Book Review: “A New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less” by John Robbins

What a wonderful book this is. John Robbins takes the readers from his memoir to the money psychology to ways to save money and live non-toxic life while drawing closer to nature. I enjoyed listening to his stories, and the great food recipes will doubtlessly come in handy. The natural cleaning recipes are worth trying to save ourselves from the toxic fumes of the household cleaners. John Robbins painted a pretty good picture of a “New Good Life.”

The book started out talking about author’s rich upbringing by one of the founders of Baskins Robbins. He decided against living the life of wealth and refused to be “bought” (in his Dad’s own term) and continued living a “better good” life. There was this sad story of his money being stolen by Bernard Madoff and started all over again.

Next he talked about the various money types that one must know himself to be: the saver, the innocent, the Performer, the Sensualist, the Vigilant, and the Giver. He went through the “shadowed-side” and the “evolved” version of each type. I like the poems (anonymous):

I asked for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey…
I asked for health, that I might do great things.
I was given infirmity, that might do better things…
I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise…
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness, that I might learn to care…
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things…
I got nothing I asked for — but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am among men, most richly blessed.

“Financial freedom is less about how much money you have and more about remembering — and fulfilling — your true purpose for being alive.”

Next, the author advocates four steps to financial freedoms:
1. Knowing your financial net worth.
2. Knowing your real hourly wage (taking into account of your costs (time & material) of commuting, clothes, meals, de-compression, other work life-related expenses.
3. Knowing where your money is going.
4. Knowing the value of your life.

The author offers 25 ways to reduce your housing costs while increasing the quality of your life. There is an entire chapter on cars and how to reduce car expenses or do away with cars. Another chapter covers the foods and cooking recipes. A few surprises like quinoa (“mother of all grains”), Flaxseeds (the “new” wonder food, in place of $15/lb salmon), and cabbage. And there are commonly known: nutritional yeast, sweet potato, pop corns, split peas, lentils, sunflower seeds, oats, carrots, and tofu.

One chapter on kids, the financial and eco-costs of raising kids. or raising kids. This is another poem by Mary Rita Schilke Korzan:

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
You hung my first painting on the refrigerator,
And I wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
You fed a stray cat,
And I thought it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
You baked a birthday cake just for me,
And I knew that little things were special things.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
You said a prayer,
And I believed that there was a God that I could always talk to.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
You kissed me goodnight,
And I felt loved.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw tears come from your eyes,
And learned that sometimes things hurt
But it’s alright to cry.

When you thought I wasn’t looking.
You smiled
And it made me want to look that pretty too.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
You cared,
And I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I looked,
And wanted to say thanks
For all those things you did
When you thought I wasn’t looking.

This last chapter “Safe, Clean and Natural” on cleaning was all new to me – worth the book by itself. By replacing all the toxic bleach and ammonia-based household cleaners, capret cleaners containing PERC or TCE, antimicrobial soaps, oven cleaners, drain cleaners, fabric softener/dryer sheets, air fresheners, air purifiers/cleaners — with inexpensive, non-toxic, effective, and safe household cleaning products like castile soap (Dr. Bronner’s: 1 to 3 water), distilled white vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, washing soda, borax, cream of tartar. Recipes:

Dish soap: 1x Dr. Bronner’s castile soap and 3+ water.
General cleaning of kitchen and bathroom surfaces, counters, appliances, glass stovetops, cupboards, and tiles: 1x white vinegar, 1x water, 1/4 teaspoon of liquid castile soap. Tougher jobs: 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, 2 teaspoons of borax, 1/2 teaspoon of liquid castile soap in 2 cups of hot water.
Kitchen and bathroom sinks: sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge for a light scour then rinse.
Grout stains: 3% H2O2 and sit for 20 minutes. Scrub with toothbrush and rinse.
Disenfecting: spray with hydrogen peroxide, followed by vinegar spray.
To remove mold: 100% white vinegar or H2O2. Do not rinse.
For sluggish or clogged drains: 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by 1 cup of heated white vinegar, followed with boiling water. If completely backed up, 1 cup of washing soda and sit, followed with boiling water, followed by 1/2 cup of baking soda + 1 cup of heated white vinegar, flush with boiling water.
Mirrors and windows: 1x white vinegar, 3x water.
Cleaning floor: 1 cup of vinegar + 1/2 teaspoon of liquid castile soap in warm water.
Laudry detergent: 1/2 cup each of borax and washing soda.
Fabric softener: 1/2 cup of vinegar + 1/2 cup of water in your rinse cycle. Place in Downy Ball.
Carpet cleaner: mix the vinegar. Add a teaspoon of castile soap per gallon of water.

At the end, the author advocates of the use of alternatives to the GDP like GNH (Gross National Happiness) adopted by Bhutan.