The modern world has become a complex one rife with divisive politics, undeniable climate change, the widest income gap in human history, not to mention a global pandemic that seems to be here to stay. Daily, we all seek to live our lives through this calamitous barrage, eking out what joy we can, hoping the next day will be better. What I’ve come to realize without the shadow of a doubt is that only I have the agency to better my life and that of my family. I may live in a complex world, but I have the power to make my life simpler.
Simple living is a term that evokes different images in people’s minds. For some it means a rustic lifestyle on a farm or homestead, growing your own food, and tending animals. For others, it means a minimalist life, getting rid of most of your material possessions, shunning consumerism. And for some, it means a total denial of modern society and technology, choosing a return to nature and the ways of our pre-industrial predecessors. To me, simple living encompasses a little bit of each.
I live in the complex modern world, in a suburban house with my family and two dogs, where I drive a minivan to work, shop in supermarkets, pay bills, eat at fast-food restaurants way more than I should. For me, moving to the countryside to start a homestead, getting rid of all my possessions, and shunning technology are not realistic options. But there are elements of each that I can adopt, and thus begin a journey towards a more simple life.
While I can’t have a farm, I can grow some of my own food in my backyard; a raised bed and a couple planters are enough to get a small assortment of vegetables and fruit, giving me a small modicum of control over my food and its origin. To supplement, I can increase my support of local farmers via the various farmers’ markets in the area. Likewise, I may not be the next Marie Kondo, but I can certainly become more intentional about what I own, reducing frivolous spending, fixing and reusing what I already own, and letting go of things that are only cluttering my space. And while I am not ready to go tech-free, I can certainly better control my overdependence on modernity and convenience, reduce my aimless use of social media, and do more with my hands.
We can all take small steps towards reclaiming a sense of simplicity in our modern lifestyle, each one a victory in its own right. And when we falter—because we will falter—it helps to know that it’s okay, and we need only start again. Simple living is a journey, not a destination. Start today.