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When Possessions Just Aren't Enough

March 17, 1997|CONNIE KOENENN

Would you like to simplify your life?

"Voluntary simplicity" is one label for a growing social movement, led by baby boomers who've become disenchanted with the corporate culture of hectic striving and competing for material "stuff."

One of the apostles of the movement, which is heavily focused in the Pacific Northwest, is Cecile Andrews, a Seattle educator who has been leading simplicity circles since 1992 and now shares her blueprint in "The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the Good Life" (HarperCollins).

Based on a Scandinavian model, simplicity circles are small groups of people who gather together, without experts or authorities, to help each other simplify their lives and to exchange ideas on ways to live differently.

"The people who come, by and large, are the people who have made it, but feel empty," says Andrews.

Although some media stories focus on dramatic examples of high-paying executives who have exchanged stressful careers for life in a small pastoral town, voluntary simplicity can occur on many levels, she writes.

"People in simplicity circles discover that everyone can simplify their lives in some way, and that even the small things people do are important and fulfilling. They learn there is no one way to simplify; rather, each person's unique way grows out of an analysis of his or her own life."

Andrews' book combines discussion on personal change with the nuts and bolts of participating in a simplicity circle. Her formula is based on a 10-meeting schedule which works its way through these key questions:

* Introductions and getting acquainted. What is going on in your life that attracts you to the subject of voluntary simplicity?

* Understanding Study Circles: What negative educational experiences have you had?

* Transforming Personal Consumption: What is something that you bought that you regret buying? Why did you buy it?

* Finding Your Passion: Is there something in your life that is a constant theme that you have always loved to do?

* Utilizing Your Passion: What are ways you have already earned money doing what you love to do?

* Building Community: When you recall a time in your life when you experienced community, what were the central elements that made it meaningful?

* Building Community (continued): What in our society discourages community? How could we encourage community at work?

* Living Mindfully: What are some of the negative consequences of rushing?

* Transforming Work: What are some of the ways you would like to change your work situation?

* Planning for the Future: What societal change would bring about a reduction in peoples' greed?

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