By Lauren Rosenberg
I love stuff.
I am a collector of bits and bobs and stuff and things and odds and ends and bric-a-brac and knick-knacks.
In my room is a clay shark; a metal container of Smiggle rubbers that have been sitting there, unused for at least 7 years, to keep the smell preserved; 16/17 of James Patterson’s Womens Murder Series books; a ton of Harry Potter merch, including wands and a cape and tie; and four (still alive!) cacti.
I keep ribbons and lids and old plastic bags and already-used packaging just in case.
In my bedroom, I have two bins: one recycling and one normal rubbish bin— which I then sort into soft plastics and landfill when it’s bin night.
This is all to say, I’m not so good at this clutter-free, zero-waste lifestyle. But I’m here and ready to try my bloody best.
I first heard about Less Stuff through my Instagram—on the profile of the illustrator of the book, Ngaio Parr. Her illustrations are beautiful and eye-catching, especially in their simplicity. They’re scattered throughout the book, mostly line drawings in block colours, with solid outlines. A solid page of colour and a squiggle accompanies the beginning of each chapter, with most of the pages in between a solid white. In each chapter, there are special coloured pages—with reminders, hints and tips. I love colour, so the design of the book had me a little bit giddy.
This is an honest book review, so let me say straight out: I was skeptical. As you saw before, I am not one for clutter-free living, so I wasn’t sure this book could help me. But I am nothing if not determined.
The first thing I found was that it’s a pretty easy read. The words are simple, the font is readable and the layout of the book made me want to keep going. What lay behind those colourful pages?
There are six main sections in the book: Introduction, The Bigger Picture, Before We Begin, Taking Action, Letting Go Responsibly and Keeping Clutter At Bay.
I’ve been on a big de-cluttering kick for a couple of years, but I always run into the same problem: what the heck do I do with the stuff when I don’t want it anymore? Op shops aren’t always the answer, and I am wholly against putting things into landfill (unless they really have to), so I just keep everything, because it means I don’t have to throw it out. But there comes a time when the boxes on my floor get too much, and it looked like this book had some answers!
The first part of the book focused on the benefits of de-cluttering (both for me and the planet) and it also looked at the mindset around cleaning up. Sport metaphors often go over my head, but this one I understood: cleaning up was a marathon and not a sprint.
I am notorious (to myself) for starting a big clean, and then getting 15 minutes into it, with everything spread across the floor – and deciding I don’t want to do it. This leads to frustration at the mess and the fact that I didn’t achieve anything. However, the next time my mom mentions the state of my room, I’ll tell her that I’m cleaning it marathon style. But in all seriousness, I think it’s a good point, because I often don’t have the energy to get it all done at one time.
The main section of the book—Taking Action—goes through every single room of the house, and gives you step-by-step instructions on what to do. The instructions differ for each room, depending on the (typical) items in the room. It also has a miscellaneous part for any unusual rooms you might have. This was a helpful section, because I’ve read a lot of articles about de-cluttering, and they all seem to skip out on this step. Often the instructions look like this: Step 1. Unpack all your clothes. Step 2. Sort what you like. Step 3. Get rid of what you don’t.
There’s no instruction there, no step-by-step guide to help you when you feel a little bit helpless. There’s a reason you’ve shoved this in the too-hard basket and a guide with no actual guide isn’t going to help you out very much. But this section of the book was pretty good. It went specific, which made me feel accountable for all the stuff that I own.
The last two chapters focused on environmental responsibility. This is what I was mainly here for, and I have to say I was impressed. It was split into five major categories: Selling, Donating, Repairing, Recycling and Learning from Landfill. This is the order of the hierarchy of de-cluttering, and since I am all for least-effort actions, it was great to have a nicely bound book of all these resources.
I’ve had boxes on my floor—full of my stuff—for the past few months (it’s embarrassing to say how long). But after I read this book, I tackled them. I didn’t use all the methods in here, but I didn’t guilt-give to the op shop, knowing they would have to throw it out anyway. My floor is box-free and long may it last!
3.7/5 stars—would recommend!