Voluntary Simplicity in a Bad Economy


One of the biggest misconceptions that people have about living simple or living in a frugal manner is that it means great personal sacrifice.

Yet the idea behind simple living, or voluntary simplicity as it is also called, is not to live as cheaply as possible, but instead to see just how well you can live on less. It is entirely possible to be perfectly content and have all of your needs met and satisfied by living in a simple and frugal manner, no great sacrifices required. A vow of voluntary simplicity can bring a sense of inner peace and certainly less financial pressure. Many simple living enthusiasts think of it as a challenge that they are eager to accept. It is almost an art form: living so well on so little. So what are some of the principles of voluntary simplicity?

Eating With the Seasons – Most green folks usually refer to this as eating local or the hundred mile diet. Not only is it a very green way to eat, it is budget friendly too. Foods that have to travel long distances to our plate usually cost more, so do foods that never grow in climates like ours. Eating what is in season brings the freshest ingredients to our table and it helps us save money. Canning, dehydrating, and otherwise preserving in-season foods allows us to extend local eating into winter months as well for relatively little money. You could be eating a delicious meal of homemade pasta and canned tomato sauce in the dead of winter and what could be more delicious than that? Eating in season may also be simplistic in itself: a meal of flax crackers, smoked Gouda cheese from a nearby dairy, and berries so fresh that they explode in your mouth can be a “gourmet” meal.

Simple living for many also means growing their own food. It provides a sense of accomplishment and an opportunity for exercise. Even in limited spaces we can grow grape tomatoes in a window box, or fresh herbs on the window sill. Food does get any fresher than when you grow it yourself.

Time for Things That Matter – Simplicity will usually mean forsaking many expensive entertainment outings. Not only are they pricey but they never seem to relax us the way they should. Instead, opportunities for neighborhood walks, hikes at a state park, and reading in a comfy chair at the bookstore become an escape. Simple living enthusiasts treasure moments, events, and time with their loved ones, these are the luxuries that matter. Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe once said, “One ought every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”

Simple is Classic – When evaluating new clothing purchases it is important to analyze every item and make sure it matches at least 5 other things you already own. For the sake of storage and for laundry day don’t buy too many clothes you have no need for. Pants in several basic colors, coordinating shirts and sweaters in different styles, a few stylish dresses, no frills shoes in basic colors. We don’t really need much. Choosing a basic and limited wardrobe allows us to buy quality items since we don’t have to have such great quantity. Sturdy classic clothes in earthy or neutral colors never go out of style either.

If that doesn’t sound like your style, there is always the wonder of thrift stores and consignment shops. In fact, much more than clothes can be found in places like these. You can decorate your entire home tastefully and affordably by buying second hand. With a good eye for timeless and beautiful pieces no one will know the difference.

As you can see, there is no need to feel as though you must do without in order to apply the principles of voluntary simplicity in your life. You can live a “rich” life on relatively little.

For more info I recommend the book Choosing Simplicity; you can read my review of it here.

An original 5 Minutes for Going Green post. You can read more from Tiffany at her blog about Green Moms, where she writes about green family living, parenting, natural health, safe children’s products, and homeschooling. Subscribe to her blog here.

5 Responses to Voluntary Simplicity in a Bad Economy
  1. Heather @ SGF
    November 12, 2008 | 9:16 am

    You can also check out a great course: Voluntary Simplicity from the Northwest Earth Institute. Check out their website to find classes in your area or set up your own. The Voluntary Simplicity Class is the only one of their classes I’ve taken so far, but it was wonderful and I met a lot of like-minded people in my area as a result!


  2. Alison
    November 13, 2008 | 10:33 pm

    “Simple living enthusiasts treasure moments, events, and time with their loved ones, these are the luxuries that matter”

    Absolutely, those are the things that create timeless memories. Anyone for a cup of tea? Let’s sit, chat, and become friends who support each other :-)

  3. Lori Ann
    December 6, 2008 | 5:36 am

    We’ve been doing pretty well on the “eating local” / “eating with the seasons” idea, but now that winter’s come we’re struggling to get our dairy. Milk, ice cream; it’s all so cold! Any ideas?

  4. Booklady Alison
    December 6, 2008 | 1:13 pm

    I have a couple of suggestions for getting your dairy intake when it is cold.

    1) Rice pudding and other milk puddings. Rice pudding can be made in a crockpot or in the oven. It tastes even better if you add vanilla and a little spice, or raisins. I’m sure you can google a recipe. It doesn’t have to be really sweet, just reduce the sugar in the recipe to a lower level. Custard is a recipe made with either eggs and milk or with cornstarch, vanilla, sugar and milk. Again you can reduce the sugar. If you can’t get locally produced rice or cornstarch you can probably make something equivalent with whatever grains are local to you, or make egg custard.

    2) In winter I like to have warm oatmeal for breakfast and I make it with milk. It is good with some nuts and dried or preserved fruit and a little honey.

    If neither of these work share some about the ingredients you have available and I’m sure someone will make suggestions.

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