Over the past few years, I’ve been dabbling with simple living. No, I’m not growing wheatgrass in my basement or surfing dumpsters for freegan meal ingredients. But I have started taking baby steps toward a more simple lifestyle. And along the way, I’ve discovered that a lot of the perceptions I had about simple living were all wrong.
What is simple living?
One of the first things I learned is that “simple living” means different things to different people. For some people (like me), simplicity has a spiritual component; for others, it’s a way to reassert control over a life that has become increasingly fragmented and complex.
But regardless of the motivation for pursuing it, simple living boils down to a more intentional way of life that rejects materialism, consumerism and other idols that we take for granted in a “culture of waste.”
The top 5 myths about simple living
Starting out, the concept of simple living looked good on paper. But to be honest, we were skeptical about whether it was a realistic option for our busy lives. Then, when we researched how other people were practicing simplicity (and doing it successfully), we realized that maybe it wasn’t such a crazy idea after all because many of the things we thought we knew about simple living were flat out wrong.
Myth #1: Simple living is about seclusion.
The phrase “simple living” conjures up images of a broken-down shack in the middle of the woods. While it can mean living off the grid in the middle of nowhere, a simple life doesn’t require seclusion — it can happen anywhere, even in an urban or suburban setting. For example, we live in a fairly populated suburb and last winter we made maple syrup using sap from the maple trees in our yard.
Myth #2: A simple lifestyle is a cheaper lifestyle.
Since people who pursue simple lifestyles try to reduce their consumption, other people wrongly assume that the purpose of simple living is to save money. But even though some costs go down, a simple lifestyle isn’t necessarily a cheaper lifestyle. It’s about buying more intentionally and reducing waste. Sometimes that means investing in environmentally sustainable products or buying higher quality products that don’t need to be replaced as often as cheaper, disposable alternatives.
Myth #3: Simple living is anti-technology.
Clutter and disorganization are the enemies of a simpler life. When it’s used properly, technology can be a powerful ally in your pursuit of simplicity. The key is to focus on technologies that make your life easier rather than the ones that create more distractions. For example, when I buy a book or (better yet) borrow one from the local library, I almost always opt for the electronic version. Although the feel is a little less satisfying than the paper version, it’s more convenient, requires fewer natural resources (i.e., trees) and reduces the amount of clutter in our house.
Myth #4: Simplicity is too rigid and demanding.
There’s no escaping the fact that simplicity does require a certain amount of discipline to pull off. If you’re looking for the fastest and easiest path through life, then simple living probably isn’t for you. But if you think that simplicity requires an extremely rigid lifestyle, you couldn’t be more wrong. Although I’ve embraced the spiritual benefits of daily routines, I’ve also found that the more simply I live, the more options I have about the way I live my life.
Myth #5: A simple lifestyle is unrealistic.
One of the criticisms of simple living is that it isn’t realistic for people with hectic schedules. In some ways, that’s a fair criticism. After all, if you’re racing between work, school and extracurricular activities, it’s difficult to find time to shop for fresh ingredients or repurpose old household items. But simple living is a process that starts with just a few small changes. And who knows? Maybe you’ll find that your hectic schedule is one of the first things that needs to be changed.