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.
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!
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.