February 5, 2016

How Voluntary Simplicity Has Changed - Duane Elgin

Duane Elgin authored one of the pioneering books on voluntary simplicity. First published in 1981, Voluntary Simplicity: Toward A Way Of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich has gone on to become a classic.

In his book Elgin said that by embracing, either partially or totally, the tenets of voluntary simplicity -- frugal consumption, ecological awareness, and personal growth -- people can change their lives. And in the process, he says, they have the power to change the world.

More recently the author said, "There has been a seismic shift in public interest in simpler, more sustainable ways of living since the first edition of this book." He went on to list 6 things he thought different about the simple living world 35 years after his book came out.

1. The public conversation about simplicity is shifting from complacency to urgency. 
2. As people’s sense of urgency has grown, interest in sustainable ways of living has soared, and simplicity has moved from the margins of society to the mainstream. 
3. Public understanding of simplicity has evolved from fantasy stereotypes to realistic examples and archetypes. 
4. Simplicity has moved from being regarded as a path of regress to being seen as a path to a new kind of progress and social vitality. 
5. There has been a dramatic expansion in the scope of simplicity as it has moved from a personal issue to a consideration vital to our collective future.  
6. Over the decades, simplicity is increasingly being defined by what it is for (connecting with and caring for life) instead of what it is against (destructive consumerism).

I agree that things have changed over the decades, but they sure aren't changing fast enough. There are still many, if offered the choice between voluntarily simplicity or extinction, would choose extinction if it meant they could keep their high-consumption lifestyles right to the end.

However, that doesn't mean that things can't change quickly at some point in the future. When a tipping point is reached, things can speed up quickly. 

Avoid the rush - simplify now, and be ready to change the world.


  1. Anonymous5:41 PM

    This book really started me down a path of simplicity over a decade ago. I do remember when there was little information out there. Now there seems to be quite a lot of interest if blogs, books and pinterest boards are any indication.

    1. I think Elgin's book is still one of the best.

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  3. Nice to be reminded about this book, worth a re-read. It's energizing to see so many have shifted as evidence with what I see online. But I'm not seeing it much locally here. I just keep doing what I do to continue shifting toward simplicity 🙂


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