On her blog SmallNotebook.org, Rachel offers advice and, as she puts it, "encouragement" for living a simpler life. Her site is both personal, with stories from her own family life, and practical, with daily tips. I asked Rachel to answer a few questions about how and why she got started.
How and when did you decide to start SmallNotebook.org, and what is your background?
Small Notebook began as my personal blog about six months ago. I wanted a place to keep photos and notes to remember the day, like how I draw and write in my paper notebooks. I didn't expect anyone to be interested, and I'm pretty sure my mom was the only subscribed reader for the first several weeks.
I eventually realized how much I preferred to write articles that could help others, so three months ago, I decided to transition Small Notebook into a reader-focused blog. I chose to write about simplicity at home because it's a topic I love.
Professionally, my background is project management and human resources.
Where do you get your ideas for posts?
I often write posts that are related to the projects I am doing in my home at the time. I need to go through my papers and files, so the next series is about organizing paper. Some posts come from readers' questions and E-mails. And some, like "How to Find the Cost of Electricity," are straight from the handwritten notes in my Home Management notebook.
In your own life, what are your current challenges when it comes to living more simply?
We live in the same small apartment that we did before my daughter was born. It's great in a way because it keeps us from buying a lot of extra stuff—there really would be no place to put it. On the other hand, there's no spare room to hide clutter, so it can quickly look messy.
Another challenge is that I love to spend my time reading and learning how to do and make things. I am so inspired by the ideas that I find through reading blogs. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, because there all these great ideas, and I can't possibly do them all. I need to be able to choose a few things to focus on and then step back from this constant stream of information and ideas.
What change have you made to your life that has had the biggest impact?
The biggest change I have made recently was stepping out of the corporate world to stay home with my daughter. I have no regrets about it at all.
How does living simply fit in with living more frugally?
One part of living simply is purposefully choosing less—less stuff, less clutter, less distraction. You can't help but save money by not buying stuff and not having to take care of it. So much of our time and resources goes into our stuff to organize/dust/clean/fix/move/insure/upgrade/store it. When you choose to have less, the things you do have become more special, and you can focus on what's more important.
Do you get the sense that because of the economy, people are also more interested in simplifying?
Yes, definitely. I received lots of E-mails and questions about my No Spend Month. Many people were interested in using that as a jump-start to help them save money. But more than the economy, I think people have started to realize that their stuff isn't making them any happier. Having so many things used to be a way to enjoy life, but now people are starting to feel burdened by them. It doesn't give them joy or satisfaction like they thought it would.
What are your future plans for smallnotebook.org? Do you think you will monetize your blog or write books or take on other related projects?
Since it's so new, my plan at this time is simply to build readership. One of the best parts of Small Notebook is the comments from the community of readers. They add a richness and depth that is so much better than what I could write by myself. I love reading about everyone's experiences and ideas shared.
I think I will monetize it at some point in a limited way, but I've liked not having to think about ads so far.
Can you recommend some of your favorite resources for people working on living more simply?
Simplicity is such a wide genre, so there are lots of good resources. For practical tips and inspiration, I like Simple Mom. To learn how to make and grow what you need instead of buying it, Down to Earth and Towards Sustainability are both good. For money matters, the Simple Dollar has smart advice, and the book Your Money or Your Life definitely makes me want to spend less.