Would You Be Happier If You Gave It All Up?


Have you ever considered giving it all up and living a simpler life? I bet you have, as it seems to be a thought which flits across everyone’s mind at least once in their life.

Whether you can imagine yourself living off the land, living like an itinerant hippy, staying in a Tibetan monastery or something else, there is an incredible pull to the idea of giving it all up. However, would it make you happier? The following are some of the issues to bear in mind from my own experience on the subject.

The Financial Freedom

I guess that there are two ways of achieving financial freedom in your life. The first one is to invest wisely to eventually have enough money to not have to worry about paying bills and stuff. The second one is to, well, not own anything at all. The first approach is far better as far as I am concerned but I have also briefly experienced the second one. I gave up everything for a year to travel the world and for that time I owned little more than the rather pathetic contents of my backpack. It was an intoxicating feeling for a while and I genuinely thought that I was about to start a new life as a slightly smelly wandering hippy. However, after a while I realised that I missed having a car, a house, a bar of soap and some of the other things which I had so gladly given up not long before. They say that you don’t know what you have until you no longer have it and that is exactly what happened to me. Financial freedom is a wonderful thing to have but for it to work it has to be on terms you are happy with.

The Lack of a Routine

I hated the routine in my job. I had worked for about 10 years or more before I gave it all up and I hadn’t even taken any long breaks in that time. The day I handed in my notice I was terrified but overjoyed at the same time. If you have ever gone from having a job with a set routine to not having one then you will realise that it is a life altering experience. When you don’t have a routine the days and weeks just drift by so slowly. The time I wasn’t working felt about 5 times longer than it really was and those were the best days of my life so far. Having said that, the lack of a routine without proper financial freedom just doesn’t work. I didn’t have an income so when I wanted to get a house and car and other possessions I needed to start living a more conventional life again. Of course, what you plan to give it all up for will dictate whether you live with a routine or not. I guess that Buddhist monks in isolated monasteries have fixed routines to some degree while hippies who sell necklaces on Goa beach don’t have them so much. Will your life plans fit in with your desire to have a routine or not?

The Idea Of Living Life on Your Terms

Having thought about it a bit more I reckon that the key is in finding a way of living life on your terms. I almost did this but not quite. I think that if I do the same in the future but in a better financial situation then maybe I will be able to say that I will be completely happy by giving it all up. Perhaps the key point in all of this is that you need to be sure of what you are doing and your reasons for doing it before you give it all up. Even then, you won’t be sure of being happy until you give it a try.

Do you plan to give it all up to seek happiness at some point or have you done so already?

24 Responses to Would You Be Happier If You Gave It All Up?

  1. We have both thought out giving it all up and, then, realize that we like good wine, vacations and showers. We always come to the same conclusion that it’s about balance. We love coffee, but make our own so we can save money for wine. We love going out to dinner several nights a week, but refrain because we like traveling to other cities once in a while and eating there. For most of, we require a give and take. When those are out of balance, that’s when we’re in trouble. Great article!

    • Robert Bell says:

      Some good points there John. I think that it is important that we are honest with ourselves about what luxuries we wouldn’t want to lose

  2. When I was younger I was focused on “stuff” and the pursuit of financial riches. The older I get, though, the more I do long for a simpler life where I can focus on friends and family. And once my son graduates high school (in about 10 years), I plan to make the simpler life a reality and I am working hard every day until then for that freedom.

    • Robert Bell says:

      That sounds like a nice path through life Shannon and I’m sure you will find the right time to lead a simpler life

  3. NZ Muse says:

    Occasionally – like when we volunteered on a farm in Italy and saw the simple life they led. Or when we saw extreme poverty in Cambodia which made me feel so privileged and so guilty, and wonder how all the rest of us can in good conscience live our relatively materialistic, capitalist lifestyles when people are suffering like that.

    But we are selfish, and we’ve bought into that. Like John, we like some little luxuries.

    • Robert Bell says:

      We each need to make our own decisions based on what we like NZ. The problems start when you try to deny yourself what you really want

  4. Mark Ross says:

    I want to seek for happiness when I’m financially stable or already a financially independent individual. I think there’s no better time to chase your dreams when you don’t have to worry about your money running out.

  5. I think about this all the time. Simple could be the way to go. Fewer headaches. Less time spent on maintenance. Less money spent fixing problems.

    I’ve read articles recently on people taking part in the small house movement. They live in houses just barely big enough to house themselves, have the bare minimum possessions, and they’re happy.

    • Robert Bell says:

      It is definitely worth giving it a go if it sounds good to you Bill. You might or might not like it but you won’t know until you try.

  6. Hi Robert! I just found your blog and agree that you ask VERY important questions here. And as you say, deciding to live life on your own terms is the key. My husband and I actually call that process, “Right-sizing” because it is very individual. While my husband and I have been able to life debt-free for the last four or five years, it certainly wasn’t always that way. But because we’d seen the “dark side” of debt, we knew that that wasn’t what we wanted. While we never really needed to chuck it all to “give it up” because we never went down a road that required that, we did have to stay persistent and make some hard choices along the way. Fortunately, the freedom and happiness from right-sizing our life has made those choices easy for us. But every one is different and it starts by asking the questions you raise in this post. Thanks for reminding me! ~Kathy

    • Robert Bell says:

      Thanks Kathy. I like your idea of right sizing, it is a great way of looking at the process. I’m glad to see that you have found a way of living which suits you.

  7. Adam Kamerer says:

    That’s definitely the goal my wife and I are aiming for. We already lead a pretty simple life and are determined to not let other people and circumstances deter us too much from living life on our terms, but we’ve not yet escaped the daily routine of traditional work. One day, we’ll be a little more free to work as we please — writing from a nice warm beach somewhere? Yes, please.

  8. Love this, Robert, and yes, we definitely think about this a lot. We’ve given up a lot by moving to a homestead where we are working on being self-sufficient, but we are definitely thinking about getting even more back to basics.

    • Robert Bell says:

      I hope that goes well for you Laurie. It is something I love the sound of but don’t think I could live with forever. Maybe a second home in the country would suit me perfectly.

  9. I’d go crazy…I’m a technology nut and would miss all the buzz, lights, and whistles of computers, phones, TVs and the like. I think giving it all up would make life TOO simple. 🙂

  10. I don’t have a lot of “stuff” as it is but I definitely would not be willing to give it all up. I spend a lot of time camping in the summer, and every time I come home I think, “thank goodness, I missed my blowdryer and the tacos from across the street” 😉

    • Robert Bell says:

      I’m sure that many people think the same way Stefanie. We all have different needs and wants and that is what makes life so interesting

  11. Alex says:

    I’d love to live off of the land, but let’s face it; I and most Westernised people couldn’t survive for too long. I reckon I’d last about a week before I started having hallucinations of plug sockets and pizza, for example.

    On the other hand there are so many great things about living as wild, but companionship is vital along the way. Befriending animals, especially dogs, can be easier than dealing with busy city people.

    • Robert Bell says:

      I think you might be surprised by how easily you could adapt to living in a more remote setting Alex. I don’t mean living in a cave and eating raw wolf for dinnner, but living without home comforts is something we can get used to. Of course, the key is in wanting to do this

  12. I think I would enjoy taking part in “early retirement” but I would definitely have to find things to fill my days, although I don’t imagine that would be too hard. But, part of me also enjoys the social interactions that working provides, and a lot of my friends and family would be at work during the day while I kicked back doing what I wanted. As long as I don’t mind some solace, it wouldn’t be an issue.

    • Robert Bell says:

      I agree with this Ryan. I certainly wouldn’t run out of things to do if I retired now but might find that life gets a bit lonely at times

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