February 6th, 2015

Book Review: The Joy of Less. February 6th, 2015

My darling husband got me a book at the library yesterday.  I think he thinks it’s great entertainment to see how quickly I can devour a book.  And even better if I can fill him in on the salient points afterward.

The book he got was The Joy of Less.  This lovely little tome was interesting and a quick read for me.  I’ll start with the criticism: there is a substantial amount of repetition (including some bits that are word-for-word repetition) but overall, it’s breezy and helpful.  Her basic premise is that living with less stuff means there is more room for space and clarity and, well, joy.  I chuckled at one of her suggestions: to get rid of 1 thing every day for one year.  Interestingly, she espouses this for the same reason I chose a long-term project: because it develops a habit and it gradually eases you in to a new way of seeing your surroundings.

I also love her idea of expanding circles: beginning with your inner circle, moving to your outer circle, and then all the way out to deep storage.  Inner circle is for stuff you use all the time, outer is for things you use about weekly, and deep storage is for the stuff you use annually (Christmas decorations, for example).  This, of course, is a method of organization to aspire to once the purging part is finished, but she also espouses doing the purging bit by bit in a physical sense.  For example, you might start with one drawer in your kitchen.  Once that is emptied, purged, and re-stocked, it starts the ball rolling and you can expand out to an entire room.  Makes sense.  For me, I’d decided early on that it would be too overwhelming to move one room at a time.  Instead, I use a roaming approach.  Of course, this is a personal choice, but it is interesting to me as an alternate strategy.

One thing I’d never encountered before is a neat trick for parting with things that have sentimental value.  I have taken photos and scanned items I want to purge, but still want to remember.  She has the great idea of “miniaturizing.”  This can take different forms, but basically it’s shrinking the sentimental item in some way.  She gives the example of taking a piece of one’s wedding gown to make a clutch purse as a memory.  There is also the token that represents the whole: your Great Aunt’s china is too nice to use, so why not choose one cup and saucer to display, and put the rest in deep storage (or sell it, if you really are ready to let go).  Another example is purging a collection of stuff but keeping one item.

I loved her line (on sentimental items) that goes something like, your stuff is not a record of who you are, YOU are a record of who you are.  This makes a lot of sense: she asks who would ask to see your physical wedding dress when you have photos of you wearing it.  So what are you hanging onto it for?  Chances are your daughter won’t wear it, why not donate it (or sell it) while there is still a chance someone might find it stylish enough to actually wear?

If you’re a fan of handy little phrases to help keep track of your minimizing or organizing, this book is full of them.  One mantra is: treasure, transfer, or trash.  Makes good sense, right?

Perhaps her best insights come when she examines a mantra we’ve all heard: reduce, reuse, recycle.  She argues (correctly!) that this should be looked at as a hierarchy, with recycling being the last resort.  Why buy so much in the first place?  Reduce your consumption.  If you are finished with something and it still functions, pass it on so it can be reused (and the flip side of this is: buy second-hand).  Only when these two are exhausted do you turn to recycling. She is right on the money to point out that much of our “green” focus has landed squarely on the 3rd part of the equation.  Food for thought…especially when one considers how the push for greening our economy crashes headlong into the push we get from marketers to consume, consume, consume.

All in all, it’s a light, easy, and potentially helpful read.  Francine Jay also keeps a blog called Miss Minimalist.

Good “shopping” Mike (borrowing? choosing? what do you call it when someone chooses a book for you from the library?).

Day 98 Scorecard: 490 down, 1,335 to go

–> I should point out here that I absolutely adore Epicure products, but it’s been over a year since I last bought any Epicure products, so I’m purging what I have.

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