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Giving the Benefit of the Doubt

September 18, 2011

I am going to give Elaine St. James the benefit of the doubt by reviewing her introduction to her book Simplify Your Life first. I am normally the type to disregard introductions as much as possible so that I can get to the “good” part of the book faster. However, typically the introduction sets the tone for the whole book.

She quotes Jerome K. Jerome, an English writer and humorist, before beginning her writing.

Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need – a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink, for thirst is a dangerous thing.

Ahhh, doesn’t that sound nice? … more or less? Let’s see.

I love my home; my home is my comfortable refuge and the place that bears my mark in the world. I love simple pleasures – those things that cost next to nothing to enjoy. The summer breeze, the crunch of autumn leaves under my feet, the lapping of waves at the beach, the beauty of a rainy day, the first snowfall. All of these things only need the right attitude and possibly a good friend to enjoy them with. I believe that I have the dearest group of close friends that I could ever ask for. I would much prefer to have two or three friends that know all about me and care for me than to claim the popularity of hundreds. Someone to love and someone to love me would be my dear fiance. A cat and a dog. Hmmmm, would two indoor cats and one outdoor cat be the equivalent? (By the way, while certainly making my life more pleasant, I don’t know that my cats necessarily SIMPLIFY it.) A pipe or two. ***Ahem*** Could I go with a candy bar or two? That’s approximately the same danger to my health. Enough to eat – CHECK. Enough to wear – CHECK. (However, please don’t look in my closet because I would have to clarify that I have MORE than enough to wear.) A little more than enough to drink. Give me water, an occasional Sprite, Simply Orange orange juice and some almond milk and I am good to go.

So…. as for the author, she states that she was involved in the fast-paced hectic lifestyle of the early ’90s and was coming out of the “give me more” attitude of the ’80s. She seems to have been obsessed with organization to the point that she had a “daily schedule, which was laid out in a time-management system roughly the size of Nebraska.” Uffda! Sounds like more work than organization! She suddenly realized that she wanted her life to be much less complicated. She came up with this simplification plan that her husband also signed on to and began to make major (may I repeat, MAJOR) changes.

Their three goals…

1. to have the things in their lives (homes, cars, clothes, diets, relationships) “to be small enough and few enough and simple enough that [they] could easily take care of them [themselves]”

2. to “free [themselves] from the commitments, the people, and the obligations that kept [them] from having time to do the things [they] really want to do”

3. to keep their lives “consistent with [their] desire to live in harmony with the environment”

And her disclaimer that will be important for me to remember as I look through the rest of this book. She says, “Keep in mind that one person’s simplicity is another’s complexity.”


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