Book Review: All You Need Is Less

This book is fantastic. It’s by Madeline Somerville and she is a riot. She gleefully throws her husband under the bus as well as herself, all in pursuit of a greener lifestyle. I laughed out loud several times and read snippets to my family that I thought were particularly pithy. She covers all the same bases as I have, hanging laundry, making your own cleaners, saving electricity and water, gardening, all that good stuff. She touches on having a green baby as well because she is a new mother. My kids are older so I am not up on the latest and greatest, plus, my kids got disposable diapers and formula. I had no idea.

Ms. Somerville is really careful to stay away from guilting anyone, in fact she is one of the “any step you make in this direction is great!” types of people. But, her straightforward chatting and gentle encouragement prodded me into action. I cleaned out our “junk” room and filled four bags for donation. I did dishes, checked on my cleaner ingredient supply, and hung a load of laundry – not because she prodded me to, but because her hilarious reminders and encouragement (“think of the children!”) worked. That’s the best kind of encouragement, the kind that doesn’t make you feel guilty but instead cheers every small step you make in the right direction. It made me want to do better if only so that I could keep laughing with this wonderful woman. I know that sounds weird, but her conversational style makes you feel like you’re having coffee with a friend, telling funny stories and trading tips.

This book goes into a little more depth in terms of the suggestions than many books on being greener or being thrifty. The zen-like joys of hanging laundry don’t usually show up in books except those aimed at the hardcore. She (half) jokes about being a hippie, and I’m right there with her. She makes you want to be one, too. Most books on being green focus on things the novice could do – turn off lights when you leave the room, turn off your computer at night, turn off the water when you brush your teeth. I feel like those are things that most people know by now. Either they care and are going to do them, or they’re not. This book is for the intermediate hippie. Baking soda and apple cider vinegar instead of shampoo and conditioner, making your own beauty treatments, getting cheap dishes from the thrift store instead of sets that are matchy-matchy and way more expensive. There are recipes and ideas in this book that are useful and specific.

All-in-all, this is a spectacular book. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for something a little more in-depth (and a lot funnier) than the norm. Even if you already do most of what she suggests, it’s worth a read.

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