Reader question… “Can you tell me the difference between ‘simple living’ and ‘voluntary simplicity’? I see these terms used all the time and I can’t seem to find a definitive answer about what each one means. Are they just different words for the same idea or do they mean two different things?” –Isobelle T.

I think of simple living as a lifestyle with a deliberate focus on paring away the unnecessary and eliminating excess. Simple living is about learning to do things for yourself and being as self-sufficient as possible. It’s about being frugal (but not stingy) with your resources and your time, taking steps to reduce and hopefully eliminate your debts, and preparing wisely for the future.

Old wheels in a garden

I think of voluntary simplicity as the same simple living lifestyle but with your personal philosophy wrapped around it. I believe that voluntary simplicity goes way beyond HOW you live and is more about the WAY you live… and how you interact with the world around you. I see voluntary simplicity as so much more than downshifting, decluttering, and frugality… it’s also about happiness, contentment… going outside your comfort zone, accepting responsibility for your actions, and getting your priorities “right.”

To me the distinction between simple living and voluntary simplicity is clear.

Simple living results in a better LIFE.

Voluntary simplicity results in a better life… but also a better YOU.