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119 of 121 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book for those who want to simplify
In this wonderful, inspiring book, Janet Luhrs provides myriad ideas for and insight into how simplifying your life can help you shift gears or even start over from scratch. The book offers loads of practical advice about how to implement changes in your life and escape the cycle of work, consumption, debt, and stress.
The author states at the outset that the book...
Published on March 8, 2000

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108 of 117 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Living in the Sidebars
Janet Luhrs brings her experience as the editor of Simple Living: The Journal of Voluntary Simplicity to the Simple Living Guide. Over 400 pages, this compendium of ideas for "less stressful, more joyful living" is heavy on the many philosophical ideas that fall under the simple living umbrella. In 14 topical chapters ranging from Money to Virtues Luhrs balances her...
Published on July 20, 2002 by Virginia Lore


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119 of 121 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book for those who want to simplify, March 8, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Simple Living Guide: A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living (Paperback)
In this wonderful, inspiring book, Janet Luhrs provides myriad ideas for and insight into how simplifying your life can help you shift gears or even start over from scratch. The book offers loads of practical advice about how to implement changes in your life and escape the cycle of work, consumption, debt, and stress.
The author states at the outset that the book provides a variety of options for those interested in simplifying. Some of these options--like living off the grid or on a boat--will appeal to only a small number of people. However, the great stories from real people's lives do make you think about your job, house, and possessions and how you could streamline. Most of the suggestions (e.g., improving eating and exercising habits and better managing money and time) can be implemented by anyone.
I recently read Elaine St. James's Living the Simple Life and found it wanting and often impractical--foregoing sunglasses and wearing only three colors of clothing are not helpful suggestions to me! This book also focuses solely on the changes St. James and her husband made, with little mention of the wide spectrum of alternative approaches.
Luhrs's book differs by providing a vast array of resources, in addition to using life stories to outline approaches that folks have successfully employed to create more time, less stress, and more joy in their lives.
Buy this book and take from it the inspiration to help you realize who you really are!
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414 of 444 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars read "Your Money or Your Life", March 9, 2005
By 
Wyote (a planet rich in iron and water) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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This review is from: The Simple Living Guide: A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living (Paperback)
First of all, if you haven't read "Your Money or Your Life" already, just click over. That's the classic, the essential, and this is just an accessory. That's why there's 4 stars here: just to distinguish this from that. This book is for those continuing in simplicity, not getting started. If you read the negative reviews, I think you can tell that they started in the wrong place, and that some of them misunderstood "simplicity."

I am not the typical "voluntary simplicity" guy. VS is not about living on $2/day. It's about financial awareness and choices. I've thought about it, and I want to look like I spent about a thousand dollars getting dressed everyday.

But that requires choices, since I don't make $365,000 annually. Not, um, quite. That's what "simplicity" taught me. I don't need to buy an espresso machine, a blender, a dishwaher, a microwave, an MP3 player, or a car. My mobile phone is a dinosaur. I buy the cheapest coffee when my friends and I go to a coffee shop. When we go to a bar, I drink slowly, and thus less (but I buy good beer). I often buy used books, and they look better on the shelf anyway. I do my own laundry, and shine my own shoes. I work out at home rather than buy a gym membership. I eat fruit for lunch. I don't have children, and won't for a long time--the implicit trade-off: I might not live to see grandchildren. I prefer to make my dates dinner and rent a movie rather than go out. I bought my couch used, but it is far more romantic than a theater! And I am no chef, but I can whip up a tiramisu. The VS movement has certainly made me more romantic. I'd like a bigger apartment, but....

On the other hand, I have handmade Italian shoes, wool jackets, silk ties and satin sheets. I turn the heat way down in winter and wear sweaters in my house: each month I save enough to buy a first-rate pair of boxers! (No joke!) That's choices--and that's what voluntary simplicity is all about. You don't give up anything you love: but you choose what you love over what you like. (And hey, as for simplicity: a well-cared for $400 pair of shoes should last at least ten years. I have only one pair of black oxfords, and I won't buy another for many years. Hand wash those knit socks. Etc.)

Although none of my friends can tell, I'm one of these VS folks. I still put about a grand a month into savings. I do shop carefully before I buy clothing, actually taking notes with a notebook, so that I make good choices, and I buy on sale. I recently changed jobs: taking a small (about 15%) pay-cut in exchange for substantially less work (about 50%). No one questioned that, actually! At least not to my face. But anyway, it was MY choice; or rather, my CHOICE.

Everybody's at a different point in life: for some people, VS means telling their kids they can't have a Playstation, or buying generic cereal in bulk, or learning to boil macaroni rather than hitting Taco Bell, and that's a situation far different from mine. But I really believe everybody should check out this VS stuff. It certainly won't hurt.

As far as lifestyle goes: choose for yourself. You don't have to buy second-hand clothes to be a "true" VSer. This isn't asceticism. Do you love fine wine? Do you want a classic Harley? Choose what you love, and live in a way that enables you to have it. That's voluntary simplicity.
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72 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple ideas lead to simple living, October 25, 2002
This review is from: The Simple Living Guide: A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living (Paperback)
We dream of a good life, one that is not cluttered by mounting stress, by deadlines, by worries about money. We dream of a more fulfilling way to live. Unfortunately simple living is an art that one probably never truly achieves, but I think journey is far more important than the goal itself. "The Simple Living Guide" is a guide to beginning your own journey to a simpler and more fulfilling life. While the book can be read as a whole, cover to cover, it seems to read best when broken down into its individual chapters. The reader is invited to begin their process of simplification where and when they are ready leaving other area for later. I began my journey three years ago dealing with the clutter that I, and so many other Americans, gather around ourselves for no other reason than it is expected to have more than we need. Cleaning and exorcising my home of useless kitchen appliances, clothes I could no longer wear, and knick knacks pretending to be works of art was a painful process but one made easier by Ms. Luhrs book. Cleaning out my home led me to simplify my budget, and then to simplify my leisure activities, and most recently to simplify my career.
Ms. Luhrs presents us with the fact that simplifying is a process. One cannot just simplify one area of life and call it good. Every time you change and improve one area it radiates and effects every other area of your life. For example once you start simplifying your budget to save money it leads you to question how you spend your time, where you live, your quality of life, even the birthday gifts you give.
The entire book is written in a warm, personal manner, often if feels as if one is having a conversation with the author rather than reading text. The advice presented is not only practical advice but philosophic or spiritual advice as well. Inner simplicity means thinking some thoughts that are occasionally rather deep. The fact that there is philosophy presented in this book is not a detraction from the book but a distinct positive. There are books about saving money and managing time out there but Ms. Luhrs asks us to pause a moment and ask just what we want from more money or more time. Life changes are always easier when you have an idea of where you are going and why you are making the journey in the first place
"The Simple Living Guide" invites you to take your time, to think about your life and to grow while you simplify. What could be more simple?
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108 of 117 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Living in the Sidebars, July 20, 2002
By 
Virginia Lore "rumtussle" (Seattle, WA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Simple Living Guide: A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living (Paperback)
Janet Luhrs brings her experience as the editor of Simple Living: The Journal of Voluntary Simplicity to the Simple Living Guide. Over 400 pages, this compendium of ideas for "less stressful, more joyful living" is heavy on the many philosophical ideas that fall under the simple living umbrella. In 14 topical chapters ranging from Money to Virtues Luhrs balances her occasionally redundant reflections with sidebars highlighting case studies, offering tips, and providing the nuts & bolts how-to's. Some of these are tremendously helpful and/or interesting. For example, in the chapter on Simple Pleasures and Romance, there is an article by Kirk S. Nevin about his family's decision to live without electricity or plumbing; and the chapter on Inner Simplicity includes a very practical article on dealing with insomnia.
Other sidebars are less helpful, more a mish-mash of 12-step generalisms, such as Luhrs' list of the 28 secrets to happiness, including "get organized," "be humble" and "learn from the past, plan for the future, and live in the present".
My two primary criticisms are that most of the ideas in this book are available elsewhere (see The Tightwad Gazette or Your Money or Your Life) and that some ideas aren't included. There is almost nothing here about permaculture, for example, and very little attempt at introducing serious or radical sustainability.
This book is a great primer for people who may have never encountered simple living philosophies before; however, those steeped in an already-intentional lifestyle will find little here that is new.
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63 of 68 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is 439 pages really simplicity?, March 5, 2000
By 
Douglas Kendrick (Valencia, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Simple Living Guide: A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living (Paperback)
Some time ago, I purchased this book as I embarked upon my own personal quest to simplify my life. Somehow, I couldn't believe that a 400+ page, inch-thick tome would be necessary to guide me on that path. It has taken me over a year to read this book and I'm left with my initial first impression intact--why can 'simplicity' be made so complicated? This book is an incredibly dense read. There is so much information, so many statistics, so many examples and philosophy and suggestions that it leaves your head swimming. Some portions of it are so didactic that I felt like I was back in college doing a required reading assignment.
To be completely fair, I do feel that The Simple Living Guide does indeed accomplish what its subtitle of "A sourcebook for less stressful, more joyful living" would suggest. It is a great SOURCEBOOK. With all this information packed in one place, it has become a useful reference and "jumping off point" for further study. On many occasions I've used the book to get a fresh perspective, find more in-depth information or contact outside organizations. Nearly everything you could possibly want to ferret out is in there somewhere.
But if you're looking for a practical, day-to-day guidebook or introduction to the Voluntary Simplicity lifestyle, this is NOT it. A truly simple (and small) book like "Simplify Your Life" or "Living The Simple Life" by Elaine St. James is far more practical and user-friendly. After you're already on the road to simplification and want to deepen your commitment or understanding, that would be the time for The Simple Living Guide.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Guide Full of Ideas - Not a perfect book, however, August 16, 2006
By 
Elizabeth (United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Simple Living Guide: A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living (Paperback)
I am in my mid-twenties and a graduate student. I have, for a very long time, wanted to save more money and live a life that is less driven by getting things done and one that is more focused on living life right now and enjoying those things that are important to me. I think a lot of time the right book comes along at the right time in our lives, and for me, this book was it. It provides lots of ideas - some about being just a little more simple and some that are about pretty drastic changes. Another reviewer is right that this is not likely a book that people who want to live very radically simple lives would find valuable. This is for folks who still want electricity, maybe a car, some nice "things," and so on. I found it very readable with lots of ideas, and also a very exciting philosophy - driving home the idea that we lose sight of the point of life - that for most people, it doesn't make sense to work a lot, to get lots of money, to get a bigger house and lots of stuff. Rather, we can be more content (and have a lighter environmental impact) by working only as much as we need to in order to meet the needs that are basic and the needs that are most important to us. Thus, if having a nice car is important, save for that and cut down on expensive clothes. It encourages you to thin of life in terms of tradeoffs. If I work 50 hours a week, I can have a big house, but much less time to live in it or be with family. Is this worth it. It also helps to counter conventional wisdom about the kind of money it takes to live a "decent" life. It challenges assumptions and offers new way to think about things. The book did not come across as preachy to me. I think you can take from it what is helpful in your life - it is like a sourcebook or reference book. Take what works for you and leave the rest. I highly recommend it.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple Living Bible, September 13, 2006
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This review is from: The Simple Living Guide: A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living (Paperback)
I signed up for a Barnes and Noble online course on Simple Living that used this book. I checked out a copy of this book from the library (I was already frugal, before buying the book!) and sat down to begin the course. After about five minutes, I realized that there were far too many people signed up for the course. It would take me hours just to read my fellow "classmates" posts. So, in an attempt to bring greater simplicity to my life, I dropped the course! Turned off by the bland cover of the book and its hefty size, I went to return it to the library. In the parking lot of the library, I took one last look at it. It drew me in. Instead of returning it, I have kept it and renewed it several times. The book is now on my wishlist for my birthday next month.

Many of the ideas in the book were familiar to me, but I enjoyed having "amen" moments with the author. On top of what I already knew, I learned much more. I also found that each chapter provided a wealth of references to other resources where I could explore the ideas further. I began to tell my husband that this was the simple living bible. It had all the good advice on how to live a simple and compassionate life.

As for reviewers who had a hard time getting through the book, I would say that it isn't really meant to be read cover-to-cover. I read one chapter at a time, and will refer back to chapters, as needed. I would highly recommend this book.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full of ideas, October 27, 2000
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This review is from: The Simple Living Guide: A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living (Paperback)
This book is full of great ideas for people following the simple living path. The author's essential thesis, although never explicitly stated, is that to live simply, we must consciously consider every consequence of the every decision we make. If we are unhappy with our current money/family/housing/health conditions, we need to realize that these conditions are the result of decisions we made in the past. To live a better life, we need to make better decisions and often a simpler option is the better choice.
Along these lines, the author points out how going along with the average American middleclass lifestyle of large house, large debts, high fat diet, and too much TV is neither fun nor healthy. She suggests countless alternatives, but more importantly, stresses that each person needs to make the choice himself or herself. Even if a person chooses to go along with the usual average American habit, that's not necessarily bad, as long as he or she makes the choice consciously and is content with all of the consequences.
This book doesn't have a lot of specific money advice on how to live a simple life. For this, a reader might look to a book like "Your Money or Your Life". Instead, its strength lies in helping the reader to develop a personal philosophy towards living simply, as well as providing ideas. To provide encouragement, each chapter ends with a short case history of a successful simplicity family story.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best simple living guide out there, January 1, 2006
By 
B. Emory (Wilmington NC) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Simple Living Guide: A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living (Paperback)
A lot of people, including myself, have designated as their New Years resolution to simplify and enjoy what they have. This book is the best instructional guide to getting more out of life and finding happiness in simplicity. Luhrs has taken all the wisdom that she has gleaned from her Simple Living magazine and placed it in this book. The book is divided into different chapters such as health, money, food etc and includes articles from newspapers and magazines, profiles in simplicity (people, movements, organizations), checklists, and of course advice. Some tips I have obtained is to save my money to retire early, make priorities, control aggression and stress, embrace the slow food movement (opposite of fast and convenient foods), and be more mindful of my surroundings. I have enjoyed simple things again such as preparing vegetables for soup, or just walking my dog. I like how Luhrs also has included a lot of references to Scott and Helen Nearing who are my heroes (they are symbolic of the back to earth movement). The advice Luhrs includes are very easy to fall back on. I know that I reflect on my purchases and the time I have spent differently. Plus you do feel better when you take the time to pause and relish your relationships, money, food, clothing, family etc. This is really a great book to start you on a slower more fufilling life.
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96 of 108 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Way Too Complicated, May 16, 2006
By 
EternalSeeker (Albuquerque, NM USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Simple Living Guide: A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living (Paperback)
The key to simple living is to simplify your life.

I don't think the author has really figured that out yet, because this book tries to cover sooooo much information and sooooo many ideas that it just misses the whole notion of simplicity. It made me tired just to try to read it (and I am a very avid reader!).

While the author means well, and has some good advice for those just beginning to try to find a simpler way of life, she tries to retain ALL the facets of life you may possibly want to ever consider trying to "simplify". It reminds me of those alternative "light" recipes for overly rich foods: the real point isn't to create less caloric forms of the recipes, the point is to stop eating that kind of food.

Simplify, simplify! I am afraid as an old practioner of voluntary simplicity I was confused and depressed by this book, which seems to offer very little in the way of true simplification and much in the way of things-I-didn't-know-I-should-be-worrying-about.

Simplicity:

Get rid of anything you haven't used within the past year.

Pay off your credit cards and just keep one or two for real emergencies.

Be monogamous.

Give your time instead of money to those you love.

Turn off the TV.

Think about how to live with only half of the possessions you have and then DO IT.

Eat fresh, simple, whole [organic] foods. Drink water.

Create a garden and spend time in it (instead of watching TV).

Let other people worry about "getting ahead", status trips, newer cars and bigger houses, trendy clothing.

Read: How To Make Your House Do The Housework.

If your kids don't like it, they can complicate their lives all they want when they grow up, but at least they will know how to LIVE first.

Oh, yeah. Read 'Walden' By Henry David Thoreau - often.
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The Simple Living Guide: A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living
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