As seen in The Green Living Journal, Summer 2018
The Simple Choice
Okay, I know that making choices isn’t always so simple. For one thing, we often operate on auto-pilot, just repeating the same patterns and habits over and over, not really stopping to think about what we’re doing or watching or buying or eating – it’s just easier, right? For another, there are way too many choices! Have you looked at the cereal aisle lately? I haven’t, partly because I find it crazy-making along with just about every other section of the grocery store. I shop the edges and the bulk section at grocery stores, and I frequent the farmers markets.
I recently read an opinion that manufacturers are merely meeting consumers’ wishes with this panoply of options; they are just trying to make life more convenient for us and meet our demands. I disagree. Sure, it’s lovely to have several possible alternatives, but I really don’t think we were consulted. I think our lives have gotten increasingly complicated with the advent of so many more ways to do just about everything. And all at the speed of lightning.
Life was going to be so much easier with email and the internet and more technology. Is it? Sure, in some ways. But everything has sped up, too. And stress levels are out of control. We are way too busy, so busy that we can’t even take the time to grocery shop or cook meals for ourselves but have them delivered instead. There’s a cost to that, not just in dollars. And then there is the online shopping – all those delivery trucks zooming through neighborhoods – and all that fuel and packaging. Phew, I’m getting stressed just thinking about all of this whizzing around, not to mention the environmental impacts of all this “convenience”. The Earth cannot survive this paradigm of more and more, and faster and faster. We are using up the planet’s resources faster than they can be regenerated.
Many of us are brainwashed by our current culture into thinking that we have to do more, be more and have more. It eventually becomes overwhelming and defeating, and just plain no fun. That’s where The Simple Choice comes in. Make an appointment with yourself to take the time to sit down and think about what is truly most important to you – what really matters most. Consider what you are most attached to: Nice house? Nice clothes? Status? Financial security? Independence? Privacy? Comfort? Has this attachment brought any discontentment into your life? I’m guessing that your experiences and friendships are what have made life enjoyable, not that great pair of shoes you bought.
I did this exercise years ago in 1995 after participating in the Voluntary Simplicity course offered by Northwest Earth Institute. I decided that I wanted more time, more control, more freedom of choice, and less stuff, less spending, and less working; the more stuff you have, the more you have to work in order to buy and take care of your stuff. I wanted to take care of my home and family instead of hiring someone else to do what I could do myself. I wanted more peace and more time with friends. I wanted a deep life, not a shallow one. And I not only wanted but needed time for a more conscious approach to making choices so that I understood what those choices really mean. I did not want to get to the end of my life and wonder how my lifestyle might have harmed the Earth. Just like in The Story of Stuff video, I wanted to jump off the hamster wheel. And I did. Luckily my husband jumped with me.
When I told my coworkers about my new philosophy, they looked at me in total disbelief. This idea was totally beyond their comprehension. They thought I was going to live in a hut somewhere. I did quit my job after a while. Some friends fell away, sort of like when you have a child and your friends don’t so you’re attracted to new friends who also have children. I did find so many other friends who shared Simple values. Life has been much richer, and I have more time to enjoy it. It’s okay to be different from the mainstream culture; for me it has been very freeing.
Consider how your life would be different with less. Here are some simple steps to start with:
- Schedule fewer activities back-to-back and take more time for rest and reflection on what matters most to you.
- Limit the checking of email messages and social media.
- Shop at resale stores/thrift stores/garage sales. This saves money and resources.
- Join BuyNothing.org, NextDoor.com and other sharing platforms to share with your community.
- Limit the number of hangers in your closets. Each time a new item of clothing is acquired, another needs to be donated to make room for the new item.
—-Courtesy of the Northwest Earth Institute from their course Voluntary Simplicity
Lately there has been more attention given to Minimalism and less to Voluntary Simplicity. Both philosophies are about having less that takes your attention away from living a more fulfilled life.
Joshua Becker, author of The More of Less. writes: “Modern culture has bought into the lie that the good life is found in accumulating things—in possessing as much as possible. They believe that more is better and have inadvertently subscribed to the idea that happiness can be purchased at a department store. But they are wrong. Minimalism brings freedom from the all-consuming passion to possess. It steps off the treadmill of consumerism and dares to seek happiness elsewhere. It values relationships, experiences, and soul-care. And in doing so, it finds life.”
Duane Elgin, author of Voluntary Simplicity, writes: “Conscious (voluntary) simplicity… represents a deep, graceful, and sophisticated transformation in our ways of living—the work we do, the transportation we use, the homes and neighborhoods in which we live, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and much more. A sophisticated and graceful simplicity seeks to heal our relationship with the Earth, with one another, and with the sacred universe.” — Duane Elgin
It has been my experience that living a materially simple life provides far more satisfaction than the materially cluttered life. I hope you’ll consider exploring these options and give them a try. It is simply worth it.