20 Smart Reads About Living with Less Stuff

These memoirs, manifestos and more will inspire you to get organized and give up your unnecessary stuff.

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'Buyology' by Martin Lindstrom

In this "view from the cash register," Lindstrom reveals how the seductive world of marketing—think jingles, slogans, eye-grabbing ads—affects our buying decisions on a subconcious level.

'Dirty Secret' by Jessie Sholl

"My mother is a compulsive hoarder. She's one of those people who dies because the firemen couldn't get through the piles of newspapers and clothes and books and shoes and garbage, whose jungle-like lawn makes the whole block look shoddier, whose friends and neighbors are shocked when they finally see the house's interior: They had no idea their friend/daughter/nurse/teacher lived that way. They had no idea anyone could live that way," writes Sholl in her compelling, compassionate memoir about her mother's struggle with hoarding.

'Give It Up!' by Mary Carlomagno

Carlomagno, a professional organizer, chronicles her self-imposed year of living without—alcohol, shopping, elevators, newspapers, cell phones—and discovers a new appreciation for what she has, and what she doesn't need.

'The High Price of Materialism' by Tim Kasser

Money, as the saying goes, can't buy happiness. In his impeccably researched book Kasser, a professor of psychology, investigates how our desire for things effects our well-being.

'Made from Scratch' by Jenna Woginrich

DIY convert Woginrich, a web designer, decided to change her life by becoming more self-sufficient. In this joyful memoir meets lifestyle guide, she details how she learned to produce her own food, make her own clothing and ultimately live a simpler, more fulfilling life.

'A Year Without Made in China' by Sara Bongiorni

"The eviction is no fault of China's," writes Bongiorni in her memoir about the year she and her family banned products made in China from their lives. "It has coated our lives with a cheerful veneerof cheap toys, gadgets, and shoes. Sometimes I worry about lost American jobs or nasty reports of human rights abuses, but price has trumped virtue in our house. We couldn't resist what China was selling."

'No Impact Man' by Colin Beaven

In this honest, at times unfathomable memoir, Beaven convinces his wife, "a Marc Jacobs white Stella handbag girl" and young daughter to live one year without making an impact on the environment. Translation: no trash, no driving or flying, no laundry detergent, no imported produce, no TV, no air conditioning....no toilet paper.

'Off the Grid' by Nick Rosen

Living off-grid, "beyond the reach of power cables and water lines that intersect the modern world," is the subject of Rosen's intriguing investigation into the lives of people (aging hippies, a middle-aged couple, former executives) who choose to live with less.

'The Overspent American' by Juliet B. Schor

Schor describes her insightful, fascinating book about why we spend as a treatise on" "why so many middle-class Americans feel materially dissatisfied. Why they walk around with ever-present mental "wish lists" of things to buy or get. How even a six-figure income can seem inadequate, and why this country saves less than virtually any other nation in the world."

'Scaling Down' by Judi Culbertson, Marj Decker and George Booth

Who needs "a cushion of possessions," ask the authors of this thoughtful guide to downsizing. After all, Mother Teresa died with just a bed, a chair and a blue sweater.

'The Small House book' by Jay Shafer

Thinking of living large in a small space, tossing tchotkes or cleaning out your closet? Pick up this aspirational tome devoted to teeny, tiny homes.

'The Story of Stuff' by Annie Leonard

To illustrate the perils of overconsumption, Leonard shares intrepid tales about sneaking into dumps and factories around the world; chronicles the lives of Congolese kids working in deadly mines; and points out the many ways our "stuff" is harming our health and well being.

'Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things' by Gail Steketee, Ph.D. and Randy Frost, Ph.D.

In this comprehensive, engaging look at hoarding, a phenomenon that has only recently gained visibility, Steketee and Frost reveal what it's like to feel a strong attachment to every possession you own and shed light on a disorder that effects millions.

'The World Without Us' by Alan Weisman

"Picture a world from which we all suddenly vanished. Tomorrow," writes Weisman in this riveting book of science meets speculation about a world without humans. "Could nature ever obliterate all our traces? How would it undo our monumental cities and public works, and reduce our myriad plastics and toxic synthetics back to benign, basic elements? Or are some so unnatural that they're indestructible?" This is a fascinating, sometimes frighteningly imagined glimpse into the future.

'The 100 Thing Challenge' by Dave Bruno

Irked by consumerism? So was Bruno, who challenged himself to winnow down his possessions to, you guessed it, just 100 things.

'Voluntary Simplicity' by Duane Elgin

One of the first books on sustainability, Voluntary Simplicity, a visionary work when it was published in 1981, was recently reissued to match the growing interest in solar living, healthy cooking and organic gardening. "Over the decades," writes Elgin, "simplicity is increasingly being defined by what it is for (connecting with and caring for life) instead of what it is against (destructive consumerism."

'Shift Your Habit' by Elizabeth Rogers

Believe it or not, going green is about living less expensively. Here, Rogers includes hundreds of "habit-shifting" suggestions—switch to an ultra-low-flow showerhead, pack waste-free school lunches—to help you save money and live simply.

'A Little House of My Own' by Lester Walker

If you're ready to shrink your space, and we mean really shrink it, then pick up Walker's delightful collection (floor plans included!) of diminutive dwellings, all under 325 feet.

'Rightsizing Your Life' by Ciji Ware

Whether you're downsizing to a smaller home or cleaning out the garage, this book (with an introduction by Gail Sheehy) will help you pare down a lifetime of stuff.

'Sell, Keep, or Toss?' by Harry L. Rinker

Rinker, a collectibles expert and professional appraiser, gives advice on plowing through yours, or a loved one's many possessions.

 

 

 

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For a slideshow of books simple meals, simple living and more, click here.

First Published September 13, 2011

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