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 decent 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 children.
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.” 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.
Lewis also has a blog called “Rural Revolution: In-Your-Face Stuff from an Opinionated Rural North Idaho Housewife.” I read a few of her posts, and she is quite sanctimonious and imperious in her blog and she 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.
While reading The Simplicity Primer I couldn’t help but think of Deborah Niemann’s vastly superior book Eco-Thrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life. Like Lewis, Niemann lives on a huge homestead (only in Illinois, not Idaho) and grows her own food, raises livestock and homeschooled her children. However, Niemann actually gives out sound advice that is easily doable, not a bunch of common sense admonishments we already know. Also, unlike Lewis, Niemann writes in an inviting tone that is friendly, down-to-earth and open-minded.
The Simplicity Primer, simply not worth your time or your book-buying dollars.