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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Product Review: The Joy of Less

The Joy of Less
Francine Jay

A little over a year ago, Amazon recommended this book to me. I have absolutely no idea why...I don't remember doing a search for any relevant terms, or anything related to the topic of minimalism, but somehow, it came up. It sparked my curiosity enough that I started looking for some info on the topic, and came across a whole lot of stuff. It turns out that minimalism is a huge culture and movement, one which is, perhaps paradoxically, fraught with some of the same weird political divides and bullshit that the martial arts world is full of. Human nature is human nature, I guess.

Anyway, after a year plus, I figured I'd actually get around to reading the the book that started all of this curiosity off. I like the author's blog, so I figured her book was probably worth reading as well.

The Joy of Less is part de-cluttering guide, part philosophical manifesto. After getting a working definition of minimalism going, Jay walks the reader through her STREAMLINE method for creating a minimalist home. The book continues with a room-by-room guide for applying the STREAMLINE process to every area of your home, and wraps up with a larger call to action for minimalism in other areas of your life.

While I haven't followed any of these steps completely (yet), I have to say that I found most of the guidance valuable, and some of it has already been put into action. Jay's writing style is very easy and conversational, and free of some of the pretentiousness that seems to seep into other writers on this topic. The book does seem aimed more towards a female audience, particularly in the wardrobe and bathroom sections (which seem to assume you have large collections of skirts and makeup to dispose of), but translating that to a male perspective isn't that tough (and yes, yes, I'm gender stereotyping, I know). But overall, the system is quite sensible.

What I like most about the Joy of Less is Jay's emphasis on defining minimalism for yourself. Rather than requiring you to reduce yourself to nothing more than 100 possessions, or to throw away your entire book collection, she emphasizes using these concepts to create the lifestyle that you want. It's vaguely JKD-ish, for those who enjoy that particular philosophy.

I do think there's applications of the minimalism philosophy to the martial arts, but more on that in another post. Not counting the ones I've already written.



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