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135 of 137 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 1999
There's a few recent naysayers who reviewed this book and were very negative, but remember, a lot of people are very defensive about any suggestions that go against the grain of how they've lived their entire lives. Also, a lot of people are consumed with keeping up with the Jones'.
This book is not about being a hermit, being cheap, or giving away all your possessions. It's about keeping those things that contribute positively to your life and discarding the rest. Getting to the essence of things if you will.
Most people wear 20% or less of their wardrobe. Why not then give the other 80% to friends and charities and enjoy a clutter free closet where you can easily find what you are looking for?
If you find yourself stressed out going to 10 holiday parties, then try going to only 2 and see how you feel.
I came across this book in 1994, and have gradually employed a lot of the ideas. I've found a few things that I tried that weren't for me, but overall it's been a huge positive in my life. It's great not being choked with possessions and clutter. It's freed up so much time to do volunteer work, exercise more, enjoy the outdoors more, and just to drink my coffee slow in the morning.
This book is fantastic for those who wish their lives to focus on doing and contributing and experiencing, rather than buying, consuming, storing, moving, weeding-through, tripping-over, collecting, and trying to impress.
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68 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2003
You'll enjoy this book if you are just getting started in the process of simplifying your life, or if you're looking for a little extra inspiration. However, the book is too limited to use an an overall guide.
To understand why, remember that this is really a collection of ideas that St. James and her husband have already put into place in their lives. They were hard core yuppie materialists in the 80's and decided to simplify their lives to have more time for each other. The author's recommendations reflect this orientation. "Get rid of your boat" is obviously not going to apply for everyone. Some of the suggestions to limit your time with others also probably assume that you've already found a life partner; single folks should keep this in mind as they read.
The format of this book also makes for a strange alternation between huge, life-changing choices (move to where you can be close to your workplace), and weirdly specific recommendations (stop using nail polish). I found this to be a little odd, but if you are just looking for ideas, it probably won't bother you. I also found the suggestion to "change your expecations", which turned out to mean, "avoid doing difficult things" to be defeatist and unhelpful.
There are some great ideas in this book in every section. Some of the suggestions are challenging, but could yield great results. Each one, although not helpful to EVERYONE, will probably be helpful to SOMEONE. For these reasons, I'm giving it three stars. The book could be very useful as a way to provoke thought about what is really necessary in your life. Just don't look to it as an all purpose guide, and keep in mind the backgrounds of the authors as you read.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
This book is essentially a brainstorming session - it briefly describes 100 options for simplifying (and from my perspective, organizing) your life. This is a collection of ideas, not a bible. Each reader will have to determine which of the 100 suggestions make sense in her life. Many of the suggestions I took to heart. There's advice on getting rid of clutter, streamlining errands (including grocery shopping), consolidating finances. I developed a standing (daily / weekly / monthly / bi-monthly) to do-list and a standing check-off-what-you-need grocery list in large part based on her suggestions; both are helpful.
Others ideas, primarily those in the "special issues for women" section (which is at the end of the book, and seemed like a desperate attempt to figure out how to get to 100), I wouldn't even consider. Throw out the nail polish? No way; I get great pleasure from looking at my bright pink toes from time to time. Skip the high heels & wear shoes of a consistent low heel height? Pack your lunch every day and stop eating out? Grow your own vegetables? (Don't worry -- since you've streamlined your grocery shopping and can pull resources from your own vegetable garden, it will be a snap.) Get rid of your telephone (not just your cell phone or car phone, mind you, but your basic garden-variety local service?) Get rid of your car? (I'm thinking overpriced taxis, long delays on public transportation, trying to track down a friend willing to play chauffeur.) These things are supposed to simplify my life?
Moreover, many of Solden's suggestions involve cutting yourself off from people - bow out of holidays, stop sending holiday cards, say no to invitations; stop going out to dinner with friends, stop being a member of organizations if you don't enjoy the meetings. I think that these suggestions might be dangerous for a single adult -- you could really cut yourself off from the world if you followed them. (Not to mention, who would you share all those home-grown zucchini with? Who could you count on for chauffeur assistance?)
Overall, this book is definitely worth reading. I think that the handful of ideas I'll actually implement make the book worthwhile, thus I gave it four stars. However, don't try to incorporate all the ideas -- unless they make sense for you.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2000
I enjoyed this book overall, although I did not agree with all of her suggestions (i.e. Not making the bed all day to simplify my life? Come on, Elaine, I can't stand looking at it!) I especially appreciated her suggestions on the social aspects of our daily lives. She has quite a few good practical ideas, while some are not for everybody (including me). However, even the "bad" ones will make you think about what we do! For $10, it is not a bad buy at all!
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
I can't argue with anything in this book. It's simple and practical and adaptable to almost any person. There's nothing special about the advice or the writing. What makes this book special is that it was the first book written in this size and format. I know for a fact that the whole "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" series was patterned after this book. But I personally reread this book every year just to make sure that I'm not complicating my life. I now impliment #20 Drive a simple car, #29 Drop call-waiting, #34 Stop sending Christmas cards, #43 Get rid of all but one credit card, #58 Always split a restaurant meal, and #60 Make water my drink of choice. A word to the wise: a few new daily disciplines can change your life. You can't go wrong with this book.
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53 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2001
The book reads like a collection of household tips, e.g., "Hints from Heloise".
Truly simplifying your life takes a lot more thought and effort than the tips in this book would imply. We live in a society that strongly encourages us to consume and/or strive for status. Real life simplification for many people, myself included, has meant painfully recognizing and kicking away many ego crutches, summoning up the discipline to let go of a lot in order to focus on what really matters.
To her credit, the author has a significantly deeper take on this whole process in her later book, "Living the Simple Life". That is recommended as a complete replacement for "Simplify Your Life"; don't waste your time on it unless your intent is just to free up a few hours in an otherwise unchanged lifestyle.
Also consider "Voluntary Simplicity" by Duane Elgin. It offers a sociologist's perspective, which is a bit dry but includes opinions of dozens of people he encountered in his research on the nationwide movement toward a less materialistic, more relationship-oriented style of living.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2003
I'm writing this review with hopes that the author, Elaine St. James, reads this and realizes what a positive effect she has had on my life. I'm only in my twenties and was stuck in the rat race of life-- getting knee deep in debt and acquiring possessions I didn't need that were taking an enormous amount of my valuable time to upkeep, among other things. I have followed nearly all of the advice in her book and I am debt free, clutter free and my personal life is no longer a "Jerry Springer" episode. This book encompasses simplification techniques for a multitude of areas we all face in daily life-- household, finances, job, personal life, and health, just to name a few. If you are really tired of keeping up with the Joneses and want quality out of life rather than quantity, I recommend the books by Elaine St. James above and beyond any others on the market... and I've read many. And to Ms. St. James, thank you for writing this book because it really did change the course of my life for the better... you don't even KNOW!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
I bought this book many years ago when it first came out and absolutely loved it. About once a year or so, I go back and re-read it to get my head on straight about the subject of simplification (pull myself back from slipping into the complicated). Not everything in the book is for everyone (including me), but it really makes you think.

About 15 years ago, we bought a larger house than we absolutely needed and proceeded to throw things into the basement storage area, kitchen cabinets, etc. because "we had the room" and "we might need this some day". After living that way for years, we developed quite a pile of unused stuff and it began feeling very over-whelming. It has taken us several years to eliminate most of the clutter and to begin to let go of stuff we don't need but felt guilty about getting rid of. It is an on-going journey and this book really helps! One thing comes into the house, one thing must go back out.

Many people think of simplification as moving to a cabin in the woods, but the reality for many of us is that we need to simplify in place. Look at your existing situation and make incremental improvements. Over time, they really add up and I feel much, much freer than when we started this program. The simple wardrobe has significantly cut down the amount of time I spend shopping (and has saved hundreds of dollars), the suggestion for don't answer the phone just because it's ringing has saved us many a meal-time (or just quiet time), keep your plants outdoors was obvious once I read it and wonderful in practice.

There are also some very "deep" steps such as cleaning up relationships that are no longer working for you which are enormously helpful. I have spent the past couple of years making sure that friendships I develop are healthy and fulfilling and cleaning up some old relationships where I just got sucked into relationships with needy, toxic folks. That alone saved hours of time and a great deal of stress and strain.

I just can't say enough about this book as well as her other publications. The whole approach is simple and logical .... just start somewhere and get going. You will find yourself in a store thinking about purchases before you make them and only bringing things into your home and life that truly add value.

What an absolutely fabulous book for a beginning simplifier or someone who needs a refresher on a different philosophy of life.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2004
My very favorite piece of advice in this book is "Give up the boat," which pretty much says it all. For grown-ups who are interested in reading actual books as opposed to shallow one-liners, just about anything else is better. Start with the excellent The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs, the equally excellent The Healthy Living Space by Richard Leviton, and the oldie but goodie Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin. Sweeping Changes deals more specifically with your home environment, and books by Andrew Weil offer health and wellness advice and information that incorporate these values. The magazine Real Simple tends toward Martha Stewart slick, but it often contains good advice, and always contains amazing (and simple) recipes. Definitely worth the subscription price. I'm sure there are many others of substance I'm forgetting or haven't yet discovered, but there are books out there worth looking for.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2000
This book changed my life! It really helps you to see what you can change in your life to make it better. I read this book at the beginning of every year. If you are stressed out and ready to get off the roller coaster of today's world, this book is for you!
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