From The Beacon: Simpler life? Books lead the way

'The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak." Hans Hofmann

The concept of voluntary simplicity is very appealing: By cutting down on inconsequential matters, we are able to fully appreciate and enjoy the activities, people and possessions that are most important to us.

There is no need to renounce all material possessions and move to a cabin in the woods to appreciate the tenets of voluntary simplicity, even small steps toward reducing mental and physical clutter can lead to more satisfaction and fulfillment on a daily basis. How do you begin? The following books will all help start you down the path to a simpler, more organized life:

In "The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential ... in Business and in Life," Leo Babauta gives many helpful tips on how to simplify your life by identifying what is important, focusing on these things, and eliminating any nonessential items. This is a slim book, but it is packed full of useful tips on streamlining your personal and professional life. If you enjoy Babauta's philosophy, you should also take a look at his blog, called Zen Habits (http://zenhabits.net), where he writes "about finding simplicity in the daily chaos of our lives."

If you are overwhelmed by having too much to do, not enough time in which to do it, and are subsequently worried about important tasks falling through the cracks, "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity" by David Allen can help. Allen's method provides a framework to organize your life by using a system of folders and to-do lists. According to Allen's philosophy, once your mind is freed from trying to keep track of all the things that need to be done, you will be able to work more accurately and efficiently.

One thing that tends to complicate life the most is out-of-control finances. To combat that feeling, try picking up a copy of "One Year to an Organized Financial Life: From Your Bills to your Bank Account, Your Home to Your Retirement, the Week-by-Week Guide to Achieving Financial Peace of Mind" by Regina Leeds and Russell Wild. This accessible guide breaks up an intimidating and often dreaded task into reasonable chunks, and by the end of one year your finances should be well-organized and manageable.

Sometimes living vicariously through others' experiences can be just the inspiration needed to make a change. If that is the case, Mary Carlomagno's "Give It Up!: My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less" will have you contemplating what it would be like to give up some of your favorite things for a month. In an attempt to get back to basics, Carlomagno renounced cell phones, alcohol, dining out, chocolate, cursing and television -- among other luxuries -- for one month each over the course of a year.Her account shows the value in taking time to appreciate the simpler things in life.