Book Club: Simple Abundance — A Daybook of Comfort and Joy

It’s a privilege to feature a classic bestseller which has become an essential touchstone read for women. Much of the content also resonates with men — in fact, with anyone who is curious and open to life enrichment and cultivating wisdom. Simple Abundance topped the New York Times list for over two years and introduced two enduring concepts — the gratitude journal and the authentic self.

The book is organized as a walk through the year with daily reflections, essays and activities. Open it any day, any season, any moment that invites. You’ll discover or be reminded how your daily living expresses your authentic self through thoughts, choices and actions.

Originally, author Sarah Ban Breathnach envisioned writing a book about eliminating clutter. As Simple Abundance bloomed, she embarked on an unexpected personal safari.simple abundance

“I proposed a downshifting lifestyle book for women who want, as I do, to live by their own lights. My idea evolved from ‘creating a manageable lifestyle’ into ‘living in a state of grace.’”

Six principles — gratitude, simplicity, order, harmony, beauty and joy — set her foundation to build an authentic life. She leads us into a month, shares daily entries, then ends each chapter with practical ‘joyful simplicity’ suggestions.

Wisdom from Thoreau, Rilke, Goethe, Coco Chanel, Austen, the Talmud, Dinesen, Shakespeare, Frost, Picasso, Winfrey and more. Ban
Breathnach blends their guidance with her own creative insights.

To share a sampling for this review, I turned to the November chapter, then circled back around into May.

NOVEMBER silently sneaks up on us, catching our senses by surprise. Suddenly there’s “no shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees, no fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds.” But behind closed doors, fires shed light. November’s beauty radiates from within.

Joyful simplicity: Write your own personal grace and offer it on Thanksgiving. Fill a basket with food and deliver it to a local shelter. On Black Friday, instead of shopping, stay home and make a pot of turkey vegetable soup. Start listening to holiday music. Make your own dream catcher.

DECEMBER … gifts of custom, ceremony, celebration. Where there is love, there are miracles. And where there are miracles, there is joy, the sixth principle of simple abundance.

Joyful simplicity: Celebrate the Winter Solstice on the longest night of the year, Dec. 21. In the deep midwinter, here comes the light! Create beauty in your home. Deck the halls with natural, seasonal decorations, no matter what holiday you celebrate. Cook your favorite foods, or maybe buy the eggnog and cookies. Chill something bubbly or warm up wassail to welcome the New Year.

JANUARY … new beginnings. Let winter weave her wondrous spell: cold, crisp days, long dark evenings of savory suppers, lively conversations or solitary joys. All of nature is at peace. Draw hearthside.

Joyful simplicity: Lounge about in your pajamas. If you have a fireplace, have a fire all day. Build a snowman or go sledding. Have tomato soup and toasted cheese sandwiches. Take a nap.

FEBRUARY arrives cold, wet and gray. Take a gentle path. Create a sacred space.

Joyful simplicity: Try red lipstick. Light candles and bask in the glow. Make a batch of old-fashioned chocolate fudge for Valentine’s Day. Treat yourself to one long-stemmed rose.

MARCH … last hurrah of winter and first whisper of spring. Stirrings. Slowly our spirits awaken, along with the natural world.

Joyful simplicity: Begin to sow flower and vegetable seeds indoors. Gather pussy willows or early daffodils from a florist. Observe the spring equinox on March 21 with salmon cakes, fresh asparagus and new potatoes. Go on a creative excursion that doesn’t cost a dime.

APRIL is filled with dazzling sunlight and the earth seems greener. The season of darkness diminishes as the season of light increases. Is this why our spirits start to soar?

Joyful simplicity: Have fun on April 1, All Fool’s Day … something clever, comical and surprising. Take a long walk and smell the earth. Buy a new hat or revive an old one. Explore aromatherapy and essential oils.

MAY casts a magic spell as spring’s promise is fulfilled. As we savor everyday epiphanies, we encounter the sacred in the ordinary.

Joyful simplicity: On May 1 (May Day), hang a basket of flowers on your door and a friend or neighbor’s, too. Tackle one junk drawer with spring cleaning. Putter to your favorite music, and rearrange some personal mementos and pictures.

Sarah concludes, “Indeed, the search for authenticity is a personal odyssey.”

Simple Abundance provides a clear path to follow, with joyful simplicities waiting to be experienced in small moments. Find your own pace. Savor the stops along the way. You’re headed for someplace you’ve never been before.

I encourage everyone to keep a copy on a bedside table or library shelf. Set out on your own safari. Create your own “simple abundance.”