The best books on minimalism, materialism, & getting by with less (so you can enjoy life more)

The Books I Picked & Why

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

By Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Why this book?

The surest way I’ve found to break the cycle of materialism is to develop an aesthetic for less, then face head-on the results of past consumptive behaviors. Marie Kondo’s book is the best there is on this subject. When stepping out of the rat race, many folks have a tendency to hoard as a fear reflex. Kondo’s words and wisdom, even if you can’t bring yourself to follow every last dictum, will help you see and feel the effects of materialism, and naturally shed that compulsion to “have more.”  I was always an “anti-consumer.” But it felt like a strict diet — I was resisting a compulsion to acquire more. 

After this book, then following her recommendations, that compulsion went away for good. I didn’t just think less was better. I felt it down to my core. My savings grew, my house got cleaner (relatively speaking), and I became far more generous and fearless.


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Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids

By Kim John Payne, Lisa M. Ross

Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids

Why this book?

It is easy for us to decide we want a minimalist life as adults. But our culture has a hard grip on our children. This book helps parents break the guilt cycle when we insist on keeping things simple for our kids. It empowered me with research and confidence to get rid of the toys, turn away the non-stop hand-me-downs, and value my path. When my kids were old enough to participate with me, they embraced the same. 

They are older now and responsible for their own objects. And while they hold on to far more than I’d like, I see how they are equipped with the tools to let go and keep living. They regularly purge their own belongings, and they are actively building lives for themselves far outside the consumer culture.


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Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less

By Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less

Why this book?

The objective of a minimalist, anti-materialist, simple life is to open ourselves up to whatever “something greater” the universe has in store for us. Drawing on rigorous science and historical evidence, Alex Pang helps us understand how the act of slowing down helps bring us closer to that something greater. As a farm kid, I was raised in a culture that embraced overwork and shunned slowing down. So learning to have a simpler life meant I had to buck that culture and develop an understanding of how rest benefited my brain and well-being. 

This book helped me move my business to a place where all owners and employees enjoyed more freedom and lower stress, and where greater fun and creativity unfolded.


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Everything in Its Place: The Power of Mise-En-Place to Organize Your Life, Work, and Mind

By Dan Charnas

Everything in Its Place: The Power of Mise-En-Place to Organize Your Life, Work, and Mind

Why this book?

Very few of us are going on a quest for a minimalist existence only to do nothing. We will continue to contribute our gifts to the world. The question then becomes, how do we contribute without falling victim to the chaos and stress once more? That’s where Charnas’ book comes into play. As a chef, I have to do this all the time. I walk into my cafe and must be able to meet the many and myriad demands of hungry customers with order and presence of mind without crumbling under the pressures. Then I need to walk away, back into my life in the forests and fields and leave the pressure behind. 

Despite my minimalist, anti-consumerist life, there are pressures of work. This is the system that enables me to navigate them. And when fresh chaos rains down (as it inevitably does, no matter how much I embrace a minimalist aesthetic), the advice in this book gives me the tools to get my life back to where it needs to be. Every time.


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The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes

By William Ury

The Power of a Positive No: How to Say No and Still Get to Yes

Why this book?

To get by with less, we must learn to say no to more. It is a path where we say yes to the planet, to our relationships, to ourselves. That means just about everything else must be met with a no — whether that be unnecessary materialistic gifts or demands on our time or resources. This is the book that taught me how to do that with grace while maintaining my personal and professional relationships.

Harvard’s William Ury is one of the world’s leading experts in negotiation. He has developed this no-fail formula based on decades of research in the field. I teach this concept to my students, to my children, to anyone who will listen. And I am forever using it myself.


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