Reading This Book Will Make You Happier–and Less Cluttered

You cannot read Everything That Remains without changing how you think about your life–and your stuff–and without doing something about it, which will make room for more joy in your life.

I promise, or you can return this post for a full refund.

But first, if you are eating or drinking, be careful lest you choke when you read that I’m talking about the virtues of minimalism.

You okay?

I can hardly spell minimalism, let alone practice it, but stay with me. There is valuable insight here even for someone who has way more than any five people need. Not to name names.

Okay one: moi.

By Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus and published six months ago, the book is a memoir and beautifully written, primarily by Josh, with Ryan chiming in on footnotes, which is funny. (For this reason the paper copy may be preferable to the e-book.) 

Everything That Remains, Image via

The authors call it a “why-to” as opposed to a “how-to.” It isn’t just about possessions; it is about anything you do that takes time, energy, or money–relationships, career, committees, TV, Facebook. Does it add value to your life?

Answering that simple but profound question brings profound clarity, enabling us to pare down, focus on what is important, and do what we are passionate about. We all know this, and yet…

As they say on their superb website, “There are many flavors of minimalism: a 20-year-old single guy’s minimalist lifestyle looks different from a 45-year-old mother’s minimalist life. Even though everyone embraces minimalism differently, each path leads to the same place: a life with more time, more money, and more freedom to live a more meaningful life.”

Pause here and click on their minimalism definition if you didn’t already. It’s not about throw-out-all-you-own-and-eat-tree-bark, which never has appealed to me. (Shocking, I know.)

What I need to find is the flavor for a 50-something-writer-wife-aunt-step-monster  who lives in three places on two coasts and has (too) many interests. It’s going to take soul-searching and work. I’m not saying (yet) that I’m giving up 10 pairs of Jack Rogers sandals, but there is clutter to clear, and I may need help.

Is there a flavor called Minimalism for Materialistic Spoiled Brats?

Since I started this post I’ve bought two flower vases, a small painting, and a bracelet.

They say when the student is ready, the teacher appears. This book hit me at the right time. Maybe it will you, too. Let us know.

Meanwhile have a look at–a good place to start on their website is here. Order the book via IndieBound, or here at Amazon.


  1. I’m glad to know about this– will definitely read it. This weekend I started a 30 bags in 30 days system. An idea from the local News & Observer: take a bag (size unspecified) of give-away and/or discard stuff out of your home every day for a month. Today is day 3. I can already see the bags getting smaller.

    1. Wow you are ambitious, Peggy, I’m impressed. There are of course many ways to address the clutter issue. Finding what works for you is the key. Congratulations on your bold move (hee hee), and thanks for writing. I’ll be looking for progress reports in your blog. xo Frances

  2. guess I had better RUN get this after my darling daughter did an sweeping glance of the “stuff”( a very subjective term) in my basement and said”Mom, you’d better do something about this because I’m not going to….!!!!!!!” that is an eye -opener ,for sure ..

    1. Ha! I hear you, Weasy! We threatened our mom–jokingly but not really–with the same. It didn’t help. She was not in the best health, and honestly I think she just plain couldn’t. But it breaks my heart to think she was overwhelmed by it and by what it must have cost her emotionally. 🙁 Thank you for writing, xox, Frances

  3. guess I had better RUN get this after my darling daughter did a sweeping glance of the “stuff”( a very subjective term) in my basement and said”Mom, you’d better do something about this because I’m not going to….!!!!!!!” that is an eye -opener ,for sure ..

  4. After reading your review, I have just ordered the book! As one who operates on a first name basis with my local Goodwill guys,it seems I am forever ditching stuff. Does the book give advice on how to persuade one’s housemate/lover that they really aren’t going to re-read their 2nd grade Sunday school books?? HELLLLP, with emphasis on the HELL part. Of course, I have always believed that out of sight, out of mind. Indeed, more has been accomplished when the hoarder is out of town than through the best of negotiations at the UN. Clandestine deposit runs to the neighbor’s dumpster are also a key to success. Hang in there, All. Asking for forgiveness is always easier than getting permission. GO FOR IT!

    1. Thank you, Valerie! You inspire us all, and perhaps you will your lover as well. As for the Sunday School books, hmmm. “Losing” items has a certain naughty charm, but getting at the root of the habit is probably longer lasting. Or is it a control issue between the two of you? I’m out of my depth here…

  5. Lawd Frances…I have “got shed” of so much stuff over the past year it is amazing, yet it seems more keeps coming! How DO we end up with every bit and bob every relation ever touched? I am certainly glad you “read the book” but I feel as if I wrote it!


    1. I hear you, Danny! Any bits and bobs of wisdom for us? Do you feel clearing the physical clutter has helped clear the “life clutter” as well? From your FB posts I get the feeling you are focused and clear most of the time. xo Frances

  6. Hi, Frances… (carmelca from Instagram here)… well, I too can completely relate to what you and several people in the “comments” have said… First off, I too asked my Mother as well to do this, and also believe it plagued her, which saddens me enormously too (because then there is that concept of “possessions owning you, kind of feeling”) ~ my husband and I moved out from the East Coast INTO my parents home in California to help take care of them, & it was overwhelming in all ways… we’d “meet” at the pantry after they had gone to bed, and toss items dating back to the 1990s that my Mother could no longer see or reach! (My father of course, never went into the kitchen!) My husband and I began to tackle “stuff” slowly, trying first to heave things that would, “crossed fingers”, go un-noticed! Like the night I tossed a fruitcake… and yes, she noticed!!! It frankly, has taken a few YEARS! Now, having just lost my last remaining parent, my Dad, this last year at 95, we are rolling up shirt sleeves and donating things to Hospice/Thrift Shops, etc. Feels great to pare down…But the TRULY scary part? We put our OWN things in storage when we moved here.. as there obviously wasn’t room in this home.. NOW we have just begun to unpack the first of FIVE storage bins of our possessions… ! Gad! My husband & I too, both in our 50’s, are shocked we have collected so much, … (as one of the men said that packed us up a few years noted: “You two’s got way too much stuff for two people!” True. And yet I truly do believe your observation that “the teacher arrives when the student is ready.” I’m ready.

    1. Wow, Cindy, thank you for sharing this and for expressing what is surely an issue for many of us at this stage in our, and our parents’ lives. It is HUGE, and it is difficult. Funnily Josh Milburn, who wrote the book, had the same experience, and it is what sort of “lit the fire” for him. Blessings to you, and good luck! Love, Frances

  7. A sister book to the one you’ve generously provided would be “It’s All Too Much”. I stumbled across it last fall. With two littles who are no longer in smocking – my honey and I spent the winter shedding the “baby phase” (and truth be told, all the boxes of this-and-that we brought into our “our first house” 10 years ago!). I hired an “errand girl” who was all too happy to stand by my side every Sat. morning for a few months as we made our way through the basement, toy closets, bathroom cabinets, kitchen, bedrooms, linen closets – you get the picture. The errand person left each morning bringing it all to consignment, goodwill, shoe repair, drycleaner, etc. She more than paid for herself! She also would roll her eyes when I stopped for too long on any area or item. It was amazing how little was left – and how little we miss any of the “stuff”. All the photos are in albums. All the school-firsts are in albums – it’s all DONE. Love this book as a continuation and process to take it further into my life – thanks thanks thanks for sharing! side note: Don’t we think there should be no limit on shoes – particularly JRs?!

    1. Thank you, Heidi! Thank you for bringing up Peter Walsh’s excellent “It’s All Too Much.” Another good one! And kudos to you for acting on it in such a methodical and ultimately rewarding way. Re you side note: Agree that shoes, especially JRs, should be exempt. I would also consider recusing jewelry and travel… 😉

  8. Oh my gosh Sistah, you crack me up! I have started the book and only wish I had read it before we had to move out of our house in record time. We packed up, moved and rehung 1,000 framed art masterpieces the children created and 2,000 family portraits and photos. I definitely have too much clutter, but I am happy to say these things bring me joy so I will focus on something else! Love you! Thanks for always sharing your wisdom.

    1. Dearest Sistah, If it adds joy, it isn’t clutter. You are the most organized person I know, and you are very good at throwing things out. Now we just have to get in that storage warehouse, OY. Love you, Sis

  9. This has been a topic on my radar for the past couple of years. I’m excited to hear of their book, and more importantly (since I’m trying to pare down my library) their website. I need to get rid of clutter and things that I don’t even use. It’s a slow process for me and I have to strike when the mood to do this is in focus. Thanks so much, coming from a fellow nester makes me think this might work. If Frances can embrace the notion, I can! 🙂

    1. Dear Karen, Thanks so much for writing and yes, striking while the mood is hot – as it were – is a great way to get going and build momentum. (I tossed two huge stacks of magazines this morning…) But you raise a very good point about those of us who are nesters, and “house people” in general, and I wonder if it’s really been addressed by many of the organizing self-help gurus. It warrants more attention… to be continued… and good luck! x, Frances

  10. Lawdy, I for sure have the “gathering gene” & while minamalism is as foreign to me as say grits are to a Back Bay born Bostonian I am drawn to the concept. And yes I am intriqued enough from your intended allure to head on over to Amazon. Seems to Moi this runs concurrent with the under lying meaning from Frozen’s “Let it Go” ….. perhaps?

    1. Yes Idina, I think so… And in all seriousness it’s all part of how holding on is holding back. (Catchy, no? 😉 Thank you so much for writing, as ever, x, F

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