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The Curse of Affluenza (Video Lecture)

‘Affluenza’ can be defined as a collective psychological disorder that leaves people feeling deprived despite their plenty. The link below leads to an insightful and powerfully argued video lecture on the subject. The 29 minute lecture is delivered by Richard Denniss, who is the Executive Director of Australia’s most influential think-tank, the Australia Institute. Denniss is also the... read more

Stories of Simplicity

Do you have a story you could share about your personal exploration of the simple life? Was there a moment when you realized that it was ‘the simple things’ in life that matter most? What do you understand by ‘the simple things’? Perhaps you would like to share some of the difficulties with simple living and how you deal with them? Perhaps you would like to share some of the... read more

The Walden Experiment

(For the background to this post, click here.) On Independence Day, 1845, a few days before his twenty-eighth birthday, Henry Thoreau left his town of Concord, Massachusetts, and went to live alone in the woods, on the shores of Walden Pond, a mile from any neighbour. He there built himself a modest cabin and for two years and two months earned a simple living by the labor of his own hands. He also wrote,... read more

Thoreau on Materialistic Culture

‘Let us consider the way in which we spend our lives,’ Henry Thoreau began one of his most provocative essays, noting that since time was short he would ‘leave out all the flattery, and retain all the criticism,’[1] as was his way. ‘What is it to be born free and not to live free?’ he asked his fellow citizens. ‘Is it a freedom to be slaves, or a freedom to be free, of which we boast?’... read more

Consume More or Work Less?

Rethinking attitudes to work is central to the way many participants in the Simplicity Movement approach simple living.[1] Charles Siegel poses the critical question: ‘Should we take advantage of our increasing productivity to consume more or to have more free time?’[2] If people keep raising their material standard of living every time they come into more money – through a pay rise, for example, or... read more

Food: A Thumbnail Sketch

Eating locally, eating organically, eating out in moderation, eating less or no meat, eating simply, lightly, and creatively, and, as far as possible, growing one’s own fruit and vegetables – these are some of the key characteristics to food production and consumption in the lives of many simple livers.[1] Given some thought and a little discipline, a nutritious, environmentally sensitive diet can be... read more

Clothing, High Fashion, and Voluntary Simplicity’s Alternative Aesthetic

The historic purpose of clothing, as Henry Thoreau pointed out, was to keep us warm and, in time, for reasons of modesty. Today its dominant purpose seems to be fashion and the conspicuous display of wealth and status. People can, of course, spend thousands and thousands of dollars on clothing, if they wish. But simple livers tend to ‘dress down,’ wearing functional, often second-hand clothing.[1] Such... read more

What Kind of Shelter Does One Need to Live Well and Be Free?

Housing (whether purchasing, building, or renting) is typically life’s greatest single expense, so simple livers must think especially carefully about where they live and why, and how much of their lives they are prepared to spend seeking a ‘nicer’ place to live. Exactly what kind of shelter does one need to live well and be free? Obviously, we must answer this question for ourselves – at least,... read more

Vote with Your Money

It is all very well to theorize about the simple life – to debate definitions and evaluate justifications – but theory is empty if it is not grounded upon practice. Accordingly, this post and the following posts seek to enrich the preceding theoretical discussions by providing a preliminary exposition of how the idea of voluntary simplicity is actually lived by participants in the movement. In later... read more

Does Voluntary Simplicity Prescribe Universal Rules by which to Live?

Any discussion of the practice of simplicity ought to begin by acknowledging that there is not one way to live simply. There is no Doctrine or Code of Simplicity to follow, as such; there is no Method or Equation of Simplicity into which we can plug the facts of our lives and be told how to live. That is precisely what the idea cannot do. Voluntary simplicity, it could be said, is more about questions than... read more

The Need for a Politics of Voluntary Simplicity

The Voluntary Simplicity Movement has been criticized, at times, for being ‘escapist’ or ‘apolitical,’ a criticism which, it cannot be denied, has some weight.[1] Leading sociologist on voluntary simplicity, Mary Grigsby, notes that participants in the Simplicity Movement ‘don’t generally talk about policy initiatives, instead focusing on the individual as the primary mechanism for... read more

Creating Meaning and Identity through Consumption: Implications for Simple Livers

A more sophisticated critique of voluntary simplicity arises out of theories of consumption which recognize that commodities have come to play a role in our lives that go well beyond their material functionality. These theories hold that commodities also function symbolically as social artefacts through which people express and create their identities and in which people seek not just satisfaction, but... read more

Is the Voluntary Simplicity Movement just about Increased Leisure for a Privileged Few?

The Simplicity Movement is sometimes described, occasionally even by its advocates, as a leisure expansion movement. The criticism sometimes implicit in this description is that voluntary simplicity is a self-centred, narrowly hedonistic philosophy of life available only to a privileged few. While voluntary simplicity by its very nature is indeed ‘an ethic professed and practiced primarily by those free... read more

Is Living Simply Primitive? Regressive? Anti-technology?

Voluntary simplicity, furthermore, does not mean indiscriminately renouncing all the advantages of science and technology. It does not mean living in a cave, giving up all the benefits of electricity, or rejecting modern medicine. But it does question the assumption that science and technology are always the most reliable paths to health, happiness, and sustainability. It is certainly better to accept... read more

The Simple Life: Necessarily Agrarian? Just for Hippies?

Living simply does not necessarily imply leaving the city to live in the country; nor does it mean becoming a hippie or joining a commune. Although some may find that an agrarian existence is a very good and natural way to live, it will not be attractive (or available) to everyone; nor will living in a hippie commune. Indeed, learning how to live more simply and sustainably in an increasingly urbanized... read more
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