Voluntary Simplicity

April 5, 2011

By Heather Compton and Dennis Blas

Voluntary SimplicityMany pundits are writing these days about how they see a major shift in consciousness.  Some see it as a natural extension of the Baby Boom generation aging and confronting their own mortality.  Others believe it’s a shift resulting from the wake-up call of the recession, or a broader ecological awareness and others still that the global impact of events in Haiti, Japan and unrest in countless countries are causing haves to contemplate some of the gifts in a life of having less.  Whatever its genesis, there is a new focus on minimalism or voluntary simplicity.

Giving It Up For Lent

For me, especially at this time of year, it’s a reminder of Lent. While my family was not particularly religious we did follow the practise of giving up something for Lent each year.  Looking back, I don’t remember the giving up as much as I recall the joy that came with having the treat restored.  I think it was my first awareness that less could be more.

Loving Less

I’m reminded of a story told by author Gretchen Rubin in her bestselling book The Happiness Project.  She writes “A four-year-old had a blue car he loved.  He took it everywhere, played with it constantly.  When his grandmother came to visit, she bought him ten toy cars, and he stopped playing with the cars altogether.  “Why don’t you play with your cars?” she asked.  “You loved your blue car so much.”  “I can’t love lots of cars” he answered.”  Wow, so smart so young, who hasn’t made the mistake of believing if one pair of great shoes is bliss more must be better?

A Spending Fast

Mark Patterson, U.S. baby boomer and blogger at Go To Retirement, suggests we could solve both weight and budget issues by going on a spending fast.  Mark says, “Most of us eat too much. We also spend too much. We often combine those vices by eating out regularly. Look at your budget and see if that’s you. If so, go on an extreme spending fast. Vow to go an entire month without restaurant food. Also, avoid the drive-through and skip the exotic $5.00 cups of coffee. Stash the money you don’t spend in your retirement savings. Think about what it will buy when you really need it.”

Minimalist Mom

There is no doubt any shift to simplicity or minimalism can create bottom-line savings in every household.  A Vancouver mom writes The Minimalist Mom blog, her tagline is – a rich life with less stuff.  She says, “In September of 2010 my husband and I decided to become Minimalists. We want to live a life free of clutter – both physical and mental. We want to own fewer things and do more.”  Since they made that choice they have whittled their $81,604 debt down by 74% and purged their household of half of their belongings!

Less Stuff = Less Dusting

I take another look at the calendar and realize “Who am I kidding?” – rather than a spiritual experience, a mortality moment or a shift in my global consciousness, my urge to purge looks a lot like it does every year.  It’s time for spring cleaning and I don’t like dusting!

About the Authors: Heather Compton has presented seminars on financial and retirement lifestyle issues for over 30 years. She retired as Vice President and Senior Investment Advisor with a major financial services company. Heather and husband Dennis Blas co-present retirement seminars for a variety of corporate clients and are the co-authors of Retirement Rocks! Canadian Boomers Invest in Life. You can find their book online or in independent bookstores. See more of their advice at Retirement Rocks.

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