The New Simple Living Trend

I was going to write a status update on FB to clarify my thoughts on Simple Living being the latest trend, but it turned into a blog post. I’m referencing this post that I put up yesterday. As I said, I know people live a simple life because it’s what they choose to do and it aligns with their values, but if we’re honest, the simple living that’s trending now is a money-maker.


I’ve talked about this with friends over the last several months. One friend made a very good point….she said people canned back in the day out of necessity, it’s rare for people to do it for that reason today. It’s more of a hobby now. Nothing wrong with that at all. There are people doing it because it’s the latest trend. Cloth diapering, gardening, making your own clothes, a lot of things like that are a hobby for a lot of people. There are some who do it as a way to save money or because it was passed down in the family. What about those who lived with this way because they have to? Some of our parents wonder why in the world we would want to cloth diaper when disposables are available. I did it to save money and then I really got into it because the diapers and covers today are so dang cute!

I was having a chat with Destany about this online and she’s giving me permission to share her thoughts on the subject with you.

I agree with you in many ways, Darcel. On one hand, it’s great for the planet that they’re doing this – but you’re right about people in poverty who don’t have a choice maybe looking sideways at others who can afford to live better but don’t. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s like thrift shops. I grew up shopping in thrift stores, and I my mother could get everybody clothes for less than 30$. I could spend 25 cents a shirt. I was embarrassed, and told nobody.

At one point thrift stores suddenly became popular among middle class. I saw a news spot on it. And then the prices went up to $3 a shirt very quickly. I was glad that it was no longer a shameful way to shop, but then I was also angry because something I needed was no longer affordable to me. 

There are always many sides to things. It’s good to think of them and explore them.

My response:

Well, I’m glad I didn’t come off as a total douche. I remember being embarrassed at some of the things I had to do growing up. We were at the thrift store Monday and I was so thankful to buy clothes for three kids for less than $50 I could never do that at the mall or Target. 

They had Gymboree and Children’s Place for $3. That’s a steal and off brand stuff was 55cents or $1. Right now my girls don’t know the difference and I hope to keep it that way a while longer. Like you said, all of a sudden thrifting is fashionable. 

I do a little gardening, not because I have to, but because it’s fun. Some people choose to do it because they can pay the money up front and they work hard to keep up with it year after year. It’s a lifestyle for them and a way to save money. I mean, breastfeeding is becoming trendy because celebrities are being more open about it.


The fact is, there are opportunists who will be happy to turn a buck wherever they can. And when something becomes popular – be it thrift stores, growing and raising food, even reusable products, the prices for these things go up and they become almost luxuries. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to thrift stores and seen their prices very close to Walmart. 
This can and does make it more difficult for people who have always relied on these methods of saving as a means to get by.

I completely agree with you that many time things which are simpler are being over priced ONLY because the demand is higher and more well-off people can afford them. 
Food is one good example. Foods which are whole and cost little to produce are in higher demand and therefore cost more than the highly processed crappy foods that many people of better means are choosing to stop eating. Now, a box of hamburger helper only costs $1.50, but a 5lb. bag of apples costs $6.50. The apples are much less involved in getting to the store shelves than the boxed foods, but people are catching on now that those boxed foods are nasty.

Poor people get what others don’t want. So when simpler, greener, eco-friendly (and health friendly) things are what is preferred, those who have always been accustomed to those things find them taken away.

This is what I was trying to articulate in my Facebook post, but I meant what I said. Simple Living is a trend and has been for years.  Like Destany said, the processed foods are way less expensive than the whole foods. When you’re on a budget, you need to get the most food for your money, especially if you have children. And not everyone knows about nutrition or has the means to learn how to eat a more balanced diet on a budget. I always thought Simple Living was about saving money, living a sustainable life, not buying the latest wooden toy that costs $200 because it’s the greatest in the natural toys community. I mean, what’s the point of living a simple lifestyle if you go out spending boat loads of money? I’m not slamming anyone with money, but the simple living of today seems to be more about having the elite status, being privileged  and being able to tout how natural and simple we are.

People say they don’t judge and look down on someone if they don’t eat organic, homeschool, homebirth, etc… but I repeatedly here and see comments like these “I cut cable and now we can afford to eat organic.” “If she would get rid of her iphone, new care, and cable, they could afford to eat organic.” Really? If that was all it took for people to be able to afford organic food, we would all shop and eat organic. There is a serious mix up with Attachment Parenting merging into Simple Living. Since when did these labels become interchangeable? Attachment Parenting used to mean keeping your baby close, meeting their needs, treating them with love and respect. Now it’s morphed into homeschooling and Natural Family Living or Simple Living. Why is that?

I love shopping at thrift stores, and I love getting a good deal when I can. I hope my children will grow up to enjoy it and not feel ashamed. I’ve made mention before about how excited I am that Trader Joes and Whole Foods take food stamps. With the SNAP benefits I have, I can only make a monthly trip to TJ’s. I try to stock up on a few items that will last us about two weeks. Most of the time my fruit comes from Walmart. It costs too much at Target. Those are the two stores closest to me.  I would love to shop at the Farmer’s Market but that will have to be with cash and for a meal I plan to cook that night. I’m cool with that.

Every person makes the choices that are best for their family and will cut certain things out to be able to afford other things. I get annoyed when I see and hear people going on and on about how simple they live and then in the next breath brag about how much money they spend on groceries, their children s clothes, mattresses, and playsets for the children.

Referencing my friend again, If you really want to boast about how simple you live, get rid of your computer, wash your clothes on the washing board, spin your own yarn, turn off the electricity, make every single thing you eat completely from scratch. I’m sure there’s someone out there doing these things anyway…maybe not all at once. I love modern technology. My phone is glued to me when my kids aren’t playing with it. I can’t sew and keep saying I’m going to learn and maybe one day I finally will.

I do feel the need to speak for other people. I think sometimes we all need someone to speak on our behalf. It causes us to think, have conversations, we can see a different point of view. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Sometimes I have terrible mom guilt because I don’t feel I provide well enough for my kids. I know I’m not the only mother who feels this way. I speak out so others know they aren’t alone in their thoughts. I enjoy being frugal for the most part. I hope my children see it that way and grow to enjoy it too. Like I said before, we all make the choices that are right for our family. I don’t think simple living is going to look the same for every family, but I don’t agree with this newer, fancier version of simple living.

Destany, thank you for letting me share some of your experiences on my blog. Check out her beautiful artwork.

I still don’t know if I articulated myself well. I would love to know your thoughts on the subject. How and why do you live a simple life?
What do you think of this new simple living trend?

Thank You For Sharing!

9 Replies to “The New Simple Living Trend”

  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!

    1. 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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