Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich

Simple Living is about both
How You Live
How You Make Your Living.

Simple living is the purposeful strategy used to lower your expenses and reduce your consumption.

  • Lower expenses reduce money anxieties.
  • Having fewer expenses means more money to finance change in your life or work.
  • Reduced consumption means fewer things in your life.
  • Having fewer things means a reduction in the distractions and responsibilities of managing and caring for those things.
  • A reduction in distractions means an increase in available time.
  • Fewer responsibilities mean more flexibility in how you spend that time.

A simpler life brings with it less caretaking of so-called “labor-saving” devices and property.

It often means an enhanced aesthetic experience because of the simplifications you make to your living and work spaces.

After all, one person’s room full of precious objects is another person’s junk shop.

Simple living practitioners make purposeful choices about what level of lifestyle they really want to pay for.

Simple living can be a reaction against

  • Overpopulation and institutionalization of poverty
  • Economic, social, and racial injustice
  • Materialism and conspicuous consumption
  • Unfair tax burdens

More often we think of it as being a quest for something; for a better way of life for all.

In that frame simple living is about:

  • Learning to respect money but not be afraid of it.
  • Living fully but simply, with a minimum of expense.
  • Living on less with style.
  • Mastering those worlds that function without money.

Simple living is also about

  • Decluttering and simplifying your life.
  • Less consumption leading to lower environmental impact.
  • Not buying stuff just to fill your space.

Simple living is

  • Being self-reliant and adopting a DIY (do-it-yourself) attitude.
  • Working with others to get things done that take more than one person’s effort.
  • Learning to reduce expenses by sharing tools rather than insisting that each person have their own duplicate tool set.

Simple living is about:

  • Simple food, cooked simply, eaten simply.
  • Community gardens, “slow food”, and organic gardening.
  • Small organic farms, permaculture, and community-supported agriculture (CSAs).
  • Reconnecting to nature
  • Ecological Design 
  • Ecological Architecture

Simple living is

  • Valuing quality over quantity.
  • Doing your best to “be part of the solution, not part of the problem”.


Summary of the Benefits of Simple Living

  • Lowers your impact on the environment
  • Less impact means reduced harm to other living things
  • Fewer distractions and responsibilities.
  • More time and more flexibility about how you spend that time.
  • You can finance changes in your work more easily when your lifestyle is inexpensive.
  • A simpler life brings with it less caretaking of “labor-saving” devices and property.
  • It often means an enhanced aesthetic experience from the simplifications you make to your living and workspaces.


How Can Simple Living Be Yours?

The path to simple living starts by answering questions like these:

  • Which things in my life encourage me to
    • wait for others to decide for me?
    • depend on family, “the government,” or others?
  • Which things in my life promote action, self-reliance, and involvement?
  • Is my consumption pattern satisfying or does it feel burdensome?
  • Am I aware of the impact my consumption pattern creates:
    • on those around me?
    • on my community?
    • on my planet?
  • Do I understand the relationship between my consumption pattern and my “carbon footprint”?
  • How much time and effort do I spend rinsing food containers and sorting them into recycling channels?
  • Am I a wageslave, stuck in a job I don’t want so that I can pay for:
    • credit card debt for things I don’t need?
    • ongoing storage, maintenance, or repair of my stuff?
    • expensive clothes, cars, or houses that reflect my “identity?
  • Do I resist the seduction of interruption ads or do I let them reinforce my need to consume or to maintain a “personal identity?”
  • What goods or services do I currently depend on for my lifestyle? Make a list.
  • Which goods or services on that list make me dependent on centralized electricity, delivery of heating fuel, store-bought food or water, equipment parts, and so forth?
  • How can I minimize those dependencies?

In short, simple living is both an aesthetic and an ethical choice.

Simple living recognizes that deeper meaning comes from increasing self-awareness.

Simple living is embedded in an appreciation of the beauty of nature and natural processes.

Simple living values professionalism and skill at art or craft and places high value on quality, durability, and beauty.

Simple living rejects the consumer lifestyle because every object you purchase requires attention, cleaning, maintenance, and a gravesite in the landfill.

The fewer objects you “have” . . .

. . . the more time there is to “be”.


Further Reading

From Wikipedia listing for "simple living" (September 6, 2021).

“Simple living encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one’s lifestyle. These may include, for example, reducing one’s possessions, generally referred to as minimalism or increasing self-sufficiency.

“Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they have rather than want. Although asceticism generally promotes living simply and refraining from luxury and indulgence, not all proponents of simple living are ascetics.

“Simple living is distinct from those living in forced poverty, as it is a voluntary lifestyle choice.

“Adherents may choose simple living for a variety of personal reasons, such as

  • spirituality
  • health
  • increase in quality time for family and friends
  • work-life balance
  • personal taste
  • financial sustainability
  • frugality
  • environmental sustainability
  • reducing stress

“Simple living can also be a reaction to materialism and conspicuous consumption. Some cite sociopolitical goals aligned with the environmentalist, anti-consumerist or anti-war movements, including conservation, degrowth, deep ecology, and tax resistance .”


A Collection of Books by Briars About Simple Living

Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich (Second Revised Edition) by Duane Elgin.

First published in 1981, Voluntary Simplicity was quickly recognized as a powerful and visionary work in the emerging dialogue about living the sustainable “good life.” Now—decades later and with many of the planet’s environmental stresses more urgent than ever—Duane Elgin has revised and updated this revolutionary book.

Voluntary Simplicity is not a book about living in poverty; it is a book about living with balance. Elgin illuminates the changes that an increasing number of Americans are making in their everyday lives—adjustments in day-to-day living—that are an active, positive response to the complex dilemmas of our time. By embracing the tenets of voluntary simplicity—frugal consumption, ecological awareness, and personal growth—people can change their lives and, in the process, help keep our planet habitable for human beings.

Duane Elgin is a long-time friend of the Briarpatch.

Living Cheaply With Style: Live Better and Spend Less by Ernest Callenbach (author Ecotopia and Ecotopia Emerging)

A fun and practical guide offering tips on living for less “with grace, humor, [and] imagination.” Chick covers a wide range of topics including food, housing, transportation, clothes, and entertainment.

Chick Callenbach was a longtime member of Briarpatch.

Simple Living Investments for Old Age (Second Edition), by Michael Phillips and Catherine Campbell.

Phillips and Campbell’s Simple Living Investments focuses on practical preparation for retirement. They cover five key areas of concern for those of us getting older and provide investment recommendations for each issue (though they are not all about investing money):

  • Coping with a rapidly changing world
  • Realities of old age
  • Health
  • Friends
  • Traditional investment issues

Commerce guru Michael Phillips founded the Briarpatch in 1974.

Get a Life: You Don’t Need a Million to Retire Well, Fourth Edition, by Ralph E. Warner.

Ralph “Jake” Warner is a long-time Briar and co-founder of the self-help law publisher Nolo Press.

In this book, Jake gives his view of the investment savings that is and isn’t necessary for retirement and, like Simple Living Investments, he discusses options such as maintaining good health, having friends and close family ties, and enjoying varied interests and activities.

Drive a Modest Car and 16 Other Keys to Small Business Success by Ralph Warner.

Jake Warner has also written a book tackling alternative strategies for starting a successful small business.

Drive a Modest Car breaks it all down with 17 ideas you won’t learn about in business school, including:

  • Don’t work long hours
  • Choose a business you care about
  • Embrace your best competitors
  • Get and keep a competitive edge
  • Innovate now and forever
  • Market your business creatively
  • Target your customers
  • React quickly to bad news

Drive a Modest Car is the perfect read for anyone who’s interested in starting a new venture, and for those who could use an infusion of practical advice to get back on track with an existing business.