Simple Living or Living in Poverty?


51WO9MV8lOLSimple living encompasses a number of different voluntary practices to simplify one’s lifestyle. (No! We are not talking about Paris Hilton pretending to work at a job on the TV show.) These may include reducing one’s possessions, generally referred to as Minimalism, or increasing self-sufficiency, for example. Simple living may be characterized by individuals being satisfied with what they have rather than want. Although asceticism generally promotes living simply and refraining from luxury and indulgence, not all proponents of simple living are ascetics.[3] Simple living is distinct from those living in forced poverty, as it is a voluntary lifestyle choice It is important to recognize inaccurate stereotypes about the simple life

View from backyard
View from backyard

because they make it seem impractical and ill suited for responding to increasingly critical breakdowns in world system. Four misconceptions about the simple life are so common they deserve special attention. These are equating simplicity with: poverty, moving back to the land, living without beauty and economic stagnation.

  1. Simplicity Means Poverty Although some spiritual traditions have advocated a life of extreme renunciation, it is very misleading to equate simplicity with poverty. Poverty is involuntary and debilitating, whereas simplicity is voluntary and enabling. A life of conscious simplicity can have both a beauty and a functional integrity that elevates the human spirit.Poverty fosters a sense of helplessness, passivity and despair, whereas purposeful simplicity fosters a sense of personal empowerment, creative engagement and opportunity. Historically, those choosing a simpler life have sought the golden mean — a creative and aesthetic balance between poverty and excess. Instead of placing primary emphasis on material riches, they have sought to develop, with balance, the invisible wealth of experiential riches. So the next time when some one who don’t save enough for retirement and tease you with phrases like this “you live in poverty to save enough money so you can continue to live in poverty for the rest of your life?” You can tell them, “I choose to live a simple but fulfill lìe”.
  2. Simplicity Means Rural Living In the popular imagination there is a tendency to equate the simple life with Thoreau’s cabin in the woods by Walden Pond and to assume that people must live an isolated and rural existence. Interestingly, Thoreau was not a hermit during his stay at Walden Pond. His famous cabin was roughly a mile from the town of Concord, and every day or two he would walk into town. His cabin was so close to a nearby highway that he could smell the pipe smoke of passing travelers.Thoreau wrote that he had “more visitors while I lived in the woods than any other period of my life.” The romanticized image of rural living does not fit the modern reality, as a majority of persons choosing a life of conscious simplicity do not live in the backwoods or rural settings; they live in cities and suburbs. While green living brings with it a reverence for nature, it does not
    Walk around the riverbank trail nearby my house
    Walk around the riverbank trail nearby my house

    require moving to a rural setting. Instead of a “back to the land” movement, it is much more accurate to describe this as a “make the most of wherever you are” movement. Increasingly that means adapting ourselves creatively to a rapidly changing world in the context of big cities and suburbs.

  3. Simplicity Means Living Without Beauty The simple life is sometimes viewed as an approach to living that advocates a barren plainness and denies the value of beauty and aesthetics. While the Puritans, for example, were suspicious of the arts, most advocates of simplicity have seen it as essential for revealing the natural beauty of things.Many who adopt a simpler life would surely agree with Pablo Picasso, who said, “Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.” Leonardo da Vinci wrote that, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Frederic Chopin wrote that, “Simplicity is the final achievement … the crowning reward of art.”The influential architect Frank Lloyd Wright was an advocate of an “organic simplicity” that integrates function with beauty and eliminates the superfluous. In his architecture a building’s interior and exterior blend into an organic whole, and the building, in turn, blends harmoniously with the natural environment. Rather than involving a denial of beauty, simplicity liberates the aesthetic sense by freeing things from artificial encumbrances. From a spiritual perspective, simplicity removes the obscuring clutter and discloses the life-energy that infuses all things.
  4. Simplicity Means Economic Stagnation Some worry that if a significant number of people simplify their lives it will reduce demand for consumer goods and, in turn, produce unemployment and economic stagnation. While it is true that the level and patterns of personal consumption would shift in a society that values green living, a robust economy can flourish that embraces sustainability.Although the consumer sector and material goods would contract, the service and public sectors would expand dramatically. When we look at the world, we see a huge number of unmet needs: caring for elderly, restoring the environment, educating illiterate and unskilled youth, repairing decaying roads and infrastructure, providing health care, creating community markets and local enterprises, retrofitting the urban landscape for sustainability and many more. Because there are an enormous number of unmet needs, there are an equally large number of purposeful and satisfying jobs waiting to get done. There will be no shortage of employment opportunities in an Earth-friendly economy.

A central and exciting task for our times is consciously designing ourselves into a sustainable and meaningful future, from the personal level outwards. In envisioning what this future could look like, it is important to not be bound by old stereotypes and to instead see the realism and the beauty of simpler ways of living.


  1. All interesting points. I also think that many people who embrace simplicity/minimalism can easily embrace and push the need for continuing technological advances such as downloading music rather than owning physical CDs and DVDs, owning tech that do not require wiring, replacing unnecessary technology with an advanced smartphone, etc..

  2. There is a balance for physical items and simplicity. 15 years ago, people were throwing out record, and typewriters. Now record and old time typewriters are in the hot, as they are rare. People who play the record, own actual book, type on a typewriter are viewed as having “class” and have good taste.

    I do keep my college books and notes. I can’t let go just yet. I’m a hogger myself. But I don’t own a typewriter, record player, or rarely buy books (I read 50-200 books/epic story) per year. Some of them are over 1000 chapters.

    I didn’t get exposed/access to a radio or cd, cassette player until I was 16 yo. So don’t have any “fond” memory of those player to remember or to long for that kind of feeling to own one once again. I consider that as lucky. Ehhehehe

    If I have kids, I wouldn’t want to expose them to electronic that much. We’d do more outdoor activities like I did. That was the reason I was very food at science. I get to grow real crops that actually feed my family when I was young. It was very cool that I had full support, encouragement and approval from my parents.

    Stuff breaks, memories would stay forever.

  3. Hi Vivianne

    That’s a very interesting piece of myths about staying frugal and simple right there.

    I have a kid and you are right, they are exposed to so many different kinds of tech gadgets everyday that you feel like you are being sucked by the nature of technology, not pure nature from the outside world. Having said that, some technology does indeed provide leisure and convenience which we all can’t live without in our daily lives, and they are getting very affordable these days.

    • No doubt the electronic is very affordable nowadays. It is not uncommon to see a family at a restaurant and they are too busy with their electronic to talk to each other. Both parents are on the phone texting away, answering work email, taking picture of the food that came out. The younger kid is holding a phone to play a game. The older kids is texting like crazy and geolocating themselves, etc.

      I, myself, experience some of that with Mr. He’d sit at the table and constantly checking work emails, answering them, checking sport stats. Come on, man!! (he’s not that bad, but if he does it, it makes him looking very anxious.)

      Slow living … is obtainable 😛

  4. Simple living is a lifestyle that may not be suitable for most people. These misconceptions are mostly why people don’t give it a try to live simply. Its actually not bad as most people would make it out to be I think. I would love to live in nature and solitude.

  5. Simplicity for us, means being happy everyday, be thanksfull for what life gives us.

    Since we started our journey, our simple life made us more happy because we are not looking for unnecessary things but for what we need.

    Nice post, Cheers,


    • “Simplicity for us, means being happy everyday, be thanksful for what life gives us” I need this mantra daily. I should wake up and start my day as humble as possible.

      Thanks for sharing. 😛

  6. Nice article Vivienne!

    To me simplicity is of two types: simplicity in the mind and simplicity in everyday life, which usually works out to something physical. In my life, I have tried simplicity in everyday life many times and gave up on it as I failed badly. Once I got simplicity in my mind (just happened over time due to age/maturity, solving problems over time, etc), I realized that simplicity in my everyday life followed naturally.

    • Thanks for commenting. It’s sure simplify things if you’d just “go with the flow”. I used to over think the situation a lot.

      It is natural to me to think of many scenarios and problem solve before things would happen. I’d do that, but much quicker now that I’ve encountered many situations and solved through many obstacle. Experience do come with age for sure.

  7. My favorite saying is ‘simple is best’. Simplicity is underrated, it can be a beautiful thing.
    Also, I wanted to let you know that I’ve just nominated you for a Liebster Award at I don’t know if you’ve already participated in it, it’s a way to network and get to know new bloggers.
    All the best!

    • “Simplicity is underrated, it can be a beautiful thing.” I think so too. The more you have, the heavier you are and the harder to let things go. When you buy beautiful, fancy stuff, and when stuffs break or stolen, you’d get upset. The less of these valuable things you have, the less you’d encounter these sort of situation. Maybe, life could be a little more joyous with less. 😛

  8. Good job at explaining these misconceptions. A lot of people think that simplicity is about deprivation and that’s not the case. To me simplicity means not being overwhelmed by my lifestyle.

    • “simplicity means not being overwhelmed by my lifestyle.” I remember first starting out in college. Even though, I was living at home, but I also experienced new founded “FREEDOM”. Woah, it could be very overwhelming, party, classes, no home work, more group meeting, watching college sports, getting together, exercise, just to chill with a couple of friends. My college friends have all these time to hang out, I was wondering how did you do it? I couldn’t keep up. Finally, I decided to just focus on studying.

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