Everett S. blogs about his family’s experiments in simple living on his blog about living the simple life and shares how-to videos from his Simple Living Skills Channel on YouTube.
When we hear “voluntary simplicity” most people think about hermits who quit their jobs and trot off into the woods to live in a shack. However, you don’t have to drop off the grid completely to simplify your life. People all over the world are starting to realize that simplicity comes in many shades.
Our shade of simplicity allows me to work a full-time job from home using high-tech conveniences like laptop computers, high speed internet access, printer, fax machine, VOIP… It is hardly the life of a Luddite. But it also allows me to spend that would-be commuting time with my family, and to live in a rural area where we can keep goats, chickens, bees, and grow much of our own food.
Choosing to simplify your life doesn’t have to mean a move out to the country or a full-time telecommuting job either. We started years ago while still living in Denver, Colorado and working in cubicles. First we gave up crap we didn’t “need”. I cut the cable off and found out how much better local news was than the sickening, repetitive, opinionated “analysis” they play ad-nauseum on cable news channels. I cut the satellite radio off in our cars and rediscovered the joy of playing audio books on CD during my commute. I even learned Spanish… un poco. We started spending time together making Christmas gifts for family (soap, cheese, scarves…) instead of fighting mall traffic and lines during the holidays – and learned how much more people appreciate a hand-made gift, and how much more enjoyable it is to make them than to buy them.
We kept our good “city jobs” for several years. Instead of buying big flat screen TVs like all of our friends, we just kept our perfectly good oldschool 27″ box TV. Instead of buying all new fancy furniture for our living room my wife sewed covers for our thrift-store couches. They were comfortable and looked great. I took leftovers to work for lunch, had a pretty good sized garden in the backyard, and made my own yogurt for breakfast every week.
But we still went to the movies at least twice a month – popcorn, soda and all. We still went out to dinner sometimes on weekends. We still went snowboarding and had the occasional drink at the bar with friends. In other words, we never once felt “deprived” of anything, yet were able to save enough money over several years to pay off all credit cards, pay off a new car in 8 months, and put a 20% deposit down on our new farm.
We could have had the attitude that if we’re not going to do the voluntary simplicity thing “all the way” then we might as well not do it at all. Or we could have taken it to the extreme, quit our jobs and moved off the grid and into the wilderness. But neither answer seems right for the average American family. Our politics are polarized with no middle ground and look where that has taken us. It is time we start looking for the golden mean – the middle way – and in this way we can live happy lives as productive members of the greater community without falling into a consumerist gotta-have-it-now mentality.