Simple and Free is the true story of how Jen Hatmaker (along with her family) identified seven areas of excess—food, clothes, spending, media, possessions, waste, and stress—and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence. So, what’s the payoff from living a deeply reduced life? It’s the discovery of a greatly increased connection with God—a call toward simplicity and generosity that transcends social experiment to become a radically better life.
In this new edition, written not just for readers of faith but for everyone who craves a gentler, simpler life, Hatmaker shares how sustainability and generosity still impact and challenge her today. Annotated throughout with new reflections from the author, this book offers thoughtful insights on the vastly different world of Simple and Free from back when it was first published as 7, and considers the dramatically different space Hatmaker occupies now. Simple and Free is funny, raw, and not a guilt trip in the making. Come along and discover what Jesus’ version of rich, blessed, and generous might look like in your life.
|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.72(w) x 8.52(h) x 1.11(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Simple & Free . . . Seven Years Later
Welcome! Welcome to this story, Risk Takers, Trouble Makers, Rule Breakers, Status Quo Upenders, World Changers, Question Askers, Rabble Rousers. I’m guessing you fit in at least one of those categories or you wouldn’t be interested in a story like this one. Something is under your skin. Something feels . . . off—about how much you have, how much you spend, how much you waste. Maybe it is all completely undefined, as it was for me when I first began this adventure seven years ago. Or maybe you are just munching pop-corn and here for the free show.
Either way, I couldn’t be happier to welcome you into a little social experiment that changed our lives for good. I can say that now, because although this specific season is in my rearview mirror, as I read back through every word recorded during Simple & Free (formerly 7), I was surprised how many ideas were new to me then, because they are the air we breathe today. Let that be good news to you: No matter if anything you read here seems too hard or too crazy or too overwhelming, maybe it will just be Step One into a new idea. And in seven years, you’ll discover an assimilation so deeply embedded in your life, you won’t even remember not thinking that way.
Also, you may say in seven years: I’m glad that part is over. Let’s just be honest. Eating the same seven foods for four weeks is bananas (a food item I sadly did not partake of during that month). What we learned during and since Simple & Free was that the mechanics of it all were temporary but the lessons were permanent. And that is exactly why I am glad you are here.
Let me tell you what is different now from when I first wrote Simple & Free. This will be obvious if you’ve followed along with me since, but we had only three kids at the onset of this experiment. During the last month of Simple & Free, “Stress,” we were matched with Ben and Remy, our two youngest, adopted children from Ethiopia. We brought them home the year after Simple & Free was over. So now we have five kids, and they are such a normal, treasured part of our family now, I can’t even remember before. In fact, I felt something close to sadness going back through Simple & Free because Ben and Remy weren’t here for it. Shared memories before they joined our family are bittersweet, yet still precious, because those years count too, but with the reverse knowledge that our little crew was incomplete. (But I’ll tell you right now that Ben Hatmaker would have had exactly none of Food Month. He’d have moved in with my parents. That boy loves food.)
Life has also gotten a bit bigger and more public, which has made it a touch lonelier than I like. And there are certainly way more of you now, but that has been a joy, not a burden. I’ve seen more of the world since, too; I got my very first passport during the writing of Simple & Free. We’ve been to Africa a dozen times now, and even though I mentioned in the Intro that I’d never been to Italy, I literally returned from there two days ago, after taking the trip of a lifetime with Council Members Jenny and Shonna and their husbands. I’ve fallen hard for the world, you guys. It is beautiful and marvelous, and it has much to teach us on living simply, living well, living smaller, slowing down. There is nothing like trying to visit a store in Spain around 1:00 p.m. and finding it closed for a siesta until 3:00, the owner having coffee with friends or a nap, lost profits be damned. The world has been my best teacher since the completion of Simple & Free, a continuing education program that awes me.
Other than that, we are still at our beloved Austin New Church. I still have the same friends you’ll read about. We still retreat at my mom and dad’s ranch every Thanksgiving. (Oh! One other new development: Dad put a double-wide trailer on the ranch so we are no longer sleeping on forty-year-old sofas in the barn. See Day 26 in the last section. We’re fancy now.) We still eat pretty clean except when we don’t. We still protect the Sabbath pretty fiercely, although we observe it on Sundays, the only true day of rest in our weird life with our weird schedule. I still live in Buda, Texas, just south of Austin, although we moved into a 1908 farmhouse four minutes away that we remodeled on HGTV, which I don’t have time to explain here because what in the world.
I still love Jesus so much and believe in this life He asked us to live. I think He knew what He was talking about when He told us to not store up too many treasures on this earth but to live well and love well, because as it turns out, that is what matters more than anything. And listen, Jesus has seen us through some suffering in the last seven years—real, desperate, unexpected pain—so I believe Him more than ever. He is exactly who He said He is, and when liter- ally everything you hold dear falls away, Jesus remains. So yeah, I’m still all in here.
On Day 15 of Month Four, I wrote: “I giggle to imagine what 2017 Jen would come back to teach me; I don’t even know what I don’t know.” I love that I wrote that. I love that I decided to be a lifelong learner who is less attached to certainty and being right and more interested in paying atten- tion and developing. One thing the 2017 Jen would say to the 2010 Jen who originally experienced Simple & Free is this: Number one, use sunscreen. I’m serious. You are in your final days of irresponsible sunning with no consequences. But number two, this weirdo little life you are constructing where you follow Jesus to strange places doing bizarre things and taking risks is all worth it. Every day of it. It only gets more exciting and meaningful. When God asks you to do something, do it. He is such a trustworthy leader. Don’t be afraid. You’ve put all your chips on the right number.
I am delighted you are here, reader. As I’ve said a thousand times since, Simple & Free is not a template. It is not a list of rules. It is not a program. It is simply an imperfect social experiment to help us find God in an overcrowded, overindulged, overscheduled life. And it did. If any word, any sentence, any section you read helps you cut through the chaos and simplify down to something meaningful, I will count it nothing but a privilege that I was able to walk alongside you in some small way. This has absolutely nothing to do with rules or guilt and everything to do with freedom.
Much, much love to you, dear reader.
Welcome to the Simple & Free experiment.