Voluntary simplicity as hedonism

Posted July 24, 2007 – 16:09 by Philip Brewer

Filed Under: Frugal Living

Bench in herb garden

When people talk about voluntary simplicity (or living a frugal lifestyle under any of its many names), they often do so in terms of deprivation. The descriptions are all about doing without stuff. To me, that’s completely wrong. Voluntary simplicity is fundamentally a hedonistic lifestyle.

What do hedonists do? They do what ordinary people seem only to do when they’re on vacation. They go places that are interesting or beautiful and they linger in them. They go dancing and go to parties. They read good books. They hang out with cool people. They hike in the mountains and swim in the ocean and go sailing. They play golf or tennis. They eat good food and drink good wine. They listen to music or play music. They go to museums and theaters. They do whatever gives them pleasure until they’re tired, and then they lie in the shade and take a nap.

To me, voluntary simplicity is exactly the same thing. You think about what gives you the most pleasure and then arrange your life so you can do exactly that.

I saw a poster once that said, "My tastes are simple: I like to have the best." It’s a sentiment that probably resonates with everyone. But you can’t have the best of everything–where would you keep it? So, you have the best of only a few things, the things that matter the most to you. And, if you get rid of the other stuff–stuff that doesn’t matter as much to you–then your whole life gets easier. With less stuff you can live in a smaller house, or an apartment instead of a house, or a smaller apartment.

But a small apartment doesn’t mean a small life. A small apartment is a means to an end. The end is a life doing whatever you want.



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