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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Simpler Living: A Back to Basics Guide to Cleaning, Furnishing, Storing, Decluttering, Streamlining, Organizing, and More » User review

Anything But Simple

  • Dec 24, 2010
  • by
Rating:
+2
One of my first tests of a book is when the review copy arrives in my mail box: just how eager am I to read it? When I received my copy of Simpler Living (for the full title, see above, as it is far too long and complicated to repeat!), I winced. Hoo boy, some real heft here, with 456 pages and heavy hard covers and glossy pages filled with stock photos.

The book appears to address those of us who have busy lives and are forever on the run, trying to find a way to organize and simplify. Well, a book of this kind of heft and size isn't going to be simple to carry with me for the kind of reading I have to do on my schedule. As one of those too-busy people, I tend to grab a page when I can, on the run. I put a book in my purse or briefcase, I read a few pages before sleep and then put it on my nightstand, or I take it along on whatever errand I have to run, just in case I find a spare moment. This is impossible with a book this size. And so, it stayed on a desk in my spare bedroom. And it stayed. And it stayed. No, it doesn't belong on my coffee table. That space is reserved for my favorites, art books and travel books, a book of poetry or a magazine. More than that and we begin to look at clutter—just the thing this book is trying to tell us to avoid.

Out of sight, out of mind, but eventually I picked the book up again—and yes, was forced to tote it along in my briefcase so that I could do some lunch hour reading. The author warns us up front that this is not the kind of book one reads cover to cover, which I had already figured out. But as I started to skim through, reading a page here and a page there, I had to consider just how would I use such a book? And is it formatted for that kind of best use? After all, I am all for simplifying. Indeed, I have been steadily doing so in all areas of my life. My plan is to eventually retire to a one- or two-room cabin, so extra stuff will definitely have to go and simplifying my life is actually one of my highest priorities these days.

This book would have to go. Not only because it is so large and so heavy, but because it attempts to cover far too much—some 1,500 hints on how to simplify one's life. Perhaps the author should have considered his own advice and simplified in order to be more relevant, timely and accessible. The book is a clutter of far too much information. Less really is more. In this day and age of easy access to the Internet, I'm not sure I see the purpose of this book at all.

The idea of Simpler Living seems to be that when I am contemplating what to do about a cluttered closet, or a broken-down appliance, or out of control debt, or a lackluster relationship, or redecorating that spare bedroom, or entertaining a group of friends, or preparing to go grocery shopping, or … I would go looking for this book for advice?

Um, no.

If my car has stalled, I will go to my most trusted mechanic for advice. When I am redecorating, I will check my local handyperson stores and talk to a contractor or browse through some books and magazines specifically about home decor. When I am getting ready to throw a party, I will page through my best cookbook. When I am considering my financial options, I will set up an appointment with my financial advisor, who knows my resources and my goals for my future.

Photos (stock) unfortunately are at odds with content. For instance, we read advice about keeping one's nightstand no higher than one's bed for ease of access and view of clock (that's sensible), even while some pages later is a large photograph of a child's bed with the nightstand a good 10 inches higher than the bed.

Simpler Living certainly has some good, general advice within its many pages. Although geared for a middle-class to relatively wealthy family in its advice, it tosses out a few nuggets of wisdom some of us could use. Yet these nuggets are too hard to find. In fact, at first blush, I can't recall any. Most everything in the book is very general and painfully obvious. Throw out what you don't really need. Pay off the highest interest credit card first. Backup your files on your computer.

But you knew that already, didn't you?

There is also some questionable and odd advice. For example, the author suggests attaching one's bedside lamp to the wall rather than on one's nightstand, as that way there should be more room on the nightstand (for more stuff??). This, the author asserts, can eliminate the need to dust. Huh, wait a minute. Why would I not need to dust a lamp just because it is affixed to the wall instead of standing directly on my nightstand?

Another painfully obvious example: "When you send a fax, remember to indicate whom it is for and who is sending it. Keep a supply of transmittal forms near your fax machine."

I had to just blink at that one. Most of us in 2010 no longer use fax machines, but if we do, surely we know this basic information about sending a fax. If we don't, somehow I would guess this book won't help. Has America really sunk to such dumbing down levels? Reminds me of the label I recently read on a jar of peanut butter: "Warning: contains peanuts."

And then there is this: "Instead of spending your money on books … pick up the New York Times Book Review." The advice goes on to state that once you've read the review of the book in this publication, you will no longer have to read the book at all in order to discuss it "intelligently" at the office water cooler.

See previous paragraph about the dumbing down of America.

And then keep your money for paying off debt and pass on buying this one.

Author Jeff Davidson is founder and director of BreathingSpace.com, an organization devoted to helping people live and work at a more comfortable pace. He is the author of 56 books, including 60-Second Organizer, 60-Second Self-Starter, and 60-Second Innovator, and the iPhone App "Making Life Simpler." He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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December 24, 2010
I had to giggle :) You write very well, a review of such a painful book - effortlessly written. Dumbing down? For sure, I wince regularly at labels and tabloids at the checkout. Real books will become obsolete if people are getting dumber and dumber at this rate! I would love to have a whole room dedicated to a library, but since I do not have that luxury I keep tidy just by getting all the books I read at the public library, and the money I save goes toward paying off the mortgage! :)
March 02, 2011
try reading the book before you make unwarranted comments. here's what another reviewer said about the "anything But Simple" comment : I just read a curious review. There is a reviewer who requests a book and then says one of her first tests as it arrives in the mailbox is, "Just how eager am I to read it?" The book, which is featured on Amazon and all other book vending sites in the world, is listed as: a) containing 456 pages, b) 8.8 x 11.1 x 1.1 inches in landscape format, c) weighing three pounds, d) having this subtitle: "A Back-to-Basics Guide to Cleaning, Furnishing, Storing, De-Cluttering, Streamlining, Organizing, and More." This reviewer, however, a) is surprised at the book's size, hard cover, and glossy pages filled with 950 photos b) laments that the book won't fit into her purse, c) concludes that "a book of this kind of heft and size isn't going to be simple to carry with me for the kind of reading I have to do on my schedule", d) complains that the author used 950 stock photos as opposed to paying a photographer a fortune over the course of a year to take unique, individualized pictures, e) has decided that this coffee table book doesn't belong on her coffee table, which is reserved for books and magazines on art, travel, and poetry. She asserts that this book would clutter her coffee table, "just the thing that this book is trying to tell us to avoid." "It Won't Fit in My Purse" The reviewer laments that she was "forced to tote it along in my briefcase so that I could do some lunch hour reading." She points out that the author told her up front it's not the kind of book one reads cover to cover, but then couldn't figure out how exactly she would use this book: "As I started to skim through, reading a page here and a page there, I had to consider just how I would use such a book? And is it formatted for that kind of best use?" She says that her plan is to retire to a one- or two-room cabin, so extra stuff will definitely have to go, and concludes that "this book would have to go... Not only because it is so large and so heavy, but because it attempts to cover too much – some 1800 hints on how to simplify one's life." She then decides that "perhaps the author should have considered his own advice and simplified in order to be more relevant, timely, and accessible," and concludes, "the book is a clutter of far too much information. Less really is more. In this day and age of easy access to the internet, I'm not sure I see the purpose of this book at all." "It's All About Me" Here we have the reviewer who is unable to surmise that anyone else in this world (you know, the kind of people married to each other with two or three children and perhaps a house of more than four rooms) could possibly benefit from this book. "The idea of Simpler Living seems to be that when I am contemplating what to do about this and that... I would go looking for this book for advice?" For this reviewer, the profound answer is, "Um, no." When her car has stalled, she'll go to a mechanic, not a book. When she's redecorating, she'll employ her local handy person. When she's considering her finances, she'll set up an appointment with a financial advisor. When looking for specific advice in a highly timely manner, hardly anyone will go grab a book. They will go to the Internet. So, let's chuck all multi-topic self-help or reference books! that Simpler Living is as a reference book, not a page-turning novel: the same could be said of any reference book, self-help book, or how-to book ever written. "At First Blush" The reviewer goes on to say that "Among the 1800 tips offered, a few nuggets of wisdom are useful, but they're too hard to find. In fact, at first blush, I can't recall any." She adds, for emphasis, "Most everything in the book is very general and painfully obvious." She also comes to the conclusion that there is some "questionable and odd advice", and goes on to nitpick ad nauseum. She observes, "Here's another painfully obvious example of questionable advice: 'When you send a fax, remember to indicate who it is for and who is sending it. Keep a supply of transmittal forms near your fax machine.' She says that she "had to blink at this one, because most of us in 2011 no longer use fax machines, but if we do, we surely know this basic information about sending a fax." Really? More than 19,500,000 solo entrepreneurs operating out of their homes, half of whom own fax machines, receive faxes at least once a week that do not clearly identify the sender or how to get in touch with the sender. Our reviewer has no inkling of this, and aptly demonstrates it. The reviewer concludes that because of her vast knowledge in the game of life, and because so much of this book, ADVERTISED AS A BACK TO BASIC GUIDE, is general and because the 1800 tips "are painfully obvious," there's no reason for its existence. It just adds to the "dumbing down of America." The narcissistic reviewer ends with the admonition to readers, "keep your money, pass on buying this one." We must admire the reviewer's individuality. After all, these are her opinions, even if they are at odds with 60+ others who have given the book a favorable review. The four different acquisition editors at the four book clubs that selected Simpler Living also must not know too much about what people need these days. The foreign publishers around the world such as those in China, Finland, and Indonesia, who have seen fit to translate the material in this book, probably have no idea what the citizens of their respective countries need, either. Never mind that the advice contained within has been serialized in magazines and newspapers across America and around the world. Never mind that it was featured by Rodale as a monthly column, and Boom Magazine in the Triangle area in North Carolina currently features excerpts as a monthly column. Never mind that the career track division of Skill Path produced a four-CD audio book on the material. Thus, let's give this reviewer five stars for originality, cynicism, and a parallax view that only a person living alone in a one-room cabin in Montana could hope to offer. This reviewer, stating forthrightly that the material in this book is not for her, and by twisted logic, therefore not for anybody, tells us all to save our money. The only books that should ever be published are those that have direct, complete applicability to you! Look I don't mind her review but I found the book and author to be very intriguing. Simply, I like a book like this. Not everything in it applies to me but enough does and it's darn useful.
March 02, 2011
I did not request a review copy of the book. The author contacted me and offered me a review copy with a request to review it. I get very many such requests and often turn them down for various reasons. I may not at all be interested in the premise, or I am simply "overbooked" on review requests (I have 17 such requests pending at this time, so am currently turning most away). In this case, the premise did interest me, so I accepted. I thought I might learn something interesting or helpful by reading this. I didn't. All reviews are subjective to a degree. After all, it is just one reviewer's opinion. I have given the reasons here for my opinion. Opinions are neither right or wrong ... to each our own. What other reviewers say does not sway my opinion. I know my own mind well enough. I am also very resistant to "group think." Now and then, I get very emotional responses, such as this one, when I write a less than glowing review. When that happens, I sense I have hit on a raw nerve of truth. Methinks you protest too much ....
 
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review by . February 21, 2012
This is a great book for people who want a few quick tips on how to organize various things in their life. What made this book different for me though was the way that the information was presented. I have read many self-help books but often times the author seems like a self entitled know-it-all. This however is presented in a way that makes sense and allows one to view their life from an outside perspective. I would highly recommend this to people searching for a self-help book but one that is …
review by . August 31, 2010
Simpler Living is a coffee table book filled with tips on how to make life a bit less hectic. As one would expect, the book contains hints about how to declutter. However, the author's focus isn't living in a bare house with absolutely no personality. Instead, the entries focus on functionality and being organized. This perspective is probably far more realistic for people with children.      The book includes a little bit of everything. There is a wide variety of advice …
review by . September 22, 2010
. . . and in the interest of full disclosure, would like to thank the author for sending me a complimentary copy.    I have seen far too many "self-help" books which went into such exorbident detail as to render them worthless. The reader gets as far as chapter two, and gives up in despair. I have found this to be true with weight-loss books, financial planning guides, home organization books -- and even in a Natural Family Planning instruction manual (but that's another story!)    …
review by . July 24, 2010
This book is a fascinating contemporary paradox. In a world where electronic forms of information are leaving increasingly fewer niches for traditional books, and where most of our quick answers come from a search engine, this is a beautiful somewhat retro-looking coffee table reference guide that simply answers common questions of daily life. Often reminding me of scenes from books and films from the 1950's, it uses mundane advice in a way intended to help address the big question: "how do I stop …
review by . June 21, 2010
This is a great coffee table book because there is so much content to be absorbed. It is billed as a "back to basics guide" and I think it does a great job there. Who doesn't want their life to be simpler and less hectic. Who doesn't want to cut down on stress? I know I want all of these. And so far this book seems like it can help.     This book called out to me because I had been doing some "Spring cleaning" and decided I had too much stuff. Yes, I know, its already Summer …
review by . August 07, 2010
Each chapter in this book is full of practical suggestions for organizing and streamlining your life. Although it sounds like a boring topic, this well illustrated guide actually energized me to get up and get the clutter out of my life, just a few minutes after I started reading (well, maybe half an hour). This book changed my life for the better, and even though I am a bibliophile, I can't say that about most of my treasured books.     To demonstrate how much I needed this …
review by . August 31, 2010
Simpler Living is a coffee table book filled with tips on how to make life a bit less hectic. As one would expect, the book contains hints about how to declutter. However, the author's focus isn't living in a bare house with absolutely no personality. Instead, the entries focus on functionality and being organized. This perspective is probably far more realistic for people with children.     The book includes a little bit of everything. There is a wide variety of advice from …
About the reviewer
Zinta Aistars ()
Ranked #135
I am a bilingual writer and editor; founder and editor-in-chief of the literary ezine, The Smoking Poet. Learn more about me on my Web site--I welcome visitors!
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The companion toBack to BasicsandHomesteading: simple, practical, proven advice to reduce the stress of modern living.Life moves too quickly these days, as technology, work, and personal commitments make it almost impossible to relax and enjoy life. Finding yourself stressed over the clutter in your kitchen or the mass of paper in front of your computer? Relax. This book will help. Filled with tips on how to uncomplicate your daily routine, eliminate stress at home and work, and more, this book will help you free up your time so you can once again enjoy doing the things you love. Author Jeff Davidson has compiled more than 1,500 ways that you can simplify your life.

Divided into sections for easy reference, this book will show you ways you can eliminate stress in your home, your personal life, and in your professional life. You will learn the six questions you should ask yourself before buying something new, the most efficient way to clean your pots and pans, the pay-ahead technique to get yourself out of debt, ways to make your commute more comfortable, and advice on hassle-free vacation planning for you and your family. This book is the guide you’ve been looking for to lead the peaceful, productive life you’ve always wanted. 1,000 color photographs
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Details

ISBN-10: 160239976X
ISBN-13: 978-1602399761
Author: Jeff Davidson
Genre: Home & Garden
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
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