May 26, 2014

Simplicity: Does It Really Take 35 books?

A few weeks ago I made a comment that I have a few bookshelves full of books on simplicity and downsizing. I re-read many of them on a regular basis to remind me of my goal to remain as free as possible from things that don't add to the quality and enjoyment of my life.


Simplicity takes all this?

Rightly so, a reader noted it seems somewhat ironic to have lots of books on simplicity. I hadn't thought it in those terms, but he (was it you, Tom?) had pointed out a rather obvious fact: you don't cut back by accumulating books on cutting back.

I counted: I have 35 books in that category. Well, that is just silly. And, to the larger point of this post: we often do things that upon refection are unhelpful or counterproductive.

Let me offer a few examples. See if any resonate with you:

1. We too often hurt the very relationship we claim is most important to us.

2. We buy something because of an emotional response rather than true need or a well thought out purchase.

3. We don't take the time to eat well and exercise and then complain about how unfair it is that our bodies fail us as we age.

4. We don't like where or how we live but don't change even when we can.

5. We put off until tomorrow, knowing full well tomorrow isn't guaranteed to us.

I guess the answer to these contradictions is we are human. We make silly, dumb, even downright dangerous decisions at times. Our heart or hormones get in the way of our brain.

That reality isn't going to change. The best we can do is to regularly review what we are doing and where we are on our journey. Then, we leave things alone or make adjustments to get back on track.

The "appropriate" ending to this post would be that I gave away most of those 35 books. The actual ending is I haven't touched them and don't plan to. I still find value in them. But, I don't plan on adding to the collection. Is that a step in the right direction?


29 comments:

  1. E-books Bob, E-books. They don't take up any space and are easy to pop open whenever you want. The latest few on my iPad are:

    Living the Quaker Way - Philip Gulley
    The Yin and Yang of American Culture - Eun Y. Kim
    The Bully Pulpit - Doris Kearns Goodwin
    The Complete Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
    The Great Debate Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine - Yuval Levin

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    1. I love your reading list: eclectic and thoughtful. The Gulley and Kim books immediately caught my eye.

      All logic and convenience dictate e-books, and I have close to 50 unread novels and fiction books on my Kindle. But, I still prefer physical books and probably always well. I come from a family of several librarians so maybe it is in my genes!

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    2. RJ, I just ordered the Yin and Yang book, and put the Quaker Way on hold at the library.

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    3. Gulley is perhaps my favorite Christian author. His best book in my opinion is "If God Is Love". I think you will enjoy this one about living a Quaker life. Simplicity is one of their main tenets and I know from this post you are interested in that topic (LOL)

      The Yin/Yang book is very enlightening on seeing who we are viewed by much of the Asian world. The differences between the cultures are very striking.

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  2. I can actually totally relate to your collection of simplicity books. I love reading about simplicity and frugality, I always have. My rule for keeping books is if there is a possibility I will read them again, they stay. If I know I won't, they go. I am a ravenous reader, I read for hours every day, but I only have seven shelves of "keeper" books in my house. I feel good about donating back to the library bookstore books to be resold.

    But then my house is small and it works for me. If you have room and want to keep them, do so. When you downsize you'll have the chance to pick and choose.

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    1. I did donate/sell/gift several hundred books a few years ago. They were ones I knew I would never re-read. But, like you, the simplicity books still call out to me so they stay.

      The good news is we are down from five crammed bookcases to three...progress!

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  3. So true, Bob. I would add the following to the list of examples:
    - complain about our over-scheduled lives without "scheduling" in down time
    - purchase the gadgets to "simplify" a task then complain about the clutter as the unused gadgets pile up
    - complain about the lack of money as we book the next vacation or buy the next latest and greatest
    - complain about being tired as we stay up with our electronics
    I could go on but let's keep it simple!

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    1. Good examples, Mona. At the risk of using a tired cliché, we are good at talking the talk but find it hard to walk the walk. Indecision may or may not be our problem.

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  4. While I have a Kindle that I use, there are still some books I need to have in hardcopy. I think we are part of the last generation that will feel this way. And I also am checking the local library more (e.g. just read a great book from there called "The Amish Society"), since now that I am retired I like to find great deals wherever possible.

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    1. You may well be right about the generational "death" of printed books as the norm. Certainly, there are several major bookstore chains who would agree, and Amazon sells many more downloads than hard copies.

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    2. My local library got rid of all of its print books, and has gone strictly to e-books. I was appalled!

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    3. Susan, you live in the Dallas area, don't you? Your local library got rid on print books? That is crazy.

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    4. I live in the small mining town of Morenci, AZ. There's not a whole lot to do here, and I think that getting rid of the books (especially the children's section) did a great disservice to the people.

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    5. I have been to Morenci several times. I assume Clifton has a library with books., but still, a library without hard copies does a disservice to kids and those without Internet or electronic devices.

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  5. I laughed!

    I read the simplicity blogs. That keeps me from stocking up.

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    1. Glad I gave you a chuckle. Have a great holiday.

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  6. I think an important question for us is, "Do we want to live longer or enjoy the time we have?" To some extent the options are mutually exclusive. I'd rather...Oh never mind. I'll blog about it. :-)

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  7. Yeah, it might have been me ... sometimes I can be a smart aleck. So now, in addition to committing pretty much all of the Seven Deadly Sins, I have also succumbed to Lowry's Five Shortfalls. I think I'm guilty of Mona's Addenda as well.

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    1. You gave me the idea for a post...that is a blessing!

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  8. I chuckled when I read this today. I have about the same number of books on saving money. Most of them were bought in the 90's when I had six kids living at home. Back then there were also numerous newsletters that were out that people could subscribe to who were interested in living the frugal lifestyle. One of my kids asked why I spent so much money on the books when I'm trying to save money. Good thought there. However, I still have these books and still occasionally like to look through some of them. I'll be keeping them. Diane

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    1. For me, the books are kind of like the Bible...every time I read it I notice something new or I have a fresh insight into what God wants me to learn.

      In a purely secular sense, I have the same reaction to many of the simplicity books: something that didn't strike a chord before does now. Like you, I will keep them and refer to them when the mood strikes me.

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  9. I agree, both about having some e-books but some books that just have to be held to really be enjoyed. I also have trimmed down many of my books & am working on trimming more. One other category I'm keeping as "paper books" are a few of the sets of murder mysteries my mom enjoyed before she passed away & some of my dad's bibles & prayer books.I re-read these on a regular basis; I enjoy the books for themselves, I feel closer to my parents. My partner's mom is a religious contemplative, so I have some of her readings also.

    Yup, I have the......wait for it.......books on simplifying (organizing, food plans & finance also.) I did give away/donate many of mine & am down to 3 core books on financial affairs & a few more than that on simplifying, food plans & organizing. I find that they don't work on e-books and that I find something new each time I re-read them, so to me they are keepers.

    Many of the younger folks I hang out with also like "real" books. I think there are fewer of them percentage-wise, but I think the paper will be around for awhile yet.

    As for the rest of your post......sigh. I'm working on it....... ;-) The happy part is I can actually see the progress in several areas; that makes all the hard work worth it! I also smiled at your comments!

    I hope your holiday was enjoyable as well as meaningful.

    pam
    '

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    1. Thanks, Pam. We had my oldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids here for a steak dinner with all the fixings (my youngest was on a business trip out of town). It was a very pleasant day, made possible by the sacrifices of those we remember today.

      I gave my youngest daughter a Kindle just before her month long trip to Australia and New Zealand so she had movies and books for the long flights. She has always been a hard copy reader. I'll be interested to see if she begins to switch over to e-books.

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  10. Maybe everyone should 'pretend' they're moving, and go through all the things taking up your current space, thinking...'do I want this? do I need this? is this important to me in a spiritual way?' Those are some of the questions I've asked myself as we prepare to move. We have donated boxes of books, and kindle is a great alternative if you're concerned about space. As for the 'how-to' books, of which I had tons, much of the advice is dated or no longer valid, you can find advice online that's very specific to you.
    b

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    1. Betty has a file drawer overflowing with the "how to' type info she has clipped from newspapers for at least 20 years (until we stopped getting the paper!). One of my current projects is to convince her everything she has on those clippings that is important or helpful is on the Internet. So far, we still have the paper.

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  11. Well, were it not for e-readers, and your's and Betty's recommendation, I wouldn't be almost finished with my first Anna Pigeon mystery, with number two awaiting, and number three on e-hold at my library.

    I personally can't tell any difference between holding and reading a 'real' book, vs enjoying the same on my e-reader. A good book is a good book, regardless of how it is read. Some of the advantages of an e-reader that we have particularly appreciated on our current multi week RV trip are 1) we can download books on a whim, for free, from our local library any time we wish, 2) because of the lighted screen, we can read outside in the dark on lovely nights such as we had here last night in Paso Robles, and 3) we can read in bed in our RV as late as we wish without disturbing each other. And not have to hold the book up! I prop my sideways on my chest, at night when I read, so I can keep my arms 'inside' and warm in between quickly reaching out and tapping the screen to move the page.

    I'm currently bouncing back and forth between three e-books - Slaughterhouse Five, Julie and Julia, and my first Anna Pigeon novel. I can do so with ease because of the convenience having them all on my e-reader provides.

    Love your list,. Though I have to say that I am not 'guilty' of any of them, it's not without regular, daily effort. Why is it always so darn difficult to do the things that make life more enjoyable, and so darn easy to default to those things which do not?

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    1. Isn't Anna Pigeon fun? I have read eight of them and now have Betty hooked - she's on her third. I love the fact they take place in different National Parks, several of which we'd now like to visit, like Isle Royal on Lake Superior.

      Reading at night without a light on in the confined space of an RV is a good point, one I hadn't thought of. Maybe a goal on our upcoming trip is to Kindle-ize myself.

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  12. living in an RV I had to downsize my cookbook collection...that being said I have as many now, if not more, than I did before! A lot of them are kindle or nook books. But I find I use the handheld ones more. there's nothing better than flipping through the pages of a book.

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    1. One of the things my wife built for our summer trip was a bookcase for the storage area over the master bed. I know we could have gotten everything on a Kindle, but it just isn't the same.

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