Title: The Quest of Simple Living

 By: SH Sim


Who Need Simple Living?
If you are not happy with your present situations, or even if you are happy, but you are just curious about what this “simple living” is about, and what it has to offer to make your life more meaningful and fulfilling, then please read on.

Maybe you are the young ones who are just starting to venture into working life, or the newly wed who are planning to have children, or your family have to work harder just to keep up with life’s challenges. I guess simple living can be for anyone who wishes to find a better way to spend the rest of his/her lives. Age is not the matter, how you want to live is.

It’s for you when you find that things are not working out as you have envisioned. You have worked very hard, made lots of money, but you are not happy still. Or worse, you feel trapped in your present situations, with debts as high as mountain. If you continue to do what you have been doing until now, don’t expect to have a different result. To have a new outcome, something has to change, and more often than not, you will be the one. Do things differently, start a new venture, learn new skills, think anew, or live life a better way.

Wanting for a simpler life is not something new. From the Puritans who reinforced the notion of limited consumption and limited possession, the Quakers’ admonishment of one another to work a fair day but not an excessively long day, and maintained simple homes, simple churches and simple lives, to writers and philosophers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, the desire for simple living has been around for hundreds of years. Many of us live a life similar to these; we just did not know what it was called. We may also know of friends, relatives and neighbours who live a simple and happy life.


The Meaning Of Simple Living

According to Dr. Jerome Segal of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland in College Park, “advocates of simple living have challenged consumerism and materialism… although simple living, or plain living… has meant different things to different groups.”

Let me share with you what others have to say and what I understand about Simple Living. Jeff Davidson in The Joy Of Simple Living says that the term simplicity could mean “more time, less stress, more leisure, fewer bills to pay, less clutter, less to clean and maintain, greater peace of mind, and spirituality.” Your quest for simplicity may encompass one or all of these notions.

To Georgene Lockwood, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Simple Living, “ at the core of the simple living movement is a desire to have more choices about the things that matter… Choices about where and how we live, what kind of work we do, how we spend our time, and who we spend it with are…” It’s about making conscious daily choices.

Linda Breen Pierce, in Choosing Simplicity, defines simple living as “lifelong processes in which we turn loose of the quest for more wealth, status, and power in favour of an authentic life of inner peace and fulfillment.” Duane Elgin in Voluntary Simplicity says,

“At the heart of the simple life is an emphasis on harmonious and purposeful living”. Richard Gregg, a student of Gandhi’s teaching, wrote about a life of voluntary simplicity as a life involves both inner and outer condition. It means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honest within, as well as avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the chief purpose of life. It means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions. It involves a deliberate organization of life for a purpose… as different people have different purposes in life, what is relevant to the purpose of one people might not be relevant to the purpose of another… The degree of simplification is a matter for each individual to settle for himself.” 

It can’t be better said than this.

Different Interpretations of Simple Living

Here are some of the common issues for your consideration:

Deprivation? Not necessarily

Does living a simple life mean rejecting material comfort? My home is equipped with almost all the modern comfort available. I don’t want (not that I can’t) to imagine living otherwise because I enjoy watching movies at home, listening to all types of music and songs, and I use computer to surf the internet, send email, write articles, manage my investment portfolios and plan my life goals. These modern gadgets simplify my tasks and enhance the quality of my life. 

However, there are people who would contend to forego all the technology advancements to live a simple live. Television is a distraction from doing other things that are more meaningful in their lives. A radio creates noise pollution and thus will disturb their peaceful minds. Using typewriter is more preferable than laptop computer. They would sell their cars and ride a bicycle because it will be good for health. 

Back To The Village? No…
People who prefer to live near to nature would want to move to rural areas to simplify their lives. They would plant their own food, rear their own chickens, chop woods for fire or live in isolation. This kind of simple lifestyle will complicate my life! I found that it is perfectly achievable to live a simple life in big city too. But the facts remain that in the city, there will be more temptations to draw us back to the track of more wealth, fame and/or power. The power of mass media, the ugly heads of peer pressures are more intense in the city. People tend to compare more, trying to "keep up with Jones". Our success in simplifying life will depend on our determination to succeed.

For Lazy People? Hardly
Some people think that simple living is easy living. It’s for people who have no ambition, lazy and complacent. But the fact is it is far from being easy, especially not from the beginning. When we begin a new journey to simplify our lives, there will be hard work. We have to look deep inside ourselves, to search for what we really want in life. Then we have to draw up plans to simplify the different areas of our lives, adjust and learn more ways to make our lives simpler and happier. The journeys are often rocky; full of temptations that can derail us. But if we have the courage, discipline, perseverance and a far-sighted vision to carry us through, life will be easy then.

Being Cheap? Say Who?

Simple living is not living “cheap”, but more of living “purposefully”, or “consciously”. It will generally involve a more frugal spending habit though. Always buy things that we “need” and look for cheaper alternatives if they serve the same purpose. Money is like our “life energy”; we should not waste them. When buying clothes, we look more for comfort than to pay for “brand premium”. We eat-in most of the times, though we give ourselves a treat occasionally in restaurants. We live in a double storey house because we spend most of our time at home, at least for now. And we ride in a nice car. However, these luxuries do not strain our lives, financially or emotionally.

However, I have friends who would like to move to a smaller place, with less furniture and fittings. It will be easier for them to take care and maintain, especially if both of them are working. And it will lessen their financial burdens too. Some of the working mothers have resigned from their jobs to become homemakers. Taking care of their children and families become first priority. It has simplified their lives in many ways.

Anybody Can Do It?

Yes, but people have to adjust themselves psychologically and emotionally when scaling down. My believe is that as long as people are not living below the poverty line, they should be able to simplify their lives, if they want to. More often than not, people who are living a “complicated” life may have done it unknowingly, misguided by many unethical advertisements or simply by mistakes. Sometimes, a wake up call like this is all they need to start the process of undoing their misery, leading to a simpler and happier life. 


What Simple Living Means To Me
Each one of us is unique
. We grew up in different background and environment. We have different sets of thoughts and values in life. But most probably, we have one thing in common i.e. to live a happy and meaningful life. Through reading and searching for a better way, I have found living a simple life appealing.

I have learned that to be truly happy, I must know what I want in life. Then I must have plans to achieve my life goals. But when my life was complicated by many demands that needed my undivided attention, my chances in winning the game of life would be slim. Thus I decided to simplify my life so that I can attend to what I really need to be happy. That’s the very essence for me to live a simple life – to focus on achieving inner peace and fulfillment, by loosening my desire to acquire unending wealth, fame or power.

Living a simple life has taught me to be more grateful for what I have, instead of craving for what I lack. It’s about having “enough”; feeling contentment. It allows me to feel that I have enough food and clothing, enough time and money to enjoy a life that is full of love, joy and happiness. Don’t get me wrong, I still pursue goals, but my pursuits won’t run or ruin my life. I can gravitate toward what I want, while enjoying what I already have at the same time. I began to see that I already have all I need to be happy.


What’s Next?

Whatever your notion or definition of simple living is, there will be two steps that you need to take. First, you must invest the time and energy to discover what makes your heart sings, and what brings you happiness. In other words, what matters most to you. Then, you must proceed with a plan to create the life that reflects the unique human you truly are. One of the ways to help you find out who you really are and what you truly want, is by learning about others who are in the process of doing the same, who generously share their stories in magazines, books and web-sites. Reflects on their stories. Then make your own decision.

There is no rigid rules or approaches to a simpler life path. It is a “relative” concept, and your way to simplify your lives will be as varied as we are as human. Read books to learn more, think logically and sensibly, and use a “trial and error” approach as you go along. The most important thing to remember is that your choices in living more simply must fit your own unique situations and aspirations.