January 13, 2010

Changing Your Life Via Downsizing, Anti-Consumerism, Slow Movement, Simplicity, Frugality, Going Green - What Are They?

Changing your life to a simpler lifestyle can be achieved in many different ways, for many different reasons.  And there are lots of different names being tossed around the web these days as lifestyle options: e.g., downsizing, downshifting, anti-consumerism, the slow movement, voluntary simplicity, going green, being frugal, or simple living, to name a few: 

Political and moral stance against consumerism and materialistic societal norms.  Activist outlook on living in a way that does not promote consumer-driven marketplace goals.  Conspicuous consumption is rebelled against by anti-consumerism, and lifestyles are changed accordingly. 
Considered by many to be a precursor to full Voluntary Simplicity, a.k.a. "simplicity lite."  Downshifters alter their lives to a more managable lifestyle without taking drastic measures of change.  For many, this is a transitional period where there is a commitment to "the best things in life are free" before more the drastic steps found in voluntary simplicity are undertaken.  A mother who changes her job to part-time so she can have more time with the kids is downshifting; parents who go to one-income and accordingly, sell their house to avoid their high mortgage are voluntarily simplifying (see below). 

Commonplace among empty-nesters, lifestyle attitude isn't changed so much as physical environment is altered, i.e., moving to a golf course condo from large family home, etc.  Ecological concerns, cost-cutting measures, political stance are not motivations here so much as increased free time, less responsibility for material things, preparation for retirement.

Cheapskate isn't necessarily a derogatory term in frugal living.  Here, making the most of every penny is considered a very good and admirable thing.  Thrift is the main goal here, and reusing material items as well as spending as little cash as possible are the driving forces. 

Going Green
Changing one's footprint on the planet so that your impact is minute drives those who change their lives as part of the green movement.  Going green includes educaion on solar energy, living off the grid, and may become a very expensive lifestyle change in the short run as homes are converted to maximize energy efficiency, etc. 

Simple Living - a synonym for Voluntary Simplicity (see below).

Slow Movement
Getting its start in Italy as a protest to the opening of a McDonald's restaurant, the Slow Movement is made up of many sub-genres:  the Slow Food Movement, Slow Travel Movement, etc.  Here, the focus is on time and limiting one's daily schedule to maximize the appreciation of life.  Slow Travel means taking one's time during a journey. Slow Food, eating local food with friends after you prepare it together.  Slow Parenting, more time with one's children and little if any activities scheduled for the child (extracurricular activities are strictly judged by Slow Movers for their value). 

Voluntary Simplicity
Voluntary simplicity, or simple living, considers time as currency.  Work and material possessions are carefully reviewed for their contribution to the enjoyment of life and the fulfillment of purpose.  Followers may undergo severe lifestyle changes as they pursue a simple life, think of Thoreau's life on Walden Pond as an early example of the simplicity movement.  Usually, followers are voluntarily taking charge of their lifestyles rather than having change thrust upon them (as happens in job layoffs, etc.) and do so for a variety of reasons: spiritual, political, love of family, etc.  Someone opting to live in a Tiny House is a seasoned voluntary simplifier.

If you've got some to add to this list, please let me know!!


Cecile is author of three books, including said...

Great description of Simplicity! If you want to explore more, Wanda Urbanska and I, Cecile Andrews, have edited a book of essays by simplicity advocates like Duane Elgin, Bill McKibben, David Korten, Juliet Schor, etc., called Less is More: Embracing Simplicity for a Healthy Planet, a Caring Economy, and Lasting Happiness.

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Cecile,
Great to hear from you and thanks for the compliment! I believe that your book of essays is shown on the rotating Amazon bulletin board in the sidebar here as one of a recommended reads. I'll double check to make sure.

Thanks for writing!
Reba Kennedy

juliek said...

Even though these ideas are all different, I agree that they are all part of a common phenomenon. Like an over the top "hunting gathering" mentality. I realized how troubling this is for kids and researched and wrote a book that you can see at http://overturningthetables.blogspot.com

Angie Kay said...

I totally agree with downshifting. I am staying home with my 3 kids and we live in a much smaller home with one income, so that I don't have to put them in daycare. I can take care of them all day myself because downshifting our life. We are happier for it. My blog about minimalism and anti-consumerism is at http://minimalistwith3kids.blogspot.com/

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Angie Kay,

You have an interesting blog, with its minimalist focus. I've discovered that not all downshifting is the same, for example the retirees we see here on the South Texas coast have downsized but their new, smaller homes aren't really minimalist.

I enjoyed reading about your focus on "less is more," and consciously honing things down to those that are really needed. It is a great idea.

Plus, I can only imagine how much time you saving on dusting!!!

Thanks for writing,

Landon said...

I really enjoyed this posting. I am currently doing a project over consumerism and its direct ties to the government and the powers that be as well as its effects on the environment. I believe that if we could all do even just a few of the things listed we would make a huge difference. Currently with the Occupy movement that has spread all over the world , when we look closer the ones being protested against are also those who control our TV's and shove the consumerist agenda down our mouths. The sooner we can slow them down the faster we can eradicate the disease known as consumerism.

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Landon,
Glad you liked my post! And I appreciate your stance.

To me, simplicity (in whatever form, see above) involves taking charge of one's own life - which means turning off (or getting rid of) the TV, and seeking knowledge about how best to live daily life. What are the best foods to eat, how can sunshine benefit us, freebies for the kids at the library, things like that.

In other words, it's a proactive, personal, positive focus on better living and there is a joy that comes from this as well as a peace and a contentment.

I choose not to watch the Kardashians, and this perspective is much different than some Power that Be is shoving the Kardashians down my throat.

Thanks for writing,

Reba Kennedy said...

Me again. Thought some more about Landon's comment.

Obviously, I am not a follower of materialism or consumerism or whatever label is used. Blogging here for all these years kinda makes that clear, I guess.

One of the things that I treasure is the joy and freedom and feeling of happy blessing that comes from living a simple life. You folk that do this, you know what I mean.

I've always thought that the people around me are as free as I am to choose how they live. When they get fed up or burned out, then they'll change. I did.

At least I hope so.

Moving forward in simplifying life is something that more and more Americans are doing, whether the lifestyle change was forced upon them thru job loss etc or whether they made the initial choice to change.

It's happening.

I don't like to think that the Powers that Be have that much control over my life, I guess, bottom line.

Because for me, it doesn't feel like they do.

I don't watch what they offer on TV. I don't remember the last time that I entered a mall, much less bought something there. I don't have to have the latest fashion trend, in no small part because I have no idea what the trends are these days.

Is this an exceedingly small boycott of materialism or consumerism? I suppose it is.

Perhaps if enough folk do this, too (I read that there is talk of boycotting all things Kardashian, that's interesting), then things will change and we'll have educational TV instead of reality TV and quality food for kids in schools.

Here's the thing. I'm happy. I feel empowered. I feel like I'm choosing my lifestyle and I feel free.

I would really like others to enjoy this way of living, too, which is why I publish this blog.

God bless,

Anonymous said...

I want to hear more about this. I have been thinking about this downsizing stuff; and didn't have these names for it. I am glad to know that I am not the only one who has been thinking about this.
My husband says, very simply, "Most people can have either time or money, but not both." Sounds pretty basic to me--for starters.

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Anonymous,
Glad to hear that you are considering simplifying things! Good luck to you and yours in your efforts.

God bless and thanks for writing,

peggy leduc said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and am already enjoying it. I noticed you perhaps forgot one more term - "intentional living." This is my personal favourite and what i choose to strive for. As we know, living the simple life is not always all that simple: more work dealing with the kids (instead of letting preschool handle them for example), the need for savvy budgeting, dealing with friends relatives who simply don't understand and are not supportive, time spent cooking and "doing" instead of simply paying for services, etc. For me, this life is not always simple, but it is always intentionally chosen to maximize what I value most in life: time with family, less consumption, economic freedom, time to paint, time to explore the outdoors. It is a statement that says "This is what I want in life and I am going to set out to make it happen" - despite what consumer culture tells us we need and want. Anyway, thanks for your blog and I look forward to reading it in the future.

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Peggy,
Thanks for sharing -- I love the phrase "intentional living," that's great. And so true -- this way of living has to be intentionally approached, every single day -- and after all these years, maybe some habits are ingrained for me but I find that it's still a conscious decision to live simply. There's always the temptation to take the easier, consumer route - to buy ready-made food instead of cooking after a long day, for example.

So glad you wrote and so happy that you enjoy my blog! You've made my day!

God bless,