There seem to be a lot of definitions out there for the simple life. The fact of the matter is that there really are just a lot of ways to define it. The common thread is that people want to get rid of some of the trappings of modern life in order to make room for more of the non-material good stuff in life. The things that people choose to get rid of, and the non-material pleasures that they seek, are as varied as people are. There are definitely some common categories for the things that people are seeking in this whole adventure: health, financial freedom, spirituality, time with family or other loved ones, creativity, and ecological health are common. I would love to have all of those things! But what am I willing to give up out of the typical American lifestyle to have those things?
Well, I’m not going to be choosing the path of the Amish anytime soon. Nor am I interested in asceticism. There are definitely some things that I am actively trying to remove from my life right now: processed food, cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, excessive “stuff,” over-socializing, going out to eat, etc. We’ve given up one of our two cars. However, I don’t completely agree with the definition of voluntary simplicity that implies that seekers of simplicity are trying to get rid of anything that isn’t necessary to sustain life. What is life-sustaining? Is it just basic food, water, clothing, and shelter? What kind of food, water, clothing, and shelter? Does emotionally sustaining count? What about beauty? What about pleasure? This is where any attempts to define voluntary simplicity become murky and are left at the discretion of those who choose it.
As I’ve mentioned many, many times on this blog, my reasons for simplifying are health, creativity, spirituality, financial freedom, ecological health, and general experience (which I think is really the point of it all – to experience life fully as it’s happening). It’s up to me to decide what each of those things really means. I don’t have any answers right now. I’m still trying to figure it all out – vacillating wildly between placing more importance on one thing or the other. I’m still struggling with where to place my focus. Food seems natural, as I’m a person who has always been obsessed with food, for better or worse. But there are other things that I really ache for – time to be creative, for example. Given that I can’t just up and quit my job to give myself more time, it’s hard to know what my approach should be. Small steps in all areas, as I have been doing? Small steps in most areas and big steps in one? I’m obviously still trying to figure it out.