The Value of Voluntary Simplicity | Young Minimalist

The Value of Voluntary Simplicity – Richard B. Gregg

Originally published in 1936, social philosopher Richard B. Gregg coined the term ‘voluntary simplicity’. As a Harvard graduate and later a student of Gandhi’s work, in this article Gregg explores the philosophical, intellectual, spiritual, social and very real reasons for adopting a simple life. Gregg was an influential author, with much of his work focused on creating non-violent social change, Martin Luther King, Jr cites him as an influence (Ansbro 1982).

As minimalists, we would do good to read this and deeper understand how a simpler life can create good in the world. Gregg’s article is an inspiration to many, including Duane Elgin who wrote a book titled, Voluntary Simplicity.

Download the PDF article: The Value of Voluntary Simplicity

Ansbro, John J. (1982). Martin Luther King, Jr: The Making of a Mind. Orbis Books. pp. 146-7, 149.

Warning! Opinions | Young Minimalist

Warning of a warning

The below was written as a response to a post on (@LKnerl), about avoiding the ‘trappings of “intentional living”‘ – but I don’t think she approved my comment…read her post before reading my response below.

Her article is great, and, as I say below, I think she has raised some interesting points. I hope you will enjoy the discussion of the post and add your own thoughts in the comments below!

Great article Linsey, and congratulations on the arrival of your new child! I think you’ve highlighted some fantastic points, along with raising a deep philosophical contention (‘Are you capable as a human to do anything that isn’t “deliberate”?’). Without a lengthy debate whether these are indeed facts or not (imo: they’re not, they’re opinions), I would like to comment on a few of your points.

My main comment is on your title, 5 REASONS TO AVOID THE TRAPPINGS OF “INTENTIONAL LIVING”. Firstly, this is misleading. It seems your article’s main argument is in fact ‘not to change too much, too quickly’. Highlighted by your introduction & fourth point. As someone who embraces intentional living, I completely agree with you, one should not try to change everything all at once. Self-discovery takes time which should be allowed to naturally develop. This is exactly what intention is: an aim or plan. Something to work towards.

It is also deeply personal, your opening point, thus one should be careful to try other people’s methods of intentional living. If, for example, you don’t have “40 bags of anything to get rid of”, then don’t do it! If you have a house full of stuff that you can’t figure out what to do with, then maybe it is something to try. Most blogs I’ve come across are stories of personal journeys. The bloggers are sharing what has worked for them, and in many cases what has not! One must assess what is right for oneself and only then try them out.

Finally, I do not quite understand your (slightly judgemental) second point. Many people living intentionally choose to do so in order to stop comparing and contrasting with others. A massively liberating process. There is much research into how Social Media can adversely affect you (Sherry Turkle’s work comes to mind). What people are not saying is to ditch all digital life; but to re-assess how much of it you really need. I, for example, just deleted my Facebook account. Why? I realised that I hadn’t really used it in 2 years – never posting anything or messaging people. Twitter & Instagram on the other hand add loads of value to my life. Twitter keeping me up-to-date with trends and Instagram keeps me in touch with friends, photographers & other climbers. I don’t really post much on these sites either, but I still use them daily.

Your first ‘fact’ is the most interesting as it accounts for both sides of the debate. Indeed (intentional) living it is personal. Only we can best decide what is right and wrong for us. And bloggers, like myself, should not be here to tell people how to live. We can only share what we have found in our experiences. Through exploration, reading and trying things, we can decide what our version of ‘intentional living’ is. This point is in fact the definition of ‘intentional living’: don’t follow others’ values, but discover what you value. Then create your life according to them.

“Sometimes we do a thing in order to find out the reason for it. Sometimes our actions are questions not answers” – John le Carré. In this context, I read that as: ‘Try new things and discover whether it fits your life or not.’

Kevin –

Becoming a minimalist | Young Minimalist

Becoming a Minimalist

Minimalism is a way of life, it is a philosophy based around value. Minimalist living is mostly concerned with decluttering our lives of tangible objects. Inherently in becoming a minimalist, we relieve ourselves of many of the possessions we own and create a simpler framework for our lives. This will happen naturally when we start to question what we truly value. If you haven’t read my brief exploration of the philosophy of minimalism read it here; an understanding of this will be useful.

Minimalism isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing. No one person has the right method or framework, and don’t let anyone tell you they have. But there are many common themes that arise from those that have adopted a simpler way of life. I will go through them here and hopefully you’ll be able to see that the transition to simplicity is a possibility for everyone.

How we consume

We tend not to question what it is we are consuming. In fact, we don’t even realise we are consuming things half the time. Most of our day is spent absorbing some thing or another. We wake up and put the kettle on waiting for that burst of caffeine to wake us up, ignoring the fact that we’ve already started consuming electricity: turning on the lights, the kettle and the heating that automatically comes on. Throughout the day we ignore so many of the little components that make up what we consume: the packaging on our lunch, the tea leaves in our tea bags, the chair we sit on at work. All of these things are material objects that we unconsciously ignore. Yet all of these have an impact, on our lives and the planet.

A fulfilled life is something many people strive for, and happiness is something, I believe, everyone wants to experience. Being truly happy and fulfilled can only happen when we satisfy all our needs. Yet I am convinced that many of us do not actually know what our needs are. For many years I thought I knew my needs. I urged my parents to give me more pocket money so I could buy more things: first it was sweets, then the latest sportswear, after getting a job and my first guitar I constantly bought gadgets to make me a ‘better’ player, then purchasing tech. The constant want for bigger, better, faster was dragging me through my life. The acquisition of one item leads to the desire for another. This framing of my needs developed at a very early age, and habitual satisfaction is a difficult addiction to break.

Developing self-awareness

I order to break our habits we have to be aware of them. This is a really difficult task if you do not know where to begin. Mindfulness is a great tool. It was a phase of anxiety during university that turned me on to mindfulness. I downloaded (the awesome) Headspace app and for 2 months used the free initial 10 days, ‘Take 10’, to guide me through meditation. Planting the seed of mindfulness, and nurturing it carefully, is a crucial element in becoming more aware of your self and improving your life (O’Brien, T. 2015). Over time mindfulness shifts your focus away from external factors and towards internal. It is this intrinsic internal forces that bring us our greatest joy (Lee, M. & Ahn, C. 2016).

Self-growth is a massive area of concern these days, with bookstore shelves filled with self-help books. As a society, we are becoming aware of the importance of inner growth. Mindfulness cultivates the perfect safe space for this inner growth to be cultivated. In one of the earliest surveys on voluntary simplicity, Duane Elgin (2010 [1981]) found that mindfulness and inner growth were highly common themes for those who had chosen a simpler way of life.

Becoming more mindful of what you value will build the foundations for designing a simpler way of life.Click To Tweet
Find your values

Once you are aware of your self. Spend some time to find what it is you value. Write them down. This could be playing sport every week, working towards high grades, calling a friend once a week, going out, reading the news, playing music, drawing, watching films. Alternatively, your values may be focused slightly differently: stop wasting money, eat healthier, read more, exercise more, develop myself, build great relationships…

What ever they are, once you define them you can work towards them.

Manage your space

The spaces we live in affect us massively, and our minds and our home have a very close link. The messier our mind, generally the messier our homes. Alternatively, the messier our home is, the harder it is to be calm and focussed when at home. This intimate connection is down to the fact that the material objects affect us. If you’ve read other minimalism blogs (create a blog list), you will have come across this idea: the objects we own take up our time. We have to clean them, tidy them, think about them, use them, fix them and think about them. That is a lot of ‘doing’ for one item. Take a moment to think about all the items you have. How much time could you save?

Keeping your space clear and clean is fundamental to creating a space where you can relax and enjoy yourself. Marie Kondo, the Japanese guru of tidying, has written extensively on the subject of tidying and space management, highlighting the benefits for us. The KonMari method is not for everyone, but her ideas carry a lot of value.

Turn down from 11

Most of us run on 11 – especially if you live in a city. Our phones are ringing, emails coming through, Twitter, Facebook, advertising, coffee, lunch, shopping, drinks, dinner, TV, gym. We cram in as much as we can. Generally from a misconception of necessity. We need to do all these things, otherwise we won’t be happy! Turning down from 11 involves a few steps, some of these take effort and time, but, in the long run, they save us heaps of it.

Unsubscribe from mailing lists!

If you’re like me, you’re probably signed up to loads of mailing lists: my phone company, university, student union, all the stuff I signed up to in freshers week, discount websites, charitable causes, social media notifications… take some time to figure out which ones you want to keep and unsubscribe from the rest! The easiest way I found of doing this was to do it as I got emails coming through. There are other ways, and take some time to plan how you are going to get through this. Once you’re done, create a system to ensure you get your inbox clear every day, this way it’ll never accumulate again.

Turn off notifications

This is a crucial one. Do you really need your Twitter notifications on? Or Facebook notifications? Instagram? LinkedIn? Snapchat, Pinterest, your News apps, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Uni apps, email, Evernote, WhatsApp? Or would it just be simpler to check when you want to check? (Maybe keep your phone & texts on for emergencies, but otherwise… what do you really need?)

Don’t overcommit

I’m a people pleaser. Well, I was a people pleaser. Saying yes to everything and cramming my schedule full of things to do. Unsurprisingly, you can see how that took up a lot of my time. Shàà Wasmund (2015) discusses at length that saying ‘No’ to those things you don’t really want to do will create heaps of time. Here you can come back to the idea of value. When confronted with whether to do something or not, ask yourself, “Will this add value to my life?”. Then listen to your answer.

Stop multi-tasking

It’s not more efficient. You do not get more things done in the day. Having the TV on doesn’t help you concentrate.

Multi-tasking does distract you. It is proven to decrease your ability to focus. You produce lower quality work.


This is where Marie Kondo’s ideas really come in handy. The essence of de-cluttering – in effect the essence of minimalism – is to remove excess. Which method you chose is entirely up to you. The Minimalists came up with the Packing Party: placing everything into boxes – that means everything – and over the next 21-days only unpacking that which you need to use. Then everything else goes, Donate, Sell, Throw.The

The KonMari Method is gentler, with it asking you to look at every item and ask if you value it. Moving through your stuff by category, rather than location: first clothes, then tech, then uni stuff, miscellaneous… If you’re at uni, you’ve probably only got one room, but the idea still holds: organise by category. Then decide what to do with the stuff that no longer has value.

Buy Less

De-cluttering is not a reason to buy more to fill in the space you’ve created. By deciding what it is we value and cutting the excess, we should find that we already have everything that we need. There is no need to them fill the space we’ve cleared with more stuff. With mindful practices, you should start becoming aware of when you feel the urges to buy something, take a step back and ask that same question, “will this add value to my life?” Then listen to the answer.


Minimalism is about looking inwards

To start to live a simpler, minimalist lifestyle we must first start by looking in. Only once we have discovered who we are and what we value can we begin to act on the external factors around us. For the younger ones of us, this is particularly hard as we are still cultivating an image of ourselves. This, however, is not a hindrance, as you do not have to struggle to change habits that have had many years to settle in. The younger we can start critically observing ourselves, the deeper we can go with it. The best part is that learning more about your self will push you to work towards your own goals, not those of others; creating a life full of wealth.


Toward a way of life that is outwardly simple, inwardly rich – Duane Elgin


Elgin, D. (2010 [1981]) Voluntary Simplicity. New York: HarperCollins Publishers

Lee, M. & Ahn, C. (2016) ‘Anti-Consumption, Materialism, and Consumer Well-Being’. The Journal of Consumer Affairs. Spring. pp. 18-47

O’Brien, T. (2015) Inner Story: Understand Your Mind. Change Your World. Ideational

Wasmund, S. (2015) Do Less Get More. London: Penguin RandomHouse UK

What is minimalism? | Young Minimalist

What is minimalism?

Minimalism (n):
- a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterised by extreme spareness and simplicity
- design using the bare essentials

What minimalism isn’t

Before we have a look at minimalism, let’s start with what minimalism is certainly not. It is not: getting rid of everything, living in a tiny house, eating 1 grain of rice for every meal, selling your car, middle-class, being an extreme environmentalist, boring, no fun, lonely or (self-) idolatry. For a more in-depth analysis of the misconceptions about minimalism look here.

Right now that’s out the way.

A philosophy of minimalism

Minimalism is intrinsically materialistic. “What?” You might say. “I thought minimalism was about getting rid of things, living with the essentials, not living in excess?” And you’re right. That is exactly why it is materialistic.

Contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton (the guy who started the School of Life, made popular on YouTube), would say that we don’t really “live in very materialistic times”. We don’t, in fact, desire material objects, but the rewards from acquiring those items: e.g. recognition of wealth or status, or, acknowledgement of taste in fashion. Yet, de Botton would argue that material items actually have another, purer purpose. A purpose to aid in self-development and knowledge, as well as to “play a positive psychological (or spiritual) role in our lives when higher more positive ideals are ‘materialised’ in them”.

Thus it comes to mean, good choices in our material possessions can change the way we live our lives, for the better. I believe this is the underlying purpose of minimalism: to make conscious decisions about what we own and dedicate time to in order to live a fuller, more purposeful life.

So what does this mean?

The first thing to understand about minimalism is that it is not a simple, thing you do. It’s much more than that. A way of life, built upon the aforementioned philosophy. In order to live a minimalist lifestyle, there is a lot of soul-searching that you must go through. Minimalism allows you to focus on what you love, and remove all the extra noise from your life. It is a way of living your life with intention and focus. By doing & having less, you create room for more (Makes sense right?).

The thing is, most of us don’t do this. Many of us are busy doing jobs we don’t like to buy things we don’t want. I spent most of my university life working part-time jobs in pursuit of a way to define myself as successful. Getting the newest phone, buying new shirts for work, travelling around London in taxis and paying for round after round of drinks. And it worked, others recognised me for it: I heard a ‘friend’ say once, “I love going out for drinks with Kevin, after a couple he just keeps buying rounds for everyone.” I was living a life focused on money & things because money & things make you happy. At least, that’s what I thought.

So when I found minimalism I wasn’t really sure I would get on with it. It didn’t really fit with my lifestyle. But when I gave it a chance and answered the questions posed to me honestly, I very quickly found that minimalist living was exactly what I was looking for all along. Minimalism has allowed me to: stop saying “yes” to everything, stop working in an industry that I didn’t enjoy and spend more time doing things I love, be closer to my family, have more money, get healthier, live moment to moment and travel.

“The more you know, the less you need” – Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia

Learn more … about yourself

The ultimate benefit of minimalism is discovering things about yourself that you don’t know. Self-discovery not only gives you a great buzz, but it allows us to make decisions more intelligently. By figuring out what you love doing, what your values are and where your life is failing you, you are able to take back control of your life and direct yourself onto the path you truly want to be on. So where do we start?

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What are my values in life?
  • What do I currently do, that I would rather not?
  • Which areas of life do I want to improve?
    • Split them up (e.g. Health / Relationships / Money / Work / etc.) and break these down further
  • What does my version of success look like?

Re-visit these a week later and then proceed to step 2 – Becoming a minimalist (link to follow).