Both books were written by Elaine St. James in the 1990s. They are a tidy little size measuring just 5½ by 6 inches and averaging fewer than 300 pages each. You could read them both in an afternoon or two.
Ms. St. James was a high-powered real estate investor with a time management system the size of Texas. Her husband Wolcott Gibbs Jr. was an author and magazine editor. She briefly recounts what led to their decisions to sell the Big House, move closer to work to eliminate a four-hour commute, and declutter, declutter, declutter.
In the first book, she offers the reader 100 specific ways to simplify in the areas of home, lifestyle, finances, job, health, and personal life. Each suggestion comes with a brief essay on how she handled these simplifications. Here are some samples:
14. Get rid of your lawn.
22. Build a simple wardrobe.
33. If you don't like the holidays, bow out.
77. Spend one day a month in solitude.
93. Stop carrying a purse the size of the QE2.
I read this book when it was published and it was one of the few I could find then that gave concrete instructions on simplifying your life. Ms. St. James is spot on. I see that of the 100 suggestions, I have accomplished about 98 percent of them. (I didn't have a boat to get rid as per idea #21: Sell the damn boat.)
Her writing style is breezy and never preachy. She offers what has worked for her and relates her suggestions with a sense of humor.
In the second book, she once again inspires with 100 suggestions and relates her own experiences in scaling down an over-bought - and over-wrought - life. There is some overlap with the first book, but this second one takes a more in-depth look at our consumer society and gives the reader some things to think about before simplifying and pitfalls to watch out for during the process. It also includes a few responses from readers of her first book and how they took on the task of assessing their lives, deciding what was really important to them, and what they did about it.
This is all good stuff. For me, it was encouraging to see how many of my own changes have been in place for years. But, as we know, one can always simplify more.
Ms. St. James has another book, Inner Simplicity, that I am on the hunt for. A nice little trio of books to inspire and not take up too much room on the bookshelf. Keeping it simple.