Voluntary Simplicity

tree-goatsIn our Western society today, it is easy to be swept along in the wave of endless consumption. I need the latest iPhone or iPod. Mom and dad “need” a brand new massage chair model X5000. The children “need” the latest video game. At Christmas, everyone “needs” a gift. “Buy now!”, “24 Hour Sale!”, “Get it while it lasts!” is the message broadcast day-in, day-out by the stores working so hard for a piece of the financial pie.

“When I look back on the one thing … well, no … two things I was most interested in as a child it was the woods across the street and random acts of rebellion.”


A little story about my childhood

squirrel-fightI’d like to tell you a story about my interest in Voluntary Simplicity or Simple Living. I grew up a privelaged life in the good ol’ state of Michigan, the automobile home of the mid-west. We had access to everything and anything a kid needed and for that matter wanted … except for the in ground swimming pool. I even attended a private Montessori school for my first few years of schooling. As I grew older I occupied myself like any mid-westerner playing sports like soccer, baseball, wrestling and enjoying a regular dose of “adequate education”. When I look back on the one thing … well, no … two things I was most interested in as a child it was the woods across the street and random acts of rebellion.

I won’t get into the second thing but I’ll describe my experience with the first. For me it was full on curiousity. The kind of curiousity that often gets you hurt but never gets you dead. Like the time I built a ramp over the creek only to break my bike. I learned a valuable lesson though … go with the flow, not against it. Or the time I scaled trees and precariously climbed across their limbs to collect tons of acorns, stored them in a treehouse only to come back the next day to an empty pantry. Again I learned from nature … take only what you need, give back the rest. Nature is always teaching us lessons … if you listen.

During middle school, high school and college I strayed away from that connection to nature. I got involved in friends, organizations, educational achievements and the most time-consuming … work. Years later I found myself on a soul-searching journey travelling the world. It didn’t take me long to get bored.  To realize that everything I was seeking was inside me. To realize that the benefit of travelling is that the people you meet are still mirrors into your own life, the mirrors are just less foggy because these people don’t know you. I came to the conclusion that I was going to dedicate my life to creating energy and to aligning my innner values with my outer actions.

“Voluntary simplicity is not about being poor or giving up what matters most . It is about deciding what you care about-and living a life that shows it — independent of a changing economic system.”

What it means to live simply

plantingOurFutureDuring graduate school I found Voluntary Simplicity. It was a 12 week course where we met for 1 hour per week to discuss the readings we had read revolving around a simpler life, a more fulfilling life and a life that reflected greater conciousness about our world and the role we play as stewards of this great planet.

In the past years I’ve intentionally reconnected with those “things” that really give me fulfillment and meaning. After purchasing an olympic size inground swimming pool I decided to spend more time with my family & friends. I’ve decided to grow food, to prepare and cook it and to really appreciate and enjoy the food I eat. I’ve committed time each day to walk my dog, to be reflective and to enjoy nature.

Permaculture has many connections with voluntary simplicity.  For example, the three main ethics are care for people(including thyself), care for earth and fair share. These ethics lead to a life with less but more fulfillment. Also there are linkages to the principle of “obtain a yield” and the method of “stacking functions” because when practicing voluntary simplicity, much like permaculture you yield much more than just money and success from your work … you yield meaning and fulfillment. These nourish us, these provide us with great wealth.

“Care for people starts with ourselves, but expands to include our families, neighbours, local and wider communities.” – David Holmgren

What you can do

Learn more about voluntary simplicity.

Learn more about permaculture principles.

Leave a comment if you’re interested in being part of a voluntary simplicity class I will be holding in San Francisco.