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

Who am I?

I’m an entrepreneur, chef, homeschooler, and third-generation farmer living in the northern Catskill mountains. With that many passions, I had to remove all other distractions from my life so that I could put my attention on what mattered most. My writing has been featured in The New York Times, National Public Radio, and national television. During the growing season, I broadcast The Hearth of Sap Bush Hollow podcast, chronicles and lessons from a life tied to family, community, and the land. You can also taste my cooking by coming to my restaurant, Sap Bush Cafe, on Saturdays, 9-2 (I’m too busy living the good life to be open the other days).

I wrote...

Redefining Rich: Achieving True Wealth with Small Business, Side Hustles, and Smart Living

By Shannon Hayes,

Book cover of Redefining Rich: Achieving True Wealth with Small Business, Side Hustles, and Smart Living

What is my book about?

Redefining Rich is the ultimate quick (and funny) go-to guide to help you get started on a life where less is more, whether you want to start your own business, live off the land, quit a job, or just build a life more resilient and pleasurable than your current rat race.  Drawing on research & personal experience, it shows readers how to identify their core quality-of-life needs and dreams, then build a personal, family, and economic survival strategy that works for everyone in the household.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Why did I love 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.

By Marie Kondo,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Marie Kondo will help you declutter your life with her new major Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

Transform your home into a permanently clear and clutter-free space with the incredible KonMari Method. Japan's expert declutterer and professional cleaner Marie Kondo will help you tidy your rooms once and for all with her inspirational step-by-step method.

The key to successful tidying is to tackle your home in the correct order, to keep only the things you really love and to do it all at once - and quickly. After that for the rest of your life you only need…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Kim John Payne, Lisa M. Ross,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Simplicity Parenting as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Today’s busier, faster society is waging an undeclared war on childhood. With too much stuff, too many choices, and too little time, children can become anxious, have trouble with friends and school, or even be diagnosed with behavioral problems. Now internationally renowned family consultant Kim John Payne helps parents reclaim for their children the space and freedom that all kids need for their attention to deepen and their individuality to flourish. Simplicity Parenting offers inspiration, ideas, and a blueprint for change:
• Streamline your home environment. Reduce the amount of toys, books, and clutter—as well as the lights, sounds, and…

Book cover of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less

Why did I love 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.

By Alex Soojung-Kim Pang,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Take a break and read Rest: you'll make smarter decisions, have better relationships, and be happier and more creative" James Wallman, author of Stuffocation

Do you regularly find yourself too tired after a long day at your desk to do anything other than binge TV, or scroll mindlessly through social media? Do you go on holiday and still compulsively check your email? Do you work through your lunch-break, often not even leaving your desk to get some fresh air?

For most of us, overwork is the new norm, and we never truly take the time to rest and recharge. But…

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

Why did I love 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.

By Dan Charnas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Everything in Its Place as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Chefs across the globe have honed an incredible system for working with efficiency called "mise-en-place." In this book, Dan Charnas reveals how to use those principles in any kind of work, outside the kitchen. Culled from dozens of interviews with culinary professionals and business executives, Work Clean offers a simple system and elegant metaphor for organizing one's life and accomplishing one's work. Work Clean spells out the 10 major principles of mise-en-place or "putting in place" for chefs and nonchefs alike: 1) preparation is prime; 2) arranging spaces; 3) cleaning as you go; 4) making-the first moves; 5) Finishing actions…

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

Why did I love 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.

By William Ury,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Power of a Positive No as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“William Ury brings a marvelous blend of experience, insight, integrity and warmth to his work. In this wonderful book he teaches us how to say No—with grace and effect—so that we might create an even better Yes.” —Jim Collins, author of Good to Great

No is perhaps the most important and certainly the most powerful word in the language. Every day we find ourselves in situations where we need to say No–to people at work, at home, and in our communities–because No is the word we must use to protect ourselves and to stand up for everything and everyone that…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in minimalism, materialism, and life satisfaction?

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