Voluntary simplicity in a material world

Here you go – my sixth article and the final one focusing on self-growth! I do hope you’ve been enjoying my articles and they’ve helped you take small steps toward the kind of life you envision leading. If you’re curious about something or there’s a topic you’d definitely enjoy looking at in more detail, please share in the comments or send me an email.

In this article, I want to share my story about simplicity, I want to discuss the terms minimalism and voluntary simplicity (and the difference between the two), and some reasons to start minimizing. I’ll also touch on some criticism this topic has encountered and the process of simplifying. Finally, as a special focus topic, I’m adding a section about digital detox , as it’s my weakness and maybe causes some headache for you, too. 


How my simplifying journey began

It all started with my wardrobe. At the beginning, I was storing a bunch of things from high school. I disliked most of the pieces, since they reminded me of a time I wasn’t particularly fond of, but because my body hadn’t changed and they actually still fit me, I didn’t want to get rid of them. Also, I didn’t really know which ones I should let go so I enlisted the help of a personal stylist. This allowed me to define my current and future style, opened my mind up to new combinations, and showed me how to move forward. It led me to further reduce my wardrobe – slowly and step by step I am on my way to less. I enjoy giving away things I don’t need or that don’t spark joy and – even worse – remind me of someone or something I don’t wanna think about. It’s very liberating I must say and frees up my headspace for more important things to consider, like finances, creativity, and changing habits to achieve my goals.


Minimalism vs. voluntary simplicity

Let’s discuss the difference between voluntary simplicity and minimalism first. (They’ll be used interchangeably in this article.) The former means that, rather than the number of possessions, the type and the attitude toward them matters most, while the core idea of the latter is to reduce the number of possessions so you live with less and get rid of everything that’s unnecessary. Which category would you put yourself in? I’d put myself in the first category, even though my first goal about 3 years ago was to minimize my belongings.


Why people decide to minimize or simplify 

There are so many (contrasting!) opinions on what to do and how to start simplifying. Take, for example, trendy concepts like the KonMari Method and the Minimalists. They’ve made this movement accessible to the public – and the idea especially connects with millennials.When we hear about decluttering or anti-consumerism, we start thinking of all the possibilities these concepts cover: capsule wardrobes, tiny houses, van life, or the zero waste movement. But why overwhelm yourself?!

Research shows that tidying up or decluttering allows you to rethink your life, your work, and your interpersonal relationships. You may feel overwhelmed by your excessive shopping sprees or the “worthless” collectibles you hoard. Maybe you pay for a storage room every month and don’t even remember what’s inside. Have you accumulated debt or chaos on your laptop? It’s important to develop your own reference point. The entry to simplicity is a very personal journey, and everyone has different foci.

Minimalism for many is a tool to pursue their dreams and passions. It’s a tool to manage your time, maybe even slow down and refocus. Time is a finite resource and should be used wisely, don’t you agree? While many of us are still enslaved by the power of social acceleration, living in the moment can be such a liberating act! 


The critique this movement has encountered

Some critics say that it isn’t economically feasible to get rid of all our things because that would produce a huge amount of waste. What happens to the discarded items? They say that it creates a new form of consumption based on aesthetics and luxury products and argue that this movement is solely for the elite – “the richer you are, the less you have.” Followers of minimalism are exclusively white, from middle- or upper-class backgrounds, exceptionally well-educated, and largely urban residents. Decluttering can also end up being oppressive as some people obsess over what to get rid of and how many items they should keep. 


Become a voluntary simplifier and never look back

The process most people go through has three stages. First, you develop a reference point against which to evaluate all consumption decisions. The second step is the editing process during which you focus on your best present self while you are evaluating your buying behavior and the things you own. And the third stage is reevaluation and maintenance. This is not a once-in-a-lifetime situation, rather it’s a process and an ongoing journey to stay in this place of happiness and order. 

Voluntary simplicity offers a starting point for everyone and a spectrum of possibilities without any pressure to choose the right or only way.

I love the phrase “a curated collection of just enough,” which I would say is my target and my enjoyment. I want to walk through my personal space like it’s an art collection or a life museum. I want to look at things and remember enjoyable stories. I want to reminiscence about my style and see everything I own in one glance. I want my walls to tell a story – maybe it’s not only my story but rather the painter’s. When moving, I want to have only one “car full” of stuff and no more. This is my personal goal! I want to tell a cohesive story using my things.

Decluttering is a constant process, not a one moment cure all. Everyone should have their own unique set of principles and intensity of change. Take it slow if you want to or do it quickly if that’s a better way. You may take minimal steps like eating less meat, unplugging devices, and buying less fast fashion. Voluntary simplicity does NOT and I repeat DOES NOT mean living in a deprived manner. It’s a way to learn to be content with less and learn about yourself and your specific needs.

The point of simplification tends to begin after our needs have been met and we’ve reached a point where we can decide on what wants we need to purchase and what we see as excessive and unnecessary. 


Digital detox 

I decided to dedicate a short section of this article to digital clutter, my own massive weakness. I’m not sure how but it always ends in chaos. Every time I get a new device, I promise myself this time will be different and it just doesn’t work. In academic papers, millenials are sometimes called “digital maximalists.” Paradoxically, while increasing our connections to others, we induce greater feelings of loneliness and anxiety in our lives. Digital clutter is shortening our attention spans and turning physical socialization into virtual socialization. Therefore, we should set rules for its usage. Choose the digital tools that support things we value and miss out on the others happily. 

One way to do this: Remove all optional technology from your life for 30 days. Replace the technology with meaningful alternatives and finally reintroduce high-value optional technologies. Sounds like a plan to me! 


Become a better version of yourself 

Simplicity isn’t a back-to-nature movement, it’s not living in poverty, it’s not a social panacea, and it’s not a passing fad. Those who make this choice are some of the most creative and capable intellects, artists, and humanistic capitalists.

I recommend experimenting with various forms of voluntary simplicity. Living a life of material simplicity and nonmaterial richness is not only increasingly psychologically acceptable but physically feasible for large numbers of people. This movement addresses the critical issues of our times, such as ecosystem overload, unmanageable scale, and complexities. In my opinion, it’s a creative and holistic approach that can be taken by anyone and everyone – it’s your decision to take a small step toward freedom from things. 

You may gain clarity in your mind while decluttering and a feeling of lightness. You may gain a glimpse of your authenticity! Your life may end up more balanced, and you may gain direction since your focus can shift from chaos to pleasant order. Reclaim your time! And eliminate excess! Consume deliberately and prioritize personal values. Improve your own clarity and focus on more meaningful things. What will you be focusing on today? Share in the comments or send me an email. I love hearing your thoughts.