February 2, 2010

The Art of Voluntary Simplicity

As many of you know, I have decided to live a life of voluntary simplicity. This lifestyle change is the main reason why I was able to start a business and pursue my passions in life.

However, a lot of people who I talk to are curious to know what simplicity means in terms of a lifestyle. So here is an in-depth look at the lifestyle and how you can start living it yourself.

What Is Voluntary Simplicity?

From my experience, voluntary simplicity means different things to different people. For the most part, choosing a life of simplicity means that you stop living the “modern-day lifestyle” that many of us have grown accustomed to. You stop focusing on accumulating possessions and whatnot and start focusing on getting as much value out of your time as possible. You remove the things you do not need in your life, whether they be physical or mental.

By removing the clutter from your life, you can spend your time pursuing your passions, hanging out with your friends and family, and doing the things that make you happy. You clear out all the junk for good and live a life of passion, freedom, and happiness.

Living a life of simplicity also helps you focus on living in the moment, rather than the past or future. None of us can travel in time as of date, so the only real time we have is now. This very second is your life as you read this sentence. By living in the moment, you can truly experience everything you do in your life.

Want a good example? The next time you sit down to eat, make it a goal to focus on what you are eating. Taste the food and actually enjoy the different flavors that each food has. It’s pretty amazing if I must say so myself.

Last but not least, a life of simplicity usually involves frugality. You start to focus only on the things you need (roof, clothes, food) and not on the things your television tells you to buy. By spending less money, you also open yourself up a lot more possibilities since you no longer need as much money to live from.

Where Should You Start?

Since voluntary simplicity is a personal choice, the best place to start is by deciding whether or not the lifestyle is for you. If it is, you should know that it does take time to transition into the lifestyle. It’s very difficult to make the switch overnight since you most likely have a lot of different things you will need to change in your life.

Here are a few things you can do to start implementing the lifestyle:

Reduce Expenses

A great place to start is by doing an in-depth look at your expenses. Take the time to figure out where your money goes and see if you can reduce any of the expenses. If you have cable, think about ditching it. If you have a cellphone, think about getting the cheapest plan possible.

Reduce Clutter

Have a ton of stuff lying around? If so, you might want to consider decluttering. Go through everything you own and decide what things you need and what things you could live without. Then make a plan to get rid of everything you do not need. You could try selling it on Craigslist or donate to a local charity.


Once you remove all the clutter, it is time to organize everything you have left. An organized home is an important aspect of simple living and makes it easier to keep your mind at ease.

Go Green

Believe it or not, going green is a great way to save money and reduce the amount of things you need and use. For a list of things you can do, check out my post on going green and saving money.


A great way to free up more time in your life is by automating various tasks and chores. For example, sign up for automatic billing on any of your recurring expenses. This cuts down on the amount of time you have to spend paying them every month.


Just like automating, consolidating your tasks and chores can free up a lot of time. For example, instead of running to the grocery store on Tuesday and the laundromat on Wednesday, do them both on the same day. Start planning ahead so you can take care of all your errands at one time.

Cut Back on Email

Not only is email a time killer, but it is also a productivity killer. Try cutting back as much as you can and close your inbox if you need to.

Focus on What Works

I highly recommend taking some time to analyze your entire life at this exact moment. Figure out what is working in your life and what isn’t. Then make a plan to remove all the things that are not working so you can focus all your energy on what works for you.

Eat Real Food

One of the things I started doing a few months ago is eating real foods. By focusing on eating natural foods instead of highly processed foods (canned, boxed, etc.), you not only make yourself healthier but also reduce the waste you go through since most processed foods are heavy on the packaging.

By no means are these all the things you can do. These are just a good place to start, especially if you are new to the idea of living a simple life.

I must say that I truly enjoy this lifestyle. By no means do I feel like I am missing out on anything nor do I feel poor. Matter of fact, I feel rich since I actually have time to enjoy myself and spend time with the people I care about.

Do you live a life of simplicity?

Photo Credit: Katie@!

14 thoughts on “The Art of Voluntary Simplicity

  1. Walter

    Voluntary simplicity is not an ideal way of life most people want. But as we grow wiser, we will learn that simplicity is the path to enlightenment. 🙂

  2. Barb

    I was raised to live within my means which is a wonderful thing. We always had everything we NEEDED. (Not to be confused with Wanted.)
    Then I grew up…and married someone who felt he NEEDED any and all expensive toys he saw others enjoying. From this experience I can tell you it does not take long on this path to find quicksand.
    Between securing your ‘things’ to avoid them being stolen or the creditors and collection agencies if and when you get behind-always someone looking to relieve you of your stuff.
    It is so much easier and less stressful to live simply with the necessary items that allow you to live than to be weighted down and owned by a bunch of stuff.

  3. Melody

    Hi Justin! New to your site, I just found this post and really enjoyed it. Wanted to say hello and thank you.

    Your list is really concise and filled with great suggestions. I’ve been working on streamlining my own life for a while, and it’s just so liberating. Lots of checks and… lots to go. Which is fine for a “journey not destination” kinda’ girl. Having a list like yours is great to use in considering if I’m still on track. Looking forward to reading more!


    Justin……..Thank you kindly. This sounds so freeing. I’d like to visit CR. Saw on History or Discovery Channel a program on UFO’S in Coasta Rica.

    I have a friend who has removed the clutter and he also has an almost empty refrigerator and he’s nice and slim. I’m not there…but I’m headed there. Thanks again


  5. cindy kerber

    Dear Justin, your style is what my dad still strives for in this lovely chaos we live in these days – he calls it minimalist, but i think its great just to be able to think outside the technological box back to simpler, more meaningful, and dare I say, more kind and human times. Unfortunately, in order to navigate around the media, societal necessities (CELL PHONES) and other conformist bourgeois you have to be quite an artist, live by yourself, or have a very strong credo that is practically indestructible. But i give you total gratitude for naming the problem and giving pointers on how to untie the social knots we face in 2010. Do you have a faith in God, or what powers your creative engine to help others?

  6. Christina

    Hey Justin! This is my first time on your website. I really like it! I’ve been working on living a more simple life as well. I’m afraid I haven’t made as much progress as you have, but it’s a work in progress. You are completely right on so much of this! Thanks!

  7. Aussie Sam

    Hey Mate! Great work – I love your Ideas and articels! You really remind me of the book ‘Cashing In on the American Dream’ by Paul Terhorst. I love your atitude – it’s not all about the ‘how’ of young retirement – it’s more about the ‘why'(a lot of my friends don’t understand) – the focus on getting your time back, deciding you don’t need to ‘keep up with the joneses’ and having time for people and whatever else is in your heart. P.S. I’m almost 30 and hopefully not too far away from stepping out of my cubicle and going for a loooong, cheap, very simple treck across Asia.
    Thanks for the inspiration and providing a forum for everyones ideas.

    1. flippertie

      @Aussie Sam
      Do it! I was 29 when I packed in my job at the HQ of a giant UK multinational, sold the car, rented out the flat and took off to Africa. A year later landed on a little car-free island off the coast of Hong Kong where I’ve lived the past 17 years. My life has been immeasurably more free and happy than it would have been had I stayed glued to my cubicle and yuppie aspirations.

  8. Emereme B

    Voluntary simplicity in though difficult is a form of life worth living. With a sense of determination & persistence it is achieveable.

  9. Ashley

    Hey Justin,

    Thanks for this blog! You are inspiring. I left a life of simplicity behind. Now I’m thinking I miss it. I went from a small town of 17,000 to Los Angeles. It’s an adjustment. It’s all about finding a balance. Sometimes I feel so busy here and other times I feel like I’m not doing enough. I feel like I’m tredding in water. This is a great way of thinking. It reminds me of the fact that we can’t always change the way things are, but we can change the way we think about them. Re-frame your reality.



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