When former U.S. Congresswoman Clare Booth infamously said that “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can make you awfully comfortable while you’re being miserable”, was she right? I don’t think she was. Well, not completely right, anyway.
In my opinion, it all depends on how you view the world. Does the thought of having a Ferrari parked outside your multi-million dollar Beverly Hills mansion appeal to you? Or are you content in the thought of having a loving family, living in a warm, stress-free, and safe house, and enjoying what the outdoors has to offer us, suffice?
Well, if you’re here reading my opinion piece, then it’s likely that you’re more attracted to the latter. If so, then this is what I would refer to as ‘Simple Living’.
But what exactly is simple living? Ultimately, the true meaning of simple living will vary depending on who you are as a person, and thus, what you need to live a happy life.
Fancy reading about what simple living actually is, and how it can lead to a happier, healthier and, perhaps most importantly, freer life? Read on my friend.
What is Simple Living?
First and foremost, I think that it’s crucial to make a clear distinction between ‘Simple Living’ and living a ‘Cheap Lifestyle’.
Let’s start with the latter.
No matter what the situation or need, a cheap lifestyle does exactly what it says on the tin. Regardless of the situation or need, you will always find yourself buying the cheapest product or service possible, irrespective of quality. For example, somebody living a cheap lifestyle might choose to purchase a pair of $10 work shoes.
Great, they saved heaps of money.
However, the quality of the shoes are directly correlated to the price. In just a couple of weeks of wearing the $10 shoes, the soles begin to peel-off. Add another couple of weeks in, and the shoes are barely wearable.
On the contrary, somebody that lives a simple lifestyle might instead buy a pair of non-branded, but high quality and sustainable shoes for $50. Sure, the shoes cost five times that of the $10 purchase, but it actually took four whole years before they began to show any signs of wear and tear.
This, my friends, is simple living.
The possibilities of a simple lifestyle are virtually limitless. Whether its shoes, housing, energy, transportation, travel, banking or entertainmentment – the key point is that a simple lifestyle still allows us to live a happy and fruitful life, but it’s done is a certain manner.
Notably, a simple lifestyle instills a mantra that we should still have the option of buying what we need, but at the same time, we should only buy products that present us with the perfect combination of sustainability, quality, and of course – cost-effectiveness.
I myself have never been happier since I made the transition from a somewhat materialistic life.
In order to expand on this, I thought it might be a good idea to give you some examples of what I perceive a simple lifestyle to look like.
OK, so what better place to start that a piece of equipment that, according to GSMA-DATA, more than 5 billion people around the world now possess? That’s right, the good old cell phone. An instrument that was originally intended to do just that – allow us to make and receive phone calls.
However, the realms of what a cell phone was supposed to do has grown far and beyond just making phone calls. We expect to be able to capture images in ultra-HD, watch videos in 4k, play the latest games, and most importantly – check how many Facebook likes we got on the MEME we shared this morning.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be able to enjoy the benefits of what a cell phone can now provide us. But, do we really need to spend over $1,000 on a brand-spanking new iPhone 10, when we spent the same amount just 12 months ago on the iPhone 9?
To me, this is at the complete opposite end of what simple living is. It is entirely possible to spend just ¼ of what an iPhone costs, and still get the vast majority of features. Sure, the camera might be slightly inferior, and you might not be able to watch YouTube videos in 4k, but, do you really need to be able to do that to get the most out of a mobile phone?
Next up in my simple living rant is that of diet. I don’t want to come across as somebody that tells other people what they should and shouldn’t eat. After all, one of my biggest philosophies in life is that we should all be accustomed to personal choice. This is especially true when it comes to deciding what we do and don’t put inside our body.
What I do want to talk about though is the perils of ‘Simple Eating’. In fact, I can talk about this from personal experience. Not so long ago, I put on a significant amount of weight. It was horrid! I could no longer fit into my clothes, and worse of all – I was always hungry.
I mean, it was really strange. It was like the more I eat, the hungrier and hungrier I got. After looking into the fundamentals, it quickly dawned on me that all of this junk food – whether it was KFC, McDonald’s, Pizza, Chips, Candy, Chocolate, Coca Cola, and all the rest of it, contained virtual none of the nutrients I actually needed.
Instead, as soon as my body went through the marathon of digesting this ‘food’, it realised that it still needed to be fed, because it hadn’t consumed the nutrients it actually needed to function.
These days, my ‘Simple Eating’ lifestyle allows me to stay energized and full on significantly less food. The reason for this is that I eat the right foods.
For breakfast and lunch, I literally juice up some fresh fruit and vegetables, alongside whole fruits. For dinner, I’ll cook something hearty from scratch, such as a super tasty bolognese or chilli con carne. The result? I’m constantly energized throughout the day, and I never find myself craving Colonel Sanders’ secret chicken recipe!
I could literally write a full chapter on housing with respect to simple living. First and foremost, think about space. In other words, how much space do you and your family really need to live a happy life? The problem with having too much space is that we have a human desire to fill it with things we don’t actually need.
Before I downsized back in 2003, I lived in a four bedroom, 4,000 sq ft property, even though it was just me and my wife, and our son. Did we really need all of that space? No, of course we didn’t. If anything, it was all about vanity. Bigger is better is a viewpoint that I now look back on think – geez.
So what’s the alternative? Well, it all depends on how far you want to go. Some people decide to downsize to a tiny house. If you’re not familiar with what a tiny house is, be sure to check out these really cool pictures.
While it is true that these houses are super small, in reality, they actually contain each and every function that we would ever need.
I myself haven’t gone quite that far, as I now live in a 1,200 sq ft house that gives me and my family everything we need.
So, if you’re thinking about making the transition over to the simple living mantra, look around and ask yourself, do I really need all of these things that I now call ‘Homely Possessions’?
Although this kind of relates to housing, I felt that energy actually deserved its own section. Most specifically, I’m talking about supplying your home with renewable energy in the form of solar panels.
Let me explain.
I’m sure we will all agree that in the vast majority of cases, we as the everyday consumer are paying significantly more for energy than we should do. The entire industry is dominated by third party companies that profit off of something that we require to meet our daily needs.
I mean, prices have grown at a rate far and beyond what can be deemed ethical. The US Energy Information Administration themselves state that in 1970, the average cost of electricity was just 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour. And in 2018? 12.89 cents for the very same kilowatt hour. That’s a real-world increase of 485%.
Do you think that salaries have grown at a similar pace? Of course not. This means that once again, we have less money in our pockets for things we actually need.
Whether its having a shower, cooking our dinner, or cooling down in the summer months, literally everything we use requires energy in one way, shape or form.
Now going solar comes with its pros and cons. On the up-side, not only will you cut out the middleman and thus, save yourself heaps of money along the way, but you will also have the chance to “do your thing” for mother nature.
However, on the other hand, you will of course need to make an initial investment in order to live the solar dream. This, I completely understand, might not possible for everyone.
While the pay-back-period on installing solar panels will vary depending on a number of key factors, on average, this is usually around five years. After that, you get to enjoy the fruits of sustainable energy and ultimately, move one step closer to a simple lifestyle.
I have to admit it. Before I made the transformation from a materialistic lifestyle to that of simplicity, I was somewhat obsessed with clothing brands. Whether it was my brand spanking new Nike Air Force One sneakers, my Lacoste polo shirt, or my Ralph Lauren dress shirt – Now that I’m able to reflect, I think to myself – What a waste of money!
I mean, take the Ralph Lauren shirt for example. Why on God’s Earth did I spend close to $175 on a single shirt? As somebody that likes to wear a shirt everyday, that means that I would need to spend $1,225 just to have enough shirts to last me for the week. Add in the Summer months where a change of shirt is imperative, we’re moving into “crazy-money” territory.
The point here is that these days, I’m able to buy a high-quality, sustainable shirt for less than $40. Not only are these shirts more than four times cheaper, but they usually last me around three years, which is a lot longer than the Ralph Lauren shirts did.
I no longer need to rely on branded clothes to ‘look good’. If you’re here reading my opinion piece, have a think about the money you spend on your clothes. While I would in no way suggest buying the cheapest items of clothing possible, if you’re somebody that buys expenses clothes, ask yourself whether you think this represents a simple lifestyle.
The best advice that I can give you is to invest in high-quality clothes that offer the perfect balance between sustainability and price.
What are the Benefits of a Simple Lifestyle?
While I’ve focused much of this article on the monetary side of simple living, it is important to note that the phenomenon goes far and beyond sensible spending. I mean, it’s a precursor of simple living, but it’s not the be-all and end-all.
For example, my knowing that I’ve got my finances in-check, I now live a super stress-free life. I don’t need to worry about making the next mortgage or utility payment, as I no longer live beyond my means.
By living an outdoors lifestyle as much as possible, I feel that I am so much closer to what nature has to offer. I know this is a bit of a cliche, but honestly, it’s true!
A further reason that I am so much happier these days is because I no longer look at things in a materialistic manner. While I appreciate people want to buy the newest, biggest, and shiniest things available (iPhone fans I’m talking about you!), I’m more interested in experiences.
Essentially, when you no longer look at what people have in a materialistic sense, you will feel an element of content-ness that money simply can’t buy.
A simple lifestyle has also paved the way for me to spend more time with my friends and family. I appreciate the finer things in life now, such as watching my kid play Soccer, or hearing my best friend James tell me about his global hiking adventures.
As simplicity has also fed into my diet, I also live in joy knowing that I am no longer at the helm of fast-food giants like McDonalds and KFC. Don’t you think it’s weird that you start craving KFC when you see the Colonel on your TV screen? Well, those days are long gone, as I’d much rather chow down on a fresh garden salad alongside home-brewed lemonade!
All in all, a simple lifestyle will not only allow you to live a more stress-free and content life, but you’ll utilize your time for the things that really matter.
3 Simple Tips to Live a Simple Lifestyle
I recently jotted down some potential tips that can help you live a more simple lifestyle, which I thought I would share with you. It would be awesome if you have some tips of your own that you can share with me, as in my opinion, the simple lifestyle transformation is a life-long work-in-progress.
- Reassess your relationship with Social Media
Look, I am in no way saying that you should go on a lifelong detox of social media. On the contrary, I myself think that it’s a great way to keep in touch with family, friends, and travelling buddies. Plus, I’m always interested to see what people are up to, so admittedly, I do use Facebook and Instagram from time-to-time.
However, what I am personally against is spending significant amounts of time on social media. Every minute browsing through other people’s profiles is a minute lost. In fact, according to GlobalWebIndex, society spent an average of 2 hours and 22 minute each and every day on social media platforms last year. I mean, this is just insanity. This equates to a staggering 863 hours per year!
Spending this amount of time on Facebook is far from living a simple lifestyle. Not only is it unproductive, but it essentially takes you away from other, more meaningful tasks. Why not trade-in your social media time and instead learn a language, exercise, or even better – spend it with family and friends in the real-world!
- Try to Live an Outdoors Lifestyle
I know this tip won’t be relevant for all of my readers, not least because some of the you will likely live in a climate with harsher weather conditions. However, you don’t need year-round sunshine to live an outdoors lifestyle, as long as you have the required clothing.
Nevertheless, living an outdoor lifestyle can bring you closer to nature, and far away from the temptations of TV sitcoms and Facebook. These days, I try to spend as much time as possible outside. Whether its drinking my morning coffee, eating my dinner, or relaxing with the family, I just love the feeling of being outside.
If you’re currently living in an urban area, then your options might be limited. However, this isn’t to say that you can’t spend more time outside. For example, when I was recently in Hong Kong, the hustle and bustle of the city was a bit overwhelming at times. However, after doing a bit of research, I found out that the city is absolutely jam-packed with beautiful parks and nature walks.
As such, although we didn’t have any outside facilities in the AirBnB apartment we were staying at, we still got to resume our outdoor endeavours by having our morning coffee in the park!
- Choosing quality and sustainability over price
I find that the only way to truly live a simple lifestyle, as opposed to a cheap existence, is to constantly assess the quality and sustainability of each and every item I buy. Whether its my living room furniture, work boots, or my bicycle, I always strive to find the perfect balance.
You see, I could quite easily go for the cheapest item possible, but what’s the point when I will need to replace the item in the coming weeks or months? Instead, I have no problem spending a little bit more if I know that the item is going to last me for several years.
I’ll actually be writing an article on sustainable furniture, and how by combining green materials with sustainable processes, I was able to buy a sofa-set that lasted me for 15 years!
Irrespective of what you are buying, try to do as much research as possible to ascertain whether the product utilizes sustainable and long-lasting materials.