Minimalism A to Z: V Is for Voluntary Simplicity

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“I believe that voluntary simplicity goes way beyond HOW you live and is more about the WAY you live… it’s also about happiness, contentment… going outside your comfort zone, accepting responsibility for your actions, and getting your priorities ‘right.'”

– Shirley at Choosing Voluntary Simplicity

Many people use the terms voluntary simplicity and minimalism interchangeably. Others use minimalism to describe a lifestyle focused mainly on having fewer possessions and voluntary simplicity to describe a life that focuses more on values than stuff. Some use voluntary simplicity to mean living more sustainably and self-sufficiently.

This form of voluntary simplicity is often associated with rural living, though you can live quite sustainably and self-sufficiently in a suburban area as well. The Urban Homestead, for instance, produces up to 6,000 pounds harvest on 1/10 acre.

If this type of simple living appeals to you, consider reading magazines like Mother Earth NewsCountryside and Small Stock Journal, and Urban Farm. You might like to read Helen and Scott Nearing‘s book The Good Life, John Seymour’s The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It, and Carleen Madigan’s The Backyard Homestead.

“These days there is a lot of poverty in the world, and that’s a scandal when we have so many riches and resources to give to everyone. We all have to think about how we can become a little poorer.”

– Pope Francis

An important part of the term voluntary simplicity is the word voluntary. If you’re reading this blog, you mostly likely have regular Internet access, electricity, clean running water, decent shelter and enough food.

You may not have the ability to live in a mansion in an exclusive neighborhood, buy a yacht or jet around the world, but for the most part, you have the opportunity to choose how you’ll live. How many pairs of shoes you’ll own, whether you’ll have chicken or beans for dinner, which hobbies you’ll spend your time and money on.

Although global poverty has fallen faster during the past 20 years than at any time in history, there are still 700 million people living in extreme poverty. One of the benefits of living more simply is having a little extra cash and time to share with others who aren’t so fortunate.

One of the charities I’m supporting this year is The Hope Effect, which is building orphanages that feature two-parent, family-style homes for children. Click this button to support The Hope Effect, or donate your time and/or money to your favorite charity.



How do you define voluntary simplicity? Do you consider it different from minimalism?


4 thoughts on “Minimalism A to Z: V Is for Voluntary Simplicity

  1. Hello Christy,

    From my own post, “Voluntary Simplicity – The Time Is Right”

    The best definition I have found is the one published on The Simplicity Collective website.

    “Voluntary simplicity, or simple living, is a way of life that rejects the high-consumption, materialistic lifestyles of consumer cultures and affirms what is often just called ‘the simple life’ or ‘downshifting.’ The rejection of consumerism arises from the recognition that ordinary Western-style consumption habits are degrading the planet; that lives of high consumption are unethical in a world of great human need; and that the meaning of life does not and cannot consist in the consumption or accumulation of material things. Extravagance and acquisitiveness are accordingly considered an unfortunate waste of life, certainly not deserving of the social status and admiration they seem to attract today. The affirmation of simplicity arises from the recognition that very little is needed to live well – that abundance is a state of mind, not a quantity of consumer products or attainable through them.”

    It’s a fascinating topic, and one well worth discussing.

    Wishing you well, Carol

    • Good point, it’s not as though by living simply we’re always outside our comfort zones. I have found that by going outside my comfort zone, I create a new comfort zone, so maybe that’s what she meant.

I'd love for you to share your ideas and experiences.