Why do people voluntarily choose to live simply?
There are a variety of reasons. Some do it to de-clutter their lives and get better organization and efficiency. Some do it simply as a means to redefine their “wants” from their “needs”. Some do it to improve their quality of life and health. Some do it to reduce stress. Some do it for self-discipline or for a closer connection to their religion. Some do it in an effort to leave a smaller footprint on the earth, reducing their environmental impact. Others do it for focus and clarity in their lives. Others still, do it to better manage their finances and learn to live happily with less. Others do it so they can spend more time deepening their relationships and doing things that are important to them. Others do it so they can live intentionally instead of having their life run them.
“Live simply so others may simply live”. This is why I eventually chose simplicity. It’s been a long road for me. I’ve been on this path for nearly six years now, starting gradually and eventually changing my entire way of life to essentially become a non-consumer. I still have a long way to go to reach my all of my goals, but I am getting there slowly. After years of researching human rights abuses committed during the extraction of raw materials, I became extremely frustrated to find that I was supporting violence around the world simply by buying my daily luxuries. I kept trying to find “ethical” products, but found that so many of even the so-called “ethical” products still possibly had a hand in violence, or environmental degradation and that the majority of products didn’t even have an “ethical” alternative. I decided that I simply didn’t want to consume anymore. I did not want to financially support things that went against my own sense of morality.
I started simply. I de-cluttered my home of all non-essentials. I stopped shopping for anything deemed non-essential. At first, it was really, really hard and my list of “essentials” was still rather long. Ironically, the quest for living simple seemed anything but. Soon though, I learned that I didn’t miss what I had given up and so I started giving up even more. Eventually my list of “essentials” shrank and things did start to become much simpler. I began to learn how to grow much of my own food and how to store and preserve it to last me mostly through the winter months. I no longer shopped at all, and had a severely reduced grocery bill. I am still on my path, and trying hard to live completely off-grid using my own means of production. I still have some luxuries. I use the internet. This is one thing I see as essential for me for my research and so have decided to keep it in my life. I kept the majority of my books, which I just couldn’t part with and re-use frequently. I also still buy soap and a few other hygiene products, but am hoping that I can learn to make most of this myself in the near future.
Simplicity is not just a fad. It is a lifestyle choice and it has been around for a long, long time. Think of the teachings of Buddha, Confucius, or the followers of Christ who lived an extreme ascetic lifestyle. This is voluntary simplicity. It has been written and spoken about by many famous scholars and writers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Henry David Thoreau, Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy, Albert Schweitzer, among numerous others.
So why choose simplicity? Simply, because the satisfaction and peace of mind that comes from living intentionally is truly liberating.