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Book Review: The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide

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In my own quest to learn the ways of organization, I naturally turn to books.  I love to read and so some of my posts will review books that deal with organization.  I recently read The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify your Life by Francine Jay. This book was a pleasure to read because it did not bog down in endless anecdotes about people and their clutter. The focus stays on you.  It is quite refreshing in its recognition that there are no hard and fast “rules” about what will work for you. Instead, the author spends time walking through the various types of things everyone has to deal with and what kind of options to consider in figuring out what is optimal for you. The tone is friendly and respectful of you as a reasonable and responsible adult.

Divided into four sections, it covers:

  1. the philosophy of “less is more”
  2. a system for decluttering (called STREAMLINE)
  3. strategies for reducing and optimizing your home room-by-room
  4. ideas for decluttering your schedule, with some thoughts on our impact on the environment

Section by Section

Most of the section on philosophy covers things that are common in organizing/minimalist books. But if you have not read much on this topic, it does a good job of laying out the benefits of minimizing the amount of stuff you have without getting repetitive. Some of the ideas (at least as presented) definitely gave me food for thought about why I own what I own.  It also painted a thoughtful picture of what it might be like to not own so much.

The second section explains the letters in the acronym STREAMLINE chapter-by-chapter. This is the core system of the book for decluttering and reducing your possessions. Again, most of the ideas are not new to decluttering and organizing.  She does keep it simple and lays it out in a way that is not “bossy” or completely unrealistic for the average person. The acronym may be helpful as you create a strategy for each different decluttering project.

The room-by-room section is probably best used as a reference for when you are actually tackling those particular rooms. Each chapter covers the STREAMLINE system as applied to a particular room. This will seem highly repetitive if you just read straight through the book. So, my recommendation is to merely consult it as you need it. That way you will get a quick refresher on the STREAMLINE system each time you begin a new room.

The final section on lifestyle is a brief and thoughtful reflection on how to apply these same principles to reclaiming your time. The final chapter on environmental impact is not bad per se.  Of course, it makes sense to think about where things come from and where they go. It’s just that it may produce stress or guilt depending on how much you can realistically do the things suggested.  Still, these ideas are worth considering in your plan to reduce your environmental footprint.

Bottom line

The Joy of Less is a readable, comprehensive guide for those who want to reduce the overall amount of stuff they have.  This is not the book to reach for if you are overwhelmed with mountains of clutter.  Nor is it for the hard-core minimalist looking for extreme strategies.  This is best for someone exploring the idea of minimalism.

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