I wrote a review of The Break last year, but I wanted to share this review (start at about 11 minutes) from one of my favourite booktubers, MercysBookishMusings. Her review is more eloquent than mine was, but she touched on all the things that caught my attention and all the reasons that I loved the book.
When I found out about The Art of Frugal Hedonism, I was intrigued because that sounds contradictory – hedonism, the pursuit of pleasure, is something typically associated with having lots of money to spend on all the greatest pleasures in life: the best food, the most exclusive wine, the softest fabric, the rarest gems, etc. But, the authors argue that there’s a sweet spot between penny-pinching and over consumption. They also maintain that it’s entirely reasonable and appropriate to ignore the typical 40+ hours a week rat race and focus on earning just enough, instead. Combining those two thoughts (having just enough money and working only as much as you need) with a healthy dose of frugal living is something they strive for. In other words, they have a roof over their heads and can feed themselves, but they don’t over indulge and they bargain for goods and services where they can.
One of the great things about this book is that they don’t tell you to drop everything and start being frugal this instant. Instead, they explore different options and explain how these options might work for you or have worked for people they know. Each chapter touches on another aspect or another option, so you get a pretty broad look at all the possible ways you can be frugal and find great, but cheap, pleasures in life, like potlucks with friends or long walks in nature.
Overall, I think that they had a lot of good ideas and great intentions. My one complaint is that I felt that they were very insular in their thought processes. While I don’t expect a book to represent all possible options, I was frustrated by a few things. For example, I felt as though they implied that frugal living was easy to start and to maintain, when in fact it may require a big shift in habits and may even require developing skills that some people would find very uncomfortable. As an introvert, I can assure you that bargaining and community building is not as easy as “just asking” – it requires at least a little bit of courage.
Another thing that I took issue with was a bit of fat shaming. I know that I can be a bit over sensitive to this because of my bad relationship with my body, but I was hurt when these seemingly nice people who seemed to embrace people for who they were and not their physical traits suddenly described seeing gym goers by saying “…the desperate pumping of blobby limbs spied through the gym window.” Based on the context, I believe it was meant as a witty remark, but the implication was negative and it nearly put me right off the book. But, I reminded myself that I can be overly sensitive and kept reading. Sadly, I was disappointed again when they made light of mental illness, implying that it was something that frugal hedonism could cure: “…have you heard about the therapy bills those ‘enviable’ types with designer lounge suites and private pilates instructors are racking p? Choose patchy purchasing for mental and fiscal health today!!”
I nearly quit again, but I resolved to finish reading it because I always try to read as much as I can when I intend to do a review. Thankfully, I didn’t find any more overtly offensive remarks. At the end of the day, I think that they were, as mentioned above, just trying to be witty. But, they were ignorant to the possibility that fat people or people who need therapy might be reading the book. While I’m disappointed by this, I don’t think that the remarks were intentionally hurtful and I believe that the book has a lot of good information in it that could help people who want to try to be a bit more frugal. Personally, I won’t be quitting my job to live the life of a frugal hedonist any time soon, but I have taken some of their ideas into consideration and I’ve referred to many of the resources they provided at the end of the book (books, online resources, etc.).
I think that this book could be very useful and interesting to a lot of people, especially people who are looking for cheap ways to have fun, new ideas for living frugally, or options that they could incorporate into their lives as they embark on long term travelling or living in a van (van living seems to be very trendy these days).
So, yes, I was a bit offended by a few things they said, but, overall, I think this is a good resource and I’m glad that I read it.
I read The Crossroads of Should and Must back in April, took loads of notes, had many thoughts, and then couldn’t seem to bring myself to write a review because it required doing some hard thinking about my “crossroads” and whether or not I truly believe that it’s as easy as picking a “must” over a “should”.
I’ve always struggled with the idea of something – a calling or passion – that I should be doing. It’s a thing that we’re taught in movies, books, and ads – everyone has something that they’re exceptionally good at or that will make them happy for the rest of their lives. It didn’t help that I also knew a number of people who seemed to be exceptionally good at some things and exceptionally passionate about following some areas of interest. I, on the other hand, was a generalist – I was pretty good at pretty much everything I put my mind to, but not particularly fantastic at any one thing. I wanted to be. It seemed like it would be so easy if there was some magic career or life choice that would make me eternally content. But, years of wanting to believe it and feeling that it was my own fault for not finding my “passion” nearly ruined me by making me feel like I might be a failure. There I was in a job that didn’t reflect my interests, much less my “passions” – Where did I go wrong? Did I make bad choices?
It took several years before I was able to see that life is complicated, people are complicated and some of us don’t have “passions” or the temperament to deal with the potentially unpredictable life that might come with turning our hobbies into jobs. Personally, I like having a steady paycheck with a pension, I like not having to be my own boss, and I like having hobbies that are allowed to just be for fun and not be the thing that I have to rely on for my rent.
I’ve become pretty pessimistic about the whole “find your passion” mind set, so I almost didn’t read this book. In fact, I’ve been avoiding books that try to tell us that it’s as simple as picking your passion over a boring office job because I think that it’s bullshit and an unfair dream to promote. Yes, many people have or feel that they have found their passion, but many more are people who are generalists (good at a little bit of everything) or people who need steady jobs, whether it’s because they prefer the stability or because they have a family to feed.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” (Howard Thurman)
All that said, I did end up reading the book because I decided that it’s useful to learn about fostering our passions, even if we don’t necessarily want to turn them into a career. You can have a boring office job while still being a passionate hobbyist!
The premise of the book is that everyone has a calling (our “musts”) and everyone also has to deal with family or social expectations (our “shoulds”). Luna argues that, where reasonable, we should choose our “musts” over our “shoulds” as much as possible. She suggests that we’re at our best and happiest when our job/career aligns with our calling, so that our work life and passions overlap and blend together. In other words, someone who’s passionate about art should be an artist or works in the arts.
One of the most useful things about this book is the discussion about our “shoulds” and how they can limit us. Luna notes that we have to understand why you aren’t free and what keeps you from being free before you can break free. If nothing else, we should be aware of any “shoulds” we have inherited so that we can keep the ones we value and discard the others. Luna suggests identifying them, asking where they come from (society, family tradition, ourselves, etc.), determining if they’re true or useful for us, and looking at if they’re holding us back.
Regardless of whether or not I believe that we all have a calling, I’m a firm believer in continually examining our lives and our beliefs as that fosters growth. Plus, I’m a bit of a rebel who likes to question cultural expectations. So, I found this part of the book to be especially interesting and useful.
I also appreciated that she was careful to note that choosing our “musts” does not mean taking risks that could harm us – uncertainty and risk are fine, but being impulsive isn’t helpful. It’s important for us to remember that life changes may not be easy for us (or other people) because we may not have the same degree of privilege as others (money, time, support) or we may need to consider other factors (like taking care of a family or our mental health). Luna explores some ways that we can make changes without necessarily taking risks. She talks about how to find and foster your passion, how to make room (physically, mentally and financially) for your passion, how to get started, and how to work through roadblocks (including fear).
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I think that a lot of people would really appreciate and benefit from reading it. So, despite my pessimism about “passions”, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone, especially people who feel that they do have a passion or calling that they want to pursue.
Big Magic has been incredibly inspirational, even “life changing,” to a lot of people, but I’m not sold. Throughout the book, I underlined a lot of good ideas and thoughts that I felt were relevant to me. But, I also skimmed over or rolled my eyes at a lot of things. This book made me think about the content well after I was finished, but not all of those thoughts were complementary.
I’m not really into woowoo. I used to be. Or, maybe I just wanted to be because woowoo opened the door to a lot of new, interesting, and non-traditional things for me. But, on the whole, I think woowoo stuff is nonsense: I don’t believe in spirits, I don’t believe in gods, I don’t believe in the the benefits of crystal vibrations, and I certainly don’t believe that inspirations are entities that travel around looking for someone who’s open to their idea. Gilbert does. As an example, she believes that a story she worked on but eventually ignored and lost had actually transferred to another author who nurtured that story into a published book, even though they’d never discussed the premise.
I think that one of the reasons this book is so successful is because it’s full of quotable quotes. I would often find myself drifting away from the book when I suddenly found a great line that dragged me back in. I’m pretty sure you could find a good quote on every other page, at least.
Some of these quotes ooze with that syrupy goodness we all love to hate on Instagram and Pinterest, but a lot of them are really good and/or relevant (to me, our times, our society, etc.). I don’t think that she said anything that was new to me or particularly profound, but maybe that’s just because I read and think about things like creativity fairly often.
One of the reasons I’ve struggled with how I feel about this book is because it both delighted and frustrated me. Gilbert said a lot of things that really resonated with me and even some things that made me stop, think, and get a little emotional about my own life and my relationship with creativity and art.
But, I also found a lot of her discussions to be frustrating. A good example of this is her advice to avoid fetishizing suffering. I completely agree with her on a high level – suffering is not something we should celebrate or strive for as it hurts us and hurts people who truly are suffering. But, some of her arguments made me feel that she had no understanding or respect for people who truly suffer. I struggled with how to articulate my concern because I couldn’t really pinpoint why I was concerned until I was in the middle of reading Reasons To Be Alive by Matt Haig, a book about depression and his experience living with depression and anxiety. In one section he talked a lot about famous people who’ve dealt with or continue to deal with depression, and he noted that a lot of people (himself included) use creativity as a means of dealing with or mediating their illness. For example, he writes because it helps him deal with his depression.
I think Gilbert’s intention was good and I think that she was trying to remind the reader that you don’t have to suffer in order to be able to be creative or to make things that are worthy. But, the way she did it felt like she was ignoring or possibly belittling the very real and very unavoidable suffering that some artists deal with.
So, if you read the book, remember this: you do not need to suffer to be creative, but being creative may be a good tool for dealing with or processing your experiences if you do suffer.
One thing this book does pretty well is champion creativity: anyone can be creative, you don’t have to be “good” to be creative, etc. But, it sometimes felt a bit contradictory. For example, there were a couple of places where I felt like she was preaching that we shouldn’t bother with being professional creatives, but then spent the next several chapters providing advice that seemed geared specifically towards people who were pursuing a creative career. Taken as a whole, the book clearly supports the idea that everyone should be creative, whether you make a career out of it or not, and you don’t have to be a “professional” to share your work. But, her arguments seemed to be a bit all over the place. Maybe it’s the scientist in me, but I found the lack of structure a bit annoying and confusing.
Personally, I found Show Your Work by Austin Kleon and The Shape of Ideas by Grant Snider (see my review here) to be more inspirational and motivating because they presented clear ideas in a more organized manner (read: easy to understand).
The good stuff
Despite my frustrations with the book, I did enjoy it (and, to be fair, I didn’t realize how much the book frustrated me until I thoughts about it and reviewed my notes – so, maybe don’t think too hard about the book). Gilbert said a lot of things that I need to be reminded of often and that I believe to be true:
- Being creative doesn’t just mean being an artist
- Your dedication to your creativity is more valuable than talent
- You don’t need anyone’s permission to do something creative
- Originality is over-hyped – focus on being authentic to yourself
- Good enough is better than not at all
- Don’t look for your passion, just be open to curiosity
You made it; you get to put it out there. Never apologize for it, never explain it away, never be ashamed of it. You did your best with what you knew, and you worked with what you had, in the time you were given. You were invited and you showed up, and you simply cannot do more than that.
I will keep my copy of the book, for now at least, because it has a lot of notes that I think might be valuable when I’m feeling frustrated with my art. But, I’m not sure if this is a good book, or just a well marketed book with great quotes. But, hey, if you get something out of a book, then it’s worth the time it took to read it. So, if the premise interests you and you feel like you could use a pep talk about creativity, then this book is worth considering. If nothing else, you can skim through to the bits that you need most.
Everyone should consider reading Reasons to Be Alive, whether you have depression, know someone who has depression, are curious about depression or might, at some point in your life, encounter depression in yourself, in a loved one, in a stranger, etc.
While not a definitive book about what depression is or how to deal with it, Haig is able to clearly express the bleakness of his depression and anxiety, and the effort he needed to work through the worst period of his life, little by little. I don’t think that I’ll ever
forget he’s anecdote about going to the store down the road and how something as seemingly harmless as a little corner store could cause so much anxiety. Those few paragraphs put a lot into perspective for me.
Despite the focus on depression and anxiety and telling the reader about his darkest days, Haig never sounds sorry for himself and never implies that we should pity him. He’s very matter of fact about his experience. As he says in the book, this isn’t about suffering with depression, it’s about learning how to live with it.
“If you have ever believed a depressive wants to be happy, you are wrong. They could not care less about the luxury of happiness. They just want to feel an absence of pain. To escape a mind on fire, where thoughts blaze and smoke like old possessions lost to arson. To be normal.”
I think that one of the most important aspects of the book for me was how he was careful to explain (and show) that mental illness isn’t a weakness or a gateway to artistic genius. It’s just a thing that some people have – a part of themselves that can affect their life both negatively and positively.
“People often use the word ‘despite’ in the context of mental illness. So-and-so did such-and-such despite having depression/anxiety/OCD/agoraphobia/whatever. But sometimes that ‘despite’ should be ‘because’. For instance, I write because of depression.”
I read this book based on Cait Flanders recommendation last month after a couple of celebrities committed suicide. She spoke highly of it and I’m very glad that I picked it up despite thinking that it wouldn’t be for me simply because I’ve never been suicidal. It was for me because it helped me to understand depression and anxiety a little better.
To be completely honest, when I first started listening to Life Reimagined, I was filled with dread and regret: I’m going to die alone, immobile and demented! It’s a hard book to read when you’re in the middle of questioning all your life decisions (what I thought was a mild “mid-life crisis”, but this book points out that mid-life crises don’t exist). This book doesn’t sugar coat the science, so it can be tough to read. But, it’s also incredibly interesting.
Hagerty lays out the truth of mid-life: we all think that this is when life takes a downward turn, and the choices we make now can certainly have major impacts on our health and well-being in the future, but mid-life is full of new possibilities and opportunities to explore new hobbies and new purposes. As the summary states, “It’s the time to renegotiate your purpose, refocus your relationships, and transform the way you think about the world and yourself.”
Hagerty looks at biology, genetics, sociology, neurology, psychology, and how they all link together, affecting our health and relationships. She ties these to our potential futures, lining our current choices with our future physical and mental health.
I was particularly interested (and worried) about the correlation between mental health (depression, dementia, etc.) and our social lives. Essentially, we all need to remember to stay connected with friends and family, even if we are introverts who’d rather stay at home with a good book. Thankfully, for those of us who still want to read more than we socialize, reading is good for our brains, too.
What I loved best about this book was that Hagerty was honest about the data, but she wasn’t doom and gloom – she focused on the good and showed how even little changes are correlated with good outcomes. Essentially, we all need to eat better, walk more, read on occasion, learn new things on occasion, and stay connected. This is not new information for most of us, but it was nice to see if outlined in the context of middle age.
I enjoyed reading this book, though, as mentioned at the start, it was a bit tough at times. It’s easy to feel we’re failing to lead the “perfect” life, but I kept reminding myself that if I could do just 75% of what Hagerty says I should be doing, then I’m doing better than before. And, I’m both improving my future and my current mental and physical health.
I really wanted to love this book, but, as interesting as the many topics Harris covered were, I felt that the book veered into crotchety, distracted old folk territory.
Solitude: In Pursuit of a Singular Life in a Crowded World starts with a good overview of what solitude is (not loneliness, for the record) and why it’s important to have some time to ourselves on occasion (including time away from our smartphones). Harris discusses the benefits of solitude in the context of children (it helps them develop self-governing skills), thinkers (having time to consider your ideas before sharing them), and the general public (consolidating thoughts may help us to find a sense of meaning and happiness in our lives).
“… because whoever can do nothing, letting his thoughts go where they may, must be at peace with himself.”
I didn’t agree with everything he said. For example, he seemed fairly convinced that only miserable artists will succeed, which is utter nonsense. While I understand that dissatisfaction can lead to creativity through what Harris calls attempts to “build a bridge”, I don’t think that you have to be miserable to be an artist, successful or not. I think that happiness can foster creativity. Perhaps being content with how things are can be a road block – if you don’t see a need for change or a need to add another voice, then you may not be inclined to create something. But, the idea that an artist needs to be dissatisfied to be successful seems a bit black and white. In her book, Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert is firmly against the trope of the tragic artist. She notes that it is possible to enjoy making art and that we shouldn’t fetishsize suffering or mental health issues. And, I agree with her.
But, back to Harris’ thoughts on solitude. He also discusses the fact that we should all be able and comfortable with making our own decisions, which can be hard when we’re constantly plugged into the rest of the world (whether that being through social engagement or social media). One of his points struck a chord for me: “… then the choices we make online about what books to read, what songs to listen to, what movies to watch become less independent and more manipulated.” This happened to me over the past two years with regards to books. I went from “oh, hey, that sounds like a good recommendation. I think I’ll read that” to “she says it’s good, so I must read it.” That’s why so many of the books that were on my unread shelf at the end of last year were so easy to get rid of – they were good books with great reviews, but I was only going to read them because they were good books, with great reviews.
Unfortunately, it’s at about this point in the book when I felt that things were starting to go sideways. It felt like a lot of the discussion in the latter half of his book was really just him complaining about cultural evolution. Things have changed, technology has been developed, some innovations have affected our privacy and how we connect. Some of this is good, and some of it is bad, but I felt like Harris was cherry-picking examples to whine about kids these days. For example, he had a long discussion about people who’ve never written a snail-mail letter or used a typewriter before, but completely neglected to look at the people who are embracing such things (not just in terms of the hipster culture, but also in the context of simple living).
Later in the book, Harris started to talk about our failing bodies and death. This where I got lost. I couldn’t figure out what any of this discussion had to do with solitude. It was an interesting discussion about mortality and technology, but I couldn’t find the connection to solitude.
In the end, Harris did swing back to the topic of solitude, but I was a bit disappointed in some of the things he said. It felt like he was imposing his own feelings or assumptions on how we should seek and experience solitude. For example, he discussed the balance between being alone (solitude) and being with others (real or virtual). Overall, the discussion was interesting, but it felt like he assumed that there was a set ratio: you need 1 hour of solitude for every 3 hours you spend with others. But, that’s not true. The kind of company you keep (strangers, friends, friends you can be “alone” with) will affect how much (if any) alone time is needed afterwards. So will the kind of person you are – an extrovert will need (and want) far less solitude than an introvert.
I was also disappointed when he suggested that there was a right way to seek solitude. He used Thoreau and the unabomber as examples, which suggests that if you do it wrong, you’re going to become a domestic terrorist, which is silly and alarmist. There are many ways to be alone, and there are many reasons to be alone. Both of these men chose solitude for different reasons. How the unabomber found his solitude may have exacerbated he’s isolation and extreme thoughts, but it didn’t necessarily result in his actions. In other words, running off into the woods alone isn’t necessarily going to turn someone into murderer.
Overall, I found the book to be fairly interesting (I even wrote enthusiastically about the idea of “rediscovering” ourselves a few months ago), but I did feel that it suffered from a lot of scope-creep (turning off into topics that were only loosely related). It’s worth reading the first half, but it’s certainly not Harris’ best book.
I’ve heard a lot of really good things about this book and it’s positive take on minimalism, so I was really shocked and disappointed by some of the assumptions the Sasaki made. While I believe that his intentions were good and that he did not mean to be exclusive in his assumptions, this book reeks of the his privilege and ignorance. I tried to take everything with a grain of salt and I tried to be open minded (he’s Japanese, so maybe something was lost in translation?), but I just can’t get over some of the nonsense in this book.
Sasaki does have some good ideas and suggestions regarding minimalism in general. I didn’t feel that it was particularly unique or inspirational, but he laid out a good foundation for minimalism and why it’s worth considering. Aside from a few minor comments that were stereotypical (ex: women loving clothes/dresses), I didn’t start finding problematic statements and ideas until Sasaki started talking about how to be a minimalist (about a quarter of the way through the book). At that point, he almost immediately showed his privilege by implying that we all have jobs and housing situations that we love (or loved) at some point. To me, this immediately disregarded anyone with limited options, such as the huge number of people/families who are living in low-income situations or have limited job oppotunities.
Sadly, many of the comments/ideas I highlighted throughout the book oozed with the same privilege. Based on his book, I suspect he knows little or nothing about: having to consider the needs of the whole household (whether that be partners and/or children), having limited money or resources, having limited choices for jobs or where you live, etc.
He spoke about minimalism like it was so easy and I felt like he was suggesting that it was ridiculous that we weren’t all living at the same level of minimalism as he is (he’s what many would consider to be an extreme minimalist). He claimed that there was no right way to do things and he claimed that that was OK, but the words he used and the suggestions he made in most of the book implied that we should all just get rid of everything, even some (if not all) of the things that bring us joy.
For me, this book was completely out of touch and it framed a way of living that’s not only difficult to achieve (even for someone like myself – childless, good job, low expenses, etc.), but that also sounds horribly stark.
I appreciated some of the ideas Sasaki had, but I hated this book. If you’re interested in minimalism but not interested in being “extreme,” then don’t read this. It will just make you feel bad about your efforts or feel like the idea is unattainable. There are so many other books out there that are better: more inclusive, more inspirational, less judgy, etc. There are also a lot of online resources (YouTubers, etc.) that cover of range of realistic situations and efforts to be more minimalist. Here’s a list of some of my favourites books and resources that are about or that support minimalism or simple living:
- The Minimalists (their podcast, their books, their Ted Talk, etc.)
- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (admittedly, I wasn’t a huge fan of her second book)
- Break the Twitch (I follow him on YouTube, but his blog is the same content)
- The Messy Minimalist (I follow her on YouTube and you may appreciate starting from her first video has she shows a very honest view of the process)
- Soulful SImplicity (I found this book to be very inspirational)
- The Year of Less (another book that I found very inspirational and it’s by a fellow Canadian)
- Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More (an eco-friendly take on minimalism)
- Chasing Slow (a good, solid read about simplicity and minimalism; I posted a review earlier this week)
One final thought: minimalism or simple living doesn’t have to be a life with nothing but the necessities. You’re allowed to have art, colour, an extra mug (or 3), a box of letters, hobby supplies, books, etc. Just don’t have more than what *you* need to function and be happy. Keep the things that bring you joy, as Marie Kondo would suggest, and stop worrying about keeping up with the neighbours, whether they have all the best consumer items or they are extreme minimalist. Only you can know where your happy spot is.
As noted on the author’s website, Chasing Slow is about “slowing down, about stripping the excess, about refusing to amass in a world that shouts for more”. In other words, it’s about simplifying your life and minimizing your possessions. What makes it stand apart from books like The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is that it’s not strictly a how-to book. It’s full of advice, but it’s also full of anecdotes about the author’s path to simplicity, the good and the bad.
I enjoyed the book and got a lot of good advice from it. It’s a good, solid read and I think that a lot of people would really enjoy it. Some of the advice she gives is really thoughtful and I found her book to fairly inclusive (for example, she doesn’t preach getting rid of everything and seems to have a fairly realistic view of simplicity and minimalism).
The three main things that I got from the book are:
1. Our default equation is to add more when we feel less
I think this is pretty common knowledge: we buy things to feel better about ourselves, we strive for bigger homes, we work to get larger salaries, etc. But, as Loechner notes, this equation wrong. Adding more things to our lives won’t make us happier, except maybe for that brief moment when we make the purchase (obviously, there are exceptions: if you are poor, a larger income will make you happier; if you have two jobs and three kids, kitchen tools that make meal prep faster will free up more time; etc.).
But, we’ve been led to believe that we should buy more to be more. For many of us, that simply means having more things around, but still being at the same base level of happiness or contentment. Or, being worse off because we spend all our time maintaining all those things or working to afford the space to house all those things.
One of the things Loachner said in her book that struck a chord with me was that we should remove the weight from your wings so we can fly. I’ve seen this or similar ideas in other books, but it felt particularly relevant while reading her book. The idea is that we all have capacity to fly, but it’s easier to do so if we aren’t carrying a load, whether that be stuff, emotional baggage, or the social rules we use to lock ourselves into to be versions of ourselves that we think society will approve of.
2. Things should add value, meaning or purpose
What Loechner said was this: “If it does not add value, it does not add much. If it does not add meaning, it does not add much. If it does not add purpose, it does not add much.”
This is very much in line with Marie Kondo’s philosophy of only keeping things that bring you joy (or have a purpose). And, I think that it’s a good philosophy to follow. It doesn’t mean that you can only have things that add value, meaning, or purpose. It simply means that anything else won’t add much.
And, of course, how “value”, “meaning” and “purpose” are defined will depend on you. Does “value” mean increasing the value of your house, or providing you with a service that is valuable to you? Does “meaning” need to be a family heirloom, or can it be a special souvenir or photo from a vacation?
3. Life lessons in frugality
At the end of the book, Loechner shares several life lessons. The list include basics like “it’s not a sale if you don’t need it” or “never buy anything dry clean only.” It also includes ones that I don’t see that often, like:
- You can save time or you can save money – shopping universally saves neither
- Reduce, reuse, or just plain go without (the less you have to dust, the less you have to dust)
- Don’t be afraid of that thrift store musk (it washes out)
Overall, I found the book had a really good balance between Loechner’s own story and her advice about simplicity and minimalism. I think that a lot of people would find it very inspirational and would feel that they could relate to her story more than I did.
It’s a good book and you should read it if this is a topic you’re interested in.
I’m not entirely sure what made me decide to pick up this book last year. I like to write, but I don’t want to be an author. I guess I was just curious to read the book because I kept coming across references to it. It’s often noted as a book that’s very important for writers and very inspirational.
On one hand, I can see why people find it inspirational, but on the other hand, I feel like I learned more about the author than about being a writer. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – I’ve been inspired and changed by many books that were, on the whole, just autobiographies and a scattering of tips and life lessons.
The one part of the book that made me sit up and pay attention was her discussion about how perfectionism is like a cramped muscle:
I think that something similar happens to our psychic muscles. They cramp around our wounds – the pain from our childhood, the losses and disappointments of adulthood, the humiliations suffered in both – to keep us from getting hurt in the same place again, to keep foreign substances out. So those wounds never have a chance to heal. Perfectionism is one way our muscles cramp. In some cases we don’t even know that the wounds and the cramping are there, but both limit us. They keep us moving and writing in tight, worried ways. They keep us standing back or backing away from life, keep us from experiencing life in a naked and immediate way.
I struggle with perfectionism. You’d never know it to see me or speak to me, but that’s because I tend to hide it well. I also default to “if it can’t be perfect, there’s no point in trying,” so people rarely see my perfectionism in practice. This “go big or go home” attitude is both ridiculous and immensely unfair to myself.
When I read this, I immediately recognized myself and many of my issues with moving forward with art. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I used to aspire to being an artist – studying art, doing art daily, etc. But, I let life get in the way and eventually found that my skills had diminished and I’d lost my path. Being a perfectionist, my reaction to this was to become despondent and to assume that there was no hope. So, I turned to other creative endeavours, especially hobbies that looked easy enough and still allowed some room for creativity. But, I was never satisfied and I could never stop thinking about how I had always wanted to be an artist.
While the book didn’t leave much of an impression on me, this paragraph did because it became the catalyst that started to move me forward. I started to sketch more (now daily, where possible), I started to look for and take art classes, I started to evaluate what I needed (and wasn’t getting) from the art classes I was taking, and I started to remember how great it was to make art. So, I guess the book had it’s intended effect on me. Sure, I’m not planning on quitting and heading to art school, nor am I interested in becoming a professional artist. But, I make art, I aspire to learn more, and I finally feel comfortable calling myself an artist again.