April 27, 2011

Tough Times Provide Opportunities For Living The Simple Life

Since 2008 The Great Recession has been changing the economic landscape, and introducing many to involuntary simplicity. As much as I love and extol the virtues of voluntary simplicity, when changes out of our control are thrust upon us, fear and uncertainty can result. The secret is to regain control, and use the changes to capitalize on new opportunities. Like the opportunity to slow your life down, and live more effectively and happily with less.

Learning to live with less can go a long way if you're on a tight budget, and in the end you may find that you actually prefer a more simple life. Generally speaking, simple living can be described as buying less and refraining from purchasing luxury items. Whether voluntary or not, adopting such practices will cut your spending dramatically, allowing you to realize new, more self-directed goals.

When household spending is cut, employment becomes less of an issue. Because you now live a smaller footprint life, there is less pressure to make money. Any extra money that comes in can be used to pay down debt.

High-interest, lower paying jobs that may have appealed to you before become feasible when you don't need as much money to live on. What kinds of jobs have you always wanted to do, but were prevented from doing because they didn't pay enough?

Since cutting my spending after quitting teaching, I have worked at several interesting, enjoyable jobs that did not pay as much as my former career. In recent years I have worked as a chauffeur, raft-guide, environmental educator, and gardener. All were very memorable, and temporary as well, giving me lots of opportunities to try other new things.

New things like blogging - never before have I worked so hard, for so long, for so little (zero, basically). But profit is not my motive - I find it personally satisfying, enjoyable, and liberating. What would you do differently if you did not need to spend as much time making and spending money?

Simplicity is also about reducing our natural resource use and environmental impact. Living with less leads us to act as responsible global citizens. It may start reluctantly in the beginning, but at the same time we may feel that it is the right thing to do for our planet and our fellow humans.

Changes, such as taking public transit or biking to work, eating a simplified diet, or growing a garden, save you money, reduce your carbon footprint, and foster a sense of control and empowerment. These are things we will need in a post-consumer age.

The financial funny stuff of 2008 changed everything. Life is different from the previous high-consumption, endless resource ways. Going forward change will be the only constant, as economic and environmental limits require us to simplify further. 

It is preferable that the shift to simplicity occur proactively and voluntarily, but our route to more sustainable, satisfying lives may start involuntarily in some cases. This is not to say that we can't learn from these situations, or that we won't end up with better lives in the end. We just need to see our predicament as an opportunity, and seize simplicity.


  1. I've enjoyed the past year off of paid work, which has allowed me to increase my volunteer involvement, and start a blog. Thankfully my wife and daughter also enjoy a frugal lifestyle ;-)

    Just read a book I would highly recommend to others on this subject "Your Money or Your Life" by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez.

  2. Savoring Servant,

    That is great that you and your family have embraced the simple life. What a gift to share with everyone - your time. I doubt you will ever regret that.

    "Your Money of Your Life" is one of those books that helped me realize I was on the right track with the goal of enjoying my time in ways that made me happy.

    I am enjoying your blog, 'Savoring Servant'.

  3. Thanks Gregg. I'm impressed with your ongoing thoughtful critical analysis. Thanks for putting in so much time into this voluntary labor of love.


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