Wednesday, March 30, 2011
The Joy of Less - a book review
I have been "decluttering" for about three years now. It is a long process when you figure that it took you years and years (maybe your entire lifetime?) to collect all the "stuff" you currently own. Short of fire or flood, getting rid of it all in one fell swoop isn't in the cards.
Part One of the book is about the Philosophy of Minimalism - a good general read. I honestly believe the book would have been better off without Part Two - "Streamline" - it is an acronym for the steps to take in approaching your stuff and letting go of much of it. It is long, boring, impossible to remember, and the concepts are repeated and re-explained so much in Part Three that it becomes redundant. So my minimalist thought is knock 42 pages out of the book, use a few less trees to print it, and overall it would be a better finished product!
The real meat is in Part Three - Room by Room. In this section, Jay takes the reader through each area of the home and gives implementable step-by-step instruction on how to declutter and organize. There are no "before" and "after" photos (in fact no photos at all in this book) which seems like it would be a disadvantage. Actually, I believe it makes it easier for the reader to apply the concepts to their own stuff and not get overwhelmed by someone else's organizational systems and ideas. My only criticism of this Section was that it is a bit repetitive. The basic "how to" of decluttering and narrowing your possessions is pretty much the same, regardless of what room you happen to be in.
That said, the advice in Chapter 28 "Gifts, heirlooms, and sentimental items" alone was worth the price of the book! Sentimental items is my Achilles heel when it comes to decluttering. Jay reminds the reader that "the stuff isn't the person." It is just stuff. It isn't necessary to keep your high school cheerleading uniform (as if!) to prove that you were a cheerleader in high school. Or boxes of participation trophies from pee wee sports. The stuff doesn't define you. And whether you own it or not, you still did those things, you still have the memories.
The final section - Lifestyle - is about minimalizing your schedule and how minimalism serves the greater good. If you've ever felt like Christmas (or any holiday for that matter) is too consumer-driven - that it is all about buying more STUFF - or if you've grown weary of trying to "keep up with the Joneses" when it comes to the latest and greatest cars, toys, and electronic gadgets - then this chapter is a must read. It articulates those feelings and tells about how our consumerist tendencies are killing our planet. It's a tough note to end on, but really brings home why minimalism is gaining ground as a lifestyle choice.
Now how do I get the rest of my family to buy into these ideas?