I love the concept of voluntary simplicity… consciously sorting out those things in my life that are important to me and my family… intentionally eliminating or minimizing those things that cause us stress… and intentionally maximizing those things that bring balance and joy to our lives. It’s extremely empowering not to just let events or society dictate how we live.

So that’s why it still surprises me that the lifestyle I find to be so natural and normal seems scary and intimidating to so many people. Many of the messages I receive though my contact form are from readers who tell me they desperately want a simpler life but are afraid to take that first step. They yearn for simplicity but they tell me they’re afraid they couldn’t live “that way.”

I assume they’re referring to the concept of simple living that comes to mind when you read the world of simple living advice that is out there these days. I have seen specific guidelines about what someone living simply should and should not do… I have seen specific rules about what someone living simply should and should not buy… and I have seen actual numbers given for how many items of clothing (or other items) someone living simply should own. The truth is that in simplicity (as in most things) there are no absolutes.

My advice would be to ignore the “one size fits all” approach and instead work to create your own simplicity… a simple life personalized to reflect your values and your circumstances instead of someone else’s. Not everyone’s dream is to live “off the grid” in a cabin in the woods, but most people have areas of their lives that would benefit from some degree of simplification. It’s important that you discover what those areas are for YOU and what your boundaries are. It’s also important to realize that forcing yourself to live a lifestyle you don’t really want will never bring you happiness… and that you can’t live someone else’s idea of simplicity.

But when you personalize the simplicity… when you know who you are as a person and what is important and has meaning in your life… and when you base your decisions and actions on these discoveries… you will naturally be creating a simplicity and a simpler lifestyle that is the right one for you and your family.

And that’s a simplicity anyone can live with.

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Comments

goldfish

I couldn’t agree with you more! I live very differently than you do, yet I consider my lifestyle to be very simple. I consider my voluntary simplicity as eliminating as much static as possible from my life. Reduce stress, increase happiness!

Random Thoughts of a Jersey Mom

I like that! It really is up to ourselves to decide what simplicity means and how it can work for us. I wouldn’t be able to do some of the extreme things people write about (i.e. live with only what you need like water, food, clothes on your back, and some sort of shelter) but I do try to simplify to a point that works for the entire family. For example, I like to live in a clutter-free environment where everything is neat and organized. Not only does it make the house look bigger, it’s easier to maintain and keep clean.

Willow

I agree with you, too. If one is required to live by someone else’s simplicity formula, then it will not be simple because every one has different needs and life perameters. I wither like a pulled up plant when I don’t have a garden to putter around in. My garden is an integral part of my simple life. To others, a garden would be a source of irritation and stress. I happily make room among my possessions for gardening tools, but I would consider fishing equipment as clutter. Each person must choose his/her own ‘simple life’.

Malcolm R. Campbell

I like your advice to ignore the one size fits all method of finding simplicity. It seems clear to me that if one is living simply based on rules or a recipe, s/he has yet to attain his or her goal. Simple living is a heart-oriented approach, not a lemmings-over-the-cliff approach.

Malcolm

M.L.

I just love it when you have posts like this! You word things so wonderfully that it leaves me amazed at how the concept of simplicity has become so complicated. It really is a simple concept if left to remain simple. Thank you for keeping things simple and helping all of us to keep a simple focus.

Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm

Good advice! Minimalism and simplicity are different for everyone. No two people have the same priorities and you are the only person who knows what is important to you.

Wenny Yap

I have chosen to live in voluntary simplicity these few years and I’m loving it! I live in moderation within my own rules, time and space and still get to enjoy the things that I desired since a long time ago.

Michele C.

I am seeing that there is a process. Things are needed for awhile and then they are not, and we can pass them on to someone who can use them. Right now I have a wardrobe that includes business clothes because of my job, but someday I will pass them on and have a more casual wardrobe. There aren’t absolutes in this process – it is unique to each person. For me, what matters most is that I have space in my home, and it is in order – so that I feel and see the inspiration around me that happens when I am not cluttered. Space internally and externally leaves room for things to happen. I personally think that is the magic of life…what happens in the empty spaces. Thank you for reminding us that the process is different for each of us – just as different as the inspiration is…

Dana Vigilante

I love the whole voluntary simplicity concept. It was only one year ago that I was making a nice six figure salary, shopping in Niemans and Bergdorfs, traveling extensively and going 1,000 miles per hour, I began looking into voluntary simplicity when I realized I had enough of 12 hour work days, being glued to my cell phone and missing out on life, all to make an even bigger salary. In my view, I was working so much, to make so much, so I could spend even more money. It had gotten ridiculous, in my opinion. I recently sold the Louboutins, Ebay’d the Vuittons, left the medical industry and work as a consultant, which allows me to a) work from home and b) take 1 or two days off per week to enjoy life. I am completely debt-free, love not having to worry about what the next great thing to buy is, and most importantly, I now live without clutter. When I think about the things I used to buy and how I spent my money, I laugh. While voluntary simplicity is not for everyone, I believe everyone should at least try it. The results have been absolutely amazing for me.