One loaf of bread changed the direction of my life. That’s not the whole truth. It was a loaf of bread and a jar of jam. The bread and the jam were both made by me, with yeast caught from the air in our kitchen, and berries my family had picked. As we sat on the couch eating chunks of bread covered in jam, we talked about how much better it tasted. This probably isn’t an unusual conversation to have, and if not for my line of work, it probably wouldn’t have gone any further. But I am a social psychologist in training with La Trobe University, and I get to be curious about stuff for a living.
The conversation over bread and jam lead me to investigate people who choose to change the way they provide for themselves; a lifestyle known as voluntary simplicity. Voluntary simplifiers reduce their material consumption, often as a way to pursue satisfaction in non-material ways. Some do it so that they can reduce the amount of time they spend working, some do it because they are really concerned about the effect humans are having on the environment.
Whatever the motivation, simplifiers do seem to have a lighter impact on the environment. What are they doing that is different? Earlier this year I visited simplifiers and asked them. They don’t buy much; they have decided for themselves what enough is. Some grow their own food, some shop at op shops, some make do with the stuff they already have. Some bake everything from scratch. They learn new skills in order to repair their stuff rather than throw stuff out and buy new stuff. As a consequence of not needing to buy as much stuff, some decide they don’t need to work as much. Some use this time to be more involved with their family, with their friends and with their community. Some use this time to devote to learning and growing, some to volunteering for environmental causes.
So far, no one I have spoken to has mentioned feeling deprived. Living such a lifestyle is not without it’s challenges, but everything I have heard so far suggests the challenges are worth it for the rewards. I am now conducting an online survey to find out more. If you would like to help with this research, please go to www.everydaybehaviours.wordpress.com to complete the survey. Thanks!