I was sent a copy of You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap) by Tammy Strobel to review on this site. It’s about simplifying your life to a much greater degree than most people, and the satisfaction she found by doing so. She and her husband had a tiny, 128 square foot home built for them after going through various stages of cutting down on the stuff they owned, and really enjoy their new lifestyle.
Obviously, a house that small isn’t for everyone. But going for small houses doesn’t have to mean you choose one of the extremely small ones – you have to consider your family. But even if you want to simplify your life to a lesser degree, this book has some useful ideas. A small house for my family would have to be somewhat larger to accommodate our three kids, but could still be significantly smaller than the place we’re renting now.
Tammy and her husband did all this in stages. She recommends various programs, such as the 100 Thing Challenge, to help you get rid of a lot of the excess in your life. She also points out that getting rid of things and learning to make do with less is a huge help in getting rid of debt.
Tammy and her husband also go without cars. They ride their bikes most places, or use a Zipcar or public transportation for greater distances. This is a part I really enjoyed, even though my family isn’t at a point where going down to even 1 car would work very well. We’ve done the one car thing, and it worked for a number of years, but given the poor public transportation where I live, and other issues, it won’t happen again for a while. Which is a pity, because I really enjoyed it and the money saved was really helpful.
There’s also a reminder to give of your time, not just money and things. Volunteering is a wonderful way to bring some extra meaning to your life and to make you grateful for what you have.
Many readers will also enjoy the personal stories shared in this book, not just by Tammy, but from other people who have simplified their lives.
Perhaps most important, Tammy emphasizes the benefits your personal relationships can gain from a simplified life. In my family, electronics aren’t allowed at the dinner table, but they can certainly get in the way of everyday interaction at other times, yet we have fewer gadgets than a lot of people I know. Going for a more simple life can also include a commitment to spend more time actually paying attention to those around you, not just being physically there.
What’s really wonderful about this book is that simplifying isn’t made out to be some complex process. It’s broken down into steps that you might picture yourself doing if you’re so inclined. Habits can be changed, but it’s not easy to change a bunch of them at once. Changing them over time is far easier. There’s no expectation that you’re going to go straight for a small house, but there are many tips for a variety of ways to simplify your lifestyle.