Ten Steps to a Radically Simpler Life, and a Scenario to Imagine

radical simplicityI‘ve written before about Jim Merkel’s book Radical Simplicity, and “living simpler” is a key component of my What You Can Do (to Help Save the World) list. But I’ve never really spelled out how each one of us can achieve a radically simpler lifestyle without hardship or significant sacrifice. So now I will:

  1. Building & Maintaining a Simpler Home: Buy or build a home that is designed for living simply. Follow the Japanese model — movable walls, multi-purpose, reconfigurable rooms, and no wasted space. Use the roof as a permaculture garden, a solar collector, a meditation space, a water collector. Landscape with native species that don’t need watering, herbicides and pesticides to flourish. Use simple, durable construction methods and learn to do your own repairs and preventative maintenance. Share your tools, know-how and time with others in your community helping them and allowing them to help you build and maintain your home.
  2. Simpler Furnishings: Build storage into walls, so you don’t need furniture for storage. Consider flooring (padded — but not with chemical-laden carpets — or cushion-covered) that obviates the need for seating. Make both seating and tables portable, adjustable and multi-purpose. Make them simple. Make them yourself, so you can repair and maintain them yourself.
  3. Simpler Utilities: Insulate. Use renewable energy sources. Collect rainwater. Use graywater for irrigation and other purposes. Use compact fluorescent and LCD lights. Use timers and setback thermostats. Turn off heat, A/C and lights when you’re away or not using them. Dress to be comfortable when it’s 80ƒF indoors in summer and 60ƒF in winter, and set thermostats accordingly.
  4. Eating Simpler: Learn to make meals out of simple, unprocessed, raw ingredients. Buy local, organic and fair trade products, and avoid processed and chemical-laden foods. Learn to cook simple, quick meals. Follow the French model — learn about sauces, herbs and spices and how they simply make raw foods exotic and nuanced. Become a vegan.
  5. Dressing Simpler: Buy local, durable, hand-made clothing and personal-care products made from natural ingredients and free of slave labour, animal products and animal testing. Learn to make your own clothes, jewelery, accessories and personal-care products. Climate permitting, stop wearing clothes entirely.
  6. Simpler Fun: Learn how to entertain at home, simply, creatively and inexpensively, instead of having to “go out” to have fun. Rediscover simple pleasures and share them with your community: sandlot sports, massage, non-electronic games (like cards and charades), meditation, making love, conversation, hands-on hobbies, playing with children and animals.
  7. Simpler Transportation: Remember that every minute you spend walking adds three minutes to your healthy life, so it “takes” no time at all. Put a carrier and light on your bicycle and use it. Use virtual presence technology to reduce the need to travel. Carpool. Drive a hybrid. Avoid flying as much as possible.
  8. Simpler Investment: Pay off your debts. Don’t get into debt. Don’t buy on impulse. Buy stuff that lasts. Invest your time and energy in things that will make you self-sufficient and resilient and which are recession-proof, like your own sustainable business, know-how and fitness. Donate cash you don’t need to responsible causes you believe in — they’ll invest your money with more focus and care than you probably can. If you can, work less — and recapture time that will save you nearly as much as you have foregone in income, that will simplify your life further.
  9. Simpler Health Care: Take charge of your own health — illness prevention, diagnosis and first-line treatment. Preventing illness is cheaper and simpler than coping with it, but it takes an investment of time. Learn how the system works, and when it works in the interest of the patient and when it works against it.
  10. Simpler Education: Learn, and teach, how to learn. When you and those you love have acquired that, use it to acquire critical life skills, through self-education, collaborative learning and home-schooling.

None of these lifestyle changes entails deprivation or forfeiture. Living with less ‘stuff’ is a matter of sufficiency, not efficiency or self-sacrifice. Living simpler isn’t something you do for altruistic reasons — it provides the very real, tangible, personal benefits of greater independence and self-sufficiency, resilience, control over your own life, personal freedom, more time for things that matter, better health and well-being, and greater personal happiness.

If you doubt this, consider this scenario:

Imagine you are single and free from any urgent responsibilities and commitments, and you meet someone, K, at a party, to whom you are strongly attracted in every sense. K invites you to spend the weekend together at the intentional community in which s/he lives. You agree, and spend a blissful, hedonistic and educational weekend. K spends hours each day paying attention to and appreciating your body, your mind and your ideas: Kissing, hugging, caressing, arousing, satiating, washing you, brushing your hair, massaging you, walking, talking, just sharing the moment, moonlight, candle-light, learning, teaching. At the end of the weekend K invites you to stay for sixty days and learn and explore more about K and the community. You are able to arrange for work sabbaticals and to defer scheduled activities, so you say yes. Over the next sixty days you discover that the intentional community is clothing-optional and polyamory and that most of its members are young, healthy, attractive people who were invited before you by K or by one of K’s loves. On a couple of occasions, with K’s approval and encouragement, you experience brief polyamory experiences yourself. The community exemplifies a radically simple lifestyle in every respect and has implemented the ten steps listed above. People in the community rarely leave their communal home, but entertain many visitors, and the group seems extremely happy, healthy, friction-free and egalitarian. You grow to love many of the members of the community.

Now the sixty days is up and you are invited to join the community on a more-or-less permanent basis. You ask what you should do about your job, your home, and all your possessions still waiting for your return. K tells you you can quit your job, and that all that would be expected from you is to spend an hour or so a day continuing to do the work you have been doing voluntarily and joyfully for the last sixty days — gardening, cooking and coaching some of the community’s home-schooled children. S/he also says you can sell or give away your possessions — you haven’t missed them and won’t need them anymore — and that you are welcome to leave the proceeds in the bank in case you ever decide to leave the community.

Would you say yes?

This scenario makes the decision on adopting a radically simple lifestyle easy: It’s just a choice of yes or no. My purpose for including it is to help you imagine what such a lifestyle might be like, and appreciate that it is not a subsistence lifestyle but a very rich and fulfilling one. The scenario also demonstrates that radical simplicity is easier to achieve and sustain when it is done with others in community instead of just by you, or you and those in your household, alone. That’s not to suggest that doing so alone, or just with your family, is not possible or worthwhile — just that by taking it to the next, intentional community-wide level, radical simplicity becomes easier, more sustainable, more powerful.

Achieving radical simplicity is a measured process, not something to be achieved overnight. To get there, use the process that successful weight-loss and other lifestyle change programs use: Set reasonable goals, take it one step at a time, and measure your progress over the long term towards an ultimate target. Don’t worry about progress or setbacks. It’s enough to be on your way. It’s the journey that counts. Fare forward, fellow voyager.

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3 Responses to Ten Steps to a Radically Simpler Life, and a Scenario to Imagine

  1. Stentor says:

    Over the next sixty days you discover that the intentional community is clothing-optional and polyamory and that most of its members are young, healthy, attractive people who were invited before you by K or by one of K’s loves.Yeah, life would be so much simpler if we got rid of the ugly people and the old people.

  2. Martin-Eric says:

    I have met K. Her own name was L, but never mind that. Although she came with hidden charms, she initially didn’t appear all that attractive. Nevertheless, she gave me her undivided attention and care for a number of months. Every now and then, she’d just throw, “Ask anything. I’ll do it.” Caresses? Food? Massage? Sex? She truly meant it; ask anything. At times, it felt as if she would literally throw herself down a bridge if it could help me in any way!Then one day, L declared that the civilized world was too much to bear and she went back to live in some desertic mountains at an undisclosed location in the Middle-East where she had spent her childhood.Beyond her undivided attention and care, she taught me one important lesson that I’ll never forget: let go of all attachment to material posessions and suddenly anything becomes possible. She demonstrated that to me by jetisoning rare old books and manuscripts she had accumulated towards publishing a research thesis on a nearly extinct Middle-Eastern tribe she had the pleasure of meeting during her treks. “What about your book?”, I asked. “It’s all in my head”, she answered while throwing away most of her clothes, save for a handful she decided were the most convenient to wear for the journey back home.And her journey home; not your typical vacation. How many people do you know that hitchike from Scandinavia to the Middle-East, alone? She did and eventually e-mailed from a friend’s place that she got home in one piece. “Not affraid to get raped?”, I asked. “Nope. I gave pussy under pressure a few times. Guess what? Torn vaginal tissues are nothing. Besides, you don’t feel anything if you gladly give them what they want and think of the last time sex felt good.” Ouch! Not what you’d expect to hear from a self-declared feminist either, is it?L took good care of herself and yet thought nothing of using her body as a mere vehicule to pass thru this life. That was one scarythought and yet it was a lesson of its own kind, in a Gothic version of a Castaneda novel kind of way. As it tends to be with the path to enlightenment, it’s only now, years later, that I finally hear her message and understand its lessons.Thanks to Dave for bringing this slice of my past back to mind!

  3. SHARON says:

    Questions:=I am a woman. Do I get to say yes or no? Does nameless girl rub me, too? Do you? =By whose criteria does your female body servant qualify as young, beautiful, and healthy? Is there “a decider?” You, Dave, are possibly nearing the end of your, “eligible years”. =What if, “one-initial-girl” wants you to reciprocate?….get’s pregnant?……contract HIV or Hep from being so accommodating? Out she goes, I image, to die among the old, ugly, sick folks.=What if the gives HIV or Hep to you before she is tossed out as disqualified? =If you are exposed, will you be noble enough to disqualify yourself and join her on the outside? =Could you define the hell on the outside of your intentional community? =What would you do with the children born of the Intentional Community?…..If born with club foot?…..a brithmark across the face?…….a developmental or other disability?….What if one of your young, beautiful, people, just did not want to do any work of any kind except partake of the freedom? Dave……your proposed communities are heavily involved in the kind of male fantasy usually dispensed in the bathroon with a National Geo in hand. All about me, all about the big, male, “I” shaped genitelia. She gives you all the pleasure in the world; her only pleasure is giving you pleasure, no obligation, no committment, “free love”. I’d sell my stuff and move in, too!Know what I think, Dave? I think you are way too intelligent and knowledgable to believe this scenario. Nor can you be kidding yourself, given your resume, that this is a new or novel ideal. You are either farming for fresh, primary, data or spending too much time up late on the internet. See the following: http://www.thefarm.org/………….http://faculty.plattsburgh.edu/richard.robbins/legacy/utopia_www_resources.html………… http://cloudbirdtrail.talkspot.com/aspx/templates/topmenuclassical.aspx/msgid/72130……..

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