The Joy of Less Named to Amazon’s Best Books of 2010

bestof2010Wow! I just received an email from a reader, congratulating me on my book being named to Amazon’s “Best Books of 2010.” To be honest, I had no idea what she was talking about – but oh my goodness, it’s true!

The Joy of Less has been chosen as one of the “Top 10 Books” of 2010 in the Home & Garden category. If you scroll down, you’ll see it at #6. I never hoped, nor dreamed, of receiving such an honor—not to mention being in the same company as the likes of Bill Bryson. :-)

I’m pretty shy when it comes to self-promotion, so I hope you’ll excuse my little happy dance here. I poured my heart, soul, and countless hours into writing those 286 pages, with the hope that its message—that less stuff can mean more happiness—would resonate with a few readers. I’m grateful, and truly humbled, that it’s been so well-received.

Most of all, though, I’d like to thank you—every one of you who has purchased my book, requested it from your library, reviewed it on your blog, or recommended it to a friend. You are the reason for its success, plain and simple. You inspired me to write it, you kept me motivated to finish it, and you celebrated with me when I published it. I wish I could give each of you a big hug and thank you personally, as these words I’m typing can’t begin to express my love and gratitude.

In writing the book, I wanted to convey that anyone can live a joyful life with less stuff—you don’t have to ditch your house, travel the world, or live out of a backpack. In fact, the benefits of decluttering can be even more powerful when you’re raising kids, making mortgage payments, and doing the 9-to-5. Simply getting rid of some excess stuff can energize you, liberate you, and change your entire perspective on life.

I thought if that message touched just one person, and helped them live a happier life, it’d be worth all the effort. But thanks to you, it’s touched more people than I ever imagined. Thank you so much for spreading the word, and helping The Joy of Less reach so many. I couldn’t have done it without you!

Radical Downsizing

tinykitchen2-sA little over a year ago, my husband and I were living in a 1000-square-foot, 3-bedroom house with a 2-car garage and postage stamp backyard.

Now we’re living in a 390-square-foot, 1-bedroom apartment.

I have to admit: I loved the idea of such a radical downsizing, but wasn’t quite sure how it’d work out in practice. But you know what? So far, we’re functioning perfectly well in about one-third of our former space.

Here are the differences between our former (larger) house and current (tiny) flat:

Former house: 3 bedrooms
Tiny flat: 1 bedroom
Thoughts: Having three bedrooms was a lot of wasted space for us. We turned two of them into offices; however, I rarely used mine, preferring to work (on my laptop) in the living room instead. We’ve found one bedroom to be adequate for our current needs, but may opt for two in the future (the extra could serve as an office/guest room/flex space).

Former house: large, eat-in kitchen
Tiny flat: compact kitchen in corner of living room
Thoughts: I love having an open-plan kitchen, and the lack of space has been a great disincentive to accumulating excess culinary gadgets and appliances.

Former house: full-size refrigerator
Tiny flat: small, dorm-size refrigerator
Thoughts: When we first moved in, I thought the tiny fridge would be a problem – but surprisingly, it hasn’t been an issue at all. We’re a five-minute walk from the grocery store, and have found we prefer spontaneous meal-planning to bulk-buying or stocking up.

Former house: laundry room
Tiny flat: small washer/dryer combo in kitchen cupboard
Thoughts: If the unit worked well, this wouldn’t be a problem. However, it’s a temperamental bugger, and I often resort to hand-washing and air-drying rather than fight with it. I really don’t mind, though – there’s a certain simplicity and mindfulness to it.

Former house: two-car garage, two cars
Tiny flat: no parking space, no car
Thoughts: My husband commutes to work by rail and foot, and we take the train or bus on our weekend jaunts. We heart public transit!

Former house: front and back yards, garden
Tiny flat: public parks, pot of herbs on the windowsill
Thoughts: We miss having a garden (but not mowing the lawn!). For now, we’re content with growing some herbs and frequenting farmers’ markets – but in the future, it would be nice to have a small plot of land.

Former house: basement full of equipment and tools
Tiny flat: shoebox with a handful of small tools (hammer, screwdriver, etc.)
Thoughts: Since we’re living in a rental, we’re not responsible for maintenance and repairs; after owning an old house, that’s been quite a relief!

Former house: two offices
Tiny flat: ziplock bag of supplies in a kitchen drawer
Thoughts: Most of our work is done digitally, so we really don’t need a roomful (or two) of office equipment and supplies. A few envelopes, paperclips, pens, pencils, tape, etc. have been enough.

Former house: two bookshelves full of books
Tiny flat: a handful of books
Thoughts: Ebooks are my minimalist dream come true. If I can’t get something from the library, I purchase the Kindle version. Since another overseas move is likely in our future, I’m determined not to accumulate physical books.

Former house: TV
Tiny flat: no TV
Thoughts: If you own a TV in the UK, you must pay a yearly TV tax. We decided to skip the expense of the TV, cable, and tax by forgoing it altogether. We occasionally watch shows or movies on our laptops (via iTunes).

Former house: attic
Tiny flat: no storage
Thoughts: As I say in my book, stuff expands to fill the space available. Having less storage space makes it much easier to be a minimalist!

Former house: 21 normal-sized windows
Tiny flat: 4 enormous windows
Thoughts: 17 less windows to clean!

Former house: doing repairs and maintenance on the weekends
Tiny flat: traveling and hiking on the weekends
Thoughts: :-)

Overall, I’m really enjoying our tiny-living experience. It’s fascinating to see “how low we can go” and still meet our needs – without many of the things we once considered necessities.

In our consumer society, downsizing is often associated with deprivation. Our experience, however, has been the opposite: living with less has given us an incredible sense of freedom, happiness, and spontaneity.

Have you ever done a radical downsizing (or do you dream of it)? If so, tell us about it in the Comments!

{If you’d like to read more about minimalist living, please consider buying my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

My Minimalist Workspace

Today I thought I’d give you a peek at my minimalist workspace – in case you’ve ever wondered, this is where the magic happens. :)

From the time I was a child, I’ve never been a fan of desks. When I was young, I used to spread my homework out on the floor; somehow it felt more expansive, more conducive to creative thought. I was always slightly uncomfortable in schools and offices, where I had to conform to a more proper workspace.

When I moved into my new flat, I was thrilled to see the deep, low windowsills – a perfect minimalist office! I love the natural light, and the ability to “people watch” on the street below. And sitting on my cushion puts me into a calm, peaceful mood – helping me achieve a yoga-like mindfulness while I work.

You’ll notice that I don’t have the usual desk accoutrements in my workspace – partly because it doubles as my living room windowsill, and partly because I don’t require much more than my laptop. I do almost all of my work digitally, so really don’t need pens, paperclips, or a stapler standing by. I keep a tiny stash of office supplies in a kitchen drawer, and a folder of essential paperwork in my wardrobe.

I know this setup won’t work for most people, and am certainly not suggesting you adopt it – just giving you a little glimpse into my world, and what works for me!

Miss Minimalist's Workspace

Miss Minimalist's Workspace

{If you’d like to read more about minimalist living, please consider buying my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

My Tiny Apartment Tour: Minimalist Bedroom

After last week’s post (400 Square Feet is the New Black), I received quite a number of emails and comments requesting more photos of our tiny apartment.

Today, I thought I’d give you a sneak peak into the bedroom. I feel a little shy inviting thousands of people into this space, but what the heck – here goes.

To be honest, there’s really not much to see. It measures only 9.75 x 9.25 feet, for a grand total of 91 square feet. Suffice it to say, photographing it was somewhat of a challenge!

Tiny minimalist bedroom

Tiny minimalist bedroom

A few notes:

* I know a mattress on the floor is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it works for us. It also makes the high ceilings seem even higher. :-)

* We have no built-in closets, so all our clothes are in these two wardrobes (mine on the left, DH’s on the right). Above each wardrobe, we’ve corralled out-of-season items (sweaters, scarves, gloves) and other extras in white nylon Ikea storage cubes. I like the way they blend into the wardrobes and the walls, and give us a little extra storage space.

* I’m not a huge fan of the carpeting, but when you’re in rented accommodations, you learn to live with less-than-ideal finishes. If it were our own place, I’d choose either dark, wide-plank, weathered wooden floors, or white painted wooden floors.

* Yes, there’s a distinct lack of color here; but as most long-term readers know, I *love* white (see my posts Minimalist Home: White Walls and Minimalist Design: White Floors). I particularly like white linens in the summer – so cool, crisp, and refreshing! I’m considering adding a pop of color with a throw pillow; perhaps something in aqua or lavender, with a botanical print. Of course, I welcome suggestions from more décor-savvy readers.

* This bedroom was made for a minimalist – there’s not enough room for a dresser, nightstand, or any other piece of furniture. I love the way it requires one to boil things down to the essentials: a place to sleep, and a place to store clothes.

As I say in my book, I think the bedroom should be the most uncluttered room in the house. It should be a place of peace and serenity, a haven from our hectic lives. But it doesn’t have to be BIG to serve these needs. By keeping things simple, a small space can provide just as wonderful an oasis for our weary souls!

{If you’d like to read more about minimalist living, please consider buying my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

400 Square Feet is the New Black

Last week, I wrote about my Housing Crisis – at the time of the post, my husband and I had four days to vacate our flat and no prospect of new accommodations.

Well, today I have some good news to report: I’m writing this post from our new apartment! With only hours to spare, we found a place, passed the reference check, and signed a lease. I still can’t believe that everything fell into place at the last minute.

What’s even more exciting: our new place will inspire us to continue to live minimally, and provide me with plenty of blog material. Why? It’s less than 400 square feet (390 to be exact).

In one year then, we’ve downsized from a 1000-square-foot 3-bedroom house, to an 800-square-foot 2-bedroom flat, to our current 390-square-foot 1-bedroom flat. Woo-hoo! I’m excited to explore the challenges of living in such a small space.

The wonderful thing is, it doesn’t feel small; in fact, it feels more spacious than some of the larger flats we looked at. The reason: it has white walls, ceilings over 10 feet tall, and enormous windows that take up the entire front wall of the flat. It’s amazing what a difference these features can make – the whole place seems so light and airy.

Here’s a few pics (one of the front windows, one of the open-plan kitchen in the corner of the living room):


Some of the challenges we’ll be facing (and I’ll certainly be writing about):

* the complete lack of storage space. This flat was a conversion, and has no built-in closets. We will have to fit all our stuff into three small wardrobes (I’ll take one, DH will take one, and the third will hold coats, shoes, tools, paperwork, luggage, iron, and all those miscellaneous household supplies that have to go somewhere).

* the tiny refrigerator. Having a small, dorm-sized fridge (with an itsy-bitsy freezer) will be wonderful inspiration to shop often and cook fresh. I plan to write more about our simple, healthy meals in the future.

* no parking. Last year, DH needed the car for work, and we found it convenient for exploring the English countryside. Since this flat does not include parking, we’re ready to go car-free! DH will commute by rail and foot (2 miles walking each day), and we’ll be relying on trains and buses to get out of the city and go on our weekend hikes.

So what’s the meaning of the title, “400 square feet is the new black”? Well, my good friend Tammy Strobel (Rowdy Kittens), her husband, and their 400-square-foot apartment were featured this week in a wonderful New York Times article on living a happy life with less. I’m thrilled to join the ranks of such inspiring, small-space dwellers, and hope to see a trend develop for mindful, “right-sized” living.

My husband and I haven’t lived in this small of a space since college, and we’re excited to come full circle (we always felt the 1000-square-foot house was much too big for us). Fortunately, our lack of stuff has enabled us to move into a lovely space in a great location (if we had more possessions, we’d probably still be looking).

I never expected to live in 400 square feet again, but I’m pretty confident we can make it work. How about you – how low could you go? Let me know in the Comments!

Extreme Ways to Save

As many of you know, my first book (Frugillionaire: 500 Fabulous Ways to Live Richly and Save a Fortune) is about how to live (and love) a frugal lifestyle.

I enjoy talking about saving money just as much as minimalist living, and was thrilled when writer Melissa Neiman contacted me to request an interview.

The resulting article, 6 Extreme Ways To Save, is the top story on today. Please check it out, and learn how you can save $10,000 (or more) each year. After all, minimalism and frugality go hand in hand (the less stuff you buy, the more space and money you save!).

Many thanks to Melissa for including me in her fabulous article!

The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide

Today I have some exciting news to share with you: my second book has been published!

It’s called The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life.

Here’s a look at the front and back covers:


As most of you know, I started this blog after I moved to the UK—a relocation that involved selling most of my possessions, and starting my minimalist life anew.

Before that, however, I was in the same position as many of you: I had too much stuff, and wanted to pare down. My things weighed on me like hundreds of little anchors, draining me of my time, my money, and my energy.

So one day I made a decision: I stopped buying things, and started to declutter. And to my delight, what I’d expected to be a rather onerous task was absolutely exhilarating! I decluttered in the morning, in the evening, on the weekends, and in my dreams. When I wasn’t actually decluttering, I was planning what I could declutter next.

The entire process was an amazing time in my life: with each passing day, I felt a little bit lighter, a little more serene, a little more free. The less stuff I was burdened with, the more possibilities life seemed to hold.

I began to sing the praises of minimalist living to anyone who would listen, and was surprised at the positive response I received. I discovered that a great many people wanted to declutter their homes and simplify their lives—but for the most part, just didn’t know where to start.

That’s why I wrote The Joy of Less. The book is part philosophy, part pep talk, part practical advice—basically, everything you need to know to purge the clutter from your life.

Part One is all about inspiration. The quotes, stories, and exercises in this section help you develop a minimalist mindset—making it much easier to let your excess stuff go, and keep new stuff from coming in the door.

Part Two outlines the STREAMLINE method: ten sure-fire techniques to rid your house of clutter, and keep it that way. These steps are my “secret weapon” for achieving, and maintaining, a minimalist home—and I’m so thrilled to finally share them!

Part Three shows you how to give each room in your house a minimalist makeover. Each chapter tackles a different room: living room, bedroom, home office, kitchen/dining room, bathroom, and storage spaces (garage, attic, and basement). There’s also a whole chapter on creating a minimalist wardrobe, and another one dealing with gifts, heirlooms, and sentimental items.

Part Four takes this minimalist philosophy beyond the house. In this section, you’ll learn how to declutter your schedule, and reclaim your time as you did your space. You’ll also discover the far-reaching benefits of living lightly and gracefully on the Earth, and see how saving space in your closets can help save the planet.

Want a sneak peek? Click here to read the Table of Contents and the Introduction (or see the Contents below).



I assure you that the book is not a collection of blog posts, but rather a comprehensive manual for minimalist living. The vast majority of material has not appeared on the blog, and will provide you with plenty of new reading on the subject!

I’d be so honored, and grateful, if any of you decide to purchase the book. If you’d like to do so, it’s available on

The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life

For those of you downsizing your book collections (or outside the US), it’s also available on Kindle:

The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide: How to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify Your Life (Kindle Edition)

You don’t need to own a Kindle reader; simply download the free software to your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPod Touch, Blackberry, etc.

Thank you so much for letting me share this with you today. I love to write, but I’m somewhat shy when it comes to selling and promoting my work.

However, I’m very excited about the book, as it sums up all of my thoughts, ideas, and experiences with minimalist living. Furthermore, I feel like you’re all my family—and thought that some of you might be upset if I didn’t tell you about it. :-)

I really appreciate your support of my blog, and hope you’ll read my book!

As most of you know, I started this blog after I moved to the UK—a relocation that involved selling most of my possessions, and starting my minimalist life anew.

Real Life Minimalists: Me

mm-photo[Earlier this year, I ran a series called Real Life Minimalists, in which I invited readers to submit their own stories. I’d love to revive it, and thought I’d start by jumping into the ring myself. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.]

When I started this blog, I had no idea what kind of response I’d receive (to be honest, I never expected more than a handful of people to read it!). I didn’t know if people would find my minimalism a little weird, somewhat wacky, or way off the deep end. Most of all, I didn’t know if there were any other kindred souls out there.

Therefore, I chose to remain anonymous. That way, I could write about how many shoes, towels, or paperclips I owned without having to answer for my “eccentricities” in real life. I could wax poetic about white walls, empty rooms, and naked windows without putting my name on these musings.

Along the way, however, I discovered that this is who I am. I’m the woman who sold all her possessions and moved to a foreign country. I’m the woman who owns four pieces of furniture, and eloped with her wedding dress in a ziplock. I’m the woman who travels the world with a tiny bag, loves living without a TV, and would like to eat every meal out of a single bowl.

And I’m proud to be her!

Therefore, I’ve decided to come out of anonymity: I’m Francine Jay, and I’m a minimalist.

I’m an American writer currently living in England. I published my first book, Frugillionaire: 500 Fabulous Ways to Live Richly and Save a Fortune, last summer.

mm-cover-frugillionaireSo what’s a minimalist doing writing about frugality? Actually, I’ve found that the two pursuits often go hand in hand.

The book isn’t about clipping coupons, or finding the lowest credit card rates; it’s about saving money by simplifying your life. My goal was to make saving easy and enjoyable, and explain how one could live a rich life by consuming less.

(Click here if you’d like a peek at the Table of Contents and Introduction.)

If you’re interested in reading it, you can pick it up on; for those of you downsizing your books, it’s also available on Kindle.

When I’m not writing, I enjoy traveling, doing yoga, reading philosophy, and rambling the English countryside. Although I’m a city girl at heart, I’ve recently become enamored with strolling through pastures of sheep and meadows of wildflowers.

My short term goals are to publish a second book, and make more of my own food from scratch (like bread, yogurt, and tofu). I’d also love to learn to snowboard, speak Japanese, and play pedal steel guitar.

My long term goals are to see as much of the world as possible, and make some kind of positive contribution to society (I’m not sure exactly how yet, but I’m working on it!).

By writing about minimalism, I hope to promote it as a lifestyle alternative. I want others who are dissatisfied with consumer culture to know they’re not alone. I think it would be wonderful—for ourselves, for the Earth, and its other inhabitants—if we all learned to live with a little bit less.

Well, I hope that takes a little of the mystery out of “Miss Minimalist.” You can still call me “Miss M” if you like, or Francine if you prefer. And now that you know who I am, stop and say “hi” if you see me on the streets of London… :-)

{If you’d like to read more about minimalist living, please consider subscribing to my RSS feed, or signing up to receive new articles by email.}

My Minimalist Wedding Dress

I recently received an email from a reader named Elise, who wrote: “You mentioned that you are married. I’d love to know what you have done with your wedding dress and other keepsakes.”

Great question, Elise! After the big day, many women struggle with how to store the “dress of their dreams”—as well as all the other stuff they accumulated from the ceremony and celebration.

Fortunately, I was a minimalist before I got married—and knew I could never manage to drag around a big, bulky, and delicate garment for the rest of my life. My husband and I also wanted little to do with the usual marriage accoutrements (favors, invitations, albums, cake, presents, and the like.)

Therefore, instead of a traditional wedding, we eloped and got married in Iceland. Now, as many of you know, I’m an inveterate carry-on traveler—and I was not about to make an exception for this occasion (especially considering the dilemma I’d have if my luggage was lost!) Getting married abroad, therefore, presented a unique packing challenge: how to transport a dress, shoes, and other accessories in my carry-on bag.

An over-the-top, white satin “princess” dress, complete with veil and train, were obviously out of the question (and not really my style anyway). To top it off, I had little shopping time; we had only a month to do all the requisite paperwork, and get ourselves together, before departure. (As you may have surmised, my husband and I are pretty spontaneous and not particularly adept at long-term planning).

I had one requirement for a wedding dress: that it fit in a standard-size ziplock bag, for easy, no-worry transport. Fortunately, I found just such a garment: a cocktail-length lace dress in pale blue and gold. It folded down to practically nothing, and the fabric showed no wrinkles. I accessorized it with a long white cardigan (it’s cold in Iceland!), and some kitten heels that were slim enough to fit in my toiletry bag.

After a short and sweet ceremony, we sent out postcards of Reykjavik (the capital of Iceland, and city in which we were married) to announce our wedded bliss. In lieu of a reception, we went for a nighttime dip in the Blue Lagoon. By keeping things simple, we deftly sidestepped the barrage of gifts that usually accompanies such an event: china, flatware, fondue sets, linens, small appliances, etc. (We already had a furnished household, and certainly didn’t need any more stuff!) Friends and family were content to treat us to dinner, and bottles of wine and champagne, after we returned home.

Therefore, the only “keepsake” we have to store is our marriage certificate. Our photos are all digital, and my dress is now part of my regular wardrobe. We have no “wedding china,” “wedding linens,” or other sentimental “wedding things” that we’ll feel obligated to keep for the rest of our lives.

My advice to single minimalists: if you take the plunge, keep it simple. Otherwise, you may accumulate a lifetime’s worth of stuff in just one day!

I’d love to hear how others have dealt with wedding dresses, gifts, and other keepsakes!

My Minimalist Story, Part 5: Starting Over


A fresh start.

Don’t get me wrong, apartment hunting in a foreign country was an exciting experience—in fact, it’s something we’d always fantasized about on our travels. Unfortunately, however, it marked the end of our blissfully minimalist, hotel life.

It had been my long-time dream to live in hotels, with nothing more than a single suitcase; and I was fortunate enough to realize it, for six weeks, while we moved from the US to the UK (see My Minimalist Story, Part 3: My Life in a Duffel Bag).

For minimalists with deep pockets, it’s a great way to live. But for those of us with more limited budgets, it can’t go on forever. The weekly rate at our last hotel was just shy of what we’d pay for a month’s rent in an apartment.

Our challenge then, was to continue living as minimally as possible in a place of our own.

First, we had to decide whether to look for a furnished or unfurnished flat. We were surprised to find that furnished flats are more prevalent than unfurnished ones here in the UK (the opposite of our experience in the US). The concept was tempting: we’d have all the stuff we’d need, without actually having to own it.

The problem: our minimalist aesthetics. Most of the apartments seemed over-furnished, with more chairs, dressers, tables, etc. than we’d ever really need (or want). While such a life might technically be minimalist, it certainly wouldn’t look (or feel) that way.

Plus, we wanted to explore living life with just the bare minimum. Starting with an empty slate seemed necessary to truly determine the essentials.

So the day our lease started, we moved our duffel bags into our empty flat—and promptly realized we were going to need some of those things we’d taken for granted in the hotels! We made an emergency trip to Tesco (the UK equivalent of a Target or Walmart), and came back with towels, pillows, sheets, and a kettle—the very first possessions of our new life.

That night, we once again slept on the floor, just as we had the night before our closing. But this time, we were at the end of the ultra-minimalist part of our journey. From here on out, we’d be acquiring rather than purging, buying rather than selling, getting rather than giving. I dreaded the idea of having to re-purchase so many of the things we’d just gotten rid of.

At the same time, however, I was thrilled to have been given a “do-over.” I regarded this new beginning as a chance to determine, and acquire, only those things that met our needs—and nothing more. Finally, I had the opportunity to discover that elusive point of just enough.