Are you trying to declutter and looking for the best books about minimalism to help you along the way? You’ve come to the right place!
I’ve reviewed and ranked the eight most popular minimalism books.
With every new year comes talk of decluttering, goals and resolutions.
Whilst most of us will start each year with the best of intentions with regards to these goals, by the end of January most of us will find that our gym memberships have been wasted, tidy spaces have become cluttered again and any resolutions are long forgotten.
The only way to truly declutter your home is to adopt a minimalist lifestyle. This means that keeping a clean and tidy existence becomes part of your daily routine as opposed to a one-off scramble at the end of each year.
But don’t worry!
Minimalism doesn’t mean giving away all your possessions so you’re left with nothing but a chair in the middle of your living room.
As I learnt from the below books, minimalism will mean something different to each and every person. It’s all about finding what is sufficient for you.
Minimalism tip #1
If you don’t want to add these paperbacks to your bookshelves, then consider signing up to Scribd or Audible where you can listen to these without adding to your physical possessions:
Books about Minimalism
Some of these minimalism books changed my life.
Others… did not.
I’ve done all the research so you don’t have to. It wouldn’t be in keeping with minimalist principles if you now went and bought all of the below.
You only need to read the very best books about minimalism to help you move forward.
Three of these books come from the Japanese school of minimalism whilst the rest are written by American authors.
Why is minimalism so popular in Japan? It is thought that this is because many Japanese people still follow Buddhist principles which advocate a simple life.
RELATED: 13 Best Japanese Novels to Read
Already on a minimalist journey and want me to cut straight to the chase?
The table below ranks these 8 popular books about minimalism from best to worst:
If you still want to know what the pros and cons of all these minimalism and decluttering books are, keep on reading.
Pros: Sparked a movement, helps you get rid of things that don’t make you happy
Cons: Too “extreme” for some
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Book Review
If you haven’t heard of Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, then you must have been living under a rock. Marie Kondo is now a world-famous organisation expert and even has her own Netflix show.
This book about organisation is the one that sparked a wave of minimalism and self-help books regarding decluttering. It’s the OG decluttering book and definitely one you should read to get you started on your journey.
Whilst most people will start their decluttering by going from room-to-room, Marie Kondo’s method, known as the KonMari Method, is a little different.
She advocates organising your belongs category by category, which leads to long-lasting results.
Her practices first change your mindset so that you feel free to declutter and organise.
Her main technique is to pick up each and every object, consider it, and ask yourself “does this spark joy?”. If it doesn’t, you know what to do.
This method helped me remove around 150 books from my bookshelves, which I previously couldn’t bear to part with.
I have always wanted to create a big library for myself but Kondo helped me I realise that there’s no point hoarding books that I don’t even like and won’t read again, so off those went to the charity shop.
READ MORE: How to Declutter Your Bookshelves
After reading this I also went and reorganised my entire closet, rolling my clothes instead of folding them.
This way I can see exactly what’s in my wardrobe and long-forgotten pieces are being worn again, many years after purchase.
Still sceptical? Marie Kondo is now so in demand that her services have over a 3-month long waitlist and none of her clients have lapsed back into their old ways.
She’s that good!
Pros: Diagrams and illustrations to accompany her organisation methods
Cons: Repeats some of the advice in her first book (above)
Spark Joy Book Review
Spark Joy is Marie Kondo’s second book and could be read as a companion novel or a stand-alone. It’s much more practical than her first book and has lots of diagrams and illustrations to help you organise your rooms.
For example, there’s advice for how to properly fold your clothes so they don’t take up too much space, even how to fold your socks!
Some find her methods a little extreme or silly. Kondo is certainly a quirky character so this should come as no surprise.
For example, she recommends that you thank each and every one of your items for its service before you discard it.
The first time you do it, you might think yourself crazy.
But, actually, if you’re getting rid of a considerable amount of stuff, especially stuff that might hold some sentimental value, this can be a good way of getting rid of things without feeling too sad or guilty about it.
Arguably, you don’t need to read both The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy. The principles remain unchanged.
However, there is much more detail about her tidying methods in the first book so if you’re keen to get to grips with these world-famous methods, I’d suggest reading them in succession.
Pros: Helps you break any attachment or obligation you feel towards your stuff
Cons: Some tips too extreme for me, second half is less engaging and less focused on decluttering
The Joy of Less Book Review
This book began with a lot of crucial life lessons. We need to change our way of thinking so that our stuff exists to serve us and it is not us that are slaves to stuff.
We need to realise that material accumulation is not a measure of success and should not be used as one. This book helped me see that and help break any feelings I had towards my material possessions.
Francine Jay’s process starts with breaking down your possessions into three categories: useful stuff, beautiful stuff and emotional stuff.
Her method is strict – useful does not just mean potentially useful but means it has actually been used (by you, recently).
As for emotional stuff, you need to first get it into your head that you’re not hurting your stuff’s feelings, nor erasing those memories.
That said, I didn’t agree with all of the tips in this book. For one, she suggested that you could decide to cap your book collection at 100.
Obviously, as a bookstagrammer and book hoarder that was a no from me!
There were also passages relating to gifts and getting children to declutter that went a little too far for me.
What’s more, for a book about minimalism, the Joy of Less definitely could have been shortened.
It was around the halfway point that I felt that I had already gleaned all the useful things I needed from this book.
I liked that the author addressed the rapid depletion of the world’s resources and how problematic that is towards the end.
However, I found this descended into somewhat of a preachy tirade on the environment, which did not need to be in this book in my opinion.
Overall this helped me overhaul my bedroom, and I got rid of a large number of toys, clothes, unwanted gifts from my room. However, if I could cut this book in half, I would, as I personally only found the first half or so necessary.
Pros: Clear, easy to follow guidelines for decluttering that you can refer back to
Cons: None really, but this book is not as “aesthetic” as the others, if that matters to you
Goodbye, Things Book Review
Goodbye, Things is of the best books on minimalism and decluttering that I have ever read. It’s written by an ordinary guy who was stressed at work and constantly comparing himself to others. Can you relate?
The fact this was not written by a “professional” declutterer made it seem all the more realistic that I could achieve a lot by following his methods.
And I did.
This book has helped me to clear out a tonne of stuff from my room and helped me to adopt a healthier mindset when it comes to material objects.
When I turned the first page I was concerned this would be all about living on a single duvet in the middle of an empty living room.
There are plenty of photos of that in the opening pages. But actually, the author does not demand that you get rid of everything in favour of the bare minimum.
It’s all about what YOU can live without on so that YOU feel lighter.
Different people will stop at different points along the minimalism path. Obviously, the author felt he could still lead an enriched life if he rid himself almost entirely of his possessions.
I am not convinced I would be quite as happy if I did that, so I did not.
What’s more, Goodbye, Things is very digestible and was a quick read for me. Isn’t that exactly what you want from a book about minimalism?
It’s made up of a list of 55 tips (plus 15 extra at the end), each accompanied by a short description or anecdote.
These tips are repeated at the end of the book in short form and I have screenshotted these to remind myself of these tips in the future.
I don’t want to share too much of what is inside the book as I’d really encourage you to read it yourself.
I’ll just share my favourite tip and one of the best things I learned, which is the idea of an “invisible” to-do list created by all the stuff you are surrounded by.
For example, if you keep the knitting pack you bought 5 years ago saying you’ll get back round to it one day, you are adding an item to your invisible to-do list, which you carry around with you whenever you are at home. Not ideal, is it?
Pros: Humorous tone and good section on how to help others declutter
Cons: Slightly repetitive
Decluttering at the Speed of Life Book Review
I listened to Decluttering at the Speed of Life on audio from Scribd and it is the best audiobook on this list.
It’s narrated by the author herself and the tone of her story is just so funny. It helps make light of what can be a stressful situation for a lot of people and I loved her voice.
There two main takeaways from this minimalist book. The first is that you shouldn’t hold onto stuff that you think you might be able to sell or gift to a specific person later. Just get rid of it.
If you let it linger in your house, all you’ll do is move it to another room.
Plus, the stress of trying to upload everything to eBay or a similar site is just an extra stress you don’t need when the whole point of this exercise is to declutter so you can lead a stress-free life.
What made this book stand out for me was the part about helping other people declutter.
You probably live in a house with other people. You may want to help elderly parents declutter. Your friend may feel inspired by your decluttering and want your help.
This section really helped me think about how to help people.
I’ve been trying to encourage my mum to declutter for a while but this section made me realise I had been going about it the wrong way.
You can’t force someone to throw their things away. However, I now feel confident I can slowly push her towards better habits for herself too. A win!
As with some of the other books on this list, I did start to lose interest around halfway through and thought some of the tips were repetitive.
She does herself admit that the same method will be applied to every room of the home and she really does mean it.
Pros: Inspiring minimalism success story
Cons: Autobiographical passages that were not relevant to the challenge
The Year of Less Book Review
Author Cait Flanders takes things to an extreme in her book The Year of Less as she embarks on a year-long shopping ban. Flanders found herself stuck in a vicious cycle of earn more, buy more, want more, repeat.
She managed to work her way out of $30k of credit card debt when the cycle began to repeat herself.
She then set herself a challenge not to buy anything for an entire year. Certainly not an easy task in consumerist America!
I was really intrigued by Cait Flanders challenge so I was eager to read this minimalism book.
I really enjoyed the passages about the reactions to the author’s decision to undertake this extreme endeavour and the challenges she faced along the way.
However, this book is a mishmash of autobiography and tips for a minimalist life and unfortunately, I didn’t find the autobiographical parts particularly stimulating.
For example, I didn’t feel that the parts about her parents’ divorce really added much to the book.
I appreciated the anecdotes that were related to her year-long challenge but some others were simply anecdotes that happened to occur during it and I failed to see the connection.
I’d recommend this if you have the express aim of shopping less, or the desire to undertake a similar challenge, but not if you are looking for a book about minimalism generally.
Listen to Cait Flander’s story for free with the Scribd free trial.
READ MORE: Scribd Review
Cons: Not about minimalism in the way you expect
Minimalism Book Review
I was really looking forward to reading this minimalist book as I’d heard a lot of good things about the works by this duo.
They started by stating that they first wrote a book that was over 300 pages long on minimalism. They then scrapped the entire book and started over.
They thought it was too long to be a minimalist book.
As I’m sure you’ve realised by now, my biggest complaint about these kinds of books is the repetition and superfluous passages so I was thrilled to hear this!
I thought we were onto a winner but unfortunately, it didn’t live up to expectations for me.
This actually isn’t a book on minimalism. At least not in the way I thought it would be.
I know I started this article by saying that minimalism is what you make of it, but I meant this in the context of material belongings, which in turn can lead to mental baggage.
This book, however, is more of a personal growth/self-development book, than a minimalism book.
It recounts the life story of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Dicodemus, two men who used to be corporate machines, earning lots of money, who turned into minimalism bloggers.
It discusses in depth the five values for living a meaningful life and is intended to encourage change in the reader.
This is all well and good, it simply wasn’t what I was expecting, nor the kind of book I was looking for.
As such, I am somewhat surprised that this book is often lumped together with minimalist books such as those I have listed above.
In figuring out your life’s purpose, it is likely that you will end up clearing out some of your old possessions, but this works in reverse to the other guides here, in which you remove your stuff, in order to find your purpose.
Personally, this method has never worked for me and I much prefer the methods outlined in the other books on this list. However, it may well be that this kind of book appeals to other readers.
I must admit that I was confused about the direction of this book and glad when it ended.
Plenty of different aspects of life are discussed, there are even some passages on diets and all the different diets they tried in order to find their balance.
This isn’t what I was looking for either and I’m not sure either author is qualified to give medical advice on such specialist diets.
I appreciate they are speaking from their own experiences, but the way they present their findings is in a sort of mini-review fashion, which I did not find to be wholly appropriate in this book.
There were also parts about when to know you need to somebody out from your life so you can see why I’d sooner call this a book about personal growth rather than minimalism.
Now a note about the audio edition. I listened to this for free with Audible. It’s an Audible exclusive, which is one of the advantages of this platform.
However, the voice reading it out loud is quite monotonous on Audible. It made parts that I think may have been humorous if read, actually quite dull and repetitive.
I heard the phrase “move to your dream house, on the beach of course” at least three times and with each repetition, it annoyed me.
All in all, I wouldn’t recommend this as a book about minimalism or a book about personal development.
Sign up for a 30 day free trial with Audible here if you still want to have a listen.
Pros: Reiterates minimalism is not a decor style, it’s a way of optimising your life
Cons: Completely unoriginal
The More of Less Book Review
Check out my in-depth book review of The More of Less here.
Joshua Becker is a popular minimalism blogger at becomingminimalist.com. He has been featured in many of America’s biggest news outlets and has hundreds of thousands of readers.
He begins by debunking the myths surrounding the concept of minimalism. It’s not a style of home decor but rather an opportunity to focus on people instead of things.
As he says, minimalism should be thought of as a way of optimising your life.
He then goes onto describe his “aha” moment when he realises that he needs to make a change in his life.
Firstly, I liked Becker’s idea of “minimalism dividends”, which basically means you have more money because you spend less. It’s a way of investing in yourself and your future.
This is definitely something I have enjoyed since reading the above books. I also loved his tips about how properly sort out your wardrobe and figure out which clothes you should actually donate.
Unfortunately, I think that was the only truly useful tip I gleaned from this book. I had many issues with this novel and found myself rolling my eyes a lot. Here’s why.
It is a little bit too obvious that this book is written by a blogger. Becker mentions several times that you should share his content on social media, but this is a book, not a blog post, and this grated on me.
What’s more, since I was listening to an audiobook, it sounded even weirder. The narrator would read out a quotable phrase and then say “hashtag minimalist home”. It was really quite odd.
On the whole, this book didn’t contain extreme tactics but there were a couple of suggestions that had me scratching my head.
For example, Becker suggests keeping your toaster in a cabinet, even if you use it every day.
He says that the time taken to get it out of the cupboard and plug it in isn’t as annoying as you think but I’m afraid I disagree there. That’s just one example.
It’s also worth noting that this book is best suited for a Christian, American audience and probably an affluent family too.
His role as a pastor also shines through strongly as many passages read more like a sermon than a minimalism book. I found it idealist rather than practical with sickeningly sweet optimism.
I‘m afraid I’m unconvinced that moving my toaster into a cupboard will give me the time to sit and dream about making the world a better place.
At the end of the day, I didn’t think that this book really added to the conversation. It didn’t reveal any insights into how to declutter or lead a minimalist life that were not already widely known.
I mean, one of this book’s aims is to help you recognise “the life-giving benefits of owning less”.
Sounds like someone simply reformulated the title of Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. How unoriginal!
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