What does a year of living simply look like? There are common traits across the years that include home-cooked community meals, discoveries of free entertainment around the city, and the simple pleasures of spending quality time with people. Each community also has the opportunity to get creative with simplicity.
“Living deeply means living consciously . . . being fully present, fully aware.” (Janet Luhrs, The Simple Living Guide)
Below, read about specific simplicity challenges that helped former BSVM volunteer August Kunkel and his housemates become more conscious and present with each other. His reflection appeared in Issue 18 of The Companion (Autumn 2015).
Living More Connected and More Free
By August Kunkel
A graduate of the University of Notre Dame
Throughout the year, we did weekly challenges in hopes of realizing ways that we could live more simply. I remember the awkwardness and hilarity of wearing each other’s clothes, and the arguments and discussions over how seriously we were taking these challenges, especially when tasked with taking showers in the dark. Some challenges tested us more than others; I certainly had a hard time eating rice and beans for an entire week. The challenges represented concentrated efforts at living simply, and they changed the way we went about our day as we explored what we really needed to be happy.
The more I think about it, the more I come to understand that living simply points to something deeper and more universal. It is more about intentionally trying to live a better life. I think living simply is the most accessible way to live intentionally because it counters one of the biggest ways that society reaches into our daily lives: the unspoken idea that consumption produces happiness. Living simply gives us a chance to live more as humans and less as consumers.
During our weekly challenges, we quickly realized that simple living was far from easy. Many of my daily habits—what and where I ate, how I spent time and money, my use of technology—were largely formed by habit. When the community began living simply by cooking at home, reducing the use of technology and consciously trying to use less energy, I thought to myself, “Wait, what reasons did I have for doing things a certain way before?” It was largely out of convenience. My parents always stressed that money and possessions should never be a focus in life, but I have learned this year that living simply goes beyond the material. It is intentionally deciding how to better spend time. For example, we can try shopping at stores that sustainably source their food and supporting local businesses.
When we live simply and intentionally, we enable ourselves to relate to people on a deeper level, especially to those who live with less than most of society. It allows us to better appreciate considerations and decisions that many people must make every day. Living simply is living in solidarity with those around us, and it is the absence of this solidarity that fractures and weakens our society. When we are able to live more like our neighbors, spending money primarily on food and not on clothes or entertainment, we start to see that there is less that separates us than we had previously thought.
Intentional simple living both keeps us grounded in a way that we can relate to others and frees us from those things in life that are not life-giving. For me, it is easy to see how living simply and intentionally has changed me. The mundane in life becomes beautiful and life-giving. Breaks from television and cell phones are welcomed, and preparing and sharing a meal has become something I look forward to each day.