Give It Up! My Year of Learning to Live Better With Less

By Mary Carlomagno (HarperCollins, 2006)

A former Manhattan book editor and inveterate consumer, author Mary Carlomagno’s fierce love of Starbucks, chocolate and martinis makes her an unexpected advocate for greater simplicity. But it’s also part of what makes her “one habit a month” model of letting go of her consumer attachments seem both intriguing and worth emulating. Carlomagno chooses 12 treasured habits (from her Starbucks fix to cell phones, elevators, taxis and even multitasking) and renounces each of them for a month. Initially curious about whether she can live without her usual routines, she eventually finds that temporarily abandoning her habits teaches her to live with them in healthier ways. Forgoing martinis, for example, shows her how many of her social relationships relied on alcohol, not to mention how much she enjoys yoga class without a hangover. Buying her family members holiday gifts one by one (instead of staging a department store blitzkrieg) delivers unexpected satisfaction. Ultimately, Carlomagno’s experiments demonstrate how releasing ingrained habits — even if just for a little while — can help amplify both self-awareness and pleasure. A nice change from stubbornly Spartan models of simplicity, Give It Up! is a lighthearted example of how a little renunciation can truly go a long way.

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