I recently finished reading Erin Boyle’s gorgeous new book, Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More. While a great deal of decluttering and housekeeping literature speaks in generalizations, I love that Erin offers specific, personalized advice for keeping the home. Moreover, this is a book that reaches beyond tidying to speak to matters of sustainability, family life, and self-care. Like her blog, Reading My Tea Leaves, Erin’s book is filled with beautiful photography and relatable anecdotes. It was such a relaxing read and I savored every page.

The simple matters addressed in the book range from decluttering and organizing to cooking to beautifying our homes and ourselves in a sustainable manner. As Erin writes in the introduction,

It’s a book about the pleasures of simple materials and honest design and the advantage of slowing down. It offers approaches to making a home that are gentler on the planet, but also gentler on ourselves, on our bank accounts, on our sense of self. It’s a book based on the premise that a simple home is filled with hardworking things. It acknowledges that as we design our homes, we must be stewards of the world beyond our private sphere.

While I am decluttering addict, I find most decluttering articles I come across to be tired and redundant. In contrast, I thoroughly enjoyed Erin’s refreshing perspective on the topic, which keeps sustainability at the forefront. For me, the real takeaway was to be more thoughtful about what I am bringing into my home, down to plastic grocery bags and paper towels. I was reminded that ultimately my family and the planet will be better off if I invest in cloth produce bags and replenish my cloth napkin supply.

I wish I had had her pared-down list of kitchen essentials when I was getting married and creating registries, ten years ago. I will definitely be passing along her twelve-item list to my sisters, one of whom is getting married in May!

Likewise, her list of five newborn essentials (plus a few optional suggestions) is spot-on. We are sold so many baby things we do not need. My youngest is now sixteen months and the only baby gear I still have are diapers and wipes, a highchair, a car-seat and a baby carrier. Furthermore, I already live by Erin’s simplified approach to mealtime with baby: feed the baby whatever you eat and don’t bother with specially-prepared baby foods, store-bought or otherwise. Simple.

Like Erin, I have a very tiny kitchen and I smiled when I read what she wrote about shopping in the bulk section:

For the most part, we’ve solved our space issues by buying from the bulk section at our local independent grocery store. This approach has the triple advantage of allowing you to buy just as much as you need, leaving lots of unnecessary packaging out of the equation, and being more economical. Bonus: It might make you feel a special kinship with Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Indeed, managing happily in a small kitchen demands imagination!

The closing chapter of Simple Matters, entitled Thriving, opens with these words, by John Burroughs:

…To find the air and the water exhilarating; 

To be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; 

To find a quest of wild berries more satisfying than a gift of tropical fruit; 

To be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wild-flower in spring 

—these are some of the rewards of the simple life.

Erin’s book reminds us to take joy in all of these things, while exerting what efforts we can to preserve them. Simple Matters is a book that holds so much goodness and I highly recommend it to anyone who wishes to cultivate the beauty and serenity of sustainable simplicity in their home.

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