In terms of possessions and money, what do you really need to live a good life? How much is enough? If you have less stuff, can you do more with your time, energy, and relationships? These are questions that guide author Anne Basye in her beautiful book Sustaining Simplicity: A Journal. They are questions that many of us ponder, too. How much money do I need to do the things I want? How much living space will be sufficient? How should I best spend my time?
Anne Basye writes Sustaining Simplicity as a single mother living in Chicago. For a year, she decides to write down her questions, discoveries, challenges and joys in exercising good stewardship of her limited resources. The result is chock-full of provocative questions, simple delights, and honest concerns. Formatted to resemble a scrapbook with handwritten notes, photographs, tickets, and taped-on musings scattered throughout the pages, it is fun and instructive to read the book sequentially, or simply to flip from page to page.
Basye traces the seasons of the year as she journeys on the path of simplicity, beginning in the winter as she takes down her Christmas tree. She follows the ins and outs of the next year, weaving stories of her past and present with tales about her son, her church, and her community of friends. Chronologically, she ends the book one year from where she began, but emotionally and spiritually she has traveled many miles in her quest to live a life that is free of excess and pared down to what really matters. She freely shares her own experience as a gentle guide to what simplicity looks like over the course of a day, a year, a lifetime.
Her questions both give me pause and inspire me to look at my own life as I determine what is really essential and what is superfluous. Can I really live a “simple” life if my closets are crammed full of stuff and my calendar is overflowing with commitments? Does a simple life reside in ridding myself of physical and emotional clutter? Does it have more to do with what I have or who I am?
There is no right answer, of course, about how to live one’s life simply, and Anne Basye does not claim to provide easy solutions. She allows us a glimpse of her own path towards living a simple® life, and she is a great companion on the journey as we think about what simplicity looks like in our own lives. Reading Sustaining Simplicity has brought peace to my soul as I wrestle with questions of simplicity in my own life. I don’t have it all figured out, but I am on the journey, and that is enough. May it be so for you as you encounter this lovely book.