Many Americans Opt for Voluntary Simplicity

May 20, 2008 08:00 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
A new generation of Americans is embracing voluntary simplicity by giving up their possessions in search of a less complicated lifestyle.

30-Second Summary

According to The New York Times, the voluntary simplicity movement, which gained popularity in the extravagant 1980s, is reemerging in the United States. Having determinedly purchased cars, homes, clothes, furniture and toys, many young families are now finding joy in downsizing.

The Times profiled the Harris family, Texans who are “chasing a utopian vision of self-sustaining life on the land,” by donating most of their possessions to charity and relocating to Vermont to live as organic homesteaders. “We’re not attached to any outcome,” said Mrs. Harris.

Detaching from possessions and outcomes is a concept touted in “Voluntary Simplicity,” a book written in 1981 by Duane Elgin that launched the movement at a time of greed and consumerism.

By the 1990s the movement had become a top trend, as Americans grew disillusioned by a life of too much work and too little time, and experienced anxiety over the environmental effects of consumerism.

Consumerism comes at a steep price, according to National Geographic. Happiness and health are not heightened by financial prosperity, while high debt and long hours at work contribute to deteriorating personal relationships.

Consumerism is also tied to an epidemic of hoarding in America. Immeasurable junk has piled up in closets across the country, writes Psychology Today. The aforementioned Harris family is struggling to rid themselves of cars, toys, clothing and furniture before they can begin their simpler life.

Headline Links: Simplify, simplify, simplify

Background: Elgin’s Voluntary Simplicity Movement

Related Links: Consumerism and hoarding

Reference: Blogs, books and video on voluntary simplicity


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