For the 17th book in the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I chose Give It Up! My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less by Mary Carlomagno. As I was looking for books on simplifying one's life on the library's catalog system, I came across this one. It sounded intriguing, so I thought it would make for an interesting read.
Give it Up! is one woman's quest to rid herself of material excess whereby she also sheds light on some of the emotional excess she carries. The twelve things she gives up include: alcohol, shopping, elevators, newspapers, cell phones, dining out, television, taxis, coffee, cursing, chocolate, and multi-tasking.
Many of the items she writes about have absolutely no relevance to my life. (Giving up cursing...really!? This is a sacrifice? It wouldn't be any sacrifice on my part since my language and writing isn't peppered with swear words.) Other items simply reflect the excess and privilege in our society.
I was hoping that for at least one or more of these things (like alcohol or excessive shopping), that the author wouldn't be so eager to resume activities that weren't of any benefit to her life. For example, she reschedules get-to-gethers and activities with her friends in subsequent months so she can go back to drinking and purchasing clothing she doesn't need. (She said many of her clothes still had the tags on them which implies over-consumption and waste.)
However, it seemed as if - for many of these items she was giving up - that she was counting down the days when she could resume her previous behavior with very little insight into why she needed to continue using that item or behaving in such a manner. Her eagerness to return to her vices each subsequent month made the book rather disappointing.
The chapter on elevators yielded an interesting awareness by the author, though. After climbing and descending ten flights of stairs daily to go to her job in New York, she was in good shape and comfortable using the stairs when the events on September 11th happened. "My preparedness and awareness were a source of some confidence for me on that fateful day."
The author continued, "...I learned...to be aware of your surroundings and that, unfortunately, an emergency plan is a necessary part of everyday life."
Under the cursing chapter, she mentioned a website called Wordsmith. As she explains, "Each day wordsmith would send a new unfamiliar word to round out my vocabulary that I immediately applied, to the annoyance of those around me." By clicking on the link above, you can add yourself to the free mailing list.
One thing that stood out in the chapter about multi-tasking was the statement, "Time is a luxury and doing one thing at a time does not keep pace with our busy lifestyles, which demand doing more. But if we do more, more inefficiently, what has been really accomplished?"
This is a good reminder no matter what stage of life or where you're multi-tasking - whether in the office or an at-home business; your personal life (listening to someone talk while doing something else); while you're volunteering; trying to juggle homeschooling while raising a family; or even crafting and trying to do another task. Something is going to suffer...or not be done as best it can. Someone won't receive the attention they deserve.
Give It Up! is not the best literary work I've read. However, there were some interesting points made in the book. Perhaps Give It Up! would be a more relevant and meaningful book if someone were having some challenges with the same issues or items.
If the majority of the items that the author wrote about don't have personal relevance, I would skip the book. There are other books about voluntary simplicity and/or modifying one's life to be stronger and more effective that are a better use of one's time.