The Simple Life (Part 1)
Monday, Mar. 30, 2009 | 05:29 PM AT
Image courtesy Teekampagne
Wouldn't it be great to work less? And maybe work at things you really, passionately believe in? And be recession-proof? It's possible. In fact, millions of people in North America alone have been doing it for years. In a movement called Voluntary Simplicity.
The idea is to live an inwardly rich, but outwardly simple life. To stop being a consumer (who uses up the earth's limited resources) and go back to being a citizen (someone who's a contributing member of society).
Wait, I know what you're thinking: Yeah yeah, it's all very well to talk about living with less, but I have kids, a mortgage, credit card debt, etc etc.
Guess what? None of it matters. It may take you longer to get to a place of peace and financial independence, but it's never too late! Today, you're going to read (and watch) part one in a three-part series.
Before we begin, here's how the series breaks down:
Part 1: What is voluntary simplicity--dispelling common myths
Part 2: How do I break my shopping addiction (concrete steps)
Part 3: How do I bring voluntary simplicity home to my spouse, parents or kids who want nothing to do with it.
So let's start with Part 1:
What is voluntary simplicity or slow living?
Wikipedia defines it as:
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, stress reduction, personal taste or frugality.
What it's not:
* Deprivation: The idea is to work less so you have more time to do the things that fulfill you. You also focus on personal and spiritual growth. When you're happier and more fulfilled, you'll find you need less stuff. So there's no deprivation. It just looks that way to folks who are addicted to material wealth.
* Poverty: Although some adherents of the VS lifestyle do live in the woods in shacks, a vast majority live in urban centres and even suburbs! So banish the image of the hippie in the forest. Simplicitarians come in all shapes, colours, sizes and backgrounds. You could retain your job as CEO while embracing this lifestyle. If your work gives you meaning and fulfillment, there's no need to quit. And you can make as much money as you want-- the idea is to use it wisely and thoughtfully. And not buy anything you don't need.
* A celebration of luddites and ascetics: Most of the simplicitarians I know own computers. A few even own cars. But they REALLY enjoy using them and aren't slaves to the items and technology they own. If you can make do without an item, then the idea is to let it go or not buy one. But if you truly need it in your everyday, by all means, enjoy! Simplicitarians also tend to own very good quality items-- this is because they recognise the social and environmental benefits of buying things that work well and last long. And since they don't fritter away their cash, when they need the latest left-handed veeblefeezer, by gum, they can afford it!
* Something for single people or renters: The benefits of simplicity are magnified when you have kids or a mortgage. Choosing work around your ethics and ideals makes you a better parent, lover and partner. And if you work less, you have more quality time to spend with your family. You have more energy at the end of the day and aren't likely to be distracted, married to your Blackberry or ignoring your kid's request for a bedtime story.
Okay, okay, I'm convinced. But HOW?
Ahh, for that you'll have to tune in (or visit the blog) this Friday. I'll bring you Louis Chauvin's step-by-step guide to breaking your shopping addiction. If you think this doesn't apply to you, take this little quiz:
1. Have you ever come home after a shopping jag and wondered, "why on earth did I buy this?"
2. Do you have more clothes (per season--adjusting for Montreal weather!) than you wear on a regular rotation?
3. If you went through your closet today, would you find something with tags still on that you haven't purchased in the last week?
4. Do you feel that your money just disappears out of your wallet without you having anything truly pleasurable to show for it?
5. Are you in debt?
6. Do you stay up at night wondering how you're going to make ends meet?
7. Do you feel guilty that you can't buy your kid ... (fill in the blank)?
8. Did you buy your kid a (fill in the blank) because you feel lately like you've let her down?
9. Does your "work" (what you do for money) line up perfectly with your morals, ethics and desire to leave this world a better place?
10. When you're angry/ tired/ frustrated/ depressed, do you treat yourself to "retail therapy"?
11. Have you, in the last week, bought something on sale that you didn't know you wanted till you saw it?
If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, sounds like you could use a little voluntary simplicity in your life....
To help you get started:
Don't want to wait till Friday for the next installment of my series? Check out these resources:
Réseau Québécois pour la Simplicité Volontaire: This is the Quebec chapter of the international movement. The website's all French and most of the services are offered in French only. But they're very nice people and can help you set up a local Anglo meet-up group if you're so inclined.
For folks who don't read French and want more info: The Simple Living Network. You can sign up (it's free) and read the articles, join the forums and get all the support you need.
Or, how about you swap the socially, economically and environmentally unsustainable American Dream for a New Dream? Again, a wonderful (free) online resource.
So there you go. A surprising side door that may lead many of us out of this fiscal mess. I want to know what you think? Is voluntary simplicity something you'd consider? Are you already living it? What are you doing to transform yourself from a consumer to a thoughtful citizen? Leave me a comment or call our Talkback Line: (514) 597-5626
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