Minimalist Book Club – Stuffocation

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I loved this book.

It’s more academically written than most minimalism books. I’ve found the majority are written around thoughts, feeling and anecdotes, this is fully referenced and researched, relying on both anecdotal evidence and scientific studies. Being a pretty die hard sceptic by nature, references to experiments and sociological studies makes me happy.

It doesn’t actually promote minimalism as the ‘best’ lifestyle, it explores consumerism and materialistic culture then works through the current counter culture options and explores (theoretically and practically) the impact they would have at a global level. It’s fascinating but (to skip to the end) the conclusion he proposes is NOT to rail against rampant consumerism by converting to strict minimalism (although he’s certainly respectful and praises those who do) but by switching to an experiential mindset. The best way to explain this (and the example he uses in the book) is by using the premise of Brewster’s Millions. In the book (and later film) a man has to earn his inheritance by spending a set amount of money in a set timeframe BUT he must have no physical goods to show at the end or he forfeits his inheritance.

The point of this is that you are still spending money, you still contribute to the economy, you still take an active part in society, but you change the way you do those things. Instead of spending money on status goods (watches, shoes, cars) you spend money on experiences. Holidays, theatre tickets, adult learning classes. The theory being that by spending your money in the experience sector, you get the thrill of the purchase which we’re conditioned to want by growing up in a capitalist world, but we also get the memory of the experience making the purchase more meaningful and us, happier.

Have you ever sat down at the hairdressers, been asked what you’ve been up to since your last appointment and listed the things you’ve bought? No, because nobody cares if you just blew £600 on a pair of shoes, but buying a £600 holiday? That’s a conversation. Get out and do more. Engage, be a part of life.

The book takes you down some pretty grim paths (the start of advertising, the state of the environment) but its overall message is so hopeful I’m still on a bit of a book high.

Can you tell I liked this book? I’m recommending this one as a buy. It’s one you’ll want to read more than once.

Minimalist book club – L’art de la simplicite

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I’m a bit unsure how to review this book.

It has some good quotes, which really get to the core of minimalism (They’d be great stuck on affirmation cards) but the book as a whole… it reads like a list where someone has removed the bullet points. Or a selection of fortune cookie sayings like ‘It is better to live with high aspirations than mediocre realities’. There’s not much in a the way of practical advice, just commands and theres no… engagement with the author.

Some of her ideas are demented. Particularly the ones on the  minimalist body, like instructing you to fast and then take a vegetable based laxative so your insides can also be decluttered, drinking a water & vinegar mixture for your skin, ‘we have a duty to maintain a clean, well groomed appearance’ or my favourite bullshit: ‘Every time we put on weight, we die a little’

Most of the health and beauty crap she suggests is lunacy (she really likes her vinegar) and I wouldn’t suggest actually following any of it.

She can’t seem to decide on whether she wants to be seen as frugal or lavish, some times she praises frugality and then the next sentence she’s advising you to blow as much cash as you can on ‘light and airy’ furniture or custom made leather handbags.

That being said, the money chapter of the book does have merit. It puts a perspective on overspending that I hadn’t thought about before.

The problem is, there’s no room in her doctrine for personality. I don’t want an all white interior. Having some colour around the house does not mean you have clutter or that you’re unable to be calm. You know what won’t make me a calm? Living in a white box I have to clean all the time (although, she suggests scrubbing floors to slim down, so maybe thats her intention)

Basically, don’t buy this book. Go to the library, get a copy and then read it with a notebook, copy out the genuinely good quotes, the ones that would help you explain minimalism to a friend or refocus your mind when you’re decluttering. Then return the book and be glad you didn’t waste any money on it because it’s 80% drivel.