In many respects, simplicity is at the heart of all Quaker aspirations.
Early Quakers felt they should live simply, tending to real needs and avoiding luxuries. They were aware of the poverty around them and that resources needed to be shared.
For Quakers in the affluent West today, simplicity of lifestyle is challenging. Quakers value the spirit over material objects. This is demonstrated in the way Quakers worship in a simple room undecorated with symbols. Our worship is based on silence in which any may speak which invites a direct, uncluttered experience of the spirit.
The earliest Quakers demonstrated visible forms of simplicity through what was known as Plain Dress; the clothes they wore were plain, unadorned, usually grey or black, and without showing expensive jewellery or other ostentatious displays of wealth. Later on, when many Quakers entered the milling and weaving trades it was noticed that their clothes tended to be of the best quality! So the practice of Plain Dress was dropped, but the spirit carried on.
Today, Quakers will often buy cheaper, fairly traded clothing or support charity shops rather than buy expensive designer labels. Many Quakers still don’t wear jewellery at all, but of those who do, the jewellery is chosen for its sentimental meaning or its aesthetic value rather than how much might be paid for it in the shop. We try to follow Mahatma Gandhi's call to ‘live simply, that others may simply live’.
It is not true that Quakers don’t usecomputers, mobile phones, cars, or other forms of technology; what is true is that they always try to consider the impact that lifestyles and other choices might have on themselves, on other people, and on the Earth itself. Quakers consider whether the benefits of these choices might be outweighed by the harm of them.
You may also be interested in an article by Jenny Spinks.