Truth in advertising. Rachel Jonat’s minimalist book is minimalist. Do Less: A Minimalist Guide to a Simplified, Organized, and Happy Life is a great primer on the concept. Her own minimalist lifestyle only comes up on her blog: her family downsized and paid off $80,000 (Canadian) in two years. This stuff works!
I flagged several pages as I read. I’ve been pursuing minimalism since before I knew it had a name, and ‘simple’ tends to be self-evident. Not always, though. There were some things that I hadn’t thought of before. Jonat starts with the kitchen, and that made me squirm a bit. My kitchen is the least minimalist part of my life. I love cooking and entertaining, and I’ve been known to spend three days cooking for dinner parties for 20 or more guests. We garden, can our produce, make jam, dehydrate our own backpacking food, and make a lot of large messes beyond what most people do in their kitchens. Jonat points out, however, that the famous chef and cookbook author Mark Bittman has a list of 25 items for cooking gourmet meals. That includes the knife sharpener. I have no idea how many individual doodads are lurking in my kitchen drawers; it’s about half of what it was when we first got married, our kitchen is small, but… It wouldn’t surprise me if I have closer to 250 cooking tools and appliances. That might or might not include canning jars, plates, cutlery, drinking glasses, serving platters, and let’s not even get started on the tablecloths. This really made me wonder whether having the constraint of fewer tools would lead to more creativity in my cooking. I still have more than 25 cookbooks. All right, Rachel: you caught me!
Does it get used? How often? Am I using it just because it’s there and I feel obligated? Is more of my focus spent in the kitchen than I realize or intend?
The introduction to Do Less harks to Steven Pressfield’s concept of “the unlived life.” This is the dream life, the life we wish we lived, as opposed to our actual life. This is the core of minimalism. Nobody else will come to the door and hand us an instruction manual, permission slip, or application for our unlived life. We have to make it happen ourselves. We fill up our homes with stuff and our schedules with inertia or random, unplanned “opportunities.” Then we envy other people who are going places we wished we were going or doing things we wished we were doing. The difference is that people with a plan get to follow the plan. People with no plan get results determined only in reaction to outside influences.
Do Less is about evaluating and cutting away the inessential. What are we doing that isn’t really important, according to our own standards, values, and desires? How much are we being held back by our physical possessions? How much of our mental bandwidth is being eaten up by screen time and sleep deprivation?
I can attest that the principles in this book are sound. The discipline of minimalism works. After evaluating and paring down the inessential in life, you can always add things back. There’s no requirement to live like a monk, although you can if you find that appealing. Having more time, physical space, money, and sleep is the kind of luxury beyond what most modern people can imagine. It is so, so worth it. Why would anyone choose to live in a rush, with clutter, debt, and exhaustion? Maybe we don’t choose because we don’t realize there is an alternative.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.