Simple Living


What We're Doing

Everyone's concept of simple living differs and many view it as a spartan lifestyle. Our view is more balanced than ascetic; we intend to obtain the maximum of well-being with a minimum of consumption. We're serious about living simply with only what we really want or need.

As we see it, learning to live happily with less consumption of goods vastly outranks all the other things we might choose to do to save the earth. A few of the things we are doing follows:
  • We moved to a small town with a low cost of living. Everything we need is within 2 miles.
  • For over ten years we have been "downsizing" and getting rid of items we no longer use. Surprisingly this takes a real effort.
  • Buy only what we use. This sounds logical, but in the past we succumbed to picking up things we might need sometime in the future or we went for the "good deal".
  • No TV. This is mentioned on our health page also since we consider it a threat to anyone's mental well-being. Why You Should Kill Your Television is dedicated to a reduction in TV viewing.
  • No daily newspapers. It's amazing how much time this used to take and this lightens the recycle bin.
  • Minimum shopping or errand trips. Whenever possible we combine everything into one trip and shopping in the "big city" is limited to once a month.
  • Take at least 2 coffee breaks every day and, weather permitting, spend them on the back deck admiring nature and enjoying the peace.
  • Drive a small, high gas mileage car, a 2013 Chevrolet Volt.
  • No cell phone. Most people consider them a necessary convenience, however, we see them as intrusions and have yet to find a need for them in our life.
  • We don't exchange gifts. Holidays are mostly created or exploited by retail establishments to make more profits. If we want to buy something for each other (or a friend or family member) the time is now, but that doesn't happen often.

Basics

Living simply can bring much happiness into life. It need not be as austere a lifestyle as that of the Peace Pilgrim or Scott & Helen Nearing, but every step toward a simple life brings its own rewards. Some years ago Audubon Magazine published a wonderful article on Simplicity by Scott Russell Sanders. It was accompanied by a list of ways to simplify your life (and save the world) that bear repeating:
  1. Avoid shopping. Basically buy only what you really need (see "The Biggest Threat" on the Finances page).
  2. Leave the car parked whenever possible. Walk, bike, use mass transit, etc.
  3. Live in a nice neighborhood ...where things are nearby and easy to access.
  4. Get rid of your lawn. Or at least make it smaller and minimize the use of fertilizer & pesticides.
  5. Cut down on your laundry. And avoid dry cleaning.
  6. Block junk mail.
  7. Turn off the TV.
  8. Communicate by e-mail. Saves on paper, stamps, trips, gas, & time.
  9. Don't use a cellular phone. Avoid the demands it makes on your life.
  10. Drink water instead of store-bought beverages.
  11. Patronize your library. Cut down on newspapers and magazines.
  12. Limit the size of your family.
Turns out that we were already doing all of these suggestions, so maybe that's why it sounds sensible to us.

Story Of Stuff

In the past three decades, one-third of the planet’s natural resources base have been consumed! From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view.

The Story of Stuff
The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. It exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

Slowdown Therapy

Along these same lines, we recently came across this great list of items that would improve anyone's life. The author is unknown, but the advice is timeless.
  1. Slow down. You are not responsible for doing it all yourself, right now.
  2. Remember a happy, peaceful time in your past. Rest there. Each moment has richness that takes a lifetime to savor.
  3. Set your own pace. When someone is pushing you, it's OK to tell them they're pushing.
  4. Take nothing for granted: watch water flow, the corn grow, the leaves blow, your neighbor mow.
  5. Taste your food. Nature provides it to delight as well as to nourish.
  6. Notice the sun and the moon as they rise and set. They are remarkable for their steady pattern of movement, not their speed.
  7. Quit planning how you're going to use what you know, learn, or possess. Your gifts just are; be grateful and their purpose will be clear.
  8. When you talk with someone, don't think about what you'll say next. Thoughts will spring up naturally if you let them.
  9. Talk and play with children. It will bring out the unhurried little person inside you.
  10. Create a place in your home, at your work, in your heart where you can go for quiet and recollection. You deserve it.
  11. Allow yourself time to be lazy and unproductive. Rest isn't luxury; it's a necessity.
  12. Listen to the wind blow. It carries a message of yesterday and tomorrow-and now. NOW counts.
  13. Rest on your laurels. They bring comfort whatever their size, age, or condition.
  14. Talk slower. Talk less. Don't talk. Communication isn't measured by words.
  15. Give yourself permission to be late sometimes. Life is for living, not scheduling.
  16. Listen to the song of a bird; the complete song. Music and nature are gifts, but only if you are willing to receive them.
  17. Take time just to think. Action is good and necessary, but it's fruitful only if we muse, ponder, and mull.
  18. Make time for play - the things you like to do. Whatever your age, your inner child needs recreation.
  19. Watch and listen to the night sky. It speaks.
  20. Listen to the words you speak, especially in prayer.
  21. Learn to stand back and let others take their turn as leaders. There will always be new opportunities for you to step out in front again.
  22. Divide big jobs into little jobs.
  23. When you find yourself rushing and anxious, stop. Ask yourself "WHY?" you are rushing and anxious. The reasons may improve your self-understanding.
  24. Take time to read. Thoughtful reading is enriching reading.
  25. Direct your life with purposeful choices, not with speed and efficiency. The best musician is one who plays with expression and meaning, not the one who finishes first.
  26. Take a day off alone; make a retreat. You can learn from monks and hermits without becoming one.
  27. Pet a furry friend. You will give and get the gift of now.
  28. Work with your hands. It frees the mind.
  29. Take time to wonder. Without wonder, life is merely existence.
  30. Sit in the dark. It will teach you to see and hear, taste and smell.
  31. Once in awhile, turn down the lights, the volume, the throttle, the invitations. Less really can be more.
  32. Let go. Nothing is usually the hardest thing to do - but often it is the best.
  33. Take a walk, but don't go anywhere. If you walk just to get somewhere, you sacrifice the walking.
  34. Count your friends. If you have one, you are lucky. If you have more, you are blessed. Bless them in return.
  35. Count your blessings - one at a time and slowly.

Stories

Some views, opinions, and stories from those that are living simply.
  • No Impact Man is an interesting blog by a family that is actually living a sustainable, no impact lifestyle in downtown New York City, of all places.
  • GreenMoneyJournal.com has a great article, Two American Dreams, that puts simple living in perspective. I've saved the article in a pdf file (about 100 KB) since it disappeared from the site.
  • Duane Elgin is the author of Voluntary Simplicity and other books about sustainable living.
  • Thoughts on Voluntary Simplicity by Clay & Judy Wood. This couple has been living their desired life for over 30 years and tells about it in understandable terms.
  • The Dollar Stretcher has a bunch of short, but informative articles on voluntary simplicity.
  • Gratefulness.org is a peaceful location with the correct ideas.
  • John December also has an interesting take on living simply and tells all in an e-book.
  • Roger J. Wendell's Voluntary Simplicity has more good thoughts.
  • New American Dream has many wonderful ways to live better.
  • Assimilation vs Accumulation is a good article by Steve Davis, who has a realistic grasp of the problems.
  • Simply Living links to many of the best organizations and web sites on peace, the environment, sustainability and more.
  • Resources For Life covers a lot of areas and contains several groups.
  • mnmlist.com is about minimalism, and why it's important today.

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."


~Leonardo da Vinci

"The whole meaning of life is trying to find a place for your stuff."


~George Carlin