05/10/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Simple Life: An Antidote to Junk Piles and Complexity Pollution

Modern life is now so overwhelmingly complex that we find ourselves running faster and faster -- like hamsters on a wheel -- just trying to keep up with the ever-increasing pace.

One antidote to that hectic misery is the Simplicity Circle.

Inspired by Duane Elgin's book "Voluntary Simplicity" and by a Los Angeles Times opinion piece written by a neighbor, Dr. Richard Bruce Anderson, my husband and I met with Richard and his wife over a decade ago in a local coffee shop. We agreed to meet regularly to support each other in resisting the insanity of the new millennium - and have been meeting ever since, joined by others in our community looking to escape from the rush-rush insanity.

We regularly share a potluck dinner and good conversation - a healing experience of community in itself. And over the years we've also done some deep thinking about how our society became so disconnected from the natural ways and pace of living most humans have experienced since the dawn of our species.

One thing we learned was that the accumulation of "stuff" has become a huge burden on all of our lives (and on the planet too, of course.) Annie Leonard's wonderful video "The Story of Stuff" came out after we had started meeting, and it perfectly captures the rat race of consumerism. We find ourselves frantically working harder and harder in order to buy more and more stuff.

Most people who form or join small Simplicity Circles (they should probably be kept under 12 people to be effective) start out by cleaning out some of the clutter. Garage sales raise cash and lift our spirits as we begin to see some open space in our lives. And once we've cleaned out the closets and junk piles, we're more conscious about buying new stuff. We realize that every new product or gizmo we purchase demands space and time-wasting, costly maintenance. We may also become more aware of the planetary and human cost embedded in each object we purchase.

As our circle continued to meet, retail therapy lost its appeal for many of us. We became much more discerning shoppers. Some even found we could live in smaller homes because we no longer had to devote an expensive room or garage or storage shed to storing our stuff.

A relaxing bonus of simplifying and downsizing our lives is that we may find we can live on less money, allowing us the freedom to cut back on working hours if we choose to. We realize that the desire for endless economic growth can be a trap, both for us individually and for our society and the planet.

As we savor the simpler life, rich with people, nature and satisfying experiences rather than stuff, many of us have come to realize that slowing down and living on less is the ultimate luxury in today's world!