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Friday, June 26, 2015

The Joy of Less by Francine Jay

In an earlier post I recommended a web site called Miss Minimalist.   As the title suggest, her focus is the minimalist life style.

She has written several books on this topic.   The Joy of Less, A minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life, by Francine Jay is the book I just finished.

My overall impression - this is a good reference book on minimalism.  She writes very well.  She has a practical organized approach.  She doesn't swing to extremes in her advice.  Of course, if you are new to this idea, you might find some advice daunting - like emptying your closet of everything as a first step to minimizing your clothes.   But that advice is consistent with all other authors and it is an effective first step.  For folks new to the topic of simplicity and minimalism, this is a great book.  For everyone else, it is an informative and organized approach worth your time.

I wouldn't say there were any magic bullets in this presentationfor achieving your own level of minimalism.  Clean out your stuff, manage what comes in and "walk the talk" every day.  Just like dieting - no magic bullets - eat less, move more.

It is just too bad it isn't that easy.  That is where the book helps greatly to organize your efforts and increase success.

There are 4 basic sections:

  • Philosophy
  • Streamline (Trash, Treasure, Transfer)
  • Room by Room
  • Life Style.   
I feel the most important section is Philosophy.  Once you understand and adopt why minimalism makes life better, efforts to reach it are not so hard.  Rather than expounding the details - I have listed the chapter headings - as they describe the high level points better than anything I could write.

See your stuff for what it is
You are not what you own
Less stuff = Less stress
Less stuff = More freedom
Become detached from your stuff
Be a good gatekeeper
Embrace space
Enjoy without owning
The joy of enough
Live Simply, so that others may simply live - Mahatma Gandhi

While I totally recommend this book - it is just a guide.  It all comes down to "the doing."  After the Philosophy section - the rest of the book is about "the doing."  Good advice in a logical package.

The act of doing (rather than reading about doing) is where people get tripped up.  It is not the owning or the reading or the talking about the book that gets you to the goal.  It is the doing!  And doing takes time.  If you can't devote the time, nothing you read will make a difference.  And there really are no short cuts to devoting the time.  No magic bullet.  If you devote the time and change your life style, you can do or be anything you want.

A short personal story that illustrates this point.

When I was a young stay-at-home mother, I had a friend and neighbor who was a stay-at-home mother too. We were about the same age.  We each had two children about the same ages.  Our townhouses were exactly the same.  We visited each other's houses, regularly share lunch together, let the kids play, etc.   Her house was always immaculate, organized, comfortable and (most importantly) simple.  My house was pretty much the opposite.  One day I was sitting at her kitchen table while she prepared lunch, and I really watched what she did.  She continued to visit with me as she worked.  She was engaged with the kids.  But she was also not idle.  She put things away, she wiped counters, she kept puttering and she did this all automatically while we visited.  I never noticed how much she got done while she visited.  I doubt she was aware either. It was her default movement around in her own house.  When I left - everything in her house was picked up and clean.  When she visited me, I usually spent about an hour or more after she left doing what she did naturally as part of her routine.

A minimalism life style looks a little like that.  Just part of your life style.  It is part of your everyday decision making.  It is not a separate action (except for the initial purge.)

Hope you will take the time to check out Francine Jay's book.

Get educated.  It is a very good resource and an excellent step 1 if you are considering this journey.

"Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is far more conducive to a minimalist lifestyle. 
 If we recognize the abundance in our lives, 
and appreciate what we have, 
we will not want for more.  
We simply need to focus on what we have,
 rather than what we don't have."  
Francine Jay

Post script:
I did read another best seller called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.   While I feel Ms. Kondo's book was ok, it did seem to slip into what I consider excessive attention to minor details.  For example: the organization of a sock drawer.  I can get on board with keeping the quantity of socks to a reasonable limit - and I agree that all socks should be in one place (i.e. a sock drawer.)  But she goes to some lengths to recommend the proper folding and arrangement of socks in the sock drawer.  That level of detail was too much for me.  I suspect cultural influences are at play here.  My own bias also shows in my reaction I guess. My mother-in-law lived her life in excessive levels of detail.  If you opened her kitchen drawer you would find her spoons, knives and forks all lined up carefully placed on their sides - spooning.  If she was still alive, she would be very comfortable with Ms. Kondo's methods.

It has been awhile since I read this book.  But it didn't make the same impression on me that The Joy of Less did.   However, no one resource has all the answers.  And no one style of minimalism fits everyone.   Ms. Kondo's description of the management of a sock drawer must have resonated with a lot of people - it is a best seller.  Different strokes ...

Read it and decide for yourself.


  1. I will have to read this book. I, too, read Marie Kondo's book. It just left me shaking my head wondering, "are people really going to do this?" LOL...different strokes

  2. I think I'm like your friend. People are always asking me how I get so much done it a day. I don't really think about it.

  3. I am so on board with this! Doing has been my stumbling block in the past but it is not going to whip my butt this time - I have started!

  4. One of my weaknesses is books. I have too many. Now I want this one, too.... It's not in my library system. But I do have a one in, two out rule for books, so maybe I'll go support my local brick and mortar store by buying it.


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