My Unsent Letter to Greg McKeown: Author of Essentialism

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About a year ago, I woke up in the middle of the night– my mind racing. I’d been reading Essentialism and soaking it in like a sponge. But when I woke, I felt this aching feeling in my heart.

“How would I ever apply his concepts to my life as a mom?”  I wondered to myself.

Although Essentialism is written for anyone, the examples in the book pertain more to the corporate world than a disabled mom at home with her toddler.

I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I didn’t figure out how to live simply–to find the path of the essentialist– that I’d be missing out on the best version of my life somehow.

I started furiously writing a letter to Greg McKeown– right there in bed on my iPhone in the middle of the night. I don’t know if I ever truly intended to send it. It was more like my thoughts were exploding and I needed to get them out.

As we wrap up this series, it dawned on me that it might be of interest to my readers– since it was the spark that lit a fire in me– that eventually became this blog (and of course, this series).

Plus, there’s just something intriguing about reading a letter that was never sent, isn’t there? 😉

Here is an edited version of my middle of the night scribblings.


Dear Mr. McKeown,

I have greatly enjoyed reading and listening to your book. As a new mother I have little spare time to spend thumbing through the pages of a book while keeping a constant eye on my toppling 15-month-old. The audiobook has given me a chance to soak in your thoughts and profound insights on living a full and productive life through the disciplined pursuit of less.

As a disabled mom, I find myself having much less energy than most. I rely upon others to help me with basics like grocery shopping, cooking and some days even carrying my child up to her room.

For some reason (at first) I thought this made me an exception to the rules of the essentialist. But the truth is– as a person with a chronic condition–I must become the ultimate essentialist if I want to make my greatest impact.

To be honest, I’m finding it much more difficult than I would’ve imagined. Life is constantly bombarding me with distractions, decisions, opportunities and anxieties; it keeps pulling me away from my highest contribution.

Then it dawned on me: What if others were having the same complications applying the concepts of your book to their particular situation? What if there were a bridge to connect your concepts and ideas to varied groups of people?

What if you started with the most frazzled of all people?

She has so many roles—most of which conflict with one another. She’s often not praised for her accomplishments. Her tasks are constantly juggled and her desires are rarely met. Her job is not sought after or praised in society in any sort of traditional way. She’s not offered benefits, bonuses or pay.

She’s a mother.

But what if she could have a different story?

What if her roles could be well-defined and her life lived with clear boundaries?

What if she could make time for only the most important things: her children, her husband, and her own soul?

What if putting away the dishes was not always the most important thing on her ‘to do’ list?

What of her life was not defined by which fire she was putting out?

Perhaps a mother could be an essentialist too.
Perhaps she could have peace and rest and balance.
Perhaps she could learn that some tasks can wait, in order to meet her highest contribution.

I know a book titled The Essentialist Mother would sound a bit trite, like Chicken Soup for the Soul for the [fill in the blank]. But bottom line– mothers need to be essentialists and they need help doing it.

Perhaps the idea of applying Essentialism in practical ways to varied groups of people—including mothers—might be something worth writing about?

Thank you so much for your book. It has meant so much to me.

Your essentialist in training,

Bree Najera


Although I never sent the letter, Room for Joy started with this idea that if I could learn to live simply and purposefully, then maybe I could make room for joy in my life– alongside other moms– like you.