Socialising and entertainment has become big business in consumer societies. People often assume that when they have some free time – in the weekends perhaps – they have to go out and spend money to socialise or to entertain themselves. This just isn’t true. With a little imagination, socialising and entertainment doesn’t have to cost much, or anything at all. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we should never spend money socialising or entertaining ourselves. The point is that it doesn’t have to cost money, or much money. And it isn’t just about the money. It is also about how we direct our free time and the way we socialise. Consumer culture has taken us down the wrong path.
- Purchasing food, alcohol, and entertainment: Most of us enjoy going out for the odd meal, relaxing with the occasional beer or glass of wine, or seeing a movie now and then, etc. And fair enough too. The Simpler Way certainly does not imply giving up these things. It does, however, imply recognising the importance of moderation in all we do. We should gratefully absorb the best our culture has to offer, but we should not rely exclusively, or even predominately, on purchased goods or services for our entertainment.
- Television: How a culture spends its leisure – its freedom – provides an extremely important insight into the nature of that culture. Aside from working and sleeping, most people in Western societies spend more time watching television than doing anything else. Studies have shown, for example, that the average U.S. and British citizen watch roughly 25 hours per week, and other nations aren’t too far behind. Is this really the best way to be spending our freedom? It is likely that some of this time in front of the television can be replaced with much more fulfilling and meaningful activities. Put the TV in the closet for one month. See what happens. Reinvent how you practice freedom.
- Learn a new skill: The division of labour that lies at the heart of consumer society has resulted in us losing many basic life skills. Re-skilling can be a very fulfilling way to spend some of our free time. For example, you might want to learn how to garden organically, cook, bake bread, lay bricks, preserve food, sew, build things, bind books, paint, or learn how to play a musical instrument, etc. Unlike the passivity of TV, learning a new skill is an active challenge and can provide endless hours of fulfilment.
- Declutter your social calendar: Spending time with friends and family can often be some of the most fulfilling time of all. But sometimes we at risk of over-scheduling social engagements and find that there is no time for ourselves, no time to relax and just be. When you think you need some more time for yourself, learn to say ‘no’ to invitations.
- Volunteer: What are you passionate about? Is there a way for you to share that passion with the world? It can be surprising how fulfilling this can be.
- Reading: It is easy to think that we stop being students when we leave formal education. But the world is an infinitely interesting place, full of endlessly exciting things and inspiring people. Reading is a wonderful, enriching pastime, and it doesn’t have to cost a cent. Your local library can provide books for free. Cultivate a love of reading and you will be rich forever.