Manual The Voluntary Living

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The Middle Class Task Force formed by the Obama administration found that people who call themselves middle-class generally share certain basic aspirations: owning a home and a car or two , taking regular family vacations , sending their kids to college, and eventually quitting work to enjoy a comfortable retirement. Unfortunately, this dream comes with a high price tag.

Census Bureau. With all these costs to cover, a lot of Americans end up working long hours to pay for their lifestyle — which gives them less time to enjoy it. But some Americans have a different dream. Instead of having two new cars, they imagine being able to travel almost everywhere on foot or bicycle. And instead of working long hours to pay the bills, they dream of working fewer hours and having more time to spend together as a family — not just during an annual vacation, but every day. This dream of a scaled-down, slower-paced life goes by many names, but the best-known one is voluntary simplicity.

People who embrace voluntary simplicity consume less not because they need to, but because it makes them happier.

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By choosing to spend less, they gain the freedom to work less and devote more of their time to the things they care about. Throughout history, there have been many noted writers and thinkers who claimed that the key to happiness lay in living a simpler life with fewer possessions.

In the ancient world, Buddha, Socrates, and Jesus all embraced lives of poverty and emphasized the importance of limiting material desires.


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In the early days of this country, writers such as Benjamin Franklin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau promoted a simple, frugal lifestyle. Various religious groups, from the monastic orders of the Middle Ages to modern-day Quakers and Amish, have made simple living a key part of their teachings. The modern simplicity movement arose out of the counterculture of the s and s, which put a strong emphasis on resisting consumer culture and living in harmony with nature.

After , the popularity of the term declined for a while, but in the s its use began to surge once again as several new books contributed to the movement. The main focus of the simple life is on reducing your consumption. The simple life means different things to different people.

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This country-dwelling downshifter might work only a few hours a week for pay, perhaps working from home as a freelancer , and spend the rest of his or her time tending a garden and livestock, making and repairing clothes, and homeschooling children. For another person, by contrast, the simple life might mean living in a sparsely furnished apartment in a building with a rooftop garden.

On weekends, he might take in a free performance at a local park or a poetry reading at a nearby bookstore.

Simple living - Wikipedia

They have to spend a lot of time explaining to others that voluntary simplicity is not about the following:. Downshifters and minimalists have many different reasons for choosing the simple life.

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The benefits people mention most often are as follows:. This is particularly true for those who choose to withdraw completely from the consumer society, such as the Nearings. If you refuse to purchase anything at all, then everything you use — food, clothing, household goods — has to be homemade. When you have to grow or make absolutely everything from scratch, just keeping yourself fed and clothed can take far more hours of your time than a full-time job. However, even for those who choose to stay within mainstream society, but just consume less, living simply can still be time-consuming.

For example, it usually takes longer to walk or bike to work than it does to drive. Preparing a home-cooked meal takes longer than stopping at a fast-food restaurant drive-through, and repairing a torn shirt can take longer than going to a department store to purchase a new one. For many people though, the biggest challenge of the simple life is how it can cut you off from your peers.

We live in a time of disruption but where others see difficulty, we see opportunity - not just to survive but to thrive. Subscribe to the new agenda and lead the way in business and beyond. Sign in. Become an FT subscriber to read: UK voluntary living wage rises 4.

What is the voluntary Living Wage?

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