Is not one way to live simply, is not a code of simplicity to follow. We each live unique lives and we each find ourselves in different situations, with different capabilities and different responsibilities. For us simple living is not so much a destination as it is an ongoing creative process.
We know the real value of money and the real cost of things, being conscious of the time/life/ecological cost of the purchases. After all, as Thoreau would insist, ‘The cost of a thing is the amount of… life which is required to be exchanged for it.” When exploring voluntary simplicity in this light, we found that some reductions and changes to spending habits, rather than inducing any sense of deprivation, will instead be life-affirming.
How we spend our money is how we vote on what exists in the world. Purchasing something sends a message, consciously or unconsciously, to the marketplace, affirming the product, its ecological impact, its process of manufacture, etc. Simple living, therefore, involves shopping as conscientiously as possible, directing one’s monetary ‘votes’ into socially and ecologically responsible avenues and boycotting irresponsible avenues. If it is true, however, that market expenditure is a vote on what exists in the world then it would seem that the global consumer-class has the potential to become a non-violent revolutionary class and change the world, simply by changing its spending habits. Never before have so many people had the option of casting off the chains of consumer culture, stepping out of the rat race, and living (and spending) in opposition to the existing order of things. Money is power, and with this power comes responsibility.
Consumers of the world, unite!
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 to be free? Obviously, we must answer this question for ourselves – at least, within the constraints of our own socio-economic context – but again the words of Thoreau might give us a moment’s pause: ‘Most people appear never to have considered what a house is, and are actually though needlessly poor all their lives because they think that they must have such a one as their neighbours have.
In Anoha we are exploring alternative ways to accommodate ourselves by embracing smaller, much more modest and energy-efficient homes, building with straw-bail, making shacks out of abandoned or second-hand materials, …
The historic purpose of clothing, as 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, we try to avoid that ‘dressing down,’ wearing functional and second-hand clothing obtained at a minimal expense. Dressing down, it should be noted, does not necessarily imply giving up ‘style’ or puritanically denying self-expression through what one wears. But it does seem to imply rejecting high fashion (and all its stands for) in favour of some ‘alternative’ aesthetic. In this way, dressing down can be understood to be an outward statement of simplicity; an effort, however small, to express aesthetically one’s opposition to consumer culture. Again, how we spend our money is how we vote on what exists in the world.
We try to eat locally, organically, out in moderation, no meat or fish, simply, lightly, creatively and as far as possible, growing our own fruit and vegetables. A nutritious and environmentally sensitive diet can be obtained at a surprisingly low cost.
We rethinking our attitudes around work, and having more free time work becomes more pleasurable. We can do it consuming less, in a lower material standard of livingand stopping the upward creep of material desire. We are enjoying the benefits of exchanging money and consumption for more free time.