Living simply can seem pretty complicated. It’s quite the oxymoron. How we live seems set up to discourage a simple life and encourage a highly consumeristic lifestyle in which we are constantly thinking of the next thing… the next thing we want to buy, the next thing we want to try, the next thing we need to do to become the person we’re trying to become: usually modeled off of someone we see on t.v. (Just think about how many people want a family like the Obamas.)
We’re so used to living lives of convenience, conformity and consumerism that the things which would make life simpler like shutting off cable, cooking from scratch, eating healthier, walking or riding a bicycle instead of driving, buying less, reusing more, seem far more difficult than they actually are. Our minds seem primed to reject things that attest to our own self sufficiency. We are so indoctrinated in capitalist thinking that if it is a product or service that can be bought, why do it ourselves?
As a student making my own way through grad school without a college fund, I’ve been forced in many ways to simplify my lifestyle. What I’ve found however is much of the “downgrading” I’ve had to do were really upgrades. My need to eat for less encourages me to cook for myself, find ways to curb food wastage and to appreciate the finer tastes of simpler things. I eat healthier, plan my meals, make better decisions and try new things. I’m certain my fitness is improved because I either have to walk, ride or travel everywhere I go. I am less distracted and more creative without television, and when I do take time to watch something, it will always be something I really want to see that either educates me or enriches my experience. I can’t afford (in more ways than financially) to watch junk.
The amazing thing is I am never bored. All those hours spent on consumeristic behavior, watching television, eating out, shopping for unnecessaries, are being spent learning new things, making definitive steps in pursuing my dreams, making and creating, writing, experiencing other people’s art and thoughts, and sharing mine. I wonder how different my life would have been if I had the luxury and habit of living that consumer lifestyle. How much would I be missing if I spent hours a day in front of a television, or buying unnecessaries or saving time with fast food?
I can’t afford everything I’d like such as plane tickets to visit family and friends, or funding creative or social projects that can make an impact in the world. But I can afford to live simply, fully and enjoy rich experiences. Money is a useful resource and I hope to increase my access to that and other resources as I grow in my career. But learning to live simply has taught me many valuable lessons, such that when I do have access to opportunities and resources, I’m better equipped to use them in ways that truly matter. If you can live and love your life when you have little, perhaps you can invest more in making a positive difference in the world when you have a lot.