We are currently in the process of selling our home in Pennsylvania. Naturally I keep noticing items that can and should be tossed or given away. Books are something all fabulousover60 women grew up with, often treasured, and still gain comfort from. For obvious reasons, most future home owners will have fewer books to toss. Hopefully they won’t instead have 1,000 out of date technology products to sort out that are as much prone to clutter and harder to pick up and reminisce about.
While scanning the guest room for clutter, there it was – Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways To Slow Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter by Elaine St. James. Copyright? 1994. I sat down and re-read the quick read considering how technology has impacted a number of suggestions, but happily realizing the vast majority of suggestions were still absolutely relevant.
I got curious. What happened to Elaine St. James, the rather glamorous former realtor turned “simple liver” who with her husband honed down her life and kept it simple. Simple in ways as varied as minimal clothing and shoes, healthy sensible food, many less obligations and friendships that added pressure but not grace to one’s life. From reading a NY Times article I figured out she is about 72 now. Hopefully she is still happy, healthy and living in Santa Barbara, California – which is a sensational place to be regardless of lifestyle.
Seems Elaine kept writing – all about various aspects of simplifying your life. Goodreads has 25 of her books listed – and on Amazon she has an author page with multiple books but no photo. Finally found a relatively current website that has a variety of authors and articles where an article she wrote and a photo were published.
It appears that she has come to a place where she is known through her work and not her current personal/professional life. She does not have a Facebook page nor is she on LinkedIn. Her position as the guru of living a simple, less fast-tracked life seems to have faded as many younger gurus and sites like The Frugal Cottage, Zen Habits.net and tidying guru Marie Kondo have their own fresh take on the “simple life” and are younger generations’ sources of seasoned wisdom and thought.
Though loving her book back in the 90s, I didn’t take much of her advice in my 40s and 50s. But I always thought about it in part because of Elaine St. James. Her work and my inner guide was always urging me to try scaling down and back in ways that made sense for me. I know that in the future there will be more loss, letting go, tossing out and honing down – some of which I won’t like. Some of which I will deal with more successfully because of Elaine’s work
I don’t think I need to read the new gurus of simplicity, though I can always learn something new. I think I got the message loud and clear from sitting in my guest room re-reading Elaine St. James’s book. The packaging changes, the essence of truth doesn’t.
Let’s hope our younger friends, children, relatives, and sister citizens are reading today’s simplicity gurus – and it is OK if they ignore most of their outstanding advice as we obviously did. When they get to be fabulous over 60 they’ll have memories and reminders of having heard and seen from newer gurus how to address shared issues of living: slowing down, making choices, and doing/buying only what is truly important.
I am hoping to run into Elaine on a future visit to Santa Barbara. My sense is, that like most of us now, she won’t mind a few minute chat since she has smartly exited from social media madness leaving more time for face to face connection. What happened to Elaine St. James? What happened to us? She/we got older, wiser and are using the expertise she lived and wrote about. Good for her. Good for us.