Over the years, I've succumbed to buying many so-called "self-help" books. From dealing with your clutter, to raising your kids and surviving on a budget, I've bought them all. Not that I can say, in all honesty, that I've ever reached the end of any of them.
Instead, getting distracted along the way, they've invariably ended up being donated to charity shops or even worse, gathering dust in storage boxes in my garage. When I saw positive reviews of this book I was intrigued. People were saying how inspiring it was, how easy to read, how enjoyable and even "life-changing". I found myself ordering a copy and that was me hooked...literally from the first page....
"Let go like a child blows a dandelion. In one breath, an exquisite lightness and immeasurable joy". ~ Francine Jay.
The first topic that really resonated with me was comparing my home now, with how I had imagined it would be when I moved in. I remembered the excitement of walking around my new home, looking at the empty rooms; planning what I could do with them, and how my furniture would look.
And what happened? Instead of the glorious, spacious, light and airy home I was imagining....I was surrounded by clutter. I don't even know how some of it got here. Piles of DVDs, comics (my son is an avid reader of the Beano), and ironing that needs to be done; cupboards crammed full of stuff that never gets used; wardrobes that contain rolled up sleeping bags, large rolls of wrapping paper and even a hoover....in addition to clothes. There's even an advent calendar still hanging on the wall (in April). This wasn't what I imagined at all.
So, could this book really help me to follow through... to make my life simpler? The resounding answer, for me, was yes.
From the beginning, I found the book was easy to read and light-hearted. There were no long lists of things that I should or shouldn't be doing, no lectures, nothing I needed to purchase before getting started (compared to those books that ask you to buy fancy containers to organise your stuff!) It was more subtle than that; it somehow made me want to declutter my home subconsciously...even before I got to the end of the book.
By chapter six, I was happily discarding items....giving books that I no longer found useful to friends, recycling magazines and catalogues, and bagging up clothing for the charity shop. By chapter 20, I was dismantling furniture in order to re-purpose it....to make it more useful and to be able to enjoy my space more.
So how is the book organised? It's basically split up into four sections, that will help you on your journey to a simpler lifestyle:
(1) Philosophy - the author asks us to consider if we are defined by what we own. She asks us to consider how having less stuff can equate to having more time, space and freedom; and how living simply can be a joy. She shares her own experiences, and inspirational quotes such as this one, by William Morris:
"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
(2) Streamline - a ten part mnemonic that helps the reader to rid their home of unnecessary clutter.
Start over; Trash, treasure, or transfer, Reason for each item; Everything in its place; All surfaces clear; Modules; Limits; If one comes in, one goes out; Narrow down and Everyday maintenance.
"Start over" was my particular favourite. The author recommends emptying EVERYTHING out of a room, a drawer, a cupboard...before starting to decluttering it. Once the area is clean, it is so much easier to discard items that don't belong there, aren't useful any more, are broken or outgrown. In one of my cupboards I was quite embarrassed to realise that there was only ONE thing that warranted being kept. Everything else had been shoved in there as a quick measure to tidy up.....on the plus side, I could now use the space for my daughter's laptop and school books, giving her a more pleasant area to study.
(3) Room by Room The author goes through the home room by room, sharing strategies about how each room can be transformed.
(4) Lifestyle - a discussion about how minimalism can work in families, and how less clutter can mean you have more space, energy and freedom to enjoy spending time with your loved ones.
After reading this book, I'm still making changes in my home and I'm still learning. My garage is still a no-go zone and there's a long way to go there. However, I'm loving that the kids now have somewhere they can sit together and draw (without having to clean up first); that our outdoor gear has been pared down so that if we want to head out for a walk to the lakes we can just grab our boots and go; and that when I open the kitchen cupboard a mountain of plastic containers no longer falls on top of me. It might be small steps and it might take me a while, but it's progress....and that's fine with me, I think I might even enjoy it!
If you enjoyed this review and are interested in learning more, then the book is available to purchase here, in hardback, paperback or eBook.