About

By now we all understand the importance of reducing resource and energy consumption and stepping more lightly on the planet. But figuring out exactly how to do this in a consumer society can be very challenging.

The aim of this website is to provide a practical action plan for those people who wish to live a ‘simpler life’ of reduced and restrained consumption. If you start with the steps outlined on this website and enjoy the process of transition, soon enough a new way of life – the Simpler Way – will emerge.

The Simpler Way represents a life with less clutter, less waste, and less fossil fuel use, but also a life with more time for the things that truly inspire and bring happiness.

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An Introduction to the Simpler Way

Beyond our basic material needs for food, clothing, and shelter, how much is enough? In particular, how much money and how many possessions do we really need to live well and to be free? These are not questions that many people ask themselves in consumer societies today, but they are some of the most important questions of all.

Instead of confronting these questions, too many people today spend their entire lives desperately climbing the endless ladder of consumerism, seeking more and more income to spend on more and more stuff. But at the end of life these people inevitably discover that they had not really lived, that they had wasted their only chance at life inside a shopping mall. A free and meaningful life, it turns out, does not actually depend on having all the latest consumer products or having the nicest house on the street. On the contrary, working long hours just to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ leaves people with less time for the things that really matter in life, like friends, family, community, and engaging in peaceful, creative activity. This is the stuff that makes life worth living, and the interesting thing is we don’t need to be rich to enjoy it all. The best things in life really are free. Abundance is a state of mind.

Money is important, of course, but only up to a point, and the threshold point is much lower than most people think. Once our basic material needs are met, the limitless pursuit of money and stuff merely distract us from more meaningful and inspiring things. As the ancient philosophers told us long ago, those who know they have enough are rich, and those who have enough but do not know it, are poor. Consumerism, it is clear, represents a mistaken idea of wealth, and it is based on a mistaken idea of freedom.

“Consumerism, it is clear, represents a mistaken idea of wealth, and it is based on a mistaken idea of freedom.”

Not only are many people finding consumer lifestyles empty and unfulfilling, an even greater problem is that consumer lifestyles are destroying our beautiful planet Earth, jeopardising the future of life as we know it. Everything we consume ultimately comes from nature and all our consumer wastes must ultimately be returned to nature. But nature has limits! Today our fragile ecosystems are trembling under the weight of decades of overconsumption, and yet the pursuit of more economic growth and more consumption continues to define the collective imagination, even in the richest nations. Let us pause for a moment and ask ourselves: Is consumer culture really the best we can come up with? Is there no alternative?

The good news is that there is an alternative – the Simpler Way. Participants in this emerging social movement are voluntarily passing up high consumption, energy-intensive lifestyles and creating for themselves a lower consumption but higher quality of life alternative. By limiting their working hours and consumption, spending their money thoughtfully, growing their own food, riding bikes, rejecting high fashion, and generally celebrating life outside the shopping mall, these people are the ‘new pioneers’ transitioning to a simpler form of life beyond consumer culture. Furthermore, they are showing that this is the surest path to a sustainable life of freedom, happiness, and deep contentment. Please join us on this Great Transition and together we can ignite the most important social movement of the 21st century. This is your personal invitation. Consume less, live more. It’s well worth considering.

“The aim of this website is simple: to provide a practical action plan for those people who wish to live a ‘simpler life’”

The aim of this website is simple: to provide a practical action plan for those people who wish to live a ‘simpler life’ of reduced and restrained consumption. The Simpler Way represents a life with less clutter, less waste, and less fossil fuel use, but also a life with more time for the things that truly inspire and bring happiness. It is hoped that what follows can provide creative individuals with a guidebook for how to reimagine their lives to achieve these important goals. If you start with the steps outlined on this website and enjoy the process of transition, soon enough a new way of life – the Simpler Way – will emerge. Only your imagination is needed.

It is important to note, however, that although there are hundreds of practical ideas in the first part of this document, each idea requires creative interpretation and personal application. This document, be sure, cannot replace thinking creatively for yourself. So conceive of this practical action plan as an outline of the first phase in the journey – the foundation. Use this information as the basis for action, but understand that everybody’s life and circumstances are unique. We must each write our own story of simplicity.

The second part of the full document (available here) is an essay by Ted Trainer, who provides an inspiring vision of life beyond consumerism. With rigour and insight, Trainer attempts to work out how cheaply and sustainably we could live, as individuals and communities, if we made a commitment to living more on less. While Trainer is the first to admit his calculations are not exact – he conceives of his essay as an ongoing work in progress – he nevertheless has provided us with the most rigorous account of the Simpler Way presently available. And the news is good! By meticulously working his way through many practical aspects of the Simpler Way, Trainer shows that we could live flourishing lives on as little as 10% of current GDP per capita in developed nations. This will strike many people as a ridiculous proposition, but read on with an open mind! Trainer has been living the Simpler Way for decades and he is uniquely positioned to describe what the world would look like if it came to be shaped by this philosophy of living. While his analysis is radical, it his very hard to fault his essential reasoning.

If you find our website useful, or think others might find it useful, please share it with others. By now we all understand the importance of reducing resource and energy consumption and stepping more lightly on the planet, but figuring out exactly how to do this in a consumer society can be very challenging. We hope this document can help as many people as possible transition toward a simpler, greener, and happier life beyond consumer culture. The time to reimagine ‘the good life’ is now.

The seeds of change are in our hands.

17 Comments

  1. For any years we have been living a frugal life, or a simple life. I am retired and we live on a 1.9ha block and produce most of our own food on our land and avoid “stuff”. When the occasion has arisen I have spoken to friends or acquaintances about the coming necessity to live simply. Often these comments have elicited a resentment that is very concerning. Many of these people are decent people and I wonder what reaction we will get from those who are not so decent when nature forces simple living on us all. It seems that many people feel that they have a right to consume as much as they desire or can afford and have a vested interest in continuing consumption as usual.

    The tone of the articles on this site seems to presume that the average person will accept the need to adopt a simple life and get on with it. I am interested in the thoughts of those who wrote the articles and also those who posted comments. How will the freeloaders in our society react and what if anything could be done about this if it is not peacefull.

  2. I wish you great success with this venture and fully support your aims. Good Luck!

  3. Thank you for this information. It is truly creative and inspiring and definately music to my ears.

    I have been looking for ways to get happier by living simpler. Two years ago, I found Buddhism and my values have shifted dramatically. I am definatly happier with this perspective on life and am looking to increase it – this pdf helps.

    I’d love more tips on how to reduce my working hours whilst still meeting my financial needs however. I live in London (which is impossibly expensive but I am not willing to leave for a variety of reasons). I have a degree, and currently work in financial communications. I’d love to get out of this rat race!

  4. Thank you for this website – On the wheel of consumerism and suffering both physically and psychologically as a result. Currently off work on stress leave and panicking on how to afford ‘stuff’. Our lives up until recently have seen us both working (at work and at home) in excess of 50 hours a week for what? to race out and buy stuff we don’t need, to spend money on a nanny that raises our kids, to save to travel overseas to have ‘quality time’ for 2 weeks. This is completely unsustainable. (Duh). BUT I do feel there is hope I do feel there is now a starting point. I do feel we as a family can change. I don’t want my kids to have to leave school and go into the workforce to jump into this cycle. As a family we are going to start this journey with small do-able changes that in the longer term I hope will turn into something bigger. With the time I have had off recently (8weeks) I have been practicing mindfullness and now I can see it as being something that needs to be part of all of our lives. THANK YOU so much for putting this website and ideas together. :0)

  5. I’ve had no car for 15 plus years, still don’t own a mobile phone and the computer I tap on is work loaned so don’t ‘own’ one of those either. It’s crazy, people think I’m a freak but in looking around on Public Transport or people driving alone the ‘crazy ones’ are tap, tapping away on their iThis or iThat for perpetual entertainment/contact. Who’s really the mad one?

    Now green bling is popping up all over the place and in my short street of 20 odd houses there are 4 with solar PV! Yes, its catching on (we’re on 100% GreenPower for the last ten years).

    Everytime you read about the latest ‘study’ it says that this or that in moderation is good for you e.g. coffee, chocolate, wine and even a beer! Well, when was the last time anything in excess resulted in ANYTHING good? Seems a no brainer that people should get this but in an effort to secure more for thy self, in case we some how miss out, people really miss the opportunity to live more freely without attachment and therefore less limitation.

    Recommend to all reading Bill McKibben’s ‘Deep Economy’ in implementing the institutional changes that will need to go along with the long, slow haul to a ‘good life’ that everyone is entitled to, everyone, everywhere.

    Simplicity, elegance, now that’s living!

  6. Hi Stewart, thanks for your suggestion. We actually had a ‘tab’ for Nature in the initial draft, but it eventually got cut. This was partly motivated by the attempt to keep the booklet as concise as possible, but more importantly, our reasoning was that all of the tabs are directly or indirectly about Nature. Remember, our central motivation for this website was to explore the question of “how” to live more simply. Nature is really about the “why” we should live more simply.

    Nevertheless, there is much room within the current tabs to address the issue of nature and environment, and I’m glad you have raised this issue. I’m quite open to the tabs evolving, however, so it may be that a Nature tab makes an emergence sometime. This is exactly the kind of suggestion we welcome on this website, as now that the website is underway, we should all conceive of this as a collaborative project.

    Thanks very much for the thoughtful comment – and thanks to all those who have commented.

  7. Just a suggestion not a complaint, I would like to see an additional discussion topic for Nature and Environment because reducing our impact on wild nature is a very important reason to simplify. But we could reduce our own footprint just to find that more people fill the space and the environment remains under increasing pressure. Discussion on and contemplation of this is imortant. John Muir asked “Why should man see himself as more than a small part of the one great unit of creation.” Simplifying life can be about blending back in with nature as much as possible and no longer thoughtlessly treading it under foot.

  8. We’ve been along the simplicity path for decades as well. I’m 49 and my wife is 53. In June 2011, we went car-free for the first time. Both of our children are adults, and carry on the ways they learned as children. Recently, I was hired to work in the maintenance department of a large transit agency.

    Looking forward to participating here.

  9. Great initiative, well done. Very inspiring. Timely in the face of profound global ecological and economic ills. This is a good re-beginning, because many of these ideas and practices have been around for a long time, and we have to consider why they haven’t been so popular or widespread of late.

    Partly I think it is for lack of mindfulness, and an excess of status anxiety, as mentioned at the beginning of this document. The breaking and remaking of entrenched habits of mind, body and spirit is required.
    But we must also consider vested interests, and the ways that social and material power is generated and mediated today. Private property is a biggie. We must call dominant forms of power into question, and recognize that to achieve an easier and better life takes courage, perseverance, patience. Civil disobedience in the face of unjust and/or irrational laws. The ways and forms of decision-making must be considered; the occupy movement was inspirational in this regard.

    Much time will need to be spent in participatory decision-making (and reflecting on the best form(s) of participatory decision-making) in a transition to (and living in) a simpler way. I don’t think that power and authority can be eliminated; we need to consider how they can be better mediated, managed, shared. Abuse of power can still occur in simpler social formations; people will still make mistakes, do harm to each other and the ecosystem – but hopefully not on the same scale as in our current globalised hyper-industrialism.

    There is much passive acceptance of the current social, political and economic institutions in Australia to manage many of the dangers and risks that are perceived to exist; this website challenges that passive acceptance, and is a powerful vision of other, better ways of being.

  10. What a resource! So clear and beautifully written. Love the Ted Trainer essay too!

  11. Yes I am glad of this site because the simplification I have done to date has helped me imensly but I still have a long way to go and inspiration such as this site is important. My adult children have been fully sucked into the material life and my grand children live sickening lives of excess. I can only help to free them by living by example. So the experience of all you folks out there can be important to help others when shared on a site like this.

  12. Nice to know there are others “out there” concerned about the important things in life!! How many times have people tried to tell me that I’m not “in” if I don”t have or do something that they want. How many people have never understood that life doesn’t stop if you don’t own a television – they look at me like I’m the poorest person in the world. I then look at them like they’re the dumbest when the first question I get asked is “What do you do without television?”. Good thing I know how to read and think for myself!

  13. I cannot resist the pleasure and priviledge of writing a few words on this very first day of The Simpler Way project. What a good news to hear about this new venture of the Simplicity Institute!

    I am Dominique Boisvert, the co-founder of the Quebec Network for Voluntary Simplicity (RQSV in French), created in April 2000 and which has worked to promote the simple life and voluntary simplicity (as it is called mostly in Quebec) here in Quebec and in the whole francophone world through our website at http://www.simplicitevolontaire.org, blog at http://www.carnet.simplicitevolontaire.org, newsletter and books all published in French.

    I’ll certainly be back on this site with much more soon but I wanted to be part of Day 1, even though briefly. And I will write a post on our blog about your project tonight to celebrate your birth!

    Long live The Simpler Way!

  14. Hi Lew.
    You sound like you have some very interesting posts to share and I will look forward to reading them.
    I have been interested in simple living for a while now and appreciate all the help I receive on this life changing path.

  15. It is great to see the results of this survey come to fruition.

  16. Now this is very exciting! I look forward to learning and hopefully contributing to the conversation and the community. Cheers G

  17. Wow, new website full of promise and an upbeat way of looking to the future. I like it. I realise it is only day 1 and no comments to read, so thought I best add 1. I am in my mid 50s semi retired single dad with now adult offspring. But 25 years ago we were starting down this road. Left the suburbs and a bank managers job to live in the bush, low cost and raise the kids. It was great, best childhood I could give them, they have excellent values and are very close. There was some self sufficiency involved but most was cost reduction, we had mains power and vehicles but car pooled and used solar as well. Working from home saved a bundle and in later years was able to offer the kids school based traineeships to allow them to earn while still at high school.
    They earned below the tax free threshhold and I was able to claim their wages as business expenses and the government paid the insurance, in additi on I received incentives for their training. I have since downsized a lot, and my kids are now the budding home owners. The excess cash I have invested in my kids mortgages. This reduces their monthly interest cost and they can redraw any time should I need the cash back. I am not on a pension so am not affected by deeming rules and dont need the interest on the money, but consider the tax free savings within the family unit and how that savings is compounded. All that is needed to begin this journey is commitment. Lots of research and planning plus some courage. I hope that many many people change their goals and seek to live their lives for real. No doubt at some time I may add a few posts about some of the achievements we had, some of the mistakes, the fun, there were a few minor dificulties but none stressful at all.

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