“The Not So Big Life” — Book Review

Not So Big BookcoverWhen I am reading a book and am inspired by the author’s words and ideas, I want to remember all of their insights and pearls of wisdom. I highlight sentences and make notes in the margins and add sticky tabs to the pages. One indication of just how much I’ve enjoyed/benefited from a book is how many colored  sticky tabs I have used by the end of the book.

Tabs of not so big life
Based on that assessment, it should be clear that I loved The Not So Big Life: Making Room for What Really Matters (you can click on the image to enlarge).

Author/Architect Sarah Susanka takes  the principles she first discussed in her best-selling The Not So Big House and applies them to the larger experience of life.  The result is a terrific book which discusses how to live a rich, fulfilling, and authentic life.

Susanka calls for a shift in thinking about well, everything.  For instance, when working on a project, she emphasizes that

Although it seems that the point lies in the successful completion of the project, in fact the only reason for doing it is to be fully engaged in the experience, so that we can learn more about who we truly are.

On the value of slowing down:

It’s the slowing down that allows the ineffable to seep in when we least expect it and that gives our life meaning.

I love her description of creativity:

There’s no separation between creativity and you. That’s why the vibrancy of another person’s creative act can inspire our own. It’s the state in which the object was made that is contagious.

Regarding our urge to accumulate things, she suggests that

Our love affair with stuff is a surrogate concocted by our heads to obscure the real longings of our hearts.

She then asks two compelling questions:
1. “When do we know we have enough?”
2. “What could we do with our lives if we weren’t so focused on acquiring more?

The second half of the book looks at the importance of being present, of really showing up to life.

Susanka describes the value of presence:

But presence is not something you decide to experience when you have time.  Presence is.  Presence is now, and now is eternal, without boundary.  You have to show up, however, to really be here, to experience it.

She talks about the importance of mindfulness, and of establishing a daily time and place to be still (meditation).

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book is the deft use of personal examples Susanka uses to illustrate her points.  She also provides exercises at the end of each chapter to help the reader apply the principles to his or her own life. The book flows easily and has the quality of a conversation with a good friend. To learn more, you can visit her website.

I highly recommend this book and would love to hear your thoughts about this book or the ideas Susanka presents.

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8 Responses to “The Not So Big Life” — Book Review

  1. Avatar simplymevegas
    simplymevegas says:

    Thanks so much for the recommendation. You've prompted me to add it to my reading list and my next stop is our library's Web site to see if it's available. Keep up the great posts!

  2. Hey, simplymevegas, good for you for supporting your local lending library. I'd love to hear what you think after you read the book!

  3. Hi Christianna, Years ago, I read “Your Money or Your Life”. Joe Dominquez and Vicki Robin wrote about how to become financially independent by 'finding out how much is enough', among other things.

    I have read reviews of Susanka's book and looked for it in my local library which unfortunately doesn't have it yet.

    I came over from minimalistwoman's blog.

  4. just checked my library's online catalogue, and they've got it, and it's check in! going to get my hands on it later today. currently reading “the story of stuff.” my son and daughter-in-law are house-hunting at the moment, and are very much into the tiny house movement and minimalism. they are going to start life 'way ahead of the game.

  5. Hi Willow,

    Thank you for the reference to “Your Money or Your Life.” This is a wonderful book which I recommend to anyone seeking to simplify and integrate their life values and financial goals.

    I love minimimalstwoman's blog. Thanks for popping over here for a visit!

  6. The Not So Big House was one of the first books that I read on the idea of simplicity, and I loved it, so I was excited to read The Not So Big Life, and I agree that it's a great book… it seemed like it dragged a little in a few places for me, but other than that I liked it.

    But the Not So Big House will always be my favorite.

  7. Hi Mara,

    I'm glad the book is available at your library!

    I, too, am reading “The Story of Stuff.” It is a very rich and detailed book, which I am reading at a slower pace than usual so I can take it all in.

    Your son and daughter-in-law are very fortunate to be starting their lives together with a minimalism point of view. They will have way less baggage to deal with, both literally and figuratively, over the years. I hope they find the tiny house of their dreams!

  8. Hi Luke,

    I think The Not So Big House has been a game-changer for a lot of people. The concept of living a full life in a small space is a great one. It's wonderful that you have read, and benefited from, both of these books.

    Thanks for stopping by!