Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Joy of Less - a book review

If I hadn't already had minimalist tendencies, I believe that the enthusiasm with which Francine Jay describes how much better life is with less might have pushed me in that direction.

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?

12 comments:

scrappysue said...

Cheri, this sounds like a really good read. Sentimental clutter is my total weakness. I am sick of carting it round from house to house, but every time I start to sort it, I get totally overwhelmed and just push it into different piles! Or worse, leave it lying around for days (or weeks) on end. On the other hand my DH has nothing from his childhood, which I feel is a little sad. There needs to be a happy medium I feel! Thanks for the review, I will add this to my wish list!

Kai said...

And yet another book to add to my ever-growing collection of "must reads"! You know how I want to simplify! I also have problems with sentimental items/gifts... I've blogged about it before and not using gifts for fear of getting them dirty or, well, used. Last night I asked my stepmom if she would care if I donated or sold a candle holder she gave to me, that I'd been holding on to simply because a) it was pretty and b) she gave it to me but not because I actually liked it or really used it. Her response? "I gave you a candle holder?" Yep, that went right into the box. It felt good and now it makes me think that so many other people won't remember the things they gave me, so that helps... a little... but it does help....

scrappyjacky said...

I'm definately not a minimalist...and can't see me ever becoming one....though I do 'de-clutter' every now and again.I actually quite like being surrounded with 'stuff'....it's keepng it all tidy that's the problem!!!
I'm afraid I'm also a hoarder....and keep things 'just in case'....though that came in very handy a couple of weeks ago when something I'd hoarded for years was just perfect for a craft project!!!
But I am going to have a massive sort out of my craft area over Easter break.Love how organised yours looked after you'd done it.

Kelly said...

The older I get, the more minimalist I become and the less stuff I bring in. Now to get more stuff out!

Lynn said...

We can all be guilty of hanging onto much stuff - its very true its not the thing that is important but the memory - thats way it is good to write the stories attached to the stuff.

Lorraine said...

Hi Cheri, My word for this year is trim. How ever I find it is a steep learning curve. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.! Thanks for your lovely comment. And as for the fab at 50... you go girl.

furrypig said...

I really wish I could de clutter! I hang onto things for so many reasons eg 'just in case', 'will come in handy' and 'can't bear to throw it away'!! I have kept every birthday card the children have ever been given which I know is a bit excessive I can't help myself!!!

Karen said...

I bought this book after seeing a reference to it on Alexa's blog. Even though I'm just about a quarter of the way through it, I'm finding it very inspiring. We've made some dents in our decluttering process, but we have quite a ways to go!

Amy said...

Ok, after two strong recommendations I think I need this one - The Engineer and I were just saying how much we were looking forward to sorting and purging as we re-set up our place.

I do have trouble with sentimental items though :-)

Melissa said...

I'm adding this to my list of books to read - thanks so much for the review.

Debra Dotter Blakley said...

I have now added this one to my piles that await a reader. Thanks for visiting my blog and for yours.

Cheryl said...

Wow, the timing of me reading this post is perfect. My husband and I are in the process of adopting a "less is more" philosophy as we're about to move into a much smaller space in a month. We're in need of some serious help, so I'm definitely going to read this book. TFS!