Give It Up!: My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less

Give It Up!: My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less

by Mary Carlomagno


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“Refreshing, inspiring, and honest….One book I’m not going to be ‘giving up’ anytime soon.”
—Nicole Williams, author of Earn What You’re Worth

Give It Up! is author Mary Carlomagno’s inspiring chronicle of her 365 days spent learning to live better with less—when she decided to give up one modern convenience (eg: elevators) or indulgence (eg: alcohol) every month for a year. A joyous celebration of voluntary simplicity, Give It Up! offers a solution and a liberating new outlook to shopaholics, jaded consumers, and spirituality seekers overwhelmed by the unnecessary clutter in their lives, in the most uplifting self-help guide to better living since Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060789824
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 12/27/2011
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 7.12(w) x 5.08(h) x 0.52(d)

About the Author

Mary Carlomagno is the founder of Order, a company that specializes in clutter control, urban apartment solutions, office spaces, and life transitions. Before founding Order, she worked in book publishing and retail. She and her husband live in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Read an Excerpt

Give It Up!

My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less
By Mary Carlomagno

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Mary Carlomagno
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060789808

Chapter One



I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning that's as good as they're going to feel all day.

-- Frank Sinatra

When I woke up on January 1 with flannel on my teeth, a tribal pounding in my head, and a feeling of mental queasiness that could only be remedied by a Denny's Grand Slam breakfast, I uttered those famous last words, "I am never drinking again," followed by those other famous words," I mean it'

Even though at that moment I was in no position to make clear decisions, I needed to regain control of my life or at least my ability to stand up without the room spinning. Push had come to shove and I was ready to strike a deal. At that point, I would have done just about anything to feel better.

This roller -- coaster ride was the end result of mandatory fun planned by my friends. We attended the mother of all New Year's Eve parties, in one of the largest bars in New York. Judging by the line out the door, it seemed likely that one, if not all, of our soul mates awaited inside. Once through the door, we quickly grabbed a table by the bar, where we made our presence known to both the bartender and our potential soul mates. We simultaneously made our way to the bottom of many gasses and to the bottom of as many pickup lines. Finding our soul mates soon became less and less likely.

Adding insult to injury, the party was not only physically taxing, as evidenced by the worst hangover of my life, but expensive as well. The all -- inclusive cost for the night of fun was equivalent to that of a pair of Bergdorf loafers I had been eyeing. Open bar, food, noisemakers, and music were promised along with the implied message that you were going to have the time of your life. The reality was that except for one French -- fry plate, all of the above were conspicuously missing, with the exception of my favorite cocktail, the dirty martini. Always a believer in getting my money's worth, or in this case my loafers' worth, I bellied up to the bar again and again.

According to, a woman is considered to be drinking excessively if she has more than seven drinks per week and more than three drinks per occasion. A man is considered to be drinking excessively if he has more than fourteen drinks per week or more than four drinks per occasion. I had surpassed my drinking limit with the New Year's cocktails alone. At last count, the score was Martinis: 7 Mary: 0. Clearly my parameters for a night of casual drinking were completely out of balance with reality. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a drink is generally considered to be 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80 -- proof distilled spirits. Each of these drinks contains roughly the same amount of absolute alcohol -- approximately 0.5 ounce, or 12 grams. And while it seemed reasonable to follow the recommendations of the medical profession, I wondered how in the world I was going to stop drinking for an entire month.

Temptations popped up everywhere like Viagra ads on the Internet. Even so, as the month began, I was overly confident. At first, the mere smell of alcohol seemed repugnant to me. This challenge should not be hard for someone like me, I reasoned, who has excellent decision -- making abilities and tremendous willpower. After all, it was not for the rest of my life.

My first obstacle presented itself while reviewing my weekly calendar, which had the words "drinks with..." written at the bottom of almost every page. Would it be possible for me to have a conversation with a work colleague or with a girlfriend at a bar and order club soda? I started making the phone calls.

There were two choices: Ask if I could reschedule for after February 1, when the drinking would resume and I would be "normal" again, or keep the date and rely on virgin cocktails to keep the conversation going. My first three phone calls resulted in three rescheduled drink dates for February when, according to one of my friends, "I would come to my senses." Another friend suggested, "Let's wait till we can both have fun." So, with three for three on the rescheduling, February began to look like one big drunken month. Even though an occasional friend would applaud my efforts, their disbelief in my ability to pull it off reinforced the "better you than me" adage.

The fourth call to my brother was illuminating. He is a self -- described food and wine snob who once asked me on the way to Sunday Mass what kind of wine would be served. He had managed to get a reservation at New York's Veritas, which has a world -- class wine list. I called to tell him that I would still be happy to attend, but that I would not be drinking anything alcoholic, including wine. After a moment of silence, he suggested rescheduling the evening. Neither one of us could see the point of having this amazing meal without wine. Rescheduling this dinner made me realize the many roles alcohol played in my life.

As a marketing professional, I attended cocktail parties, award dinners, and launch parties several times each week where cocktails, wine, and champagne were served from the moment you walked in the room until the event ended. Would I be able to let those drinks trays pass me by and carry on conversation with coworkers and clients?

Even if there wasn't a work -- related party, it was easier to meet with colleagues after five "for drinks" than to get them on the phone during the day. It seemed that no one had the time to talk at work anymore. Drinks after work became a necessity for bonding with coworkers and talking to colleagues. . . .


Excerpted from Give It Up! by Mary Carlomagno Copyright © 2006 by Mary Carlomagno. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Nicole Williams

“Refreshing, inspiring, and honest, Give It Up! reminds us of just how much better off we are with a little less. One book I’m not going to be ‘giving up’ anytime soon.”

Barrie Dolnick

“Mary Carlomagno’s warm, humorous, best-friendly guide into the intimidating world of self-control proves that denial isn’t punishment and that less really can be more.”

Customer Reviews

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Give It Up!: My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author's vices may not match mine but her message boils down to a universal one--couldn't we all do better with a little less of 'something' in our lives? Written with wit, the author's tales had me smiling while at the same time pondering how I could apply similar principles to my own lifestyle. Give It Up! may be a quick read but its impression lingers long after you close the cover.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a fellow city-dwelling, multi-tasking overachiever with a fast-paced life and a long to-do list, I related to this book on so many levels. While Mary Carlomagno describes her resolution-of-the-month plan to make small, positive changes in her life, this book is less about how to lose 10 pounds or kick the coffee habit than it is about how to live on purpose, in the moment. It describes how to find true joy by breaking out of old routines and rediscovering what you truly love, and in the process, who you really are (or want to be). I found her experiences reminiscent of how I often feel on vacation - like a better, more relaxed, more aware and alert version of myself. This book provides ideas to vacation from your everyday life into a hyper-aware state by making changes that hit you at your core (and show you what you're made of). As I read it I was already formulating my own plan of what to give up, what to change, what to make time for... A must-read for anyone trying to simplify their life, break away from the distractions and routines that often lead us into a life we did not choose (or didn't realize we did), and minimize the pressures to keep up that so often accompany our western lifestyle.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mary Carlomagno's account of her year of giving up things for a month at a time will make you rethink some of your own vices and questionable habits. She takes you on a journey and you feel all the bumps and triumphs with her. It prompts you to ask yourself, how would I handle a month without coffee (or shopping or elevators ...)? What would I learn about myself? It is a book about appreciating what we have, maybe even treasuring it a whole lot more. I recommend it highly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thouroughly enjoyed this book--read it in one day. I found many similarities with the author--especially the chocolate and coffee months! And if I am truthful, the cursing month as well! Carlomagno shares her experiences and discusses why we do some of the things we do...
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found that Give It Up! was a great platform for evaluating what I really needed in my own life. Listening to her tales of giving up things we often take for granted inspired me to do the same. I can say that I no longer have a TV and I am more productive for it. A great idea of anyone who feels a bit overwhelmed by their lifestyle.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Giving up TV, shopping, phones, eating it possible? Not just one a month, but all together, cold turkey? These are just some of the benefits of living and working on Long Island, where cable TV costs more than a car payment and sales and gas taxes require multi-person income in the six figures. While 'giving it up' out of choice may be a glamorous learning experience, 'giving it up' out of need seems to put a pall on the experience. The only thing I have given up is The New York Times, and I did that when Bush was elected - living without reading about him was definitely an up-lifting experience!
Suso711 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting concept, but it fell short, for me.
SignoraEdie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Made me more aware of the subtle dependency that exists in my life and gave me more awareness of my options.
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The longer I read this book, the more I realized that thislady is in real trouble. She drinks enormous amounts of alcohol andcoffee, watches tv for thousands of hours a year, eats out all thetime, and talks constantly on her cell phone. From a simplelifestyle point of view, she needs to do way more than give upthings for a mere month.
rennerra on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
intriguing idea. She gave something different up every month for a year. I did this myself last year and it was interesting. It made the year seem longer, and each month longer as well. I didn't do too well some months, better other months. I'd try it again another year to see what I would choose to give up. The writing was so-so, though.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Allen next result.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mary Carlomagno is witty, smart and honest about her ¿city girl¿ vices and what happens when she lets them go. I really enjoyed her sense of humor and the lessons she learned from ¿living better with less.¿ I recommend this book to anyone interested in a different take on self-help, and a simple blueprint for changing your daily life. I think Mary¿s strongest message is that when you clear out the unnecessary habits and vices from your life (and we all have them), you make room for a much simpler and more fulfilled daily existence. What a great message for our over-scheduled, media-saturated, super-sized-everything world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Give It Up is the perfect gift for both you and your best friend - you'll need to talk about whether or not you could give up drink, chocolate, or your cell phone with someone¿. someone who will appreciate deprivation driven mood swings as well as the self-enlightenment that follows. Mary's journey is one you'll want to chat about and if you too were a child in the 70's, which meant a teenager in the 80's, the cultural references must be relived with someone who was there as it is just too embarrassing to think of the height of your hair alone. Lastly, please be forewarned this book will make you Laugh Out Loud, even if you are on a very quiet bus.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Making resolutions for a whole year is a doomed notion. Instead, why not take Mary Carlomagno's advice and try on a new habit (or drop an old one) for a month at a time. Much more palatable, as is Ms. Carlomagno's conversational style and anecdotes, which make the book seem less like 'yet another' self-help guide and a more like a great leisurely lunch over a glass of wine with a great friend!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a short read packed with so much meaning. It inspired me! I now know I can live my life according to my rules and not those created through our day to day habits imposed by social circles and norms. Individuality, self control, and true introspection are the keys to opening the doors to freedom and emabarking on a new journey of simplicity and clarity.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I started this book with high expectations of finding a new plateau, a place of more meaning. What I found instead were shallow, self-indulgent NYC lifestyles that are very unappealling, and quite frankly, give many undeserving women a bad name. Although the writing style is enjoyable and witty, the unfulfilling lifestyles of Mary and her friends overwhelmed the reading experience. As a former NYC resident I know the lifestyle all too well: materialistic meanderings, habitual martinis with girlfriends, constant complaints about the lack of decent men, while all-the-time treating the good men around them horribly. Simplification is not the key to happiness. Try having a good relationship or at least giving one a chance, be giving, maybe get married, maybe have a baby. With those things you will be more likely to find happiness. Regret is one thing you eventually may not be able to 'give up'. Chocolate and shoes will only get you so far.