Subtitled ‘Living with Less and Ending Up With More’, Simple Matters sounds like my kind of book. Erin Boyle is a simplicity blogger that I have read and enjoyed for a few years now, at Reading My Tea Leaves. She lives in New York, so about as far away from my life as you can get. That’s oneof the great things about simple living, though, isn’t it? That it should be transferable as a principle from the back streets of Birmingham to the boulevards of Paris and the Hell’s Kitchen of Haarlem to the Hello Kitty bedrooms of Hong Kong. Simple living, eco living, intentional living is no use if it needs us to move into a small holding and eschew all modern conveniences. Simple living has to be built in to our modern world, it has to be possible to live intentionally and live in a city, a village or a wilderness. The manner may change, the activities available certainly will, but the heart of the matter, the marrow of simple living, intentional living, earth-friendly living remain the same: live with less and experience more.
The book is divided into 9 clear chapters covering a wide range of life areas that often need simplifying. I like that the book starts with decluttering and ends with thriving: living a simple life is about chucking out the stuff that is no longer of value to you or in alignment with your values, and the purpose of living a simple life is to help you thrive in life completely. As Erin writes in the book, it’s about “The simple decisions and practises and objects and habits that make up the backdrop of our tumultuous lives. It’s a book about the pleasure of simple materials and honest design and the advantage of slowing down.”
It’s simply designed and illustrated, with plain grey chapter headings and photographs that will be familiar to any of Erin’s blog readers. There’s a cool, calm aesthetic to them, a very Scandi feel. I’m not a Scandi design person (I like colour too much) but I appreciate calm interiors, and Erin lives as she preaches.
The book is very personal, as well. In her advice on decluttering, simplifying and organizing, she writes very often of the incidents in her past that inspire her now: her Dad’s morning routine, what she learned from having a baby (that babies really don’t need everything you will be advised to get: start with nothing and buy as the need becomes clear) and how her attitude to something as simple as spices has been formed by the situations she’s been in. With spices? Well, to invest in any perfect storage only to either leave it or chuck it when you move seemed wasteful to Erin, so she has downsized her spice rack and buys what she needs when she needs it. It’s that choice between space or storage that so often forces someone in a smaller area to choose more carefully.
Each chapter has subheadings, not plain and straightforward but often with a twist or a little joke hidden in them. Beautiful Messes, for instance, talks about the fact that we can’t and don’t want perfection all the time. The subheadings divide the chapter into more useable information, or highlight advice Erin really wants to impart.
There are some homemade recipes, for food, bath supplies or cleaning products but the focus seems to be more on using your common sense to buy what you need, no more or less. No storage unit full of bleach on sale, or soap piled up in the bathroom. Use up what you have, and then replenish. It’s a sensible attitude for a city dweller to have, but a smallholder or garage owner may want a backstore instead. It’s that balance between frugality and simplicity again. Sometimes to be frugal is to have excess available. Wastefulness comes in not using that.
Did I say I loved the photographs? There is great pleasure to be found in a well arranged basket of cleaning products, or a carefully hung brush. Utility does not equal ugliness, and it’s lovely to see Erin goes along with William Morris’s philosophy: “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”. Wise words that still ring true.
The book is text heavy, with no easy-read charts or lists in general, but then this isn’t a ’30 Days to Clear Your Clutter’ book (and there’s nothing wrong with those kind of books, either: I know, because I read them too) but it is a book that will make you think especially if, as I tend to do, you read about someone else’s lifestyle, put yourself in their position and then retrofit to your own. What tips or advice you learn will depend on whether you’re a new minimalist/simple living lover, or whether you’ve read every guide going. I love, for example, the idea of limiting how much make up you have by the simple means of keeping it in a toiletry case ready to travel. No space means you have to pare down to the essentials and consider every purchase. I’ve done this in the past, and may well go back to it soon since I have a beautiful Constellation vanity case I received for
I’ve included my usual flip through video below, so you can see what I mean about the writing. It’s a lovely hardback book, with good quality paper and I have really enjoyed reading it to review. Of course, the test of a good book like this is will I reread it to find ideas? I think the answer is yes: there are vignettes that I want to create in my own house, and it’s always good to have a reminder that it’s never the things of life that matter, it’s the people and the places we experience that make us.
I have a few more books to review this year, but they’re on Kindle. I find it easier, and less space intensive, to read on Kindle. Is that okay? I’m fully aware that I won’t be able to talk about things like paper quality and the illustrations or photographs quite as well, but the payback for me is space in the house and books that I can take with me everywhere.
The header photo is simply a spread from the book, showing Erin’s wardrobe and drawer. I like the fact that she limits her colour palette, and I find it interesting that, in this photo at least, she hasn’t Konmaried her t shirts. Isn’t it funny how you get used to the small stuff? All my drawers are Konmaried and arranged by colour. It’s just easier…..
How to Hygge the British Way is my gift to the world. I don’t get paid for writing it, I’m not in it for the kudos, financial rewards, to become an influencer, work with brands or otherwise make any money from the blog. That’s why there are no ads, and any products I mention and recommend have either been gifted to me or bought by me with my everyday wages or donations from supporters. Every book I review has been bought and read by me, unless stated otherwise.
I do get a couple of pennies each time someone buys from the Amazon links on my page, as an Amazon Affiliate, but otherwise if you’d like to support me, I like to give something back in return. That’s why I write books. It always feels good if you get a book back in return for some money. You can find a full list of my books at my Author’s Page on Amazon, but especially recommended for this time of year are:
Happier: Probably my most personal book, it’s the story of how I used hygge and the little things in life to help boost my happiness. I still go back and reread to remind myself what I need to do to be a happy human.
Cosy Happy Hygge: Setting up a rhythm to life and rituals to enjoy it to make for a more balanced life that handles waves and storms better.
How to Hygge Your Summer: Hygge isn’t just about candles, throws and fireside cuppas (if indeed it is ever actually about them) and this book gives you ideas for creating hygge ready spaces and paces of life throughout the summer.
If you’d like to support me, but don’t want to buy a book, I have a Paypal.Me account as Hygge Jem. Every little helps, so even a few pence goes towards the books, goods and courses I use and recommend on the site. I’m grateful for every little bit that brings me closer to my dream of full-time writing, and I know I couldn’t still be writing if it weren’t for the support of many readers and friends out there. Thank you all for every little bit of support, emotional, physical and financial, you give me.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, don’t forget to share it or save it so others can enjoy reading and thinking about hygge as well.