Why Should We Embrace Simplicity & What is the Simpler Life?
Why Embrace a Simple Life?
There are many reasons why people seek to adopt a simpler lifestyle.
Being a former boy scout, my journey began from the scout motto
“Always Be Prepared.” I wanted my family to be prepared if disaster
should ever shut down our normal way of life for a time. That meant
being ready to have food, water, clothing, shelter and heat/power that
was not coming from an outside source.
That's a challenge in itself. But I soon realized that just preparing for a winter storm, tornado or earthquake wasn't the only issue. As I learned how to provide a living for my family without the normal conveniences that come from modern society, I began to notice afresh how corrupt and morally bankrupt our society is becoming. And that made my interest in adopting a simpler lifestyle even more imperative.
I believe there is a case to be made for believers to deliberately CHOOSE a simpler lifestyle away from the worst parts of our society. And if you take a hard look, you will realize just how difficult it is to raise a family in our current state. Life in the 1800s wasn't easy but it was simpler and I believe offered a way to raise children without texting, social media, video games, and other corrupting influences. Many state governments and the federal government are becoming ever more intrusive. There are too many laws that make being a Christian parent much harder than it needs to be. Living a simpler lifestyle might help counter these influences, which is why, as our society circles the drain, many people are choosing a simpler life.
What IS a Simple Life?
In Joshua Becker's excellent book, Inside-Out Simplicity, he defines simplicity as “...clarity, purpose and intentionality. It is marked by the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. It is a life lived in unity....(it is) freedom from the passion to possess.” The Simple life then, is not merely a spartan home with bare walls and no modern conveniences. It is a life focused on our values and our practices and daily life is intentionally chosen to pursue those values.
It is the “removal of everything that distracts” that most people dread. Our society rests solidly upon materialism and the crazy values promoted by Madison Avenue and the Media. We are all it's victims (and often all too willing) to one extent or another. When embracing simplicity we rid ourselves of distractions so that we can succeed in living out our values instead of being diluted and ineffectual. It isn't deprivation, it's streamlining so that we can win the prize.
The Simple Life begins with ourselves – from the inside-out. To embrace simplicity:
#1 – Define your values. What do you most want to accomplish in your life? What are the most important things in your life? Write them down & ponder them carefully. You might even want to rank them in order of importance.
#2 – Decide that you don't have to live like everybody else (and they don't have to live like you). What a simpler life will “look like” for one person may not look at all like a simpler life does for someone else. It depends on where you are coming from and what your values are. Don't get legalistic.
#3 – Live Intentionally. Stay focused on living out your values and let that pursuit guide you on how to live out each day. Don't go through each day by default, letting the day and its cares dictate what you do.
#4 – Live in the present. Don't get too carried away with sentimentality over the past nor fear of the future. Stay on track and give thanks. A thankful heart helps us to keep our balance and be generous.
#5 – Be content. This is really the life blood of simplicity. Be content with what you have. Reject consumerism and materialism. Don't indulge in “shopping therapy.” Be grateful for what God has entrusted to you and help others instead of amassing things. As the old proverb says, “Love people, use things.” Not the other way around.
Steps to Start Your Family on the Road to the Simpler Life
1. Get debt free! I suggest anything by Dave Ramsey to help you accomplish this. He is an excellent resource and his methods work as they are based on sound principles. Getting rid of your excess possessions is one way to get started on this too.
2. Consider cutting the cable cords and blocking routers for a good part of each day. You might not need to do away with television, the internet and cell phones completely. But most of us should be using such things far less than we normally do. Especially our children. Take a careful look at how your family spends a typical day and, in light of your values, choose how much time to spend using such things. Then stick by it. Given the addictive nature cell phone texting seems to have on children, I don't think children should have any access to cell phones unless they are traveling with someone else. In our family, we use them like walkie talkies and hand them out only when there is a need.
I have seen studies that demonstrate a clear effect video and television have on the development of small children's brains. As an educator, I agree with many of my colleagues that too much and too early exposure is partly responsible for the ever increasing rash of reading difficulties and attention deficits. In my professional opinion, I would restrict preschool children from nearly all exposure to television and video games and sharply limit grade school age children to only an hour or two each day (if that). Again, remember you don't have to live like everybody else (and they don't have to live like you)
3. Declutter and be strategic about your possessions. Resist the urge to just toss it all out – you'll traumatize your family. Start by giving away, gifting or selling things you own that are just not used or hardly ever used. If you haven't used it in the last 6-12 months you probably really don't need it. This first step usually doesn't hurt too bad. Then do the same for things that are truly not needed in light of your values and goals. Again, this doesn't mean no furniture and bare walls! Do keep quality possessions you need to realize your values and goals and assist you in living your life. And finally, don't let advertisers control your life. They sell lifestyles not products. Choose your own lifestyle and ignore the one they are trying to push on you by default.
How to Relocate if You Feel the Need
Sometimes, when a person really wants to be serious about living a Simpler Life they realize that they live in an area or situation that is going to make this almost impossible. Be careful with the impulse to sell it all and move to Alaska! There is a website, www.grandpappy.info/hretreat.htm, that has some excellent advice if you do feel you need to do this. To summarize:
Look for a place to live that has a good amount of freedom. Some states have few laws and invasive restrictions on citizens while others are nearing totalitarian status. Choose a place that respects the freedom of individuals and families. You won't regret it!
Find a place with room but don't get too remote. Having a neighbor nearby can be a life saver. If you are too remote, you really WILL have to live like a mountain man not just like you lived in the 1800s.
Carefully analyze the climate of your location. There may be a very good reason few people live there (little water, very long & harsh winters, very hot and long summers etc.). Pick someplace that has what you need and doesn't have what you don't like.
Keep employment in mind. How will you support yourself and your family? If you have to have a long commute to work you need to be very careful about that. Almost everybody comes to hate a long commute.
What do you really need in terms of housing? Think outside the box and keep your values and goals in mind. (We'll talk more about this in the May-June issue).
Starting the Simpler Life isn't a quick process. It isn't rocket science either. But it is worth it.