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I Read It So You Don't Have To: The Simplicity Primer-365 Ideas for Making Life More Livable by Patrice Lewis




Always on the hunt for books on simplifying one’s life, especially in a chaotic and stressful world, I was initially excited to come across Patrice Lewis’ book “The Simplicity Primer: 365 Ideas for Making Life More Livable.†Sadly, this book was a huge disappointment.

On a positive note, Ms. Lewis is a good writer. And I like how her primer is divided into several sections on topics like marriage, raising children, running a household, the workplace, and saving money. These passages are brief and easily-digestible. The reader can freely read this book piecemeal instead of reading from beginning to end.

However, I soon found Lewis’ advice repetitive and her tone to be snotty and self-satisfied. First, Lewis hardly breaks new ground with “The Simplicity Primer.†Instead of providing concrete, step-by-step advice on how to simplify, be frugal, etc., Lewis offers common sense that most of us already know—don’t break the law, discipline your kids, wear your seat belt, and live within your means. Now even if we don’t always use common sense, most of us learned these things as a child.

Secondly, Lewis is quite smug. There is nothing wrong with enjoying one’s life and being proud of one’s choices, but in “The Simplicity Primer†Lewis exhibits a moral superiority that is off-putting. Lewis lives on a twenty acre homestead in Idaho where she and her husband own a woodworking business. Her family raises all their own food, and Lewis home-schools her two daughters. Sure, that’s wonderful...for her. But I could have lived without Lewis’ dismissive attitude towards those of us who don’t live like her. Not everyone is suited for the country life. I find I’m more suited to living in a city where I can walk just a few short blocks to the grocery store, my favorite coffee shop, and the local library. Lewis seems convinced city dwellers don’t have any connection to nature, but I live only a few blocks from Lake Michigan—talk about being able to connect with nature.

Thirdly, Lewis admonishes us not to gossip but I found this book quite “gossipy.â€Â  Lewis often mentions friends and acquaintances and the bad choices they made, the kind of choices she would never make because she is just so perfect. But what really got under my skin was how she described a former employee of hers as “slow...not a mental giant.†Though she did praise his amazing work ethic, I couldn't help but wonder why she had to mention that he was less than bright. I thought it was rather unnecessary and quite cruel.

Many of you are familiar with Lewis through her blog “Rural Revolution: In-Your-Face Stuff from an Opinionated Rural North Idaho Housewife.†Yes, Lewis is quite imperious in her blog and definitely has her devoted followers. However, “The Simplicity Primer†might have been a more satisfying read if Lewis softened her tone and wrote with more humility. After all, this is a book that can be found at libraries and bookstores by people who have never read her blog. And I’d hardly be surprised if they, too, would find Lewis’ superior tone a complete turn-off.

Cleansing the Palate

Fortunately, there are books that can help you simplify, be frugal, and live a more self-sustainable lifestyle that won’t make you want to light yourself on fire. A good place to start is with Amy Dacyzyn’s “The Tightwad Gazette.†There are several volumes of this classic, and I got to give Dacyzyn some props for embracing the cheapskate way of life long before it became cool.

Another great book is Pia Catton and Califa Suntree’s “Be Thrifty: How to Live Better with Less." Down-to-earth and practical, “Be Thrifty†explains in clear-cut terms how to simplify and save money when it comes to home life, car care, raising kids, dressing up, and entertaining. Catton and Suntree provide the scoop on making your own soup stock, diaper wipes and bird feeders. They offer advice on how to cut your own hair, build a campfire, negotiate a raise, and alleviate debt. And interspersed throughout Be Thrifty are real life stories on how people saved moola and how our elders survived tough times like the Great Depression.

And if you’re looking to live a bit more off the grid I can’t recommend Deborah Niemann’s “Homegrown & Handmade: A Practical Guide to More Self-Reliant Living†enough. Like Lewis, Niemann lives a very rural life, raises her family’s food, and home-schools her children. However, Niemann writes in a very gracious and charming way that eludes Lewis. Niemann is quite honest that she’s made mistakes in her quest to live more self-sustainable, and that she’s always learning and growing. She gives lots of great advice and ideas that most of us can use. Furthermore, Niemann is no snob. She greatly appreciates not everyone is a country mouse and encourages suburban and urban folks to implement her ideas in ways that work with their lifestyles.

To discuss "The Simplicity Primer" and other books mentioned in this post, please join us here at Free Jinger.


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