase in quality time for family and friends, work–life balance, personal taste, financial sustainability, frugality, sustainability or reducing stress. Simple living can also be a reaction to materialism and conspicuous consumption. Some cite socio-political goals aligned with the environmentalist, anti-consumerist or anti-war movements, including conservation, degrowth, social justice, and tax resistance.

    This particular forum, the Simple Living Network, is a child of a website that was about simple living in a broad sense, but which had a genesis in the concepts and practices of Your Money or Your Life--the book about financial independence and achieving "enough." (for some of our newer members who may or may not be familiar with this book).

    So... how do YOU define simple living? And what aspects of simple living drive you? Is it financial independence? minimalism? sustainability?

    My definition of simple living bends towards spiritual simplicity along the lines of Richard Gregg:

    Voluntary simplicity involves both inner and outer condition. It means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, as well as avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the chief purpose of life. It means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions. It involves a deliberate organization of life for a purpose.

    Also, for me a big part of simple living is about living lightly on the earth, a la Jim Merkel

    What does simple living mean to you? How would YOU define it for yourself?
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town

  2. #2
    Senior Member herbgeek's Avatar
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    Dec 2010
    New England
    Simple living for me, is an intentional set of choices. I have chosen not to live a more consumerist life (although I have more material goods than I think a true simple liver would). I have what I feel is enough for me, even though I could purchase more and or "better". I choose to participate in some aspects of our culture but not others (like following celebrities). When I was working, home/life balance was most important to me so I chose to only do some jobs and did not chase others that would have required more time away from home, or acting in a manner that I wanted to be.

  3. #3
    Senior Member kib's Avatar
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    Dec 2010
    Southeast Arizona
    I've been reading Peace Pilgrim again. Free book, pdf or audiobook here:

    Although I'm agnostic, in my heart of hearts I wish my simplicity could be more like hers. Just an unshakable faith in the idea of letting go of control and being of service, an instrument rather than another special snowflake in a blizzard of want and need. She makes me believe that kind of simplicity is possible.

    More down to earth, the simplicity I have managed to achieve is, as I said on another thread, more a matter of mindfulness. What works for me and what doesn't, where is that "enough point". I'm definitely still very self-focused and I haven't truly let go of complexities that really just bring me down. Part of that is living with someone who's very anxious and nit-picky, but I'll be honest, part of it's just being nit-picky and perfectionistic and blind myself.

    I think my ideal place of simplicity for myself would be something like this:

    Getting to the point where I no longer have to touch and examine everything (physically, mentally or spiritually) and ask myself whether it belongs in my life. (One more "spark of joy" at the hands of a dishtowel or butter plate and I may just ignite.) I want a mindset that keeps me gentle but makes it easy to know without thinking when something is not right for me. "Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day" ... no thanks, I've had enough burning and raving to last three lifetimes. "walk gentle in that morning light, mid-age should smile and nod at break of day."
    Last edited by kib; 1-21-20 at 7:05pm.

  4. #4
    Senior Member rosarugosa's Avatar
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    Dec 2010
    Eastern Massachusetts
    I agree with Kib on the mindfulness aspect. I encountered SL when I was searching for a better handle on our financial resources, which in turn led to the quest for FI. I feel like a critical element is feeling empowered to pick and choose what I want from life and not what society tells me I'm supposed to want. Saying no to children, fancy cars, a big house and lots of other things that I don't want gives me more time and money to invest in what I do want. I think it's also important to realize that time surpasses money as the most precious resource of all. Simplifying my life and routines by pruning out that which doesn't give value allows me to make better use of my time in ways that are meaningful to me.

  5. #5
    Senior Member razz's Avatar
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    Dec 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    I am sovereign over my choices living modestly and comfortably.
    Gandhi: Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony .

  6. #6
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Mar 2012
    Saint Paul, Minnesota
    Quote Originally Posted by catherine View Post
    So... how do YOU define simple living? And what aspects of simple living drive you? Is it financial independence? minimalism? sustainability?
    D. All of the above.

    Seriously, it was easy for me to define what I wanted from living simply. But it has been a struggle to maintain it.

    I've never been interested in being part of the mainstream. "Everyone else is doing it" hasn't worked on me since junior high school. I mean, I'm aware of positive benefits from conformity, but I don't have to watch the same TV shows and movies as everyone else (unless I like them), I don't need to keep buying "up" in consumer goods if I like what I already have ("26 Kitchen Trends That Decorators Say Are Out For 2020"), and I tired long ago of giving people the impression my life was so busy I didn't have time to do anything because, clearly, activities filled my time (just maybe not the important ones).

    For me, living simply means keeping my main things the main things. It's putting my (limited) time, energy, and money into what I care about, not what other people think I should care about. It's getting rid of distractions. It's having options in how to address life. Without a good understanding of simple living concepts, I likely would never have left my corporate HSSJ until some health event pushed me out. Without being frugal in so many areas, I (we) would not have been able to afford some really memorable vacations (never mind going into debt for them and paying much more on credit than we should have). Trying to maintain sustainability and minimalism is my approach to a consumerist society that seems to be heedless about running out of any resource -- including personal savings.

    It's tough, though. Minimalism has to be redefined when it's no longer just you living in your house. Sustainability is tempered by economics (those made-in-USA all-leather re-soleable shoes are nice but there isn't money in the budget for 4x the price of shoes made elsewhere -- and anyway we didn't not buy a TV because we couldn’t buy one made in this country). And it's tempered by exigency (the dog threw up now; there's no time in the schedule to go home for dinner now). And by the sad growing realization that I'm saving resources with a teaspoon while (most) other people are throwing things out with a shovel.

    It is imperfect. I won't (can't) attempt to address preferring a particular food item because it comes in a glass container versus taking four airplanes to a week-long ocean cruise. It's balancing that "box o' cables" that many of us have in a closet "because we might need one someday" (sometimes we do) versus the space (and psychic energy) we'd get back from tossing them (responsibly) -- or the time and energy it may take to find a proper home for or to recycle something as opposed to binning it right away (The carpet-recycling place is across town. That's how much time and how many gallons of fuel?).

    But I try. And questions like this one really make me think about it and home in on what rises to the top for me again and again. Thanks for that, catherine!
    Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome. - Booker T. Washington

  7. #7
    To me, simple living is living a peaceful life where your home is a calm place for family and friends without all the stress of the outside world invading the space.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
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    May 2019
    Hm. I’m a person whose life, until recently was all about the abuse I’d had as a kid and the PTSD that came with it. Hoarding was a defense mechanism. For me, living simply fits my ethics and present situation.

    I am shedding unnecessary things because I no longer need protection in the same way. I am looking for a balance of stuff: a level where I can maintain what I keep, easily. Where I can be as self-sufficient as I deem reasonable for my current situation. To regularly move towards having a lighter footprint on the earth.

  9. #9
    Senior Member gimmethesimplelife's Avatar
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    Dec 2010
    I'm seeing simple living as more freeing myself (as much as I practically/realistically can) from that which society approves of but that does not work for me. I'm talking in terms of obligations/comittments/expectations here. Having fewer material possessions is part of it for me but since I never really did have all that many, simple living expands beyond finances/material goods for me. Rob

  10. #10
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    Mar 2013
    Quote Originally Posted by razz View Post
    I am sovereign over my choices living modestly and comfortably.
    I like that very much.

    I take for granted my ability to exercise my own agency, , so wouldnt have thought to include that aspect although it is key to simplicity.

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