The Lighter Side of Transformation

with Lisa Wessan, LICSW

What is voluntary simplicity?

on January 22, 2010

Today I was talking to my old friend Gail Marcus, who just moved back to New York after living over ten years with her family in Vermont. In the throes of unpacking her ocean of boxes and cartons, we had a fruitful chat discussing our mutual goal of living with less stuff, clutter, and particularly gadgets.

While talking to Gail, I was reminded of the passionate, brilliant and elegant work of Dr. Theodore Roszak, particularly The Voice of the Earth (1992), in which he wrote about “voluntary simplicity.” It seems that this is a term one either embraces or strongly rejects…as it happens, Gail and I agree with the concept, but our spouses are not of this persuasion.

Wikipedia defines voluntary simplicity, or simple living, as:

Simple living (also referred to as voluntary simplicity) is a lifestyle characterized by minimizing the “more is better” pursuit of wealth and consumption. Adherents may choose simple living for a variety of personal reasons, such as spirituality, health, increase in ‘quality time‘ for family and friends, reducing their personal ecological footprint, stress reduction, personal taste or frugality. E. F. Schumacher summarized it by saying, “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.”  ~

After we had a good laugh about our spouses’ recent questionable shopping excursions, Gail shared this astute Yankee proverb with me:

Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do
Or do without!
~ Yankee Proverb

Does this mean that we are to be living in deprivation?  Nay, nay, I say…it is not deprivation, it is liberation!   Having less stuff gives us more space, time, freedom and room to relax.  With less stuff we spend less time cleaning, repairing and storing devices.  With less clothes we spend less time figuring out what to wear.  For some of us, the appeal of having “a uniform” lasts a lifetime.  True, some people like to spend more time putting themselves together, as in creating great art — and that’s wonderful.  But for the rest of us, can we also look and feel great and spend five minutes getting dressed?   YES, I think so.

How are you choosing to fill your life?  Do you want more stuff, or more freedom?  This is a choice, and a stand for more joy — because having less stuff does ultimately feel fabulous.

I invite you to try on this philosophy of voluntary simplicity for a few days and see how it feels…let me know how you feel and what happens in your life.

© 2010 by Lisa Wessan. All rights reserved.

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