Keep Your Accounts on Your Thumbnail

by Travis Hellstrom

My good Peace Corps friend and advisor Judy shared a book with my in preparation for our Living Simply month coming this January for Advance Humanity. It's called Living a Simple Life and I've really enjoyed it.

It's written by a woman who took a step back from her fast-paced life (even her hobbies and free time were fast-paced if that tells you something) and tries to make her life with her husband more meaningful and less full of stuff.

I'm halfway through the book and one the things that's struck me is this notion of having 4 or 5 major priorities in your life. It reminds me of Henry David Thoreau's quote in Walden,

Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.

In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. 

A simple life can be a life's work and I don't know anyone who wouldn't say, "Sure, I'd enjoy a little more simplicity in my life." Everything we are bombarded by on a daily basis begs us to take on just one more thing, just this one more. I hope that my writing can be a haven from that bombardment.

As I collaborate with others to continue to build Advance Humanity into a successful movement of everyday humanitarians worldwide, I'll also continue writing here to explore the personal side of trying to keep a simple life amidst such complexity.

Here are my ideal accounts on my thumbnail:

  • Being a good man and husband
  • Staying healthy and fit
  • Being a writer
  • Being a humanitarian


"The rule is to carry as little as possible." - Henry David Thoreau