minimalist books stacked in white crate with white elephant on white wall

Inside: The best books on minimalism and simple living to help you slow down, declutter and simplify. If you’re even the least bit curious about how minimalism can completely change your life, you need to read at least a few of these books.

Do you feel stressed and burned out by the crazy pace of your life? Are you overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff in your house, stuff that you have to keep organizing and cleaning up and maintaining? Does obligation dictate your schedule far more often than you would like?

That’s where I was five years ago.

I was juggling three young children under five with the usual household duties and too many outside obligations on my calendar. My house was also filled with way too much stuff, although I didn’t realize it yet.

Why was I trying to do so much? The underlying reason was simply this: I felt like I had to. Almost everything in my life was dictated by “shoulds.”

I felt like I SHOULD:

  • Adopt dozens of family traditions.
  • Put my kids in extracurricular activities.
  • Send my kids to traditional school.
  • Go to every event on the church calendar.
  • Keep every gift I’d ever been given.
  • Never get rid of anything because I might need it.

A meaningful and purpose-filled life looked like keeping a frantic pace – one I couldn’t keep up with even before I had kids. Busyness and the push for more, more, more leaves no sphere of society untouched.

I occasionally questioned whether I was really meant to live such a crazy, busy life. I felt “slow” and “low capacity,” and those words sounded like “behind” and “less than”, no matter how people said it.

More is better. Faster is better. That’s the chant I kept hearing in my head.

Finally, I started reading books about minimalism and simple living, and I realized that maybe there was a different way to live.

Minimalism Can Completely Change Your Life

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The minimalist and simple living movement is growing rapidly: a direct challenge to the consumerism and busyness that our society promotes and applauds.

This movement celebrates owning less and doing less – not for the sake of it, but for the joy it adds to our lives.

And families need minimalism and simple living even more than the rest. Our homes and our schedules are overflowing, and the stress is killing us (literally).

These books gave me the courage to “step off the beaten path,” as Erin Loechner put it.

Because of minimalism, I’ve been able to:

  • homeschool my kids
  • work part-time from home and make a full-time income
  • live a slower, simpler life
  • pay off debt and buy a house
  • clean less and spend more time with my family
  • have more time for my own self-care (even with homeschooling five kids)

Minimalism can change your life. I’ve experienced it personally. As much as minimalism does have its pros and cons, I would choose minimalism again any day of the week.

Decluttering Books V. Minimalist Books: What’s the Difference?

I have an entire post dedicated solely to the best decluttering books. So you might be wondering, what is the difference between books on minimalism and books on decluttering?

Decluttering physical stuff is just one small part of minimalism. It’s the part that most people start with when they decided to pursue minimalism.

But when you embrace a minimalist lifestyle, the “less is more” mindset extends to your entire life, not just your physical stuff.

Minimalism is about intentional living in every area:

  • your stuff
  • your calendar
  • your relationships
  • your work
  • your mind.

So if you’re looking for specific, step by step help with decluttering physical possessions, read this post on the best decluttering books.

But If you want minimalism to change your entire life – every part – this list of the best books on minimalism is a better place to start. If that’s you, start with this book list, and then find more specific decluttering help from the decluttering books.

Finally, because it’s so easy to get sucked back into our consumerist, busyness driven society, knowing your “why” for choosing minimalism is critical. These minimalist books can help you find your own “why” and inspire you with the stories of author after author for whom minimalism was truly life-changing.

7 Best Books on Minimalism and Slow/Simple Living

This list previously had over twenty books listed. But can you really trust a list that says pretty much every book out there about minimalism is “the best”?

In my humble opinion, these seven books are the best books on minimalism currently available.

If I lost these books, I would pay to replace them (and I’m a minimalist!). I read them over again on a regular basis, and I still find great value in them.

You would think that there’s only so much one can say about minimalism and simple living, but every author contributes something new – different perspectives and fresh insights that I truly appreciate.

So for what it’s worth, here are seven amazing books about what it means to live a minimalist lifestyle. I hope your life is changed by them as much as mine has been.

the minimalist way by erica layne book cover, with yellow and white sun background

1. The Minimalist Way: Minimalism Strategies to Declutter Your Life and Make Room for Joy

If I had to put only one book in your hands on minimalism, I’d probably choose this one. 

Erica Layne truly nailed it when she spent the first part of the book focusing on values, and helping readers figure out what theirs are. Decluttering – and any purchases you make after decluttering – are that much easier when you know what your top three values are. 

She covers living a minimalist lifestyle in several areas:

  • Home
  • Workspace & Career
  • Family life
  • Finances & Budgeting
  • Time & Time Management
  • Relationships

If you want an introduction to what minimalism is really all about (holistic, intentional living), read this book.

2. Soulful Simplicity: How Living with Less Can Lead to So Much More

Courtney Carver was one of the original voices in the minimalist movement and continues to be so today. 

When she was first diagnosed with M.S., she knew something in her life had to change – at least, it did if she didn’t want to watch her health go downhill fast.

By clearing the clutter from her home and her calendar, she drastically reduced her stress and discovered that without all that stress, her M.S. wasn’t all that problematic. It didn’t need to stop her from living her life to the fullest. 

Like other authors in this list, she doesn’t just talk about getting rid of her physical stuff because that’s the tip of the minimalist iceberg, so to speak. She talks a lot about how to slow down in a world where busy busy busy, more more more is the mantra. 

You will find both practical decluttering advice and minimalist wisdom in this beautiful book.

essentialism by greg mckeown black and white book cover on colorful patterned rug

3. Essentialism: The Discipline Pursuit of Less

This is not your classic minimalist book. In fact, I’m not sure anyone would actually consider it to be a book on minimalism.

Oh, but it is. 

Essentialism is about discerning what in your life is excess and unnecessary, particularly when it comes to your time and energy. 

And isn’t this what minimalism is – or at least it should be? Decluttering in every area of your life: physical possessions, your calendar, your inbox, your work, your mind. Only doing and owning what is truly valuable to you and worth your time and energy to maintain.

Greg McKeown brings a fresh and unique perspective to the minimalist niche, and I think it’s 100% worth the read.

slow by brooke mcalary book cover, on white with gold polka dots background

4. Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World

This book is a close second in my list of favorite minimalist books.

I absolutely adore Brooke McAlary, and her focus on slow living, perhaps because I live a slow, simple life – and minimalism gives me the time and space to do that.

Brooke explains the purpose of her book so well that I’ll let her explain why you should read it:

This book is about how you can choose to slow down. Step off the ever-revolving carousel of want-buy-want-upgrade. Opt out of the comparison games. Stop cramming a month’s worth of engagements into a weekend. Refuse to live your life according to the trends. Tread lighter on the earth. Create a home and a life that is simpler and slower and most importantly, works for you.

Brooke McAlary, Slow

If that paragraph speaks to you at all, you’ll love this book.

messy minimalism by rachelle crawford book cover on yellow and white suns background

5. Messy Minimalism: Realistic Strategies for the Rest of Us

My friend Rachelle recently released this gem. 

If you’ve ever thought about minimalism but thought, “Nah, I’m too messy for that,” this book is for you! Because minimalism is quite honestly a life-saver for messy people. 

This book offers realistic strategies for people who find decluttering and organization extremely difficult, and wish that someone who could relate would share their tips and advice.

(Thanks, but no thanks to the minimalist living advice from the neat freaks and naturally organized people – no offense.)

If that’s you, Rachelle is your person: she can help. If she can be a minimalist, then you can, too.

the year of less by cait flanders book cover on patterned colorful carpet background

6. The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store

If you want a real-life, day by day, week by week, story of someone attempting to live life with less stuff, this book on minimalism is for you.

Cait was tired of debt, consumerism and shopping addiction, and desperately wanted change. So she decided to attempt a year long shopping ban with a very specific list of things that she could and could not buy.

Over the course of the year, she learned just how much she depended on her stuff and shopping to alleviate pain and distract her from thinking about things she didn’t want to think about. She also radically decluttered her life and her calendar.

If you love memoirs and minimalism, and want the perspective of a minimalist who isn’t married with kids, The Year of Less is a must-read.

7. Chasing Slow: Finding the Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path

This minimalist memoir is a bit controversial. Some felt it was a whole lot of rambling by an upper middle class white mom that was a bit irrelevant to minimalism as a whole.

But personally, I really enjoyed Erin’s style of writing and her honest wrestlings with decluttering, minimalism and slowing down as she grapples with redefining success and happiness on her own terms. 

Check out her blog Design for Mankind. If you don’t love her writing style, it might not be for you.

What do you think are the best books on minimalism? Share in the comments!

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4 Comments

  1. Must include books by Mark Boyle.

    1. Author

      Thanks Mike! I’ll have to look into those.

  2. Wow! These are awesome book suggestions!! I’m excited to see what’s at the library and start reading!!!

    Minimalism has truly helped me in the last couple years but especially this current season that our family is going through a tough time. Since I’ve been living the minimalist lifestyle with my family and my kids, were all able to slow down and enjoy the small simple moments and experiences when we can.

    Your blog has truly helped me in my minimalism journey. Thank you so much for writing!

    1. Author

      You’re so welcome Kate!

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