9 Comments

  1. Great post & I think you articulated your thoughts very well. I’ve never really out this much thought into living simply. For the record, I live frugally with most things so I can afford things I *really* like; I don’t live simply, by any means. I did learn to live frugally thanks(?) to my childhood where living frugally was necessary. We didn’t live all that simply then, either (hello, Nintendo my sister saved for & bought). There’s definitely a difference.

    I’m also annoyed that a parenting style is becoming more & more imbued with all of these other lifestyle choices. You don’t have to be “crunchy” to practice attached parenting nor do you have to eschew TV or iPhones.

  2. I agree with you 100%. I’ve been a little mystified by the growing hipness of so much of the Simple Living things. I am in no way practicing Simple Living, but I do try to be thoughtful about where my money goes, since I am fortunate enough not to need to factor cost into my decisions as much. I do hope that people with more resources can use their spending power to, say, drive down the cost of organic foods (more people buying it, means more people producing it, which hopefully means cost saving), or increase the number of Farmer’s Markets. The ones in our area all take SNAP, which I was really happy to see,
    All that being said, I recognize my privilege in making these decisions, and don’t look down on people who need to make different ones. Living within your means is important, as is being able to feed your family. I know we are all making the best choices for our families.

  3. When my husband and I started out in life, we were easily able to provide for ourselves by being frugal and not having high expectations of keeping up with anyone else. When I was 5 months pregnant with our first child, we cut our losses where we were, quit our jobs, and moved 1200 miles cross country to start over. We lived with my husband’s parents for the first 6 months of our daughter’s life. When we moved out, to be able to afford basic everyday necessities, we had to keep things simple. We lived in a tiny apartment, with a kitchen the size of most people’s bathrooms. We bought our clothes used. We scoured freecycle for household essentials that we were lacking. We didn’t have tons of gadgets or toys. We began cloth diapering to not have the recurrent expense of diapers. We didn’t have anything we could live without – like cable tv. As time went by, we were fortunate in that my husband was able to get promotions and better jobs, and we were able to afford a bit more here and there. When our daughter was small, he made just a touch too much money for any type of assistance, other than health insurance for our daughter. By the time our son was born, we could afford to rent a bigger home, and spend a bit more on food every week. However, both of our sons (and myself, we learned) have extensive food allergies/intolerances, which requires us to spend a LOT on food every month. Plus, there are 5 in our family with another one on the way. So, while we spend a lot on food every month, it is a necessity for us. Living simply in other areas allows us to allocate money into eating well, eating organic, and eating within the parameters of our diet. All of these things are important to us. However, cable TV is not so important to us. 😉 We still buy the majority of our clothing used. I do sew and knit, and I enjoy it greatly. It also allows me to make things for my children that we couldn’t otherwise afford. For instance, both of our sons have extremely sensitive skin and cannot wear artificial fibers – like polyester. Because I knit, I can buy wool yarn and make them warm wool sweaters – sometimes for as little as $10. Finding 100% wool sweaters in children’s sizes is nearly impossible – whether buying used or new. I think we’ve had one that we found used somewhere. Other than that, to buy new would cost upwards of $50 per sweater. I also make their winter coats, hats, mittens, scarves, etc, because I cannot buy them for my children at a reasonable cost without the synthetic fabrics. The fabric for their coats and the clothing I make is almost always sourced from repurposed items – blankets, sheets, adult clothing, tablecloths, etc, which I buy used at yard sales, thrift stores, or estate sales, or free that people have given to me because they know I repurpose things. Living simply, for us, allows us to maintain our family’s health and well being, AND allows us to live in a way that we are morally comfortable with. Things like eating organic, being 90% plastic free, living sustainably and being “kind to the Earth” are of prime importance to our family. Living without the fanciest new cars, electronics, a constant flow of expensive new toys, and all of the other “simple” things we do allow us to accomplish these goals. Yes, I could afford to buy more things new, if I wanted to. I could afford a lot more toys for my kids if we would buy plastic. But, i would have to compromise my standards for the environment, and for my family’s health to be able to do this. I think that a lot of people who don’t know all of the reasons why we do these things could look at our family and think that it is silly that we continue to cloth diaper when we could probably afford disposables. But then I’d have to make cuts in other areas of our lives that we would be very uncomfortable with making. And, we love our cloth diapers!

    • All that’s great, Kellie, but I feel you missed my point. Not everyone is fortunate to get promotions and when they do it could be very little. Not everyone is able to learn the skills of sewing and knitting, and if you do, you still have to shell out money for the supplies. Buying food for someone with food allergies can get very expensive and not everyone is able to pay for whole foods to feed their family. The kind of simple living going on today is about privilege. If you have enough money to afford to live this new trend then everything is golden for you, but what about those who live with less because they have no other choice? There are many without internet at home and they make frequent trips to the library via public transportation or a ride from a friend. What if someone could only afford $2.50 for a new outfit from the thrift store? They can no longer do that with the increasing prices of the thrift store because it’s now trendy to shop at thrift stores. My point is that not everyone who lives simply enjoy doing so, some do it by choice, some do it because it’s a trend, and some do it because they have to.

  4. Darcel, thank you for letting me express my thoughts and opinions on your post! You make so many excellent points about elitism that worms it’s way into communities, and the need to always strive for sensitivity towards those who we tend to over look.

  5. This one requires a face to face chat. Wish we could speak. Gonna come back later and try to contribute to this conversation without writing a book. Great post by the way. Love the comments too.

  6. We are in the middle. Some of what we do is by necessity, some by choice. The things that are by necessity, such as doing most of our shopping at goodwill, honestly sometimes it sucks. The things that are by choice, such as cloth diapering and breastfeeding I feel over the moon happy about. By necessity we can’t go out and buy the latest, greatest simple wooden toy. Instead we try to find the best cheap stuff. I have gotten great wooden puzzles at dollar general, the blocks i bought at walmart for my now 13yo will like still be around for my grandkids. We are a foodstamps family too and need to budget really well to make them last for the month, so despite believing organics are best for us and the planet, i only buy organics when they are on sale. And I feel a little awkward when I run into someone I know casually in the grocery line. Like I try to hide my ebt card if i can. Its definately a balencing act. We have a good number of gadgets too but they keep us at home and entertained so thats good for the planet b/c we’re not driving from one activity to the next, right?

  7. I have so many things running through my head…
    As a person who lives “below the poverty level” (according to the US government, anyway. How I feel about the American definition of poverty is a whole other can of worms.) I have to say I agree completely that it is crazy how the cost of “simple” has skyrocketed since it became trendy. It is often more costly to be “simple.” I’ve looked into buy fabric to make my daughter’s Christmas and Easter dresses and found that it’s cheaper to just buy them. The exception is that I’m sometimes able to repurpose old curtains and such (just call me Maria VonTrapp).
    As a person who feeds her family mostly organic food I have to say I agree with the thing about cable… to an extent. I think it’s important not to judge. I don’t know why others have cable (or the iPhone or whatever) or how much it costs them or what kind of contract they’re stuck in or anything else. Situations are often more than they appear. However, I have met people who are obviously comfortable financially who make a conscious choice to spend their money on “luxuries” and then say, “well, I HAVE to feed my kids the crappy off-brand mac and cheese. The organic stuff is just too expensive.” That makes me a little crazy. I feel like those people are putting their creature comforts above their family’s health.
    As a “hippie mama” I have to say I agree 100% about the weird grouping of “crunchy” stuff. It is possible to grow an organic garden AND chose to push your baby in a stroller instead of wearing them. We are way too obsessed with labels in our culture!
    Finally, as a blogger I have to say I wish I’d written this post. I think it is a brilliant and important discussion!!!

  8. WOW!

    I was doing research on the trend of living simple and came upon this post. WOW! You expressed what I have been feeling and what spurred my search on this topic. You called me out a little bit and I had to chuckle.

    I stumbled upon Minimalism and Simple Living a few years ago. I thought it would be a good way to cut back on my waste and over-consumption. I wasted a lot of money during the day. I in turn became the trendy Living Simple person your post is speaking of.

    I don’t know if I should feel bad because I did shop at thrift stores to save money with a lot of disposable income in my pockets. I am not sure how I feel about that yet as I may have been taking away form someone who was in real need.

    What I did realize is by living simple and getting rid of all of the unnecessary stuff in my life that was costing money, I could work less and enjoy more. This is when things started to shake up at my job and there was a merger and I was transferred to another company with a two year guarantee.

    Normally I would have panicked but the time I spent living simple showed me I will be fine with less income if that was the end result. I learned to be happier as my co-workers panicked. I was recently let go from my job and life is going on without a hitch.

    I do freelance work when I can (in am into telecommunications and networking) and do a little work online. I have downsized last year and don’t even have internet. I set up office in one of the three malls in the area everyday and do what I have to do for a few hours.

    I don’t know if I will ever want to work full time again as this is meeting my needs. Now I am living simple because I have to and it has been less stressful for me than the way I use live and over-consume. Now I actually look at the prices of everyday things I purchase. Before I was just buying, now I shop. LOL
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