20 February 2009

Living the Simple Life

I read most of Elaine St. James' Living the Simple Life aloud to Smittywife while we were on vacation over Presidents' Day weekend; she has since been rereading it over the past week, in case you were wondering whether we thought it was a worthwhile read.

Simplifying--the Thoreauvian Imperative I like to call it--has been on our minds a lot recently, since the wedding and move certainly if not before that. We have too much stuff. We both would like to make better use of our leisure time (no wisecracks about my level of leisure time right now, please), and spend our money more wisely. Elaine St. James has written three books about the topic, and though they are more than a decade old now (and occasionally show their age) the tips and techniques she shares for finding more time in the day and overcoming our materialism and inability to keep our time scheduled the way we'd like are timeless.

It's worth pointing out here that Mrs. St. James and her husband are not sell-everything-and-move-to-a-cabin-in-the-woods people. They live in a condominium near a major city, and both work. They're not Unabomber freaks, anti-technology Luddites, or zero-carbon hippies. They're just normal people, living their lives more simply than most of us. And most of us, if we ever took the time to sit and think instead of filling every waking hour with activity, would agree a bit more simplicity would be a good thing. Smittywife and I agree wholeheartedly. We're always looking for help in the matter, and this book was very good for that. Enjoyably written, not particularly preachy. The only problem I have with it is that several parts of the book are clearly meant for people who are much, much busier and more stressed than we currently are. That's actually rather comforting, though.

I will admit, also, that over the last couple days as I've been unpacking the last of the book boxes, I've been able to put far books in the sell/donate pile than I would have thought possible before I read this book; reading about how another book freak managed to make the decision not to own every book in the world has been helpful. I recommend this book for anyone looking to simplify their own life (even parents), but if you don't at least partially buy into the notion that you may need to simplify, this won't convince you otherwise.

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