Simple life

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Simple living ( English simple living ; also voluntary simplicity from English voluntary simplicity or LOVOS from English lifestyle of voluntary simplicity ) describes a lifestyle for which the principle of simplicity is central. Such a life can be characterized, for example, by the reduction in possessions known as minimalism or the attempt at self-sufficiency .

The simple life forms an alternative to consumer- oriented affluent society . Consumption Critical people are trying to counteract through reduced consumption duties of everyday life and thereby lead independent, fulfilling lives.

Some simply living are considered dropouts .


Criticism of materially oriented way of life

In the simple life, care is taken to question one's own behavior with regard to consumption, property and relationships in terms of meaningfulness and necessity. An excess of possessions, which, for example, is only sought for social status and prestige , is seen as a hindrance and a burden. You avoid consumption for entertainment or leisure activities and focus on the supposedly “really important” things in life. A distinction is made between desire and necessity. You are satisfied with what you have instead of always wanting more and never being satisfied with it. The lifestyle is characterized by the basic attitude of owning fewer things in order not to unnecessarily burden yourself and the environment with their purchase (and payment), care and disposal.

A “sensible” use of one's own time is highly valued. With a simple lifestyle, it seems unreasonable to exchange life for money in order to own things that you don't actually need or even only to impress people who are not important to you, or to spend working hours in order to consume more with their income can.

Criticism of fast pace and overstimulation

Proponents of a simple lifestyle criticize an overweighting of money and possessions as well as the fast pace of life today, which is often accompanied by sensory overload . This also includes overstraining people through work ( work intensification ) and time pressure. The mass media are accused of taking away people's time for their own thoughts and their sense of enjoyment.

The subjectively experienced quality of life is in the foreground - beyond a superficial hedonism limited to materialistic consumption categories . This materially consciously reduced lifestyle sometimes has ascetic features.


People who have started a simple life report a strong need to rearrange their previous life in order to achieve greater inner fulfillment. The motivation for this can arise from inner dissatisfaction - caused, for example, by the feeling of constantly being overburdened or not being “with oneself” - or it can arise from external circumstances that result in a re-evaluation of material and immaterial values. In many cases, the “clearing out” of one's own living environment and its simpler organization is a fundamental first step. Another important point can be a stronger focus on an uncomplicated, natural lifestyle, related to oneself and the people in the immediate vicinity, in which personal contributions in the sense of self-sufficiency are clearly in the foreground compared to external services. This applies above all to the areas of nutrition and handicrafts, partly also clothing and energy supply. In terms of resource conservation, waste avoidance, energy saving, the reduction of one's own ecological footprint , recycling and recycling management, as well as being a cultural asset, used furniture and objects and old buildings are valued. Furthermore, barter transactions, the purchase of durable, repairable equipment or even domestic savings potential, e.g. B. for water, electricity, energy and waste disposal.

The "100 Things Challenge" campaign of the US consumer critic David Michael Bruno became known , who began reducing his personal belongings to under 100 things in November 2008, wrote about it on a blog and published a book.

Due to the restriction of personal consumption and careful calculation of the available budget, much less lifetime has to be spent on gainful employment . Family, neighborhood help and voluntary work often come to the fore in the simple lifestyle, as care , social commitment and solidarity are valued ideals to which a large part of the time that is freed up is dedicated.


Diogenes in his pithos , painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme , 1860

Some religions see simplicity as a goal worth striving for or the only way to achieve fulfillment. In the Christian, Hindu and Buddhist orders as well as in Sufism , renouncing the accumulation of material goods plays an important role. Secular approaches to the simple life can be traced back to antiquity, to the Stoics and Cynics ( Diogenes von Sinope ) or, for example, the Greek philosopher Plato .

Through the works of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson around 1845, a simple lifestyle in the United States is considered part of the subculture . Another influential figure in the United States was Scott Nearing .

In Germany, Friedrich Nietzsche, in his strict rejection of a meaningless materialism, was a rigorous advocate of a materially simple life for the purpose of increasing the spiritual powers of man. As a metaphor for this, Nietzsche created the type of " Zarathustra " as the creative conqueror of that form of nihilism that tries to compensate for a lack of non-materialistic goals in life with the pursuit of material goods.

Groups like the Amish or the Quakers are often mentioned as representatives of a simple lifestyle . In Germany there are forerunners in the Wandervogel movement, which wanted to escape the authoritarian pressure of society, in the life reform movement and in some cases in the Boheme movements. Later manifestations can be found among the hippies in the 1960s and the alternative movement that emerged from them . This lifestyle found literary expression in the novel The Simple Life by Ernst Wiechert (1939).

The more recent use of the expression "voluntary simplicity", which is common in the United States for a simple lifestyle, goes back to a work by the social scientist Duane Elgin from 1981, in which he focused on a simple, frugal and balanced rhythm of life away from the consumer-oriented American way of life judged. Elgins took up essential suggestions from Richard Gregg , which he had already formulated in 1936 in a fundamental article on voluntary simplicity .

See also


  • Stephen R. Covey: The Seven Paths to Effectiveness. Principles for private and professional success. Extended and revised new edition, 2nd edition. GABAL Verlag GmbH, Offenbach 2005, ISBN 3-89749-573-2 ( GABAL Management )
  • Anne Donath: Those who hike only need what they can carry. Report on a simple life. Piper Verlag u. a., Munich 2006, ISBN 3-89029-310-7
  • Jean Giono: On true wealth , Die Arche publishing house 1980
  • Marc Gordon: Simpler Life in 60 Minutes , Thiele Verlag 2012
  • Tom Hodgkinson : The Art of Being Free. Guide to a Beautiful Life. Rogner & Bernhard bei Zweiausendeins, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-8077-1025-9 (original edition "How to be free" 2006 from Penguin Books)
  • Bill Jensen: Radically simplify. Organize your daily work better and achieve more immediately. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main u. a. 2004, ISBN 3-593-37557-5
  • Björn Kern : The best we can do is nothing . “Memoir and Manifest”, S. Fischer Verlag , 2016, ISBN 978-3-596-03531-1
  • Werner Tiki coastal maker , Lothar J. Seiwert : Simplify your life . Live easier and happier. 10th edition. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main u. a. 2005, ISBN 3-593-36818-8
  • John Lane: The simple life. The happiness of the little , Aurum Kamphausen Bielefeld 2012
  • Henry David Thoreau : Walden or Life in the Woods. Diogenes Verlag, Zurich 2007, ISBN 978-3-257-20019-5 ( Diogenes paperback 20019)
  • Ernst Wiechert: The simple life , Langen Müller Munich 1939, numerous new editions

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. David Bruno Der Spiegel 33/2009, accessed on May 8, 2018.
  2. David Michael Bruno. About. Retrieved March 23, 2015 (Dave Bruno: The 100 Thing Challenge , Harper, New York 2010, ISBN 978-0-06-178774-4 .).