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The simpler way: a practical action plan for living more on less

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.

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.

A project of the Simplicity Institute.

Editorial Notes: All sections of the booklet are online. A PDF of the entire booklet can is available free from the website. A poster from Quebec has simplicity resources for Francophones: http://simplicitevolontaire.info/ http://carnet.simplicitevolontaire.org/ -BA

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