Voluntary Simplicity

I've written about simplicity before, but lately I've done a lot more reading and thinking about it, primarily because this house-search thing we're about to start is potentially going to define our lifestyle.

A blog I've come across lately is Wise Bread, and a couple articles have caught my attention.

On Voluntary Simplicity as Hedonism:
What do hedonists do? They do what ordinary people seem only to do when they're on vacation. They go places that are interesting or beautiful and they linger in them. They go dancing and go to parties. They read good books. They hang out with cool people. They hike in the mountains and swim in the ocean and go sailing. They play golf or tennis. They eat good food and drink good wine. They listen to music or play music. They go to museums and theaters. They do whatever gives them pleasure until they're tired, and then they lie in the shade and take a nap.

To me, voluntary simplicity is exactly the same thing. You think about what gives you the most pleasure and then arrange your life so you can do exactly that.

I'm obviously not promoting hedonistic lifestyles around here, but the point is true. I want to have a simple life so that I may make time for the most important things to me. Right now, that means not traveling for my job, so I may spend time with my husband. It means not working a crazy amount of overtime, so I may come home and cook without being in a rush and, like tonight, go on long walks in the rain. It means planning for a simple lifestyle in the future, so that the margin in our lives will be sustainable as we go through different seasons of life.

On Voluntary Simplicity vs Poverty
Choosing to live a simple life is wonderfully empowering and affirming. Having less stuff saves not only money, but also time and worry. It's easy on the planet. It's healthy. It maximizes your freedom of choice.

Living in poverty, though, is just bad.

The article goes on to point out the downsides to poverty as compared to voluntary simplicity, even when two parties may spend the same amount of money. The differences primarily revolve around Choice- someone in poverty can't choose to quit a bad job, or go to the doctor or make a car repair. Someone living a simple life with margin in their budget can. We are blessed, I know that. We don't have to worry about the things listed above. We have Choice. I feel so freed from worry when I know we choose Simplicity, and because of that, have leftovers to do with what we wish- save for a goal, give above and beyond, or dream about the future.

Also see Being Frugal Doesn't Have to Hurt and Eating locally on a budget, among others. Another inspirational blog is Get Rich Slowly, as well as lots of bloggers that live simply and have great frugal tips. Check out my links section.


Matt said...

"Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?" (James 2:5)

Certainly a person living in poverty is stripped of options to provide for their own needs, stripped of comforts of good deals and choice of living conditions, and stripped of the satisfaction of having volunteered themselves for such a life.

But, what about God? What about God's providence? It's nice to get a good deal because you had a savings account to take advantage of it. It's praiseworthy, however, to receive when you did not have the means. We may pity the poor for their lack of self-sufficiency, but I envy the promise God gives them above. Above all, I want to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom that God promised those who love him. If I am volunteered by God to live in poverty as a result, then so be it.

Joanna said...

Matt- Yes, I totally agree.

I should have been more clear. The point of distinction was not to say that "Poor=Bad" but to say that "Simple Living != Poverty". I feel like the reaction I get from some people when I share some of my simple choices implies "Why are you choosing to be poor?" I'm not. I'm incredibly blessed, and the lifestyle we're choosing is something different than poverty. I'm not experiencing nor do I totally understand the poor's struggles. I'm trying.
As you said, if we were chosen to be in poverty, I'd embrace it, because God has special blessings for the poor.

Gavi said...

I enjoyed your post. But we have to remember that even those in poverty can CHOOSE a lifestyle of simplicity. Many who are poor are living as if on the proverbial hamster wheel, trying to get and obtain and acquire. But if they change their mindset into one of simplicity, they may still be in poverty but they will not be as harried and 'victimized' by our consumerist society.


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