We live in a world, where political turmoil, ecological disasters, economic devastation and social injustice seem to be ever present.
It’s nothing we can touch. Hardly anything that we can see. But nonetheless, we are surrounded by it. Daily.
And it’s complex.
In fact, it’s so complex, that we strive for something more simple. For a life that is easy to grasp and to understand.
In search for a simple life
Gardening, cooking unprocessed food, living in tiny houses, making our own tomato sauce and dish soap. Living with what we need, in line with nature, simple.
A simple life seems to be the answer to all our problems.
We buy too much stuff, we have too many options, we work too much.
Wherever we look, whatever we do, there is too much.
A simple life promises us the opposite. It promises an escape from all that is too much for us to handle.
But hardly ever does the simple life give us what we were looking for.
More often than not, it’s feeding our habits of consumption.
More often than not, we don’t give up anything. We don’t leave anything. We don’t stop doing anything.
We replace it.
We stick to what we know.
If we are serious about it, we might make a change during times of fasting.
Living simple get’s hard. It get’s complex. It takes effort.
The Industry for a Simple Life
And hence, it needs a whole industry to make it possible.
The simple living industry is just that. An industry.
Before you can start living simple, you need a book how to do it. Once you have the book, you find out that you need different glasses, capsules, and boxes to store your foot. That you need different shoes that you can wear anywhere so you only need one or two pairs. You need all kinds of oils to make your own face rub. And you need new tools to start building and repairing.
We connect the simple life with being outdoors. The outdoor industry is blooming. It’s now hip to run around like you are going on a one hundred day adventure in Alaska when you are on your way to get some milk. Nature is the way to escape. But even here, the simple is becoming complex. People go on nature adventures in Africa. A Safari. Sleeping in little luxury “shelters”.
Eating simple, whole foods is en vogue. Organic food stores are shooting out of the ground like mushrooms. Amazon believes so much in the financial potential of organic that they bought the largest whole foods chain in the US. You can order your groceries via voice with Alexa.
Sustainable fashion to show our values, VW buses that take us on trips into nature, a guitar or the uke to show our creativity, zen-retreats to relax.
The whole idea of a simple life became an industry. It’s a marketable lifestyle.
People that want to live simple want to escape the consumerism. They judge the consumer junkies to not care about mindfulness, sustainability, and the global south. They wouldn’t buy their clothes at HM and Primark, fly somewhere for a weekend to get drunk nor eat Hamburger. That’s something the consumers do. It’s not them.
But isn’t the simple life just the other side of the coin? Are the same forces working as they always have? Is it just a trend that is marketed to us very well?
The Goal of a simple life
The simple life has always been around. Poets and philosophers have always been writing about it. Already around 308 B.C, in the Hellenistic philosophy stoicism flourished. The Stoics believe that a life of self-control and moderation is a path that leads to a good life. Ryan Holiday wrote an awesome book about their philosophy.
And isn’t this what the simple life is about. In the end, it’s about living a good life.
The question how to live a good life is as old as people itself.
We ask what the good life means to us. We find an answer. And we go for it.
“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much?“ Jim Rohn
The pursuit to live a simple life lets you do just that. To plan your own life.
The simple life gives you space to reflect on your life. To actively create your life and your habits and to not only follow the crowd. It turns your lives into a creative leeway. It gives your life a purpose and lets you move forward.
That’s why the simple life is not just another lifestyle. It fulfills an existential need that we have.
The simple life is simple
If you want to live a simple life, make it simple. You don’t need to go shopping or read millions of books. All you need to do is to reflect on your life, find out what stresses you or weighs you down and evaluate your solutions to improve it.
It’s not a weekend job, it’s not something you do in a year.
Living a simple life is something you pursue all your life. It’s never ending. It’s good. It’s simple.
“There is no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple.” Dalai Lama
Before I type these words, I change into my dress – sustainable brand -, wash my face in self-made face rub before I put coconut oil on it. I drink my fair trade coffee, water the tomato plant on my balcony and play a song on my ukulele to get in the mood. I set the timer on my smartwatch, I turn off my smart phone to not be distracted. I start typing these words on my Macbook while I tell Alexa to turn the lights off.