Do you feel like your life is moving too fast? Modern life gives us many technological conveniences, but it also makes more demands of us. Long commutes and jarring traffic. Constant stimulation and demands for our attention. A fast-paced existence with little time for quiet reflection. The clutter created by too many possessions. These are some of the reasons I’ve set off on my own farmsteading journey and why I am so intrigued by the idea of “voluntary simplicity.”
To live more voluntarily is to live more deliberately, intentionally and purposefully.
Voluntary simplicity means freeing ourselves from the non-essential activities that fill modern life in order to live in accordance with our most important goals and values. In his book, Voluntary Simplicity, author Duane Elgin provides a list of behaviors and patterns associated with this approach. I’ve edited the list for my own use:
- Invest the time and energy freed up by simpler living in activities with my partner, children and friends (walking, making music together, sharing a meal, camping, etc.).
- Work to develop the full spectrum of my potential: physical (running, biking, hiking), emotional (learning the skills of intimacy), mental (reading, taking classes), and spiritual (learning to move through life with a quiet mind and compassionate heart).
- Act in ways that express great care for the Earth and a reverential concern for nature.
- Foster compassionate concern for social justice and equity in the use of the world’s resources.
- Lower my overall level of personal consumption—buy less clothing or buy second hand, pay more attention to what is functional, durable, and observe holidays in a less commercialized manner.
- Alter my patterns of consumption in favor of products that are more durable, easy to repair, nonpolluting in their manufacture and use, energy-efficient, functional and aesthetic.
- Shift my diet away from highly-processed foods toward foods that are organic, more natural, healthy, simple and appropriate for sustaining the inhabitants of a small planet.
- Reduce clutter and complexity in my personal life by giving away or selling those possessions I seldom use that could be used by others.
- Use my consumption politically by boycotting goods and services of companies whose actions or policies I consider unethical.
- Recycle metal, glass and paper and cut back on consumption of items that are wasteful of nonrenewable resources.
- Pursue a livelihood that directly contributes to the well-being of the world and enables me to use more fully my creative capacities in ways that are more fulfilling.
- Develop personal skills that contribute to greater self-reliance and reduce dependence upon experts to handle life’s ordinary demands.
- Downsize to a smaller home that fosters a sense of community.
- Participate in holistic health-care practices that emphasize preventive medicine and the healing powers of the body when assisted by the mind.
- Consciously change transportation modes—walking, car pooling, riding my bike and driving a fuel-efficient car.