Simple Living

I am thinking about simple living today. In an earlier thread I asked, “How much of the need for [home] protection is a reflection of socio-economic disparities?” I suggested, “Another way to protect our homes is through modest living.”

Then, as providence would have it, I came across some new research from George Barna that suggested many Americans aspire to simple living. So I went websurfing and came across the Simple Living Manifesto and many other articles and sites.

What are your thoughts on living more simply? I think simple living is something many of us aspire to, but I am not so sure we always get there. I enjoyed the book Simple Church for instance, but only the other day I was voicing some concerns with ministry complexity. We’re not there yet. I’m not there yet. My life is complex. It takes energy to simplify. Where would you like to simplify your life? How have you simplified your life already?

8 thoughts on “Simple Living

  1. It’s been on my mind a lot lately.
    One things for sure you can’t do it alone. You need support. Family, friends, church etc. You need support.
    If you want to live simply, you have to have your family on board.
    If you want simple church, together you have to want it.
    Basically, community is an essential ingredient.


  2. There are a couple things I’ve done so I can focus on the things that are most critical in my life and ministry. Granted, it’s easier for me as a single person to do this than if I had a wife/family.
    Since 1991, I’ve basically lived alone or in households where there is no cable or satellite TV. If I use the TV, it’s for DVDs. Not only does that let me be far more selective in positive viewing matter, it screens out advertising and news that I do not want to or need to see.
    I’ve found that simplifying deals not only with how we spend our time, but how we expend or conserve our energy. Since I seem to have a high-level emotional tune-in quotient, I quickly go into “compassion fatigue” at hearing about other people’s difficulties. It stirs my heart but usually there’s nothing I can do for them (other than pray). I’ve discovered that if I want to have enough emotional energy available to make a difference in the lives of people I’m already connected with, I need to avoid details of the news about those I can do nothing for directly. (I still read headlines, but often that’s all.) I’ve concluded that the details are needed by those gifted and called to a life of prayer or of public service where they must keep up with the news. Me, I can be a better citizen by forgoing in-depth news and engaging with friends and neighbors instead. I know some would say The Good Citizen keeps informed on all things political. That’s their choice, but it’s not my command. I simply cannot do that and still maintain enough oomph to serve in ways I’m called to.
    And – shockingly – I’ve not had my own car since about 2001. Initially it was because I couldn’t afford the insurance, fuel, and maintenance. So, I’ve walked, taken the bus, ridden with friends as needed. That may change soon, as I may need to commute extensively for work. Then it’ll be a necessity, and I’ll see it as such. But for the past 7 years, it would have overcomplicated my life. Which is all to say, the same thing that simplifies one person’s life could overly complicate another’s.
    Anyway, those are some initial thoughts on moving toward a more minimalist lifestyle, with a lower carbon footprint and a higher ministry imprint.


  3. Simplicity is elusive…I try to keep simple systems for managing things like tasks, household chores, and work projects, and grad school assignments.
    For me it’s all about keeping good productivity systems in place…with a healthy dose of prayer and perspective.
    I say perspective, because if I’ve found that if my priorities really are where they need to be, many things and situations that complicate my life seem to work themselves out.


  4. Before 1999 I never had a mobile phone. We coped okay without them. Now I have one it seems life is far more pressurised because of the `immediacy’ of it all which seems a major expectation placed on people
    Maybe abandoning our mobiles and going back to just using landlines makes some sense.
    It would make life a lot more simple do you think? Or would it.
    I’ve never had cable or satelite TV. Still a luxury as far as I’m concerned. However, deteriorating quality of programming with free-to-air TV and the limited numbers of channels available seems to be driving so many people to purchase pay-tv plans.Even many of my Australian welfare clients living off social security benefits seem to be switching to pay-tv – often ending up in debt because of it.
    I think what an earlier blogger said, that living simply can be made easier with the support of family or community groups has validity. Imagine if churches actually caught on to the idea of producing/growing good quality food, selling it at reasonable prices for everyone (not just as occasional welfare projects for a limited few) through cooperatives?
    My father’s work mates all banded together on a great many occasions to assist buiding and rennovation eachother’s homes, provide labour for concreting, undertaking projects together where they repaired widowed ladies houses. They were electrical, mechanical or civil engineers with a state-run power supply corporation at the time.
    I think doing such practical cooperative helping stuff as a faith community could become quite positive missiologically.
    Am mindful of how the Amish and Mennonites have done whole-community-involved barn-raisings etc. for example for their community. The labour, as I understand is done for free, and the faith community celebrates these events with food etc. The owner provides the building supplies I would imagine.
    It is both counter-cultural and fall under the concept of simple living.


  5. Ah, simplcity! In religious life we talk about this alot–vow of poverty, you know. But there are other elements. Two thoughts: I’m a complex person and YOUR simplicity is accepting my complexity (I hope you catch the tongue-in-cheek humor there).
    Seriously, I think the simple living movement stems from the fast pace of life that most of us have let ourselves get sucked into. The child centered family with multiple sporting team committments is one example. Where did all the fun go?
    24/7 availability is another factor. The ante has gone up and up regarding people’s expectations that we are available every moment. My pet peeve is when people check out their Blackberry or answer a phone call when already engaged in face to face conversation.
    Maybe a good thing about the ecomonic melt down is that it will prompt more of us to access our relationship to material things and time.


  6. I spent a lot of time thinking about this stuff in the late 90s, which culminated in a trip to the US in 2000, where I was reading a history of modernist architecture a reader on simple living and visiting a few old shaker communities.
    I simplicity as not just an absence of clutter or avoidance of business, but also as a purposeful marriage of technology, design and spirituality. I guess that’s why the GTD thing has hit home so hard for me.
    In the end it comes back to focus. What simplicity should give us is clarity about our commitments and the ability to line our tasks up so they contribute to a greater goal. The opposite of that is that fractured life where we just respond like Pavlov’s dog to every electronic ding and bleep.
    The beautiful irony though is that by embracing simplicty (and craft and respect and devotion) we actually become more complex as people.


  7. Isaiah, liked your reminder about community. I remember when we first moved to Toongabbie my brother was only a few streets away so we decided to share a lawnmower in preference to buying two. It saved us money and gave us an excuse to share a coffee on Saturday mornings. And thinking of our church, there has been so many kids clothes swapped over the years, its great. Community enriches us.


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