Learning to Live More Simply




Whenever I enter a store these days, I see shelves laden with goods for holiday shopping. My ears ring with the sounds of cheerful music about snowmen, elves and reindeer, yet nobody around me looks particularly cheery. People rush by, on an anxious search for yet another gift, yet another decoration.


What is it about acquiring things that is so compelling?

What is it about acquiring things that is so compelling? Somehow, we become mesmerized by images of consumer items, which create a sense of want in our minds. Advertising has enormous power, and much of that occurs at a subliminal level – we are not even aware of how much our desires are being manipulated. Before we know it, we are trapped in that cycle of acquiring yet another possession. Think of the energy and time it takes to purchase a consumer item. There are so many decisions to make: what colour? What size? A two year extended warranty or a five year one? We bring it home and now we must find a place for it in our ever-more crowded home. We must preserve it and maintain it. Finally when we think it is no longer of value, we must get rid of it. It’s a never-ending cycle that depletes our resources of time and energy.


How do we break this cycle? It might help if we reflected on the fact that each item we buy has a cost far beyond its sticker price. We are paying for it in terms of the most precious commodity that we have…our time. There’s a great book called “Your Money or Your Life” that explores exactly this issue…it should be required reading for the recovering consumer! We need to pause and reflect about how many hours of our time it takes to earn the money to buy that item and how much time it’ll take to maintain the item – this sober reflection may help us curb that mindless rush of consumer spending.


Learning to live more simply – what an important yet difficult idea this is! These ideas are as old as human civilization, and teachings about the value of simple living appear in many faith traditions and in the writings of wise men and women over the millennia. From Christian scripture: “Give me neither poverty nor wealth”. From Taoism:” He is wealthy who knows he has enough”. Plato and Aristotle wrote about living the golden mean, and the Stoics wrote about the virtues of self-sufficiency. Buddhists speak of the middle way, having just sufficient material wealth for a comfortable and healthy life.


Simplicity in living can be thought of as living more intentionally, in which we carefully evaluate what we really need for a satisfying and healthy life, and then discard the rest. Simple living is about living a life that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich.

Simplicity in living can be thought of as living more intentionally, in which we carefully evaluate what we really need for a satisfying and healthy life, and then discard the rest. Simple living is about living a life that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich. When we make the change to a more modest way of living, we also make a conscious choice to enrich our lives with family, friends, community, and work that is creative and meaningful.


Think about what we could do to promote simple living in our daily lives. We could join a simple living network – an online community that promotes ideas and interchange between like-minded people. We could add books on simple living to book club selections and our personal libraries. Most important of all, we must all examine our own living patterns and try to reuse, reconnect, rethink, reduce.