Voluntary simplicity is not about being cheap or doing without. It’s not even about getting rid of your TV and cars and becoming vegan. It’s about living in balance, about reducing stress and clutter, clearing your mind, streamlining your priorities, creating a truly sustainable lifestyle and – above all! – thinking for yourself. In summary, voluntary simplicity is about reducing your dependence on money and discovering and making time for what’s truly important to you.
Although in the past decade the voluntary simplicity movement has taken on a green orientation, a green lifestyle is more a natural outgrowth of voluntary simplicity than a founding principle. In its most recent evolution, voluntary simplicity and the “triple bottom line” (people, planet, profit – with a fourth, “purpose” recently added) are even emerging as an important business model.
The three books which launched the voluntary simplicity movement of the 90’s – Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich by Duane Elgin, Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, and Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach – all focused on the spiritual, emotional and financial benefits of simplicity.
While the actual target of today’s version of voluntary simplicity is what’s called “affluenza,” or, simply put, addiction to consumerism – a life driven by the need to acquire more and more stuff – voluntary simplicity isn’t about the right or wrong of a particular lifestyle.
Instead, it’s about cultivating awareness, and taking a look at whether your lifestyle is meeting your needs. You learn how to question cultural assumptions, re-vision your priorities, and make your own informed choices about how you choose to spend your time and money. As one website puts it, it’s about “nonconforming freely,” thinking for yourself instead of being seduced by advertising and social pressure. And if you discover that acquiring stuff is what really makes you happy, then it’s about doing just that.
In Your Money or Your Life, Dominguez and Robin painstakingly walk you through a complete re-orientation of your beliefs about time, money and what’s possible in today’s world.
This clear, step-by-step book shows you how to rethink assumptions about, for example, the necessity of commuting, or whether that daily morning latte is actually how you want to spend your hard-earned dollars. It’s all based on analyzing your actual income (paycheck minus job-related expenses like clothes, transport, vital jump-starting lattes, easily prepared, takeout or microwave meals, weekly sessions with a shrink, stress-reducing classes and medications, insurance, and job-dictated living choices). And it’s based on understanding time is money and money is time, and applying that understanding
Here’s how to begin simplifying:
1. Learn how. There are tons of great resources, books, videos and web sites. This is one case when time spent really will produce remarkable financial results, beginning immediately.
2. Make time for things that matter. This involves more than getting rid of time wasters. To make time for what matters you have to have dug deeply enough into yourself to learn what really counts – for you! Once you’ve discovered what you really want, uncluttered by what your family taught you or what you’ve taken on by default just living an everyday life, then you can develop priorities that will unerringly help you make choices that lead to a better, more sustainable and more satisfying lifestyle.
3. Learn to say “no.” Pause and think before taking on professional, social or financial obligations. Weigh them against your new values, and say no when it doesn’t directly support your true goals.
4. Master money rather than vice versa. Face it, we’re ruled by debt and financial obligation. Wouldn’t it be a relief to be able to make decisions without worrying about financial consequences?
5. Have fun fooling the system. Believe it or not, once you’ve collected the information and understand your true bottom line, living simply can be great fun. You can get a huge rush from scoring something you really want cheaply, or creating a way to do the job you really want to do (no matter how little it pays) and still live comfortably and happily.
As you reduce the stressand clutter in your life, as your time to actually live and breathe deeply increases, you’ll find yourself feeling happier and more bone-deep satisfied than you could possibly have imagined before you began this journey.