We all want the food, clothing, and shelter needed to live safe and healthy lives. And we all want at least a basic education and access to medical care should we fall ill. But beyond these basic needs, how much more do we actually need to live well and to be free? The Simpler Way doesn’t mean that we cannot have possessions that go beyond our basic needs, but it does involve questioning the amount of stuff that is in our lives. Sometimes, less really can be more.
- Avoid unnecessary possessions: The Simpler Way involves embracing a form of minimalism. Again, this doesn’t mean not having possessions, but it does involve only having the possessions that truly contribute to our quality of life. Often stuff is just stuff – a waste of space, money, and resources. Avoid unnecessary possessions. Live more with less.
- Declutter: When people decide they want to take steps to simplify their lives, decluttering their homes of superfluous ‘stuff’ is the perfect way to begin. This can be extremely liberating. Go from room to room and think very seriously about whether you need all the stuff you have. Donate your superfluous stuff to charity.
- Be aware of the stuff needed for stuff: It seems that stuff breeds more stuff. We often buy something and then discover that it needs extra stuff to make it functional. By reducing the stuff in our lives, we are also reducing the stuff needed for stuff. Stuff can also have hidden ‘time’ costs. Therefore, when in doubt, do without.
- Be aware of the psychology of stuff: We’ve probably all had the experience of making some exciting consumer purchase, only to discover that the initial buzz quickly wears off. Despite what advertisements tell us, stuff just doesn’t satisfy our desire for meaning, and it is a very poor substitute for an identity.
- Be aware of the ‘Diderot Effect’: Have you ever purchased something, something you really wanted, only to discover that it made the rest of your stuff seem a bit old and dated? Rather than accepting some disunity in the style of your possessions, have you then been tempted to upgrade your old and dated stuff? This is called the ‘Diderot Effect’. You buy some new pants, but then realize you need a new shirt to match. You buy a new sofa, but then you have the urge to upgrade your chairs too. The Simpler Way involves resisting the initial upgrading. Get off the consumerist treadmill and stop the upward creep of material desire. Know how much is enough. Old stuff often has character.
- Avoid all goods you know or suspect were unjustly manufactured: How can some stuff be so cheap! At first this seems great, but a moment’s thought should tell us that if some stuff is unbelievably cheap, it is probably because it has been produced by wage-slaves in the developing world. Don’t support corporations that are based on unjust manufacturing.
- Quality, not quantity: When you decide you really need some new possession, it is better to buy quality, so that it doesn’t have to be replaced. This reduces waste. In this sense, the Simpler Way is about caring ‘more’ about our stuff.