Living a Life of Voluntary Simplicity

by David B. Bohl

We’ve all heard of “simple living,” and we see the magazines and the news articles and the web sites. I often advocate what I call “voluntary simplicity,” by which I mean determining what’s important to you and designing a life in support of your values and beliefs.

Many people, when they think of simplicity, think I’m suggesting that they sell everything and become hermits in South Dakota.

That is not at all what I mean. What I really mean is that many of us lose sight of what’s important to us, and collect a great many things, people, and situations that have nothing to do with what we really believe in and want from our lives.

Simplicity can be a pretty complicated business. The Simple Living Network lists ten different kinds of simplicity. Who knew simply living could be so complex?

Among the options offered by SLN in “Choiceful Simplicity,” which consists of choosing our path through life consciously, deliberately, and of our own accord.

This type of simplicity comes closest to expressing what I mean by voluntary simplicity.

My main theme is that we should spend time with ourselves and really know what is important to us, what we value, what we want, and what we believe. This may take a great deal of time over several sessions of contemplation.

Once we know what we would like to have in our lives – what’s important to us – then we can begin to look at what we do have in our lives.

Most people think of objects at this point, and certainly “too much stuff” can be a problem, but it’s also important to look at the people in our lives and the obligations we have taken on.

There may be people in our lives who simply are not helping us reach our goals, who are not in line with what we believe. Sometimes, as with family members, we don’t have a choice about keeping these people in our lives, but we certainly have a choice about how much time we spend with them and how we let them influence us.

We may also have organizations, including our jobs, that are not in line with what we really want. We can change jobs, or we can find a way to make that job work. We can resign from boards and leave groups and find other groups that fit with what we believe.

The key to voluntary simplicity is not giving things up, but finding the people, places, things and situations that work best with our lives. Simplicity, when it’s successful in your life, does not cause a feeling of deprivation, but a feeling of exhilaration.

Finding true, voluntary simplicity in your life can only bring more fulfillment and joy.

To get started with this idea of voluntary simplicity,

Schedule some time to think about what you really believe and want

Eliminate one “thing” (or person or situation) from your life

Start mapping out what a life of voluntary simplicity would look like to you

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