My good life: “My ‘Reading Room’ is honestly the best non-human part of my life”

I am so excited to kick off “My Good Life”, a monthly series in which I interview different people about their lives. In the few interviews that I have sitting in my scheduled posts, I can already see a trend: we can make our lives beautiful, enjoyable, and good through making the things we most value part of our everyday rhythms.

This month’s interviewee is Elizabeth Sund, fellow lifelong reader and philosopher (I was going to say “ex-philosopher”, but like reading and learning, philosophy is for life). I so appreciate how Elizabeth frames work as something she does between her other priorities, turning the typical “In my spare time, I…” paradigm on its head. I love her tricks for forestalling decision fatigue, and her organise-as-you-go approach. Also, I would like to live in her Reading Room, please and thank you.

One small editorial note: I’ve opted to leave Elizabeth’s (perfectly correct) U.S. spelling as is, rather than imposing Australian spelling.


What part of the world do you live in? What do you like about it?

I live in Minot, North Dakota. My husband and I moved back home to raise our daughter after having lots of adventures in bigger cities. We love the sense of community in North Dakota, and we don’t mind the cold weather. We have close personal friendships with nearly all of the downtown business owners, so living in a small community is very rewarding. We do as much shopping locally as possible, which means we give our money directly to our friends.

My commute is less that five minutes, so that means I have time to make homemade pasta from scratch on a weeknight. That’s a pretty good trade-off.

How do you spend your days?

My priorities on any given day are spending time with my family and reading books. In between those activities, I work at the local university with international students. I am also on the board of directors of Humanities North Dakota, which is a statewide non-profit that promotes lifelong learning.

What makes (your) life good? What do you enjoy?

Watching my daughter learn new things is my favorite part of life right now. She is six, so each day comes with a new question to answer. I have a PhD in philosophy, which means I never get sick of questions.

My lifelong passion will always be reading. I usually read at least one novel, one non-fiction, and one graphic novel at any given time. I find the best way to complete as many books as possible is to abandon books the moment they lose my interest. I don’t abandon many books, but when I do I feel zero guilt about it. I also write in my books so that I can return to them for important passages later. I use Goodreads to organize my reading lists. Finally, I love finding a finished book a home in my library.

My “Reading Room” is honestly the best non-human part of my life. It has beautiful lighting, shelves, and arm chairs. My husband and I sit quietly like the couple from the movie “Up” to read together on the weekends. I hope our daughter will join our quiet reading sessions soon, although I don’t know where we will put the third chair.

Elizabeth with her family
Elizabeth with her family

What are some personal goals or projects that you have at the moment?

My work with Humanities North Dakota has been expanding. I am facilitating a new Think&Drink event at a local bar which encourages community members to think deeply and have respectful conversations about topics they would otherwise avoid.

I will admit that I am at a crossroads with my career at the moment. Is my current job enough of a challenge for me? Should I be trying new things? Should I relax and settle in? Sadly, these questions do not have easy answers.

What tools or techniques do you use to stay organised or productive?

I am a creature of routine. I wake up at 6:00 to eat plain oatmeal for breakfast every day while I read for at least 30 minutes. My husband and I then read in bed for about an hour at night, which means we are in bed by 8:30. That would be embarrassing if it wasn’t THE BEST. I highly recommend an 8:30 bedtime to anyone who wants to remain sane.

I wear dresses every day because they are comfortable, flattering, and easy. Dresses help me combat decision fatigue in the morning and while shopping. I almost never need to buy clothes, but when I do shop I know that I can ignore 99% of the store. The dress only rule is hard to explain to anyone who isn’t obsessed with organization. My closet is a beautiful row of my favorite dresses, and nothing else.

Finally, I’m a huge fan of the organize as you go mentality. I clean while I cook. I organize the shopping cart as I put things in, then I organize items in proper grocery bags based on specific cupboards/shelves. I have different laundry baskets in each closet for warm vs. cold wash. Everything in my home has a specific place it belongs. I know that is supposed to be the impossible dream, but it IS possible! You just need to limit the number of items in your home and refuse to put an item down in any place other than it’s own place.

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