Women growing older with grace and gusto

The Joy of Less: a review

photo credit: sara

I know from email exchanges and discussions that many readers of this blog are in the process of decluttering their homes and their lives. Me too. I think it’s an essential part of the aging process: as we grow older, we feel better when we let go of all that stuff.

So this month I’m reviewing an appropriately simple and small book, which nonetheless packs the potential to help you carve into your clutter.

The Joy of Less by Francine Jay is subtitled A Minimalist Living Guide. It’s available in both paperback and on the Kindle. Francine also publishes a blog called Miss Minimalist.

I’ve become a little wary about what seems to be the fashionable bandwagon of minimalism. There are so many blogs and books about it. There’s a sense in which minimalists – men especially – seem to be in competition over the purity of their lifestyles and how few possessions they own.

That’s why this book is a breath of fresh air. Francine doesn’t preach, she encourages.


What I like about the book (in addition to the writing style) is its clarity of structure and approach.

Francine starts with the philosophy behind the joy of living with less. A light-hearted but thorough canter through the whys and wherefores, a bit of the history, and the advantages of simple living.

Then she moves smartly onto big picture techniques and tips, including thorny topics like unwanted gifts, the emotions that come with inherited or heirloom items, and living with others. She ends with a room by room analysis and a look at lifestyle.

A flavour of the contents

There’s something about this book that makes the topic of decluttering fresh, new and even fun. For example, Francine suggests mentally interviewing your stuff. Ask each item questions like “Would I replace you if you were lost or broken”, “Would I take you with me if I move”.

And act as a gatekeeper. Interview potential new stuff to see if it’s worthy of a place in your home: “What value will you add to my household?” “Will you make my life easier?” Don’t give new stuff the job unless it comes up with the right answers!

Personal favourites

There are a couple of things in particular I like.

The first is the concept that when you’re clearing out say a cupboard, you take out all the contents and go through them one by one. And you base your decision not on what to toss (recycle, sell, give away) but on what to keep. It’s a subtle but important difference. I did this with a drawer of stuff yesterday and it works really well. When you have to decide what to keep, the decisions seem much more positive and definitive. Each item really has to earn its place in your home, even if its been there for years. Don’t make default decisions.

The second is this quote:

In order to be a good gatekeeper, you have to think of your home as sacred space, not storage space.

I thoroughly recommend this little book.

Let me know in the comments what other books or decluttering techniques work for you.


Since I wrote this, I came across this article by Debra Smouse about her new e-course on clutter–busting. Still time to sign up – it starts tomorrow. Check it out here.

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5 Responses to The Joy of Less: a review

  1. I am going to order it from the library. I am in the process of letting go of all the stuff that seems to clutter my humble home. Most of it is just wants that accumulated and that now are just too much to truly enjoy.

    I like the premise of this book…one to truly keep in mind. Thanks for sharing it.

    Maria recently posted..money is not my stabilityMy Profile

  2. Hi Tess :0)
    I very much enjoyed reading this review, and went across to read the preview of Francine’s book on Amazon. I love her ‘gatekeeper’ approach, and that she has put her finger on the way that our *things* are almost like *people* with lives and agendas of their own! I also loved her observation that stuff attracts more stuff (for storage, cleaning, use instructions etc), so that getting rid of one item can result in (hooray) a cascade of other items following it!
    My own interest is in Gospel simplicity, of which de-cluttering is one small but important aspect, and I wrote about it in my book “In Celebration of Simplicity”, here:
    Ember recently posted..OceanMy Profile

  3. I so love that quote about being a gatekeeper. I de-cluttered a ton of stuff last year and so far I’ve kept to my resolve of not buying anymore. Except for books-books for me are a horse of a different color. I’ve already spent my Christmas Amazon gift card on “Surreal Friends” about artists Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington and photographer Kati Horna – It’s a wonderful book and it’s rare to find one about these amazing women. But I shall use the library more to check out books, before I impulsively buy. Amazon’s “look inside” feature helps but more often or not it just wets my whistle.

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