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The term “voluntary simplicity” was first used by Richard Gregg in a 1936 article touting the benefits of simplifying one’s lifestyle for the sake of personal reflection. Forty-one years later, in 1977, Duane Elgin and Arnold Mitchell co-authored an article titled “Voluntary Simplicity,” identifying the benefits of simplicity in our modern consumer society. They argued that a simpler lifestyle would enable one to become more self-aware, since it allows one to determine what he or she really needs to survive. They proposed that separation from the larger economy into smaller societal groups would give individuals the feeling that they have a larger contribution and responsibility to the group.

The voluntary simplicity movement gained momentum until its peak in the mid-1990s, when an estimated 10% of adults in the United States practiced some form of voluntary simplicity. This trend brought about non-profit organizations like The Center for a New American Dream, with its campaigns for rejection of the consumerism and materialism so engrained in American culture. After its popularity waned in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the volatile markets and worldwide recessions have recently brought about a revitalization of the simplicity movement.

The main purpose of modern voluntary simplicity, or simple living, is to simplify one’s lifestyle and cut out all the unneeded “stuff.” Instead of expending all your efforts into paying for, storing and maintaining all your possessions, why not eliminate the things that are unnecessary? Focus instead on what makes you happiest and what makes you feel fulfilled instead of what the media says you “should have” or “should be.” If you want to have more free time to spend with family or to pursue hobbies, then consider downsizing your home, car or other services that you rarely use, and sell or donate unused possessions so that you can work fewer hours. Instead of hoarding more and more cheap goods in a large McMansion, focus on buying a few high-quality items that you use often and will last a long time.

Other reasons people have chosen the simplicity lifestyle include reducing their ecological footprint or facilitating social justice. Continued overconsumption of the world’s natural resources by wealthy nations means that there are less material resources for the world’s poor. Not only is this unjust, it’s unsustainable. The earth’s natural resources are limited, and ecosystems can only absorb so much pollution and lose so many species before the damage becomes irreparable. On an individual level, the endless pursuit of “more” is stressing out American families, who work and commute long hours to afford the big house in the suburbs and all the “gotta have” possessions, We have less time for the things we claim are most important – our families, friends and hobbies.

Voluntary simplicity is about more meaningful consumer choices and more sustainable technologies. It’s about regaining financial independence, prioritizing relationships and slowing down your lifestyle to become centered around your needs, not arbitrary “wants.

      ” A famous quote by Lin Yutang says,
  “Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone. 
The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” I like this quote so much I put it on my printable To-Do List to remind me everyday to cut the non-essential.


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