Work and Time

Rethinking attitudes toward work and working hours is central to the Simpler Way. Most of the things we consume have to be purchased, and this means that the more we consume, the more time we have to spend working to pay for our lifestyles.

  • Consider reducing working hours: Everybody’s situation is different, so reducing working hours may not be feasible. But if you and your household find ways to significantly reduce your overall consumption expenditure, you may find that you don’t have to work so many hours a week in paid employment. This will free up more time to pursue your private passions and engage with your community in meaningful and fulfilling ways. This may reduce your material wealth, but it is likely to increase your quality of life. What a good trade!
  • But how? If you think it may be feasible to fund a simpler lifestyle by working less, the question is how to make this a reality. There are two main paths to reduced working hours: One option is to find a new job that offers part-time work. The second option is to approach your current employer and ask whether it would be possible to work fewer hours per week on pro rata reduced wages / salary. Your employer might be more open to it than you think. After all, it means reduced costs for them. It may also increase your own productivity.
  • What to do with a pay rise? There will probably come a time in your working life when you are offered a pay rise. One option, as noted above, is to save your raise. But there is another option, too. Rather than accepting the extra money and spending more, ask whether you can stay on the same wages / salary but work less. For example, you might ask for one afternoon off per week. Again, your employer might be quite happy to accept such an arrangement.
  • Work from home one day per week: Another way to rethink your work life is to consider whether it would be possible to work one or more days from home. This will not be possible for all jobs, but it will be for some. This may a nice way to spend one of your working days. It will also reduce the amount of travelling you do to and from work, and that means less oil-dependency. Win-win.
  • See if you can telecommute instead of traveling: Many jobs today require travel in between suburbs, cities, or even countries. Using video-conferencing technology can greatly reduce the need to travel for work. Look  into it. Your employer might be happy for you to do this too, as it will reduce their costs (and it will also significantly reduce carbon emissions).
  • If you need less, you have less pressure to work for dodgy businesses: Sometimes people find themselves pressured or seduced for financial reasons to work for businesses that don’t really contribute to the common good. If you don’t need much money, however, you may find that you can choose work that pays less but which might be more fulfilling and socially worthwhile.
  • Home production: Turn your home into a place of production, not merely consumption. Develop a skill that interests you and learn how to produce something you or your community needs.
  • Vote with your time: On the page discussing money it is noted that ‘how we spend our money is how we vote on what exists in the world.’ The same goes for how we spend our time. Time is life – don’t waste it. We have only this moment.


  1. I am turning 21 in six more sleeps, I study full-time at university and have been an active volunteer in local permaculture community groups (not-for-profit incorporated associations) for about 4 years. I’ve found a welcoming sense of community in amongst two small cities and find it very rewarding to learn from and share with other people. However it seems to me the more I understand about the social dynamics of these groups, the more I see Committee members ‘burning out’ due to over-committing themselves… Perhaps I will find (or create) a niche where a modest financial income can be met by working to support ecological rehabilitation and social justice. Although compromise is often necessary, I hope I do not swing too far to any extremes

  2. These days, working at home isn’t just a pipe dream — it’s an economic necessity. The Great Recession forced more than 300,000 stay-at-home moms to return to work. And in a recent retirement poll commissioned by Allstate, nearly 70% of near-retirees said they plan to continue working past age 65. ..

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  3. I’m 26 and after 5 years working in real estate I suddenly resigned in order to re-evaluate what I really want out of life. I managed to save enough to pay for the essentials for the next year or so and am very happy that I left the industry. I have been reading about voluntary simplicity for quite a while and find it all an interesting read. I’m reluctant to show my family and friends what I am reading as they are all still trying to understand why I left my job. I know some people see my new lifestyle as lazy but I feel so much better and am so much happier just doing things I love like yoga, reading, gardening, donating to charities etc. I recommend taking the plunge and letting yourself see whats actually important in life.

  4. I notice that nobody ever addresses the amount of time we spend at work to pay our taxes in its many guises.This may amount to 80% of our income even for the lowest paid,as a lot of taxes are levied through our spending it follows that the less you consume the less tax you pay.A £500 item has a 20% vat tag on it,thats an extra £100! how many hours is that extra to work just to pay the tax and then to have no control over where that tax is reinvested (or not).

  5. Now that I’m retired and at home a lot more, I’ve come to realise how important it is to be very selective about the things I choose to do and the objects which surround me. Too much stuff just leads to time-wasting – it all needs thinking about, tidying, cleaning, mending and it takes up space. So now I’m seriously trying to reduce the amount of stuff I have to bother with each day to make more time for quality activities which I really want to do. Luckily it’s not difficult where I live to donate usable goods to charities and it’s surprising how much of what I’ve accumulated over years I no longer really use or need!

  6. I sold my car yesterday and the money saved makes it possibly for me to take almost every friday off from work. What a delight, I should have done this a long time ago, but rather late than never. ( I live in Norway where cars are very expensive, but I’m lucky to work very close to where I live )

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