Voluntary Simplicity

Since I’ve stepped away from earning money outside the home (and haven’t solidified my vision for making money inside the home), I’m taking on more of a simplistic view of entertainment.

AKA, I’m trying not to shop when bored anymore.

This is easier said than done, since I have discovered many of the conveniences available to us smartphone users. I’m shocked I can buy almost anything (well, counting Amazon, I can indeed buy anything) just by tapping my iPhone’s screen in distinct, specific patterns.

This is the dream, isn’t it? This is the future the baby boomers dreamed about while still in diapers.

I’ve been thinking about my strive for simplicity in stuff, and I’ve been reflecting on some source material I’ve seen (primarily through devices such as my iPhone), and I think this cultural movement of minimalism is just as manufactured as the consume-till-you-drop manifesto.

For instance, whether we are anti-Walmart or pro-Walmart, we’re still the dog being walked around the same block we’ve walked hundreds of time before.

Because as Jim Gaffigan says, “It’s all McDonald’s.” (Start around 30 minutes in to see his point and watch for about eight minutes. Of course, you can definitely watch more if you would like.)

You know what I dislike about minimalism? At least, in the ways I’ve seen it represented in the media? Here are some points:

A) you have to embrace a modern, black and white aesthetic in your home.
B) you have to have tons of white space in your home.
C) knickknacks are evil. Even if your children made them for you.
D) physical photos are evil. Scan them all and throw the paper away.
E) you have to embrace a capsule wardrobe that excludes colors beyond black and white.
F) if you buy groceries, you should shop at Whole Foods. If you have to shop anywhere else, at least buy organic. And if you shop at a farmer’s market, you’re extra cool.
G) if you buy clothes, buy them from sustainable retailers (which are hella expensive). Otherwise, donate all your extra clothes (which end up not actually being used for anything except being sold to various African countries. Read [this book] for more information on this.).

I want to find something that fits the speed of most Americans: we have tight budgets, so we shop at Walmart and Food for Less and Vallarta and look for deals in the clearance bins of Target.

We think knickknacks, to some degree, give our home a cozy feel, and we attach sentimental value to some of them. (I’m all for purging the ones that don’t.)

We aren’t hip, modern, young and thin, Uber rich socialites. We are approaching middle age. We have kids that get messy and mess up our clothes and smash toys against walls.

I want a minimalism that keeps me from swinging to the other side of the pendulum. I don’t want to spend frivolous amounts of money on things I don’t need, but I also don’t want to live in an empty house with three outfits to my name.

This is why, in part, I like the title “voluntary simplicity” better than “minimalism”. Sure, it carries its own connotations, but it avoids some of the affluent hype attached to the other term.


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