The other day I heard Vicki Robin refer to the Simplicity Movement in a CNN interview. She was brought on as the counterpoint to a man saying that it was our patriotic duty to spend money. Obviously, she didn’t agree. More than that, it started me wondering just what the Simplicity Movement is and how it works. It turns out, I’m already a follower. If you’d like to simplify your life and help the US build a more sustainable economy and environment, then this movement may be right for you. Here’s more about it.

How Did the Simplicity Movement Start?
The book Voluntary Simplicity really kicked off the movement. It was published in 1981. A few years later, Your Money or Your Life extended the interest in the movement. The two books together advise people on living a simpler, more fulfilling life. That doesn’t returning to the woods to live on nuts and berries, but instead consuming more consciously. Let your values determine your spending, rather than letting your spending determine your values. For most people, this switch leads to a more frugal life where we spend less because we focus more on the people and interests that matter to us and less on finding fulfillment through material goods.

What Are The Cornerstones of the Movement?
Frugality. A shift towards more frugal lifestyles is probably the primary result of the movement. You could say that the nation is trending toward simplicity because we’re all scaling back our spending and looking for ways to enjoy what we have more out of necessity. Cooking at home is in, dining out in expensive restaurants is out. Keeping the car you have is in, buying a new car every three years is out. Making your clothes last longer is in, buying the latest fashions is out. All of these are choices straight out of the Simplicity Movement.

Sustainability. In addition to frugality, many followers of the movement are concerned with creating a more sustainable environment. They do this by being aware of the way our choices as consumers affect the environment. Most followers choose to buy more whole foods, fewer packaged foods, products with less packaging, and used goods. They also choose not to buy just to buy. For some, it also means buying pastured beef, milk, pork, chicken, and eggs and growing more food in a home garden.

Family. Followers of the movement tend to place a higher value on family and community than they do on career and money. Many scale-down high-intensity careers in order to have more time to spend with their families, pursue personal interests, and contribute to the community. Again, as we shift into this new economy, many people are returning to this simple attitude toward life by necessity.

Spiritual Well-Being. The movement doesn’t preach any particular religious faith or belief. Instead the focus is on improving your spiritual self rather than your material self.

Where Do I Learn More?
In addition to the above books, SimpleLiving.net offers a wealth of information, study groups, forums, and events. You can also look for a PBS series called Simple Living with Wanda Urbanski.

Don’t look at magazines like Real Simple. That’s just consumerism masked as simplicity. The Simplicity Movement doesn’t mean buying pretty wicker baskets to organize your stuff, it means getting rid of the stuff.

As with all prior economic downturns, this new trend towards national Simplicity won’t stick as a whole, but it may stick with you. Now is a good time to follow the herd and get back to basics, just make sure you don’t follow them back to consumerism once the economy is flush again.

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