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I have read a maximal amount of books about minimalism. My husband once joked, “How do you read so many minimalism books? Get rid of all your stuff. The end.” But of course, there’s so much more to simple living than that! I find reading different perspectives on how to weave minimalism through all the strands of my life to be meditative and inspiring. Then once I started writing my own Sage Minimalism book (which I’ll have to add to this list once it’s ready), I dove even deeper into self study in the field of minimalism: letting go of what doesn’t matter to hold space for what does. These 6 books were the cream of the crop for me—the most meaningful literature in the field of simplifying my life, and maybe yours too.
I’ve yet to meet a minimalist who hasn’t read and been profoundly affected by this book, whose motto could be “less, but better.” In Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown walks us through how to shift the way we are living our lives from trying to do it all to investing ourselves in the few things that are most important and saying no to all the rest. It’s simple, brilliant, empowering, and effective. Even though it’s told through the lens of corporate leadership, it applied fully to my life as a homeschooling mother and entrepreneur. My only caveat is to ignore the bits about reward-based parenting.
“Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It is about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”
2. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo is such a powerful book and easily digested read. Do you have unused and unappreciated items in your home that have given you pause in releasing for one reason or another? This book will give you the permission to acknowledge with gratitude the way something served you and let it go because it does not spark joy today – a high criteria indeed and one that I have written about in so many words: “Every object either adds to your peace and joy or takes away from it – nothing is neutral” (that’s me, not Marie, but we would totally be tidying friends, right?).
Not everything in this book is realistic, applicable, or ideal for families (a single woman could live this gospel like a disciple) but that’s okay. There is MUCH to be gleaned here while surrounded by hundreds (thousands) of Legos. The toys and activities that are on those great room shelves are only those that are beloved or intriguing right now, while the bulk are out of rotation and stored in a well organized way, and those that no longer add joy to the family are given a new life with a new family.
“Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.”
3. What Your Clutter is Trying to Tell You
What Your Clutter is Trying to Tell You: Uncover the Message in the Mess and Reclaim Your Life by Kerri Richardson is a gem that goes a layer deeper than why you should declutter or how to declutter to helping you understand how your inner critic uses all types of clutter to sabotage your progress and inviting you to shift your relationship with that resistance using simple yet effective tools and steps to get you where you want to be.
“We pile on stories in our minds, making it bigger, heavier, and more intimidating than it needs to be.”
4. Atomic Habits
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear is a practical dynamo that gave research and context for a lot of the phenomena I had already been observing and leveraging in my personal and family life and in my coaching with mothers and families. To create a good habit, you need to make it obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying. The book seems to be written for a single male athlete but don’t let that hold you back from gleaning the wisdom—it can be applied to your life. Want to hold the space for your self care? Want to support your child with their routine executive functioning? This book will help.
“Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.”
5. Minimalism for Families
I had the pleasure of sharing a conversation with Zoë Kim on episode 23 of the Sage Family Podcast all about wardrobes and I invited her on because of my appreciation for this simple, helpful, gentle book Minimalism for Families: Practical Minimalist Living Strategies to Simplify Your Home and Life, which applies minimalism to family life.
“Possessions I once held dear started to lessen their grip as the meaning behind the keepsake moved from the item to my heart. I didn’t need to hold on to my grandparents’ dining hutch to remember and honor them. And I discovered that their love and legacies were never in their dining hutch anyway; they were always in their characters. It is possible to peel away the layer of heavy sentimental items that weighs you down. Through the years, I learned how to simply let go of things that were too heavy to hold as I moved forward.”
6. A Zero Waste Life
A Zero Waste Life: In Thirty Days by Anita Vandyke is a small and simple workbook-style read that offers 30 practical tips for shifting toward a reduced, low, or zero waste lifestyle through the context of her personal journey into minimalism. For example, she has a Noah’s ark Rule for individual use items: 2 x the number of people in your household (so we should have 10 towels, sheets, plates, etc.). Overall, I would describe it as a helpful and pleasant entry point into zero waste living. The only downside is that it’s not sold through Amazon.