Friday, April 8, 2016
Voluntary Simplicity vs Poverty
There's a world of difference between voluntary simplicity and poverty. They might look similar to the casual observer, but there's a world of difference.
Take a poor person and someone practicing voluntary simplicity. They might both be wearing old patched clothes. They may both be living in a small space. (apartment, house, tent, van, car, whatever) Both may be eating low cost meals. They may both have similar income levels. Even so, they are worlds apart.
Let's start with meals. Poor people tend to eat a lot of prepared, low nutrition food. It could be they are working two or three low paying jobs and don't have the time nor the energy to shop for and prepare good meals. If you don't have the opportunity to shop very often it actually makes sense to buy foods that don't spoil.
Someone living simply may not spend any more money on food, but they eat a lot better. Sometimes it's as simple as having a few decent cooking tools and knowledge how to use them. They may be eating cheaply, but they are mostly eating foods they prepare themselves. While the poor person may heat up a frozen dinner, the other guy's eating a rice and beans dish made from cheap dried beans, a few spices, and might have a salad made from wild greens. It's cheap, but takes time, effort and knowledge to prepare. It's also pretty yummy and high in nutrition.
Take two different people who are living in their car. The poor person can't make rent and ends up sleeping in an old van. Someone who wants to live a more simple life might decide to give up living in an apartment or house for van living. The poor person sort of ends up there. They've got to figure it out on the fly. Odds are he's the guy who the cops will be hassling at 3 a. m. to move on.
Someone who decides to move into a van has a plan. He's had a chance to figure out how to make a small space a comfortable living area. Sleeping, cooking, security, hygiene -all that stuffs been figured out. There are probably solar panels on the roof, a house battery system, and black out curtains. This guy is less likely to get hassled by the police as he's researched where to park without running into trouble.
Where the two really differ is when something goes wrong. The poor person is really hurting when his car breaks down. There's no money to fix it and now he has a hard time to get to work. The person living simply has a back up plan. Maybe he doesn't even have a regular job where he needs the vehicle right away. That gives him time to fix the problem himself. Then again, he probably has an emergency fund for just that sort of problem. After all, he's a guy living simply. He's not poor.
At different times in my life I have been both of those guys. It doesn't matter if you have a year or two's worth of supplies and savings. Sometimes things go bad for three or four years or more. As prepared as well like to me, everyone has limits. Nobody can prepare for everything. Don't look down on the poor guy as it's not that hard to become him.
Trust me, living simply is better than living poor. If you are living simply and break a tooth, you go to the dentist. If you are poor, you suffer.
Knowing how to live simply can help prevent you from having to live poor. If you see bad times coming and can set yourself up to live at a simpler level before you have to, there are choices. Completely running out of resources and becoming poor limits your options terribly.