If the call of spring cleaning and de-cluttering has been speaking to you, you may want to check out The Joy of Less by Francine Jay.
The Joy of Less is a guide for organizing and simplifying one’s home. The author starts the guide by giving some compelling reasons why a person should embrace a minimalist lifestyle in her/his home. She then lays out a plan for implementation in every area of the home including the bathroom, living room, and bedroom. She encourages readers to pare down belongings, to embrace the mentality of getting rid of one thing every time that a new purchase is made, and to consistently put things in their place.
Jay notes that most of us use 20% of our things 80% of the time. That means that the vast majority of our belongings are just taking up space. One good first step is asking ourselves which belongings we actually use day to day and then taking a critical eye to those things that we simply store year after year. For Jay, even old mementos don’t get a free pass. To those who are hesitant to rid themselves of old cheerleading uniforms and letter sweaters, she reminds us that we are not what we own.
“We have to remember that our memories, dreams, and ambitions aren’t contained in these objects; they’re contained in ourselves. We are not what we own; we are what we do, what we think, and who we love.”
By paring down our belongings to only what is useful or what is beautiful, we create more space, which the author argues is equivalent to creating more freedom. How many times have we felt hesitant to invite someone over because the house is cluttered or felt obligated to work extra hours to pay off what we owe on all of those extra things? By simplifying our belongings, we simplify our lives.
Rooms with space give us room to breathe and be more creative. The author asks readers to reflect on the first time they saw their home – when it was still empty. The rooms were spacious and full of possibilities. Humans have a tendency to fill the space they have, but by paring down a space to only the things we need, we reclaim that feeling of openness again.
Obviously the process of being a minimalist in one’s life isn’t something that you just do once and then move on. It’s an ongoing process, and the most important part is to not allow new things to come into the home unchecked. We have to constantly assess whether an object is truly useful and needed, and to just say no if we’re only bringing something new into the house because it was free or on sale.
I particularly liked a point the author made about how every time we get something new, it carries its own work with it. First, we have to work to purchase something. Then we have to research which item we’ll buy, do the leg work in getting it, and then after we get it home, we have to clean it, keep it in good working order, and store it. If it breaks, we have to fix it, and eventually when we want to get rid of it, we have to do the leg work in finding a new home for it. By first considering the amount of effort that goes into every object, it makes one pause before adding another one.
As I have been reading The Joy of Less, I’ve felt moved to let go of old things taking up space in my cupboards and shelves, like books and magazines that I read once and will likely never read again. Those things will be better served in the hands of others who can enjoy them for themselves. I’m also very attracted to the idea that by owning less there is less to clean and keep organized. Instead of spending one’s weekends dusting and re-organizing many possessions, we can spend more time out in the sun enjoying the best of the season.
Where do you stand when it comes to minimalism? Do you have a hard time letting go of once-loved treasures, or do you appreciate extra space more than extra objects?
Image Credit: Photo by Cadry Nelson
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