Every Wednesday is Simplicity Day on Zen Habits.
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.
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.
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:
- 20 Ways to Get Free or Cheap Books, and Give Away Your Old Ones
- A Simple Playlist for Tranquil Exercise, Productivity, and Calm Living
- 15 Ways to Create an Hour a Day of Extra Time … For Solitude
- The First Rule of Simplifying: Identify the Essential (or, How to avoid the Void)
- Are Your Days Crazy? Take Control
- Edit Your Life Part 1: Commitments
- Edit Your Life Part 2: Your Rooms
- Edit Your Life Part 3: Closets and Drawers
- Edit Your Life Part 4: Your Work Space
- Edit Your Life Part 5: Your Wardrobe
- Edit Your Life Part 6: A Media Fast
- Edit Your Life Part 7: How to Dross an RSS Feed
- Develop Clean House Habits One at a Time
- How NOT To Multi-task: Work Simpler and Saner
- Slow Down to Enjoy Life
- Zen Mind: How to Declutter