Voluntary Simplicity

A lifestyle that deemphasizes living a "hustle and bustle" life

What is Voluntary Simplicity?

Voluntary simplicity refers to the lifestyle that deemphasizes living a “hustle and bustle” life that is filled with fast-paced work, stress, conspicuous consumption, and the chase of wealth and recognition. It is also referred to as “downshifting,” “simple living,” “scaling down,” and “minimizing.”

Voluntary Simplicity

Adopters of the lifestyle focus on liberating themselves from unnecessary wants and needs to live a more simple and meaningful life. They are believers that money cannot buy happiness and that happiness comes from things, such as free time, healthy relationships, minimal stress, stable mental health, conscious consumption, and meaning.


  • Voluntary simplicity is a lifestyle choice to live simply without unnecessary stress, consumption, spending, and desires.
  • The lifestyle agrees with the saying that “money cannot buy happiness.” A choice to live more simply can result in additional time and resources to dedicate to family and hobbies.
  • With a focus on conscious consumption, a byproduct of voluntary simplicity is a reduced carbon footprint.

Examples of Voluntary Simplicity

1. Spending and Consumption

A simple lifestyle will lead to less consumption and less spending. People that embrace voluntary simplicity will detach themselves from the desire to purchase expensive material items. They don’t need to own the most expensive watch, luxury cars, or homes. They purchase what is necessary.

In doing so, they are relieved of the stress and anxiety that comes with the need to own “the latest” of everything to fit in and prove their status. When such individuals do make purchases, they are mindful of them.

2. Career

Careers exist so individuals can make money to provide for themselves and their families. It is easy to forget that one works to make a living. Climbing the corporate ladder and burning yourself out along the way do not focus on a simple lifestyle.

People who practice voluntary simplicity may work fewer hours to create more time for them to do what they want to do. Because they spend and consume less, they need less income to live their lifestyle. A byproduct of such a lifestyle is less stress.

3. Life

When individuals downshift into a simpler lifestyle, they will live at their own pace. They won’t be as busy or feel rushed. They will feel like they have complete freedom. Their carbon footprint will decrease because they are consuming less. They aren’t contributing to the consumption of products produced that are harmful to the environment.

Individuals who adopt voluntary simplicity often live green lifestyles as well. They may live “off-the-grid” and produce their own renewable energy. They may also grow their own food. Overall, they become more self-sufficient and feel liberated and empowered by their choice.

Benefits of Voluntary Simplicity

Many benefits can be realized when one chooses voluntary simplicity, including:

  • Feeling more in control of your life
  • Reducing financial stress
  • Minimizing the desire for material goods
  • Scaling down and slowing down
  • Creating more free time for family and hobbies
  • Reducing stress caused by a career
  • Reducing your carbon footprint
  • Creating mental space to focus on fulfillment

The simplistic lifestyle affects all areas of life in a holistic approach. The benefits can only be fully realized if you commit and are content with your decision. If you’ve been spending less on clothes, but still possess a strong desire to purchase the latest designer fashion, you won’t feel fulfilled or at peace.

If you’re working a job with fewer hours and less pay, you’ll be stressed and suffer if you desire to get a higher salary and an important job title. To reap the benefits of voluntary simplicity, you need to implement its practices and also commit to them mentally.

What Voluntary Simplicity is Not

Voluntary simplicity is not meant to deprive yourself of necessities. The point is to only require and want the necessities without spending time, effort, and money on non-essentials. People who practice a simple life feel that they have enough to live the life they want.

“Enough” can mean different things for different people. If you practice a simple life, you should do what is best for you. Changes shouldn’t be so drastic that they create the problems that voluntary simplicity is supposed to solve – such as stress, complexity, and unfulfillment.

Steps to Implement Voluntary Simplicity

Voluntary simplicity can be implemented immediately and does not require you to spend money. In fact, it will likely require the opposite. You will be spending less or not at all. Here are the steps to start living simply:

1. Reflect on your goals

Firstly, you will want to identify your goals in life. You don’t need to adhere to every aspect of voluntary simplicity. For example, you can choose to live simply when it comes to purchasing material goods but still pursue a prestigious career. Find out what you want out of life and use the practices of voluntary simplicity to help you achieve it.

2. Spend mindfully

Once you commit to the lifestyle, you need to become mindful when you make purchases. Ask yourself if the purchase makes sense, if you truly need the item, and if the purchase moves you towards your goals. Less can be more.

3. Get rid of the unnecessary

In addition to spending less, also work to get rid of the unnecessary. Discard unnecessary items, stresses, relationships, and time-consumers. With less clutter in your surroundings and your mind, space will free up.

4. Consistently realign and calibrate

Likely, you won’t do it perfectly the first time around. You’ll start off great but may veer off track occasionally. It’s important to reflect on your progress. Review your actions and realign them with your original goals. The calibration will help you consistently live with simplicity.

Key Takeaways

Voluntary simplicity is a lifestyle choice to live a simpler life. It entails consuming less, slowing down the pace of life, and minimizing unnecessary desires. The goal is to live simply and focus on living with less stress and more fulfillment.

Practicing voluntary simplicity can benefit the interconnected areas of one’s life in several ways. Adopting such a lifestyle doesn’t require anything external and can be started immediately.

Additional Resources

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