5 Books to Inspire Your Simple Living Journey
If this is our first time hanging out in this great wide world of the interwebs, there's something you'll probably learn about me pretty quick — I am a major bibliophile.
I fell in love with stories at an extremely young age and the love for reading has never gone away. I spent my college years studying English, which of course required time spent studying classic literature and loved nearly every minute of it (Ancient World Lit and I did not get along). Reading is one of my favorite hobbies and I love fiction and nonfiction alike for the incredible things both can teach us about the world.
Appropriately, my simple living journey began with a book. Though I have found other resources like blogs and YouTube channels that I love and read or watch on a regular basis (and have obviously started this blog of my own), there's still nothing like digging into the long-form storytelling style of a book. And when I think about the pieces of content that have made the most impact on my simple living journey, they are books.
So if you're looking to disconnect for a little while (something I believe is infinitely important), pick up one of these books that have inspired my own simple living journey and go enjoy some of that summer sunshine! (If you're in the Western Hemisphere, that is.)
7: AN EXPERIMENTAL MUTINY AGAINST EXCESS BY JEN HATMAKER
I couldn't make a list of books that have inspired my own simple living journey without including 7, seeing as that's where it all began.
Jen's book is a memoir, written mostly in real-time, of her and her family's experience in intentionally fighting against the excess of the American culture. Jen (and her husband and family to varying degrees) conducted seven experiments in seven areas of life over seven months to fight against the pull of overindulgence, greed, and excess that is so pervasive in the American culture.
The experiments included food, clothing, spending, possessions, stress, media, and waste. As Jen shares her story of only wearing seven items of clothing for one month, only spending money at seven places (including the grocery store and gas station) throughout a month, and more, it forces you to confront your own subconscious patterns of excess.
I read 7 just after moving for the second time in four months. I was already overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I was moving from house to house, and Jen's convicting observations and questions were the catalyst I needed to confront the habits of overindulgence, greed, and excess in my own life.
While the book isn't specifically about minimalism or even simple living, it causes you to sit back and think about the excess in your life in more terms than how many clothes are in your closet and how many items in your home. It quite literally changed my life.
THE MORE OF LESS BY JOSHUA BECKER
Joshua Becker's blog Becoming Minimalist is one of the first non-book resources I discovered on my simple living journey and it's still one of my favorites to read. Though I was nowhere near the beginning of my minimalism journey when this book came out, I was still excited to pick it up.
If you're new to the minimalism game, this is an excellent starting place and is the book I recommend to anyone looking for practical steps to starting the shift to a more minimal lifestyle. It's a combination of inspiration, education, and practical advice for anyone who is overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in their life.
Joshua thoughtfully shares practical advice and personal anecdotes about every aspect of minimalism, including the why and how, as well as the various benefits of it ranging from less stress and better health to more time or money to spend on the things you care about the most.
He also thoughtfully shares stories about his personal experience shifting to a more minimal lifestyle, along with stories from others about the ways their lives have changed for the better when they decided to step away from the consumerist culture and be more intentional about what they let into their lives.
Though I was done with most of the initial decluttering of my home when I read this, I still really appreciated the insights and thoughts Joshua shares on the value of simplifying your possessions and your life.
ESSENTIALISM BY GREG MCKEOWN
Like many people, my simple living journey started with physical possessions, but over the past two years, it has spread into more and more areas of my life.
One of the first things I decided to tackle after decluttering physical items was my schedule and commitments. I have always been a perpetual overcommitter, priding myself on how busy I was and how much more I seemed to get done than everybody else, so this was an area of my life that almost required even more attention and intentionality than a physical declutter did.
Essentialism is more or less the idea of minimalism, but for your life, rather than your stuff. Greg posits the idea that many of make good contributions to the world, but few of us make great ones because our lives are so full of good that we never have time for great. He encourages you to consider the question, "If I could only do one thing, what would it be?" He talks about the importance of rest and play and getting back to the essential, the areas of life where we are able to make our greatest contribution to the world, both personally and professionally.
It caused me to really think seriously about the commitments I had made and helped this perpetual overcommitter to say no to three requests in three days because they didn't fit with the things I want to focus on in that season. If you're at the point where you're looking to move beyond simplifying physical possessions into simplifying the rest of your life, definitely check this one out.
PRESENT OVER PERFECT BY SHAUNA NIEQUIST
I read Essentialism and Present Over Perfect one right after the other and if I had to describe one in relation to the other, I would say Essentialism is the theory and Present Over Perfect is the case study.
I've been a fan of Shauna Niequist's work for a few years now and I've yet to read a book of hers that didn't make me want to leap up and yell, "Me too!!" As soon as I heard she was working on Present Over Perfect, I already knew I was going to absolutely love the book.
Shauna is like a lot of us. She got swept up in the rat race and the cultural mandate that in order to be valued in society, you must be productive and busy all the time. As a writer and a speaker, she was going a hundred miles a minute and beginning to lose the person she was in the process. So she stopped. She started saying no to the things and coming back around to the person she was created to be and focusing on the things that were most important to her.
Much of me is convinced Shauna is myself about 15 years older with an excessive love of cheese I will never be able to understand (#lactoseintolerantproblems), so it's possible her writing style won't grip you the same way it grips me. But Shauna is one of those writers who makes you feel comfortable and at home, so even if you can't relate to everything she writes about, chances are you'll still love this one.
CHASING SLOW BY ERIN LOECHNER
I've somehow managed to start the last two years in a row with a 5 star book and this is the one that kicked off 2017 for me.
Until I heard about Chasing Slow, I had never heard of Erin Loechner or any of the things she does, but in the months since I picked up her book, she has quickly become one of my favorite people to read, both on the internet and off, and her book is currently my favorite one of simpler, more intentional living.
Like Present Over Perfect, Chasing Slow is a memoir about Erin's journey away from a frantic, busy, draining way of live to one that is slower, simpler, and filled with the people and things she loves the most. She shares about the rise of her blog, how she and her husband lost nearly everything in the stock market crash of 2008, and the road they've walked in the nearly 10 years since then.
Perhaps one of the reasons I fell so in love with Erin's story and her writing is because, like me, Erin suffers from anxiety. As someone who has only been diagnosed within the last five years and has spent two and a half of those years simplifying her life, it was such an encouragement to read from the perspective of someone who seeks simplicity and also deals with the hardships of anxiety on a daily basis.
There you have it, friends! Those are a few of my favorite books to inspire your simple living and minimalist journey. I hope you'll pick one up this summer and it will encourage you like it encouraged me!