Sunday, April 2, 2006

The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs

Life today is anything but simple. With the advent of cell phones, e-mail and cable TV we seem to be busier and more bogged down than ever. Indeed, for those of us that carry a cell phone with us (and actually answer it when it rings), we never really get away from it all. Add to that the constant stream of errands and driving children to school and to their extracurricular activities-- it seems like we are always on the run.

My family's busy lifestyle prompted me to buy the book 'The Simple Living Guide" by Janet Luhrs. I bought the book because I really felt like my family was getting weighted down by our busy lives. Just getting through the cable TV remote was work-- what with 150 channels and all. I felt like every time I tuned on my computer (and I'm a writer, so I tune on the computer a lot) I was being bombarded with the world news, a zillion e-mails, etc. Something had to give.

Well, I'm happy to report that I'm really glad that I bought this book. At first glance, the thick volume seemed like just one more overwhelming thing I had to tackle. The author, Janet Luhrs, gave up her law career to practice a more simple life. I couldn't imagine why someone would give up a lucrative career in the name of simplicity! But then one day I sat outside on a lawn chair and sunk into the book while my kid's happily played in the yard. It was a life changing afternoon.

The book is filled with practical advice for simplifying your life. But it's not just about simplifying-- it's about enriching your life, too. I can't believe it took a book for me to realize that picking flowers with my children is more rewarding than a trip to the mall-- I mean, I think I knew that already but I wasn't living it. This book really helped me to reexamine my life and to make some sensible changes.

The chapters are broken down into important topics: Time (who has enough of that?), Money (and who has enough of that?), Work, Virtues, Family, Holidays, Cooking and Nutrition, Health and Exercise, Clutter, Gardening, Travel and more. The book teaches you how to reclaim your time-- and we all know It is so easy to get stuck in a routine or to lose the day by vegging out in front of the television.

The pieces are written in short, easy to digest segments. There are also boxed items on such topics as insomnia, family life, inexpensive housing alternatives and many more. The book includes helpful resources on everything from money management to family rituals.

We all know that the holiday season is one of the most stressful times of the year and "The Simple Living Guide" devotes an entire chapter to this topic. From tips on how not to get caught up in the holiday frenzy by keeping it simple, to setting a holiday budget, this chapter alone is enough to make the book a worthwhile read.

My favorite chapter in this book, however, is the chapter on Clutter. I am lucky that my husband and I are on the same page when it comes to this topic. Neither of us are packrats, so I already thought that my house was fairly clutter- free. Still, we all have that cabinet or that drawer that we tend to use as a catchall for junk that we're not sure what to do with. This book reminded me how good it feels to get rid of that extra clutter. Items such as kitchen gadgets that you never use, toys that your children have long stopped playing with and clothes that stopped fitting you ten years ago. The book also poses the question that, when you go out shopping and find something that you just have to have, do you know where you will put that item? If your closet is already overflowing with clothes, do you even have room for one more pair of jeans?

Reading Janet Luhr's "The Simple Living Guide" is a cleansing experience, like a breath of fresh air. Indeed, if you're looking for ways to have a less stressful and more simplified life, I would highly recommend this book.

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