zenhabits : breathe

Book review: Simplify Your Life

Every Wednesday is Simplicity Day on Zen Habits.


One of the biggest inspirations for my life, and this site, is Elaine St. James, author of Simplify Your Life and Living the Simple Life, among other titles.

She’s one of my muses, along with David Allen, Stephen Covey and a few others.

St. James taught me to how to simplify, guided me through drastic changes in my life, and showed me the value of voluntary simplicity. I owe her a lot, and today I’ll tell you why I love her books so much.

Her story, in brief
Elaine St. James ran a successful real estate business before deciding to voluntarily simplify her life in 1990. She had a fat planner that contained her entire life, a large house she shared with her husband, and basically all the complications we all have in our lives.


She took a retreat and examined what was really important to her. She decided to change her entire life. She and her husband began decluttering their home, and eventually got rid of so many things that they could move to a smaller home. She sold her business and started writing and doing other things she enjoyed more.

She’s now a best-selling author and a leader of the simplicity movement, and has appeared on numerous national and international television and radio programs, including The Oprah Winfrey Show and Good Morning America.

Her books
St. James has written at least 4-5 books, but the two I listed here are my favorites. The reason I’m reviewing them together is that they’re essentially two halves of the same book — it’s worth getting them both, because they each have a lot of great insight and tips, but the philosophy, style and format are basically the same for each.

The format for each is 100 short chapters, each one a tip on how to simplify different areas of your life. From this, you can probably already see how she shaped me and this site: each tip is extremely practical, easy, and full of common sense.

She talks about your work life, your spiritual life, your relationships, your clutter, how to find time to simplify, your meals and exercise, time management, chores — basically, every facet of our lives.

St. James also presents several stories of readers who simplified their lives (including the story of her and her husband, Gibbs). They’re simply inspiring. One was of a reader who lives in a cabin in Alaska, with no running water — but with a fresh stream right outside. No television, no Internet. The reader cycles to town to get what he can’t get from nature. I’m not doing the story justice, but even if you don’t want to live that exact life, it makes you realize what’s important, and want to scale back.

St. James has a simple, easy-to-read, down-to-earth writing style, and she’s one of the authors whose style I emulate on this blog. Just reading her writing makes you feel calmer.

Recommendation
If you’re interested in simplifying your life at all, these two books are the first books you should get — and possibly the only you’ll need. If your life is complicated and stressful and chaotic, these are a must read.

If you’re not interested in a life of simplicity and see nothing wrong with a complicated life, you probably won’t like these books.

Personally, these are two of my favorite all-time books, and I would recommend them to anyone I know — and that’s all of you. I hope you enjoy them.

Interested in getting these books? Find them here:

Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter

Living the Simple Life: A Guide to Scaling Down and Enjoying More

See also:



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