Meet Michele O’Connor and Carol Preibis
Michele O’Connor and Carol Preibis are co-publishers of Ahh The Simple Life, dedicated to the art of simple living. Carol loves to write about food and voluntary simplicity. Michele loves to write about everything to do with the home. They both have a fervent desire to help others (and themselves) find a simple way to live in this complex world.
When and how did the two of you become interested in simple living?
(Carol) A life-altering event in my mid-thirties jolted me into realizing that people are infinitely more important than things! I also realized at that point that I already had achieved a comfortable lifestyle. I didn’t then, and still don’t, need another piece of furniture or another piece of kitchen equipment. Periodically, I review all of my possessions and give away whatever I’m no longer using. To do otherwise would be to deprive someone else of something he or she needs.
Another factor driving my interest in simple living is related to age. Each day becomes more and more precious to me. I want to use whatever time I have left enjoying my own life and helping others as much as I can. This means focusing just on what’s most important and weeding out, or at least minimizing, time spent elsewhere.
(Michele) A few years ago, I realized my life felt way too complicated and busy; and it just kept getting more so. I also realized that if I ever wanted to find peace and therefore happiness, I would have to simplify my life. At the same time, I observed that everyone else seemed to be experiencing the same thing! Despite the numerous “time-saving” devices and technological advances developed during my 65 years, people seem to me to be getting busier and busier and more and more frazzled. The only antidote I can find is to make a concerted effort to simplify.
Carol, one of your areas of expertise is simple food. Why do you believe people should simplify their diets?
Simple diets generally mean (a) less complicated recipes, which allow more time for other priorities, and (b) eating more whole foods, which are the healthiest kinds.
What tips do you have for people who are just beginning to eat more simply?
I recommend choosing foods that are in season. Fresh fruits and vegetables are so delicious that they don’t require much preparation. For example, what could be better than a summertime supper of veggie BLTs, served with fresh corn on the cob? Also see Making Every Meal a Simpler One.
What’s your favorite simple dinner recipe for those rushed evenings when people think they only have time for the drive-through?
My answer varies with the season. Right now, as spring is finally here, my favorite simple dinner recipe is Low-Fat Fettuccine Alfredo With Asparagus.
Michele, your focus is on simplifying the home. What are your favorite decorating tips for small homes?
Paint your walls a very light color. Weed out anything you don’t really need, then rearrange what’s left. Use mirrors to visually enlarge your space; just be sure they reflect a view(s) that you find pleasing. Also, think multipurpose. For example, an ottoman can serve as a place to sit, a place to put a serving tray, and even a place to put up one’s feet.
How about ways to make your home a more relaxing space?
Again, weed out anything you don’t really need; you’ll be left with more open space, which is very relaxing. Soft colors and soft lighting are relaxing. Green and blue are the most relaxing colors. Lavender is the most relaxing scent. Relaxing music can work wonders. Also see 10 Basic Elements Of a Relaxing Home and A Room To Relax In.
Michele, you’ve written about your experiences downsizing your home. What advice would you give to those who are thinking about moving to a smaller space?
Well, don’t downsize the way I did, if you can help it! When we sold our house, my husband and I didn’t know where we would be living next, so we didn’t know what to get rid of and what to keep for our new home. Since decorating is my passion, I couldn’t part with the many things that I had used to decorate our four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath house until I knew what we would need/want in our next home.
Since we had decided we never wanted to move again, our new home would have to be perfect for us; so it took two years to find it! During that time, we lived in two different apartments and had to keep the bulk of our things in storage, which was very expensive. My best advice is if you know where you’ll be living when you downsize, give yourself enough time to plan exactly what you will need and where you will put it before moving day. Sell and/or donate the rest.
What are your favorite writings related to minimalism and simple living?
(Carol) Simple living blogs: The Simple White Rabbit, Minimalist on Purpose, Living Simply Free, and Zen Habits. Web site: Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. YouTube: Jon Kabat-Zinn on YouTube.
(Michele) Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, which I read many years ago, first demonstrated to me the beauty of simple living.
Carol, you write a lot about kindness and gratitude. Why do you believe these are important traits for us to cultivate?
Without kindness and gratitude, our world would be a sorry and miserable place. The very word for who we are – humanity – is defined as (1) the human race, and (2) humaneness, benevolence. If we are to advance the human race, we must become more humane, more benevolent.
Kindness is very powerful. An act of kindness has the power to deflect anger and conflict. An act of kindness has the ability to shift someone’s bad day into a good one. And, most amazing of all, kindness has a ripple effect; it has the extraordinary power to spread easily and endlessly. I believe that kindness has the power to transform our world.
Furthermore, positive psychology informs us that kindness and gratitude are central to health and happiness. See The Science of Kindness: How It Makes Us Healthier and Mindfulness Plus Compassion Equals Happiness.
Your blog often discusses social problems such as poverty, inequality and violence. How do you feel these issues relate to simple living?
(Carol) Mahatma Gandhi said, “Live Simply, So that Others May Simply Live.”
Altruism and a desire for social justice are reasons some of us, myself included, choose a minimalist lifestyle. In fact, the historical roots of simple living, also known as voluntary simplicity, are grounded in the care and concern for others.
Your blog The Simple White Rabbit includes a series called ”Minimalists in History.” In nearly every chapter, the minimalists being described are motivated by humanistic principles. To cite but one example: ‘”Civilization, in the real sense of the term, consists not in the multiplication, but in the deliberate and voluntary reduction of wants. This alone promotes real happiness and contentment, and increases the capacity for service.’ – Mahatma Gandhi”
Finally, from an ecological viewpoint, we must recognize that Mother Earth has only so much life-supporting natural capital for her inhabitants. Social justice demands that we share so that there will be, in the words of Samuel Alexander, “Enough, For Everyone, Forever.”