Simply Happy: Natural Home Interviews Wanda Urbanska

Wanda Urbanska, the "spokeswoman for the phenomenon known as the simplicity movement," offers a road map to a simpler life.

Wanda Urbanska

Wanda Urbanska

Photo By Will and Deni McIntyre

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The New York Times called Wanda Urbanska, host of the PBS television series Simple Living with Wanda Urbanska and the author of eight books on simple living, the “spokeswoman for the phenomenon known as the simplicity movement.” Her latest book, The Heart of Simple Living: 7 Paths to a Better Life, offers a road map to a life with fewer possessions—but more time, friends and meaning.

What’s the best thing about living simply? 

Not worrying about impression management or keeping up with the Joneses.

What’s the scariest simplification step you’ve taken? 

Quitting a good job to write full time. That was scary because it was financially risky, but it was creatively challenging. You learn to be creative when you’re on your own; you can absolutely learn to live on less.

Did it pay off? 

Absolutely! Four seasons of America’s first nationally syndicated TV series on sustainable living and eight books later, the answer is a resounding yes. I may not be rich, but I’m seasoned and stretched and strong.

What can we all do now to simplify? 

Delay all discretionary purchases, grow something, spend time outdoors every day and find something to be thankful for—every day.

What’s your most embarrassing frugal habit? 

Occasionally I’ve been known to dig into a friend’s leftovers. My motto is to never let a serving of pasta pesto go to waste. 

Tell us a favorite moment from your PBS show. 

Back in 2005, it was inspiring to watch as Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter posed for photos with every group of children and adults who attended the former president’s Sunday School class at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. Our TV cameras were rolling, but the remarkable thing is that the Carters paid no attention. They pose for photos with tourists every week they’re at church; it’s part of their outreach and ministry. 

You just came back from living in Poland for a year. What did you learn? 

I learned that you can live happily for many months with only the contents of two suitcases and without a car, and that the only souvenirs that count are moments of deep connection with others.

What’s the biggest idea in your new book? 

That America’s economic slowdown has pushed us to a better place—a slower, thriftier place.

So the recession is sparking interest in simple living? 

Absolutely. No one’s asking if simple living is a good idea. Everyone wants to know how to get started.