Book Review: The Art of Discarding by Nagisa Tatsumi

discardingSYNOPSIS: The Japanese have a word “mottainai” which means a sense of shame at wastefulness, and this book takes a look into how that feeling affects our ability to discard possessions we no longer have use for and what can help us overcome it so we may declutter our lives.

COVER: The design is very minimal, a white background with red and black text. It definitely embodies the tagline of “how to get rid of clutter and find joy” as the simplicity satisfies. I also got a laugh out of the word “discarding” in the title as the body of each “i” is missing, leaving only a space with a dot overhead.

FORMAT:  The layout of the book is of being broken into parts, and those sections each deal with a different topic that is further divided into subcategories. Each idea is incredibly easy to find based on the table of contents and the matching header at the top of each page as well.

WRITING STYLE: I was actually quite impressed as this book is translated from Japanese. It reads fairly easily that, at first, I didn’t realize it was a translation. The only catch being is that some things tend to relate more to Japanese culture and doesn’t convert perfectly into a universal idea. There was also some gender biases happening, such as housewife/working husband that annoyed even as the author calls out chauvinistic gender stereotypes of other similar writings.

CONTENT: The overreaching idea of this book is decluttering your space. I like how it goes at the process from two angles –mental and physical. The first part of the book deals with our emotional struggle to throw things away and giving suggestions on how to overcome these thoughts by looking at it from a different perspective. The second part gives a breakdown of various strategies that can be used for deciding when to get rid of something. Different strategies work for different people on different items, so the author suggests picking and choosing what actually works for you.

UNFULFILLED PROMISE: The subtitle implies a sense of happiness is relevant to the process, but it was more about achieving joy by not having a lot of stuff –sort of a minimalistic lifestyle. It was all about getting rid of what you don’t need, with no mention of things that bring you joy despite not having a practical use.

PERSONAL THOUGHTS: I can see how this book is incredibly useful in overcoming a variety of hang-ups that prevent anyone from decluttering. However, it was too black and white about what goes and what is kept, the necessity or lack thereof in regards to an object, that left no room for retaining personality of the owner.

QUOTE:  It’s very simple: keep things you use and discard those you don’t.

VERDICT: I think this is a really good book to read when preparing to declutter, but I would not use just it alone for getting my house in ship-shape. It has great advice for dealing with the guilt of wastefulness as well as providing strategies of deciding when to be rid of things, but has such a focus on discarding that it seems a bit of a negative process that can be disheartening. I do think it is a really good reference book to have as I could see myself going back to it whenever I feel overwhelmed by clutter, but would soften it by incorporating other expert strategies.


Author: JaimeKristal

JaimeKristal is a freelance editor and writer. She started her book review blog "Tales of a Booklover" for the enjoyment of sharing her love of reading, writing, and editing.

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