IV. Simplicity, About | Earlham College
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IV. Simplicity

The Quaker testimony of Simplicity invites us to recognize what is central in our lives by listening to inward leadings and learning from others. That listening can give us clarity as we make choices about the responsible use of our time and resources. A life guided by the testimony of simplicity can lead us to recognize what makes us genuinely happy and to be good stewards of personal, community, and global resources. It replaces distraction, stress, and excess with clarity, focus, and a sustainable life.

Simplicity enables us to discern what is really necessary for the well-being of ourselves, others, and the world. Living simply "cannot be reduced to lists of what is permitted or proscribed.2 " Simplicity leads to joy, not guilt or judgment, for ourselves and others.

Practicing Simplicity

There are limits to one's own time and energy, others' time and energy, and the resources so unequally distributed throughout the world. We each aspire to make only just and reasonable demands on the time and resources of others, to model a balanced life for those around us, and to work toward a more just distribution of resources.


  • How do I discern what constitutes simplicity for me? 
  • What truly brings joy to my life? How can I organize my life to be in touch with that joy? 
  • How do I work to keep my commitments in a healthy balance? Am I aware of what draws me toward over-commitment?  
  • In what ways do I contribute to the community's work for an environmentally responsible and sustainable future?
  • How do I show my commitment to simplicity as an individual and as a part of a community?

2 Paul A. Lacey. Growing into Goodness:  Essays on Quaker Education. Pendle Hill, 1998. p. 75

“Through Quaker tradition, Earlham seeks to maintain the ideal of simplicity and to promote the benefits such a value can provide. In my daily life, this is one of the Quaker principles I give a great deal of energy to, and simplicity repays me by providing me with gratitude. This campus has everything I need academically, emotionally, physically, and the close-community is a perfect shoulder to lean on when one tries to live more simply.”

Gabriel Abraham Middaugh
Class of 2010
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“Simplicity means realizing I have to make choices. I choose what gives me joy, and for me, that leads to a focus on learning and growth.”

Kari Kalve
Professor of English
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Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

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