Books: Francine Jay’s “The Joy of Less”, by Pranada Devi

As the weather warms up, the bundled jackets give way to lighter coats, and hearty stews give way to more leafy salads, it’s a good time to consider our surroundings and engage in some good old fashioned spring cleaning. If the idea of clearing out some of our excess stuff seems appealing but daunting, minimalist lifestyle writer Francine Jay can cheer you along with her book The Joy Of Less.

The Joy of Less discusses the importance of seeing stuff for what it is: just stuff! Francine Jay mentions – but doesn’t dwell upon – the notion that our energetic ties to excess stuff can drag us down. Instead, she focuses on how you can see your way clear to living with far fewer items — and likely more happiness.

Jay writes, “Think of it this way: a container is most valuable when it’s empty. We can’t enjoy fresh coffee when old grounds are in our cup; and we can’t showcase our garden’s blooms when wilted flowers fill the vase. Similarly, when our homes – the container of our daily lives – are overflowing with clutter, our souls take a backseat to our stuff. We no longer have the time, energy, and space for new experiences. We feel cramped and inhibited, like we can’t fully stretch out and express ourselves.”

This book provides an upbeat, encouraging companion to the work of going through each room in your home and deciding what you really need and what you’ve just been hanging on to by default. Jay talks you through a ten-step process to approach the clutter, evaluate it, release what’s not needed, and prevent it from accumulating again. She knows the traps of guilt or sentimentality that keep us holding on to stuff that doesn’t give us joy, and she shows you the way to get unstuck and set loving boundaries to keep well-meaning family and friends from bestowing ever more unneeded stuff on us.

Throughout the book, Jay generally maintains a tone that doesn’t nag or judge, encouraging you to do what you can without feeling down on yourself. She does point out, however, the social and environmental ramifications of having more and more stuff, given that we share a finite space – this planet – with over six billion other people.

Beginning in late winter or early spring of 2010, I personally underwent a major “stuff purge”. I hadn’t yet read this book, but was living it. Bags and bags of clothes, unfinished crafts, items from a previous career, kitchen items, books, CDs, candles, blankets, you name it, all went to new homes. Every day that I came home from work to see a Freecycler had come to pick up what I’d left out for them on my porch, I felt lighter. As more and more old things (and their accompanying ideas about myself) went away, the more I could see a new, less encumbered way to live my life.

So this spring, as the weather warms up, maybe you’re ready to let that old ill-fitting winter coat go, even if it was bequeathed to you by your dear old great-aunt Peggy. Maybe you’re ready to let go of the journals you wrote in high school that you’ve stored under your bed for two decades. If you are – or even if you’re not sure – pick up The Joy of Less, and see how far a spring cleanse of your surroundings can take you!


Pranada Devi is a communications professional living in Toronto, Canada. She manages the Politics, Books and Activism sections for Parvati Magazine in addition to serving as Managing Editor for the magazine overall. She serves as an advisor on marketing communications for Parvati’s various projects.