I see simple living as intentionally and continuously developing the following three qualities: 1) frugality 2) contentment and 3) non-greed.
- Frugality is the practice of acquiring goods and services in a restrained manner and resourcefully using what you already have, to achieve a longer term goal.
- I see contentment as actively being satisfied with where you are, what you have, and who you are.
- Non-greed is the absence of a selfish or excessive desire for more than is needed or deserved, especially of money, wealth, food, or other possessions.
In a way, I’ve always been drawn to simple living. As a child, playing the game MASH, I remember preferring the possibility of living in a shack to living in a mansion. “Who’s going to clean all of those rooms” I thought. As a teen I loved learning to cook and sew, skills I did not see as being at odds with my growing feminist ideals. I loved the personal satisfaction I felt while pulling a macaroni casserole out of the oven and placing it on the table as my mother returned home from work. When I began dating my current partner, I told him in no uncertain terms not to buy me jewelry and that I didn’t expect fancy dinners (he was 22, I was 20 and we were each living in our own apartments and supporting ourselves on a limited income).
There is of course the other side of this coin- the temptations of our consumer culture to indulge, amass, overspend, want, desire, covet and generally complicate our lives with a whole lot of mental and physical clutter. I have been down this road as well. It’s all too easy to get there.
As children, my sister and I kept a scrapbook filled with cutouts from the Sears catalog of all the toys we wished to possess. We would add new cutouts to the book on a regular basis, while sitting in a room surrounded by boxes upon boxes of toys.
As a teen I coveted physical beauty and aesthetic perfection. Apparently, in order to have a perfect complexion all I had to do was find the perfect face cream. I soon amassed a collection of jars and tubes and bottles, none of which delivered the promised complexion.
Just two years ago my partner and I decided to co-purchase a house with my mother. As my mother is single and we were still in University (and so had no down payment) it sounded like a perfect plan. However, I feel I allowed myself to get “upsold” by a snappy agent and we now live in a 3400 square foot house on a prestigious street with high taxes. We can afford it on paper and don’t get me wrong I love the yard, kitchen and sunroom. Sometimes, however, I feel this house is an albatross around our necks, causing all sorts of psychic anxiety. I truly wish I would have stayed true to my ideals of simplicity and exercised more restraint when purchasing a home.
One can not go back though. One can only learn from past mistakes and move forward. That’s what I plan to do. So, even while living in this house, I commit to living a life of frugality, contentment and non-greed.