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VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY POPULAR DEFINITIONS

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VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY POPULAR DEFINITIONS ...

    VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY: POPULAR DEFINITIONS AND MAJOR THEMES

    Submitted to the Academy of Marketing Studies Journal, April 19, 2002 Presented at the Nashville, 2002 conference (April, 2002)

Filename = Johnston-amsj.doc

Timothy C. Johnston

    College of Business and Public Affairs

    The University of Tennessee at Martin

    Martin, TN 38238

    Phone: (731) 587-7354

    Fax: (731) 587-7231

    johnston@utm.edu

    (corresponding author)

Jay B. Burton

    College of Business and Public Affairs

    The University of Tennessee at Martin

    Martin, TN 38238

    Phone: (731) 587-7354

    Fax: (731) 587-7231

    jayb2001@bellsouth.net

VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY: POPULAR DEFINITIONS AND MAJOR THEMES

ABSTRACT

    Voluntary Simplicity is a growing social movement that is important to marketers,

    because it may herald fundamental and widespread changes in consumer preferences.

    Academics and leaders of the movement agree that a definition is needed for research on

    Voluntary Simplicity to move forward. The contribution of this paper is a catalog and

    analysis of popular definitions of Voluntary Simplicity published from 1977 to 2001. An

    analysis of 142 keywords from 29 citations revealed the following 15 major themes: The

    Good Life, Life Purpose, Material Simplicity, Ecological Awareness, Personal Growth,

    Minimal Consumption, Valued Relationships, Chosen Life, Lifestyle, Self Determination,

    Role of Work, Plain Living, and Human Scale. These themes define the domain of the

    Voluntary Simplicity lifestyle. Researchers can use the themes to craft precise

    definitions and to suggest dimensions and items for measures. Research on Voluntary

    Simplicity can help to identify the influence of the movement on mainstream consumers.

INTRODUCTION

     Voluntary Simplicity is a growing social movement (Etzioni, 1999). According

    to the New York Times, “Choosing to buy and earn less—to give up income and fast-

    track success for more free time and a lower-stress lifeinvolves a quiet revolt against

    the dominant culture of getting and spending,” (Goldberg, 1995). More recently, the Los Angeles Times reported, “the core ideals of voluntary simplicity—spend less, work less

    and focus on important personal goalsare resonating with Americans who have been shaken by the recent events (terrorist attacks) and who are looking for more meaning in

    their lives,” (Weston, 2001). “Simplify” is becoming the rallying cry for a generation of

    alternative consumers.

    Elgin (1993) describes Voluntary Simplicity as “living in a way that is outwardly

    simple and inwardly rich.” More and more people in affluent societies like the United

    States are being attracted to this lifestyle. The purpose of this paper is to further explicate

    the meaning of Voluntary Simplicity by analyzing the definitions of thought leaders in

    the movement over a 25-year time span.

    The Voluntary Simplicity movement is important to marketers. Marketing

    researchers have speculated on the impact of Voluntary Simplicity on consumer behavior

    (Johnston, 2000). Ensley (1983) wrote, “Growth in the number of adherents to Voluntary

    Simplicity could dramatically affect current marketing practices.” Shama (1985) noted

    that Voluntary Simplicity behavior was characterized by choice of functional products

    with simple packaging, response to promotions that stress value and information,

    shopping in localized small channel outlets, and willingness to buy “do-it-yourself”

    products to save money.

    In many ways, Voluntary Simplicity turns the consumer behavior of mainstream

    America on its head (Table 1). Where consumers typically want more material goods,

    simple-livers want to reduce possessions and clutter in their lives. Where consumers

    want to earn more to consume more, simple-livers strive to reduce (paid) work and

    consumption. Simple-livers often share the “reduce, reuse, recycle” credo of the

conservationists, which is often at odds with corporate goals of increasing sales and

    profits (Hawkins, Best & Coney, 2001, p. 90). Where consumers want convenience and

    low cost, simple-livers will go to extra effort and expense to obtain durable, reusable, and

    Earth-friendly products. You can rely on mainstream consumers to buy what they want.

    Simple-livers prefer to minimize their material wants and purchases, obtaining goods by

    making, borrowing, buying used or not at all.

Table 1: What they want: mainstream consumers versus simple-livers

Mainstream Consumers Simple-livers

    Want more material goods Want fewer possession and less clutter

    Want to earn more Want to reduce (paid) work

    Want to consume more Want to consume less

    Want convenience Want durable, reusable, Earth-friendly products

    Buy what they want Want little, buy even less

    This paper does not argue that mainstream consumers will become simple-livers. Rather, it argues that simple-livers and mainstream consumers share many values. In

    service of these values, consumers may adopt less-radical but nonetheless substantial

    changes in behavior learned from the hard-core simple-livers. Rudmin and Kilbourne

    (1996) argued that Voluntary Simplicity “has been and will be a recurrent expression of

    deliberately denied materialism” (p. 167) and that “history is again ripe for another round

    of Voluntary Simplicity” (p. 208). Marketers need to be aware of and understand the

    Voluntary Simplicity movement as it portends fundamental and potentially widespread

    change in consumer preferences.

     Voluntary Simplicity resists definition. Shi (1985, p. 3) wrote, “The simple life is almost as difficult to define as to live.” Some say that Voluntary Simplicity is better left

    undefined than to be defined dogmatically (Elgin, 2000, p. 76). The definition of

    Voluntary Simplicity is dependent on the context as well. According to Pierce (1996-99):

    “What may be a simple, enriching life for one person could be a life of deprivation and

    suffering for another.” Rudmin & Kilbourne (1996, p. 169) surmised, “It may be

    unreasonable to strive for a decisively inclusive definition of voluntary simplicity.”

    Despite the difficulties, a definition is needed for research on Voluntary Simplicity to move forward. Twenty-four leaders in Voluntary Simplicity thought met in

    2001 to discuss the future of the movement. The members of the Simplicity Forum

    (Cahn, 2001) identified the need to “sufficiently align on the meaning of simplicity to be

    able to develop public policy recommendations and a research agenda to establish

    „simplicity‟ as a significant field.” The thoughts of several of these leaders, and others,

    are examined in this paper.

    This paper catalogues and analyzes definitions of Voluntary Simplicity from writings published from 1977 to 2001. The methodology is described first. The

    definitions follow. Then, the major themes of Voluntary Simplicity and their associated

    keywords are described. The paper ends with conclusions and recommendations for

    future research.

METHODOLOGY

     The authors identified writings about the Voluntary Simplicity movement that

    were published between 1977 and 2001. Elgin and Mitchell‟s (1977) research and

    Elgin‟s (1981) subsequent book Voluntary Simplicity were influential to the movement,

    and mark the beginning of the period of analysis. Gregg‟s (1936) definition is included

    because of the impact it had on Elgin‟s work. (Other exceptions are drawn from web

    sites in 2002 but probably written earlier). Roots of modern Voluntary Simplicity

    thinking begin much earlier, and have been identified with the American

    Transcendentalists (Johnston, 2001), religious simple-livers like the Quakers and Amish

    (Shi, 1985), and Greek philosophers (Segal, 1999). Published works were identified in

    news articles, bibliographies, and on Voluntary Simplicity web sites.

     Publications included mostly books with a few journal articles and book chapters.

    The focus was on the popular press and selected articles in the marketing field. No

    attempt was made to survey the academic literature in sociology, psychology, home

    economics, ecology and conservation, or related fields. This research “quantifies” the

    major themes of Voluntary Simplicity from otherwise qualitative datapublished

    definitions. This is analogous to protocol analysis research in which the thoughts of

    consumers are quantified (Ericsson & Simon, 1980).

     First, published works were obtained and read by the researchers. Next, explicit

    definitions (or the nearest equivalent) were quoted from each publication and appear

    below. A keyword analysis was performed on the definitions. Keywords from the

    definitions were identified and listed. Similar keywords were grouped together into

    categories, which resulted in keyword mentions being assigned to major themes. Two

    people coded the data independently, and then discussed their findings to agree on a

    common set of keywords and categories. The definitions are quoted next, and these are

    followed by the results of the keyword analysis.

DEFINITIONS

    The definitions are presented below with a minimum of commentary. They appear in roughly chronological order, although contemporaneous thoughts by a single

    author are grouped together.

    Gregg (1936, p. 4) stated, “Voluntary simplicity involves both inner and outer

    condition. It means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, as well as

    avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the chief purpose of life. It means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions. It involves a deliberate organization of life for a purpose.” “Of course, as different people have

    different purposes in life, what is relevant to the purpose of one person might not be

    relevant to the purpose of another. Yet it is easy to see that our individual lives and

    community life would be much changed if every one organized and graded and

    simplified his purposes so that one purpose would easily dominate all the others, and if

    each person then re-organized his outer life in accordance with this new arrangement of

    purposes, discarding possessions and activities irrelevant to the main purpose. The

    degree of simplification is a matter for each individual to settle for himself . . . ”

    Gregg was a major influence on Elgin & Mitchell, who said, “There seems to be

an underlying coherence to the rich diversity of expression of this (Voluntary Simplicity)

    way of life. Consequently, we have selected a skeletal list of those values, which seem to

    us to lie at the heart of this emerging way of life. These five values are the following:

    Material Simplicity, Human Scale, Self-Determination, Ecological Awareness, Personal

    Growth.” Voluntary Simplicity is “living in a way that is outwardly simple and inwardly

    rich.” They go on to add, “This way of life embraces frugality of consumption, a strong

    sense of environmental urgency, a desire to return to living and working environments

    which are of a more human scale, and an intention to realize our higher human

    potentialboth psychological and spiritual—in community with others,” (1977, p. 5). A story about Mitchell in Marketing News (1979, p. 1) stated that simplifiers “stress simplicity, frugality, conservation, and ecological soundness and lean toward items made

    via so-called appropriate technology.”

    Elgin‟s book Voluntary Simplicity influenced many recent thinkers of the movement. He wrote, “Voluntary simplicity (author‟s italics) (is) a manner of living that

    is outwardly more simple and inwardly more rich, a way of life in which our most

    authentic and alive self is brought into direct and conscious contact with living,” (Elgin,

    [1981]1993, p. 25). Simple living “is a more demanding intention of living with balance

    in order to find a life of greater purpose, fulfillment and satisfaction,” (p. 25). “Voluntary

    simplicity fosters: A progressive refinement of the social and material (author‟s italics)

    aspects of life (and) a progressive refinement of the spiritual or consciousness aspects of

    life,” (p. 159). Elgin suggested that “There are no fixed norms that define this approach

    to living. The worldly expression of an ecological way of life is something that each

    person must discover in the context of his or her unique life circumstances,” (p. 109).

    Elgin & Mitchell‟s influence is visible on the work of sociologist Leonard-Barton,

    who wrote, “Voluntary Simplicity is defined as the degree to which an individual selects

    a life-style intended to maximize his/her direct control over daily activities and to

    minimize his/her consumption and dependency. Five basic values underlie a Voluntary

    Simplicity lifestyle: material simplicity, self-determination, ecological awareness, human

    scale, and personal growth.” These are defined as follows: “Material simplicity is non-

    consumption-oriented patterns of use; Self-determination is a desire to assume greater

    control over destiny; Ecological awareness is recognition of the interdependency of

    people and resources; Human scale is a desire for smaller-scale institutions and

    technology; Personal growth is a desire to explore and develop the inner life,” (Leonard-

    Barton, 1981, p. 244).

    Shama saw the shift to Voluntary Simplicity lifestyle as a reaction to the

    stagflation of the late 1970‟s. Shama wrote, “Simplifiers… emphasize balance between

    material and spiritual growth, and prefer material simplicity and more integrated work

    roles,” (Shama, 1981, p. 128). “Voluntary Simplicity is a lifestyle that influences the

    purchase decision and consumption patterns of those adhering to it,” (Shama, 1985, p.

    60). Shama & Wisenblit (1984) wrote, “The main goals of this lifestyle (voluntary

    simplicity) were rational moral behavior, spiritual growth and self-actualization, which

    together manifest the economic behaviors of low consumption, ecological responsibility,

    and self-sufficiency.”

    Shi (1985) examined the history of simple living and concluded, “Indeed, the

    precise meaning of the simple life has never been fixed. Rather, it has always

    represented a shifting cluster of ideas, sentiments, and activities. These have included a

hostility toward luxury and a suspicion of riches, a reverence for nature and a preference

    for rural over urban ways of life and work, a desire for personal self-reliance through

    frugality and diligence, a nostalgia for the past and a skepticism toward the claims of

    modernity, conscientious rather than conspicuous consumption, and an aesthetic taste for

    the plain and functional.

    “Over the years individuals and groups have varied in the emphasis placed on these attitudes. As a result there have been, and still are, many forms (author‟s italics) of

    simple living representing a wide spectrum of motives and methods. Their common

    denominator has been the core assumption that the making of money and the

    accumulation of things should not be allowed to smother the purity of the soul, the life of

    the mind, the cohesion of the family, or the good of the commonweal,” (Shi, 1985, p. 3-4).

    In a later work, Shi (1986) observed that simplicity is “a reduction in the pace and

    complexity of everyday life and material encumbrances,” (p. 10) and, “Today, simplicity

    remains what it has always been: an animating vision of moral purpose,” (Shi, 1986, p.

    11).

    Thoughtful practitioners have enriched academic thought on Voluntary Simplicity.

    About their decision to move from L.A. to an orchard in the Blue Ridge Mountains,

    Levering & Urbanska (1992) said, “We were determined to purge ourselves of needless

    entanglements and superfluous pursuits. Here was the place to learn what was essential.

    To learn what we stood for andbecause how we lived expressed our valuesto take

    our stand. In short, we were here in Virginia to simplify our lives,” (p. 8).

    Dominguez and Robin ([1992]1999) wrote what is considered to be the seminal

    book on how to achieve financial independence in support of the Voluntary Simplicity

    lifestyle. They wrote, “For those unfamiliar with the term (voluntary simplicity), the

    „voluntary‟ piece reminds us that we are the authors of our own lives, no matter how crushed that we might feel by the machinery of „modern times.‟ Indeed, for life to be

    meaningful or moral we must be able to own our actions. „Simplicity‟ guides us to the

    heart of the matterwhatever that may be for us. In rescuing the essential from the

    clutches of the irrelevant, simplicity is a warrior word. In reminding us of how beautiful

    and free an unadorned existence can be, simplicity is a gentle call to be just plain us.

    Choosing to simplify, often difficult in a consumer culture, means readying oneself for a

    life that is truer to one‟s gifts, passions, and sense of purpose,” (p. xvii).

     Burch (1995) also emphasized the practice of Voluntary Simplicity in a slim

    volume, which he summarized as, “Simplicity . . . is a decision to live more deeply

    (author‟s italics). In living simply, we choose to shift our attention and effort toward a

    more wholistic, balanced, integrated, proportionate and appropriate pattern of living.

    This new pattern honors both the inner, non-material, aesthetic and spiritual aspects of

    our lives as well as their material and physical aspects.” Burch agreed with Elgin in

    stating, “Voluntary simplicity is a matter of degrees (author‟s italics), not of meeting an

    absolute standard.”

    Marketing scholars Rudmin & Kilbourne (1996) examined the “meaning and

    morality” of Voluntary Simplicity and suggested that the movement “has been and will

    be a recurrent expression of deliberately denied materialism, representing the ambiguity

    of both the moral liberation and the moral hypocrisy of rejecting socially sanctioned

    goods,” (p. 167).

    Andrews (1997) popularized study groups called “simplicity circles.” She wrote,

“The life of voluntary simplicity is a life lived consciously, a decision to live in harmony

    with life, to show reverence for life, to sustain life. It is a life of creativity and

    celebration, a life of community and participatory democracy, and a life in touch with

    nature and the universal life force. It is a life that has soul, it is a life that allows the

    individual‟s soul to awaken,” (p. 33). She also emphasized that Voluntary Simplicity has

    different meanings for different people, and said, “No one can completely define

    voluntary simplicity because it is something that each one of us must do for ourselves.

    We can see, though, that the core of voluntary simplicity is trying to answer the age-old

    question: How shall I live? What will make me happy? What is the good life?” (p. 33).

    Luhrs (1997), a former attorney, wrote a guidebook that was deep on guidance for

    living the Voluntary Simplicity lifestyle, but succinct in defining the term. She wrote,

    “Simple living is about living deliberately” and “Simple living is about making

    deliberate, thoughtful choices. The difference is that you are fully aware of why you are

    living your particular life, and that life is one you have chosen thoughtfully,” (p. xiv).

    Etzioni discussed the movement from the viewpoint of economic sociology, and

    wrote, “Voluntary simplicity refers to the decision to limit expenditures on consumer goods and services and to cultivate nonmaterialistic sources of satisfaction and meaning,

    out of free will rather than out of coercion by poverty, government austerity programs, or

    imprisonment,” (Etzioni, 1998, p. 620; 1999, p. 109). He explained the motivation of simple-livers; “Voluntary simplicity suggests that there is a declining marginal

    satisfaction in the pursuit of ever-higher levels of consumption. And it points to sources

    of satisfaction in deliberately and voluntarily avoiding the quest for ever-growing levels

    of affluence and consumption and making one‟s personal and social project the pursuit of

    other purposes. These purposes are not specifically defined other than that they are not

    materialistic. Simplifiers gain more satisfaction out of life long learning, public life,

    volunteering, community participation, sports, cultural activities, and observing or

    communing with nature,” (1999, p. 116).

    Schor (1998) identified participants in the Voluntary Simplicity movement, or

    simple-livers, as “spending downshifters . . . those who continue to earn at a certain level

    but have reduced their spending in order to save more.” She adds, “Eventually many of

    these also reduce their hours or stop working,” (p. 115). “Simple-livers . . . find a (low)

    level of sufficiency income, beyond which spending more is no longer positive,” (p. 138).

    This is contrasted with downshifters—people who have “made a voluntary lifestyle change, excluding regularly scheduled retirement, that entailed earning less money,” (p. 113). “Downshifters have experienced a change in which time and quality of life became

    relatively more important than money. They would prefer more of both, but forced to

    choose, they make a lifestyle change that increases their time and reduces their earnings,” (p. 138).

    The differences between downshifters and simple-livers are subtle. A

    downshifter used to have a higher level of consumption, now does not, and misses it. A

    simple-liver may have never had a higher level of consumption, and so, does not miss it.

    Downshifters may work less (and hence spend and consume less) because time is more

    important. Simple-livers may spend and consume less because increased consumption is

    “negative, because it creates clutter, stuff that needs taking care of, harms the

    environment, or alienates them from their peer group,” (Schor, 1998, p. 138).

    Fuller (1999) focused on the role of “deconsumers” in sustainable marketing

    when he wrote, “People embracing this philosophy (the simple life) opt for a lifestyle that requires fewer material resources to support and therefore, reduces their individual

    impact on ecosystems. This lifestyle is a „statement of personal responsibility‟ that

    rejects the notion that high levels of consumption lead to personal fulfillment,” (p. 340).

    Segal (1999) coined the phrase “graceful simplicity” in his monograph by the

    same name and wrote, “Graceful existence (simplicity) means a life of beauty,

    peacefulness, appreciativeness, and generosity of spirit,” (p. 201). He differentiated between simplicity and simple living: “On the one hand simplicity is understood as the

    opposite of complexity and multiplicity. It means slowing down, focusing, prioritizing,

    and having fewer things cluttering one‟s mind and life. On the other hand, simple living has always meant a way of life that found the human good in something other than

    consumption. It advocates living on a modest income. It is about turning away from

    money and toward life‟s greater blessings.” “These two elements need to be

    distinguished, and I will use the term „simplification‟ for the first (the less hectic, slower,

    focused life), and „simple living‟ for the life that has not merely undergone simplification,

    but in which consumption levels are quite modest,” (p. 210).

    On Voluntary Simplicity, Segal wrote “Simple living is not the residue that

    emerges when one consumes less; it is an achievement. It is what can emerge when as a

    result of subjecting the material dimension to a larger vision, one succeeds in creating a

    life that is rich and exciting in its aesthetic, intellectual, spiritual, and social dimensions,”

    (Segal, 1999, p. 22). He too noted that each must find one‟s own path to simplicity,

    “There is no single version of the good life. It can be found with family and friends, in meaningful work, in service to others, in pursuit of knowledge, in creative endeavor, in

    religious pursuit, or more likely, in the achievement of a harmony among such realms,”

    and “None of (these forms) is strongly dependent upon high levels of consumption. Each

    of them requires genuine commitment to something beyond oneself. Each of them

    requires ample time to do things at a serious pace, typically slowly and with care. This

    slower, simpler life is modest in material dimensions precisely so that it may be

    unusually rich in other aspects,” (p. 248).

     Twenty years after publishing his influential book Voluntary Simplicity, Elgin

    (2000) reiterated many of his beliefs: “To live more voluntarily is to live more

    consciously, deliberately, and purposefully” and “To live more simply is to live more

    lightly, cleanly, aerodynamicallyin the things that we consume, in the work we do, in

    our relationships with others, and in our connections with nature,” (p. 75-6). Elgin

    described Voluntary Simplicity as “living in such a way that we consciously bring our

    most authentic and alive self into direct connection with life. This is not a static

    condition, but an ever-changing balance. Simplicity in this sense is not simple. To live

    out of our deepest sense of purposeintegrating and balancing the inner and outer aspects of our livesis an enormously challenging and continuously evolving process.

    The objective of the simple life is not to live dogmatically with less, but rather to live

    with balance so as to have a life of greater fulfillment and satisfaction,” (p. 76).

    Elgin affirmed his belief that “there is no instruction manual or set of criteria that

    defines a life of conscious simplicity. Because simplicity has as much to do with our

    purpose in living as it does with our standard of living and because we each have a

    unique purpose in living, it follows that there is no single right and true way to live more

    ecologically and compassionately,” (Elgin, 2000, p. 76). “To live simply is to approach

life and each moment as inherently worth of our attention and respect, consciously

    attending to the small details of life,” (p. 79).

    Pierce (2000) tackled the task of defining Voluntary Simplicity head on: “Simple

    living or voluntary simplicity are lifelong processes in which we turn loose of the quest

    for more wealth, status, and power in favor of an authentic life of inner peace and

    fulfillment,” (author‟s italics, p. 25). She goes on to explain, “Simplicity is a process, a

    way of looking at the world and myself.” “A better term to describe this approach to

    living would be soulful living (author‟s italics). “(Simplicity is) the process in which a

    person invests the time and energy to develop her inner self, to connect with whatever

    higher being or spiritual presence she believes in,” (p. 38).

    Pierce saw Voluntary Simplicity as open to interpretation also, and said, “For

    some people, the primary focus of voluntary simplicity is to enhance the quality of their

    lives . . . Others view voluntary simplicity as a means to experience a deeper connection

    with all other life on the planet . . . The vast majority of people find meaning in a balance

    between the personal and the other-directed aspects of simple living,” (Pierce, 2000, pp.

    26-27).

     At the time of this writing, a number of Internet resources focused on Voluntary

    Simplicity, including the web sites for Alternatives for Simple Living (simpleliving.org),

    SimplyCity magazine (simplycity.com), The Center for a New American Dream

    (newdream.org), The Simple Living Network (simpleliving.net), Seeds of Simplicity

    (seedsofsimplicity.org), and simpleliving.com (Luhrs, 2002).

    On the Alternatives “faith-oriented” website, Phillips & Campbell (1999) wrote,

    “It's more than frugality, far from being a tightwad, and surely not being a miser. In

    some cases we'll actually need to pay more for tools that are Earth-friendly. Instead it's a

    journey to find more meaning, more joy, more fun in life by getting out from under the

    burden of so much stuff, to remove the barrier of stuff that keeps us apart from other

    people, from God and even from ourselves,” and “Voluntary Simplicity is not a list of rules. It is a consciousness, an awareness. It is a matter of personal responsibility.”

    On the website for SimplyCity, Strand (2001) wrote, “Simplicity isn't just a matter

    of paring your life down to the essentials; simplicity is knowing what life is for.” “The

    Center for a New American Dream (2002) website states that CNAD is a “non-profit organization dedicated to helping Americans change the way they consume to improve

    quality of life, protect the environment, and promote social justice.”

    On the website for The Simple Living Network, Andrews and Benson (2002)

    wrote, “Voluntary simplicity is „the examined life.‟ It is looking closely at our lives and

    asking if they are going in the directions that we choose. It's asking, „What's important?‟

    When we begin to examine our lives, we see that things are often out of control, with

    depression, illness, and violence sky high. Further, the environment is in dire shape.

    As we continue our examination, we see that the well being of people and the planet are

    linked. The lifestyles that are harming us are also harming the planetwe are working too much, consuming too much, and rushing too much. In many cases, we have lost touch

    with the things that are important—things like community and a connection to nature.”

    On the Seeds of Simplicity website, Benson (2002) wrote, “Simple living delivers

    the personal satisfaction that only comes when you decide how much is enough for you.

    In short, simpler living is not backward living, but forward living. Less time spent on

    material goods means more time spent with family, friends, children, nature, and

unlocking the real passions and values of your life.” Luhrs (2002) wrote, “Simplicity

    means making time for yourself in a hectic world. You clear out what‟s superfluous, and make room for a life of passion, depth and joy.”

MAJOR THEMES

     A keyword analysis was performed on the definitions to identify the major themes of Voluntary Simplicity. The definitions were drawn from 29 citations of published works. The researchers identified 89 keywords or key phrases. Some keywords were mentioned in several citations and some were unique. The keywords with similar meanings were assigned to a category, which produced 15 categories or major themes. In total, 142 mentions of keywords were associated with the themes (see Table 2).

Table 2: Elements of the keyword analysis

Published citations 29

    Keywords/key phrases 89

    Keyword mentions 142

    Categories/major themes 15

    Table 3 shows the major themes in Voluntary Simplicity and the incidence of

    keywords in each category. A discussion of each theme and its associated key terms follows.

Table 3: Major themes in Voluntary Simplicity

Theme Frequency of keywords

    Voluntary Simplicity/Simplify 21

    Simple life/living 5

    The Good Life 29

    Life Purpose 24

    Material Simplicity 25

    Ecological Awareness 19

    Personal Growth 16

    Minimal Consumption 17

    Valued Relationships 14

    Chosen Life 11

    Lifestyle 11

    Self Determination 9

    Role of Work 8

    Plain Living 5

    Human Scale 4

    Total keywords 142

    The definitions are drawn from 29 citations, and keywords are associated with the

    Voluntary Simplicity/Simplify and Simple life/living categories 26 times. These two

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