Looking to simplify your life? Start with the best minimalism books with my complete guide to the best decluttering books and the best books on minimalism and simple living.
Everyone has that nonfiction topic they can’t get enough of.
For some, it’s serial killers or World War II battles or female empowerment.
For me, it’s minimalism books.
I first discovered minimalism as a stressed-out mom of young children, and immediately I was hooked. The idea of simplifying my life spoke to me at a deep level.
I started my search for the best books on minimalism with Marie Kondo’s classic. Since then, I’ve read as many minimalism books as I can get my hands on. Which happens to be a lot because I’m a book blogger. Seriously, you should see my 2019 reading list.
Consequently, I feel like I’m in a unique position to tell you the best minimalism books … and the worst.
If you are looking to declutter or simplify your life, these books on minimalism are the best place to begin.
Best Decluttering Books
Every list of the best minimalist books must start with The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Marie Kondo’s classic will forever be considered the forefather of modern minimalism. With her KonMari method, decluttering became a huge craze in the United States and throughout the world. Her premise centers on the question, “Does it Spark Joy?” Of all the minimalism books, she goes for the big win. She has you declutter by category, taking all your books out and sorting through them at the same time. You create a big mess, but you end up with big rewards.
If you aren’t crazy about Marie Kondo’s “Spark Joy” question, you might want to try Joshua Becker’s more practical decluttering guide. His philosophy is centered on the question, “Do I need this?” Becker takes a room by room approach – pointing out specific pitfalls with the different spaces in your house. By taking it one room at a time, you don’t create a gigantic mess in the process, but you still start with the easiest spaces and move on to more difficult tasks.
Dana K. White
What if you don’t have time for decluttering? Of the minimalism books, Dana K. White’s method proves the most effective for those who cannot start a big project. White suggests you start your decluttering by your front door – doing one small space at a time. Every time you pick back up, you always start at the front door, tidying up and cleaning until that space is perfect before moving on to the next space. While this might make the decluttering take longer in the grand scheme of things, it’s much more doable for the beleaguered housewife with limited time. Also, White introduces the Container Theory – you can only own as many items that will fit neatly in the designated space.
Why does my list of the best decluttering books have so many choices? With minimalism techniques, it’s a “to each his own” reality. If Kondo, Becker or White don’t spark the right inspiration, Francine Jay’s minimalism book is another great place to begin. Jay coins her own STREAMLINE acronym to help you attack the clutter in your home. Although I prefer the other three books, Jay’s guide is solid and might resonate with you the most.
Worst Minimalism Books on Decluttering
Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin
Like everyone else, I got swept up with everyone else watching Get Organized with the Home Edit on Netflix. In the show, organizing queens Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin tackle the homes of celebrities and normal people alike, turning their spaces into a beautiful rainbow-colored Instagram-worthy dream. Shearer and Teplin’s method involves three steps: pull everything out and edit down, organize into categories, and then place everything into clear labeled bins. However, if you are looking for handy tips on how to do this yourself, don’t turn to this minimalist book. It’s basically a coffee table book – pretty pictures but no practical advice.
Knowing my love of minimalism books, my best friend lent me a copy of Peter Walsh’s take on the topic. Having read all the best decluttering books, Walsh’s guide felt all wrong to me. Walsh’s decluttering method seems doomed to failure from the get-go. His very first step requires a high time commitment and felt rife for a confrontation between family members as you pull everything out and decide what stays and what goes. However, the book was not a total waste of time. I was impressed with his last chapter on going deeper into decluttering after the initial work is done.
What do you get when the author of The Happiness Project (which I loved) tackles minimalism – one of my favorite subjects? I expected to get a fun, well-researched book like her previous works. Instead, I received a collection of tips, quotes, and sayings with little depth or research placed together in not the most orderly fashion. I appreciate that she was trying to keep the book minimal, but the whole thing felt half-baked, tired and far from original.
Often I hear Sasaki’s book praised as one of the best minimalism books, and I cannot figure out why. Sasaki started as loser alcoholic hoarder, discovered minimalism, and then turned himself into a monk. His philosophy is to get rid of everything. Literally. You need to see the pictures at the beginning of the book to believe it. A girl sitting in a completely empty living room is his ideal of minimalism. He’s not embracing decluttering – he’s embracing living with absolutely nothing. To top it off, I felt like the translator did a poor job with the English edition, with many an awkward turn of phrase. Maybe the audiobook is better because I swear everyone who takes issue with my review seems to have listened to it.
In Sweden, “death cleaning” refers to the act of decluttering your possessions to ensure that your family will not have to do it after you die. While this might sound morbid, it’s a practical idea. No one can better tell trash from treasure in your possessions than you. If you are a senior citizen, Magnusson’s guide has great discussions on dealing with memorabilia, a spouse’s death, and downsizing. However, for the rest of us, there are plenty of better minimalism books to choose from.
McCubbin’s entry really isn’t the worst decluttering guide. In fact, I found her method and explanations solid, though uninspiring. I feel like much of her book was a rehash of what others have done. McCubbin’s greatest strength lies in her analysis of the various “clutter blocks” people have that prevent them from decluttering. Plus, she describes in detail how to adapt decluttering for downsizing and divorce – two categories oft-neglected in the minimalism texts. All in all, a middle of the road book that fails to stand out.
Don’t get me wrong, Joshua Becker is a great author of minimalism books. And as a companion guide, Clutter Free with Kids is perfectly acceptable. However, the book felt mostly like a quick rehash of his previous books – The Joy of Less and The Minimalist Home. Not much was original. If you are truly struggling with decluttering with kids, you might find some of his advice helpful. Otherwise, don’t waste your time with this one.
Best Books On Minimalism
If you look past the decluttering books, the best books on minimalism help you understand the Why of a minimalist lifestyle. You can declutter your house, but unless you change your mindset about your possessions and your needs versus wants, you are just going to end up right back where you started. In The More of Less, Joshua Becker does an excellent job describing his minimalism epiphany (cleaning out the garage) and helping you find your inspiration for finding the joy of simplicity.
One offshoot of the minimalist lifestyle is simple living – embracing a slower pace to life. Brooke McAlary pens and convincing case to why you should ignore the frantic world and slow your life down. Perfect for mothers, Slow speaks beyond decluttering into finding peace and meaning in the modern world.
In When Less Becomes More, Emily Ley preaches the benefits of slow living. The book itself is gorgeous – with thick pages, dreamy full-page color photos, and even a ribbon to use as a bookmark. Ley delves into why you should slow down, but doesn’t give many practical tips on how to slow down. I would first suggest reading Brooke McAlary’s Slow, but if you’ve read that and want more about slow living, you can give this one a shot.
Worst Books on Minimalism
“I believe that my MS was my body’s way of rejecting my lifestyle.” That line right there predisposed me to hate Courtney Carver’s minimalism book. Although she tempers that statement in the surrounding paragraph, I just could not get past her complete lack of scientific knowledge or empathy for others going through MS. Even disregarding my distaste of that statement, the book as a whole was extremely underwhelming. The only interesting part was a small chapter on Project 333 – her minimalist fashion challenge. Luckily she has expanded that section into a full-length book, leaving you no reason to pick this title up.
Eve O. Schaub
Taking a different route, Schaub writes a memoir on minimalism. See, Eve is a hoarder. Not quite at the newspaper stacks to the ceiling level. Actually, you would just think she’s messy until you enter the “Hell Room,” packed full of anything and everything Eve deems of value – like a dead mouse. She can’t throw away a dead mouse! Although Schaub is a good writer and she explains the thought process of a hoarder pretty well, you just can’t particularly like or relate to the book. Too many cringe-worthy moments – like that dead mouse – where you just want to say, “Oh, honey! No.”
You might not realize it from the title, but instead of a guide to living with less, Cait Flanders has penned a minimalism memoir that falls completely flat. For one year, Flanders decides to only buy consumable goals. Instead of insightful thoughts on the cycle of consumerism, you get the whiny journal of a twenty-something realizing that binge-eating and alcoholism are not good for you.
Minimalism Books: Beyond Decluttering
If you want to go to the extreme end of books on minimalism, Bea Johnson has the ultimate guide to embracing zero-waste. She is unafraid to admit that she went a bit too far (even churning her own butter!) before settling into her current zealous state. While Johnson comes off as condescending, she does deliver plenty of food for thought with her tips on the zero-waste lifestyle.
Could you wear only 33 items for 3 months? Taking a capsule wardrobe to a whole new level, Courtney Carver takes minimalism into the fashion realm. By limiting your wardrobe to items you love, you’ll have more fashion sense, more money, and more time to do other things. Having participated in Project 33, I can attest her method is solid, though I’m not 100% sure Project 333 needed a full book to explain the concept. However, Carver does a great job filling up space without making you feel like she’s just filling up space. She dives into the minimalist mindset and motivation and then sets you at ease that you won’t miss your overstuffed closet. Whether you pick up the book or just check out her blog, Project 333 is a great minimalist experiment to try.
In Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport takes a similar approach to decluttering books but instead focuses on technology. Instead of being constantly hooked to your phone, Newport urges you to take the same thoughtfulness in minimalism books and apply it to your digital life. With a practical 30-day “digital declutter,” Newport encourages you to mindfully unplug and enjoy the best life you can.
Not all minimalism books are about your home. Gary Keller gives your to-do list the minimalist treatment with his complete overhaul on how you evaluate your time. For the biggest results, Keller wants you to embrace the concept of The One Thing – stacking your day (and life) around doing what’s most important first, not what’s easiest. By challenging yourself to always focus on your number one priority, you’ll find you can make giant leaps forward.
Similar to Gary Keller’s The One Thing, Greg McKeown encourages you to the pursuit of less into all aspects of your life. Described as Essentialism, McKeown urges you to learn how to decide what is most essential and then cut out anything else. All about reclaiming your life through powerful choices, McKeown will make you realize it’s not about having more time, it’s about doing the right things with the time you have.
It’s not a secret that most modern moms feel overwhelmed. In her new book, Tonya Dalton explains that this feeling of overwhelm comes more from not having your priorities in order than from having too much to do. Dalton focuses on finding your motivations and be more productive by doing less. If you like a down-to-earth style writing style with relatable examples, this is a great alternative to Greg McKeown’s Essentialism.
Cary Telander Fortin and Kyle Louise Quilici
When you think about minimalism books about interior design, you likely picture modern clean lines and white walls. In this case, you’d be right. Fortin and Quilici have a little bit of everything – decluttering guide, minimalism motivation, and interior design tips. If you are looking for an all-in-one-guide then this could be a great place to start.
Just because you are a minimalist doesn’t mean you have to have empty white walls. Myquillyn Smith’s minimalist interior design book is about showcasing your own style, just with less stuff. She talks to you about choosing the furniture and decor that’s right for you, while not cluttering your house with unnecessary tchotchkes. Even better, Smith gives you interior design tips to help you go room by room to get the home you want.
What are your favorite minimalism books?