The year was 1994. My daughter was four and my son two. I had stepped away from my teaching job for a couple of years since my paycheck didn’t cover the cost of daycare. My husband took our only car to work every day, while the kids and I stayed home and had the time of our lives (without cable, video games, or the Internet).
It was not the plan for a college-educated woman who became an adult in the 80’s, a decade that brought us the movie Working Girl, yuppies, rampant consumerism, a bigger-is-better mentality, and over-the-top glitter and glam. Madonna’s hit song was a constant reminder we were living in a material world.
One Saturday I took the kids to the library, and a new book by Elaine St. James caught my eye – Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter. I checked out the book and re-checked it out as many times as the library allowed until I knew it by heart.
St. James gave 100 practical tips for simplifying in eight categories of life and was a pioneer in doing so. This was long before words like decluttering, minimalism, professional organizers, and Marie Kondo were a common part of our vocabulary. The author helped me adopt a simplicity mindset at a time when it wasn’t that popular. It set me on a path that has influenced my personal and professional life to this day.
Not long ago I downloaded the book for $1.99, and it was like visiting with a wise old friend. It got me back in touch with the roots of simplicity the author planted in me so long ago. Here are my favorite tips from each section of the book. These days, I don’t believe they need an explanation. There are 90 more great tips in the book, but committing (or recommitting) to just these ten would simplify anyone’s life and spark a whole lot of joy.
- Your Household – #1 Reduce the clutter.
- Your Life-Style – #22 Build a simple wardrobe.
- Your Finances – #38 Get out of debt.
- Your Job – #52 Do what you really want to do.
- Your Health – #69 Learn yoga.
- Your Personal Life – #77 Spend one day a month in solitude.
- Special Issues for Women – #92 Take off your fake nails and throw out the nail polish.
- Hard-Core Simplicity – #99 Get rid of all the extras.
The last paragraph of the introduction to St. James’ book is interesting to read almost 30 years after she wrote it. “Wise men and women in every major culture throughout history have found that the secret to happiness is not in getting more but in wanting less. The nineties appear to be presenting one of those golden moments of change, the opportunity to freely give up the things that don’t make us happy and to incorporate the lessons of the eighties into a simple but elegant life-style for the nineties – and into the next century.”
I wonder how she thinks we’re doing. §
“The only thing we’d ever gotten from a power lunch was indigestion.”
~ Elaine St. James
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