Simplicity

"Voluntary simplicity is an individual thing… It has to be something that springs from the heart because it was always there, not something you can be talked into by persuasive people, or something we do because we want to be different, or because we’re rebellious to convention, but because our souls find a need for it." 
- woman quoted in Duane Elgin’s Voluntary Simplicity

Simplicity, for me, means feeling complete and sufficient within myself as much as possible. It means living without a perpetual desire for more, and cultivating a feeling of satisfaction and contentment.

Simplicity means knowing the difference between what I want and what I need, and knowing that I need very little to be happy. Simplicity sets me free and provides a basis for living more fully in harmony with myself, others and nature.

Some of the changes that Linda and I have made to simplify and enjoy life more are:
  1. Live in a location we love, in an energy efficient home.
  2. Work for ourselves in part time, temporary, casual, or contract positions (when needed)
  3. Constantly consider our possessions, then work at getting rid of what does not add to our lives.
  4. Use our vehicle infrequently (about 2000 km/year), and work towards being car-free.
  5. Live in the moment. Laugh, play, be silly, and be spontaneous.
  6. Connect with nature frequently. Nature heals.
  7. Spend time being, as well as doing. Society rewards doing over being, creating imbalance/unhappiness.
  8. Get out of debt, stay out of debt. We pay cash for everything.
  9. Frequent the public library. In our town the public library is free, and one of our favourite places.
  10. Cook all our own food from scratch using whole ingredients. We eat a largely plant-based diet, love cooking, and bake all our own bread products.
  11. Play music, sing, dance. Around our house a jam-session is likely to break out at any time - we love to play guitar, sing, move and shake.
  12. Stay home and relax. Our community and home life are so enjoyable that there are few reasons to ever leave town. Our travel budget has been reduced to near zero, and still, we never get bored!
How are you simplifying your life?

    45 comments:

    1. How about shopping for a lot of you food at the local feed store! I have for years. This is feed grade food for aminals. BUT at that its as close to being natural as you can get. You should pick over the dry grains such as whole wheat, millet, corn etc before you use them, but you pick over dry beans don't you? The cost is pennies on the dollar compared to buying "procesed packaged Food" at you local human food store.

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    2. Anon,

      What an interesting idea. I have never looked into this, but I do know that perfectly good food that could feed people is used to fatten livestock. I would like a big bag of wheat berries so I could grind my own flour.

      Thank you for sharing your unique idea. It is something I am going to find out more about in my area.

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    3. I do this too.

      It's not baaaaaaaaad.

      (sorry. just could resist) :)

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    4. Anon,

      That is a funny and moooo-ving comment. What foods do you buy?

      ReplyDelete
    5. Gregg,
      Thanks for such an inspirational blog. I, too, am fed up with excessive consumerism. What is frightening is that the phenomenon is spreading around the globe - forecasting unwelcome consequences. Some people need to consume more if they are to lead a dignified life; but others need to moderate their excessive greed.

      Thanks again and keep up the good work!

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      Replies
      1. Anon,

        Consumer capitalism is spreading, but so is the awareness of its shortcomings, which are well documented (Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein).

        Any system based on infinite growth is doomed to fail. Balance, as you point out, is what we need, and it is coming.

        Thank you for leaving a comment. The feedback is appreciated.

        Delete
      2. What you say is true Gregg but here is the difference between the US and Switzerland whose garden ethic you captured in picture form. In the US our government has made it legal to seize whatever produce you have that you may have grown for your own families use. It's part of the NSAs privileges that can occur in the event of "emergencies". What emergencies they don't detail and so the term is subjective and could be abused. I like you am moving into hardcore simplicity. I have found my offspring are also more than willing to live this lifestyle and we are discussing reverting back to multigenerational living. That I need to apply for a variance in order to raise a small number of chickens or rabbits is a common issue faced by urban farmers in the US. I am grateful for your insights and your website. Hopefully many more of us will emerge and show others another way to fight consumerism. I also rehab old furniture and upcycle which is another contribution. Why buy new when you can buy something well made and timeless? Namaste

        Delete
    6. AnonymousMay 14, 2012

      Greg, I appreciate your blog. I take peace in much of what you are saying. My wife and I just purchased a 260 sq ft place a half mile from the beach in SC. The first step in a plan to seperate from the insanity. I work for the largest full service restaurant company in the world. It has been good to me, but I know I am nearing the end of that path. Thanks for what you do. Kevin

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      1. Kevin,

        Congratulations to you and your wife for initiating your move toward increased freedom and sanity. That is exciting stuff that we love to hear about.

        Linda and I are loving our quiet life away from the madness, and enjoy sharing that with others.

        We hope that our work with NBA will inspire others, in some small way, to choose the more simple, sustainable path.

        Please do let us know how things turn out, and send us a message if there is anything we can do to help.

        Delete
    7. I love this!! That list is exactly what my husband and I are striving for. If we could just get out of debt and get out of the ratrace now! I love this site - thank you!!

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      1. You have the motivation. You can do it! We retired about $60,000 worth of student loans in just a few years by cutting back on everything and making debt repayment our priority.

        Since we became debt-free about 10 years ago, we have managed to stay that way. Not buying anything (extra) has really helped.

        Keep on striving and you will achieve the simple life you so desire. It is worth the effort to break free of the ratrace, and live life on your own terms.

        Thanks for visiting. Please do contact us if we can help you out in any way.

        Delete
    8. Speaking of the feed store, I did something "weird" a few years ago. I purchased a large bag of those compressed alfalfa pellets that they feed to rabbits for $4--you have to make sure the feed contains no medicines--and moistened about a teaspoon of this each day and horked it down as a supplement. You know that dehydrated alfalfa at the health food store costs an arm and a leg, though it is extremely nutritious. My health really benefited from this and, in addition, that little spoonful contained all the fiber I needed. Naturally, I couldn't get through that whole bag of food by myself, so eventually it wound up on my garden as fertilizer. I had the best garden ever for three years in a row without adding anything else. ...just sayin' Haha! (...er, you brought it up...)

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      1. Alfalfa, a legume, has been used for centuries as a food, nutritional supplement and naturopathic medicine.

        Note: Pregnant women, women with premenstrual syndrome, hay fever sufferers and people with autoimmune disorders should avoid alfalfa supplements.

        Did eating the pellets make your nose twitch?

        Delete
      2. Ha-Ha, Gregg! No. No twitching, but I had to start gradually, as there was a lot of fiber in them. I've got to tell you, they SOLVED my problem. When I moistened them, they "grew" to a pretty big size.

        Delete
    9. About 2 months ago, I discontinued trash pick up service and got rid of the big ugly rolling container that had previously resided by the side of the garage. My family of three couldn't fill it up in a month and I really started wondering why I was paying on average, $10 for every kitchen size bag of trash we got rid of. I mean seriously, I had already paid for everything in that bag, and then paid again to have it taken away! We now share service with a like minded family in the neighborhood, and are looking for another family or two to join in. Here's the problem: we were informed by the garbage collection company that sharing a trash receptacle is considered illegal dumping. I have not found anything in the civil code that addresses this and am getting nowhere with the local commissions. Have you or any of your readers encountered this? My first reaction is that the trash collection company just doesn't want to lose the revenue! Sydney

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      1. I love your idea! It just makes sense. Unfortunately, often our laws and regulations are anything but sensible. It is all about money. Could you and the other families take the trash to the landfill yourselves?

        Garbage is a commodity these days, and is big business with huge potential profits. It is one more reason support for reducing our consumption is undermined by the rich and powerful. Consume more stuff, make more garbage.

        Might be a good time for a zero waste project!

        Delete
      2. Thanks for your response, Greg! The main lanfill does not take ordinary household waste from individuals, only construction wastes. I will have to check some of the surrounding areas in my spare time (haha!)
        As a single working mom caring for my 13 year-old daughter and my own mother with Alzheimers, the siren call of convenience (especially food) is constant and tempting, but so, so wasteful! Fortunately, My grandmother was instrumental in my upbringing. She was born in 1900, the first of 17 children on a very modest farm. She taught me to cook, grow, sew, repair and make do with whatever was at hand. I am happily reviving her legacy with a goal of zero waste. Thank you, Gramma Hayden!

        Delete
    10. When we were newlyweds, (eons ago...) we were in the military and were stationed in the Philippines. We had a day to day eye opening experience, living with people who have very little in the way of possessions, but lead full and happy lives. We took the lessons that we learned from living abroad and have spent the last 30 years of marriage trying to live by what we learned. We live on one income, in a cottage that we built with our own hands,(we are mprtgage free/debt free0. We home schooled our kids, grow our much own food, cook from scratch,(now we are raw vegan...so we don't even cook!). We don't buy anything for retail price unless it is absolutely necessary,(like gasoline) and if we must then we find the best price before we buy. We have made do or done without, I buy most of our clothes and household things second hand at Goodwill or thrift shops, but don't make shopping a sport, even at a thrift shop. I only buy what we have a need for. We spend much of our time outside,working in our gardens, walking local trails or hiking . We spend a lot of time together as a family, playing games, reading aloud to each other, helping each other with our various tasks. I hold dear my family and friends try to make sure that they get my utmost attention and care. There is very little I need and even less I want... what I want most is to live quietly, simply and to be happy in my own skin. Elle
      http://www.aviewfromthecottage.blogspot.com

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      1. It was travel overseas that finally taught us how messed up consumption was back home, and that we did not want to be part of it when our travels ended.

        What a life you describe! Thank you for sharing your inspiring story here. It is evidence that 1) it can be done, and 2) it can enhance life.

        We are hearing from more and more people that desire a quiet, simple life with a garden and a few good friends. It is an encouraging trend.

        Thanks again for showing the ample benefits of living a simple, small-footprint lifestyle.

        Delete
    11. I am a 57 years old, single male, living in an 800 sq ft mobile. I had it looking quite nice after putting in new flooring and painting.
      I now live like "hoarders". Not sure what happened. Do I have too much stuff. You bet. I am always worried that I may be out of a job, so I get all the staples.
      Now i have so much stuff that it is piling up and I am having to step over everything. I always had a lot of stuff, but I was always in order. I even had my own filinf system.
      Since becoming clinically depressed things have come undone. I really need help, but I am too ashamed to let others see my home. mI have tried to work on one part at a time. I have started another journal. Still no luck. I have been sick since Christmas eve. Both my parents have just came out of the hospital. I go home at night exhausted and it looks as though someone has done a break and enter. I am not giving up, but it does seem endless.

      ReplyDelete
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      1. You are certainly dealing with what sounds like an extended rough patch, and I am so sorry about your hardships.

        Are you being treated for your depression? It sounds like you had things in order previously, so that is an encouraging fact. Once your depression is dealt with, perhaps you will feel more like tackling your other challenges.

        You say you are ashamed, but reaching out here is an example of you moving toward dealing with your feelings and getting the help you require. Keep on reaching out here, and wherever else help is available.

        Have you read our post on Oniomania (compulsive shopping)? Reader comments include many good strategies for dealing with both compulsive shopping, and hoarding.

        http://notbuyinganything.blogspot.ca/2011/11/oniomania-when-shopping-becomes.html

        Let us know how it goes - we are always here to help.

        Good luck.

        Delete
    12. I would like to share an interesting story about "eating animal feed" . One of my elderly friends travelled abroad in a country which language he didn't speak. They went to a supermarket, where they bought a can of lunchmeat. It was in an uniform white package without pictures of the food ... he brought it home, cooked and ate. Next day a friend came up to him and saw the empty can. "You don't even have a dog, why did you bought dog food?" - asked. My elderly friend answered he wasn't aware that he bought canned dog food, and ate it. "It was pretty tasty"- he said to me later, and laughed :)

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      1. Skyie,

        Thanks for sharing - that is very funny. It is surprising what can taste good when you are hungry.

        Delete
    13. How I wish more people lived like you,my husband's Phd study on sustainabilty led me into the quest for better understanding of carbon foot print .Much enlightened thanks!

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    14. I just stumbled across this site and I'm having a great time reading all the insights and ideas! Good job! I have a question about #8 above: Get out of debt, stay out of debt. We pay cash for everything. Not sure who wrote that article, but in the eyes of the author is using a debit card and using cash about the same? I live in an area where debit is much smarter than actual cash.

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    15. I am trying to simplify my life and teach my teenage girls that there is nothing wrong with good, clean and simple living. Problem is, my mother is driven by the size of her bank account and hounds not only me, but her granddaughters constantly that a big bank account, mountains of debt and high credit scores and credit limits are as important as air and water. Has anybody had problems with close family constantly butting into the simple world you want? How did you get them to stop?

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    16. The sad reality is that there is not room for everyone to do this. I am one of the lucky ones that is able to grow and harvest most of what we eat. This year we had furlough days and work for all staff... it came at the time I was putting in my garden so I nearly doubled the size and have been providing my fellow staff members with all the fresh squash, beans, tomatoes, beets, carrots and corn. It has offset some of the lost income for all and has given me real pleasure in helping.

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    17. It's great to see there are others thinking about these things and doing something tangible about it. Here's what our experience in walking this path has been like.

      We were encouraged by a 86 year old friend when we got married to avoid debt like the plague. We made this the foundation principle of our partnership, and for these past 33 years have only borrowed money a couple times to purchase a much needed vehicle which we payed off quickly. We saved our pennies and bought a marginal piece of property, off the beaten track, living in tents with babies in diapers until we could build a small cabin. Through intentional frugal living we saved until we could buy lumber to build a comfortable home for our family of 6.

      We remain debt free and our cost of living, without hardship, is currently around the $750 per month which includes everything -- taxes, car insurance, fuel and vehicle upkeep, hydro, phone/internet, food, clothes and all other living costs -- for 3 adults.

      We've proving living this way is possible and not just a dream. We've raised our family with a miniscule carbon footprint. In the close to 30 years we've lived this way, we've only worked for wages 30 months in total. We buy our food in bulk and eat a totally plant based diet of grains and legumes grown locally. The only food we buy is olive oil, salt, sugar and fruit and veggies when the garden is not producing. It's a full time job to live this way -- preparing all our food from scratch, canning/gardening, cutting firewood and maintaining a country home.

      We are truly free of much of the worry and distress we see our friends and neighbors experiencing as they desperately fight to keep to keep their heads above water. We enjoy our life and are blessed with great health. Now that we recently became recipients of a small pension income we feel like we're rolling in the dough! After some thought, we've decided it may be wise to start saving up for our "retirement"!

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      Replies
      1. Anon,

        How fortunate to have an encouraging friend to help you out with some sage advise. Linda and I have also used debt very selectively, always paying it off as fast as we could. We have never had a mortgage.

        Wow - you have really got your monthly costs down. Our recent move has jacked up our expenses quite dramatically, but we that will change once we get established.

        Thank you for your simple living testimonial that will provide inspiration to others coming here for support. It is possible, and enjoyable, and ecologically responsible. Congratulations, and happy "retirement".

        Delete
    18. I just want to say, I am very much a conservative, free-market (true free-market, not what we have here in the US) capitalist- but I am absolutely enthralled with the idea of living a simple, minimalistic lifestyle. I think as a culture we put way too much emphasis on "things", and I want to break this cycle in my own life. It is hard, though!

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      1. I think simple living works for all approaches. It makes sense whatever your perspective. But you are right about it being hard, especially if you live in a materialistic, consume-oriented society. It feels good to break free from all of that. You can do it. There is support here.

        Delete
    19. How do you tell your siblings that you don´t want anything for Christmas. They always insist on giving things for Christmas. I got so frustrated last year, I told one sister I needed a blanket, I don´t. I told the other one I needed a cardigan, I don´t. They insist on giving gifts to every one for Christmas. The youngest is 32. I am trying to go back to simple living but they don´t get it. Any advice?

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      Replies
      1. If your family feel they must give a gift to you for Christmas, maybe you could suggest they give you a practical gift, like personal supplies (deodarent, body wash, soap etc), or consider giving a gift in your name to a charity (many many to choose from....e.g. buy a chicken / goat etc for a family in the less developed world ?

        Or maybe you could ask them to gift you an afternoon babysitting, taking you for a walk in the local gardens / parks etc, or even gift you a free carwash (done by them) ?

        Good luck

        Delete
    20. Gregg,
      There is this thought that I have been having lately and I wonder how you would consider it. I like your emphasis on simplicity and de-coupling from rogue consumer capitalism. My question is, how do you account for a future retirement?

      Sadly, almost every investment vehicle is tied to the stock market, which is tied to neoliberal capitalism exploiting people and the planet, of course with the help of our intelligence agencies and government politicians.

      There are few ways to invest that don't necessitate that one gets some money in the stock market to keep up with inflation and price increases.

      So I'd like to see you do a post about planning for retirement, or thinking about retirement, in an economic way that is responsible that does not perpetuate the status quo.

      I am just beginning the process of personally extracting myself from rogue capitalism the best I can, because I can see now how destructive it has been to entire populations and the environment, but there are several challenges to account for.

      The notion of retirement itself is a made up phenomenon to support capitalistic structures, but nonetheless, on a scaled down version, there may come a day where one can't work.

      Thanks for considering.

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      1. I think that the whole retirement industry (like so many others) is a giant scam. Do I really need one million dollars in the bank to retire? I have been thinking about this topic for a very long time. I essentially retired when I was 40 (more like semi-retired until I was about 50). Linda was 35. It has taken a lot of sacrifice compared to how our friends and family have been living, but I am glad we escaped the capitalist clown show when we did. I would rather be free and live in a hovel than have to plug into the slave-oriented system and be rewarded with all the trappings of wealth.

        Thank you for the reminder of this important topic. Doing "a post about planning for retirement, or thinking about retirement, in an economic way that is responsible that does not perpetuate the status quo" is a tall order, but one that I do wish to tackle in the future.

        Delete
      2. AnonymousJune 11, 2016

        Rental property! My husband and I took our retirement money out of the stock market (ethical concerns, primarily) and bought a duplex. We'll probably buy another in the future and call it good. We did our research about location and various tips and tricks, and we've had great success with it- a comparable return rate to the stock market (with far fewer ups and downs!), a greater ability to influence our investment income (strengthening the community is not only good for others, it's good for our investment), and mutually beneficial relationships with our tenants (well, with one exception- but even she wasn't too terrible). It takes more time some months, like when we have showings, but it's usually pretty self-sustaining. I strongly recommend it!

        Delete
    21. Today my co-workers said that they don't want to work with such weirdo like me! What is annoying them: I don't have a car and don't plan to have (they can talk half day at work about their cars, repairs, problems with insurance etc. - I think this is crazy!), I don't have flat/house mortgage and don't plan, I don't fly anywhere for holidays, I don't drink alcohol, I stay where I live on vacations, I don't buy expensive branded clothes, I don't have tv and so on. They tell me that I am crazy. I am so proud to be part of such hated community! I wonder why so many people think and behave like they were slaves of corporations. Even those that seem to be at first frugal then at some point they start spending on luxurious cars and other unnecessary stuff. Fortunately I was always questioning everything around me so I end up on minimalistic and simply living blogs like this one. Thanks again for creating such place where the last sane people can meet.

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      Replies
      1. I couldn't agree more. At age 74 all I have is Social Security Retirement and a part-time job as houseman at a hotel which affords me plenty of time for trading currency cross-rates on Forex, studying the Russian language and rigorous exercise workouts. I ditched the car long ago and travel exclusively by bicycle. This keeps me thin and also saves me from the slaughterhouse on the highways. I'm called 'crazy' by some motorist acquaintances. To them I reply 'Maybe. But I'm thin.' My critics not only have large bellies but also large medical bills. I feel like I can go on forever--and I just might.

        Delete
    22. Interesting blog. I am trying to get debt-free and live minimally (at 73 yrs old) BUT my husband is disabled, a double amputee, so medical costs constantly drain us. Med equipt is a necessity. Yes I do stock backups due to fear of not obtaining them when needed, or when out of money. How do I deal with this conflict?

      We live in a small home with interest-free mortgage from Habitat for Humanity. Cheaper than rent except we are responsible for repairs...which can be expensive. Have a small veg garden, one apple tree (still young), and new blackberry bushes for fruit.

      My strength and energy are limited. More so with each passing year. We DO hunt and eat natural wild meat for our protein--won't touch the supermarket stuff with all its poisons. Sometimes I feel so inspired by reading these blogs, and other times I feel so discouraged. Doing my best...

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      Replies
      1. Alice,

        It sounds like you are doing great. As Linda and I have found out, it is very expensive being disabled. Community groups are often helpful for dealing with the crazy price of equipment. It makes it a little easier to deal with.

        I am glad you found us. Hopefully you will return and find some inspiration here. We have a great group of commenters that are very supportive. It is not easy living the simple life in the current system as it exists. But things are changing. Nice to hear from you.

        Delete
      2. Hunting animals is a waste of your time and energy, you get plenty of protein from plants.

        Delete
    23. AnonymousJuly 05, 2017

      I need some advice. I own a condo & ever since I bought it, it's been one repair after another. I've gotten to the point where I'm frustrated & don't want to do unnecessary repairs anymore. I've lived most of my life with just enough to fill my truck but now with furniture & stuff, it's driving me crazy. I'm unhappy. I don't want to come home anymore. I bought it for the wrong reason. Being the oldest child I figure I should own a home but I've never felt like I belong here. I live in the Houston, Texas area and rent has risen a lot. I also don't like the feeling that I can't pack up and go. Should I try to sell the condo? It needs a lot of repair & I don't even care if I don't make a profit. Thanks in advance

      ReplyDelete
      Replies
      1. Anon,

        We have never owned our own home. We love the freedom of renting, and in many cases, renting is cheaper than buying. You sound like you want more simplicity in your life, something I highly recommend. I would say, "Sell it".

        Delete
    24. I've been living on roughly 1000 a month in Southern California. When you don't give a shit, eat a plant based diet, and surrounded by good people it really isn't so bad. I'm just hoping the whole system can collapse already, tired of the rat race.

      ReplyDelete
    25. Gigi HanleyOctober 25, 2017

      Check out CheapRVLiving.com Bob Wells may have just the information/inspiration you are looking for. Good Luck.

      ReplyDelete

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