Discover the magic of simplicity in this international bestseller, available for the first time in English.
Dominque Loreau is the master in the art of de-cluttering and simplifying. Now her groundbreaking L’art de la Simplicité, a huge bestseller in her native France, is translated into English for the first time. Loreau’s principle of “less is more” is set to change your life forever.
Living in Japan and inspired by Asian philosophy, Loreau takes you on a step-by-step journey to a clutter-free home, a calm mind and an energized body. Free yourself of possessions you don’t want or need; have more money to spend on life’s little luxuries; eat better and lose weight; and say goodbye to anxiety and negative relationships.
Give yourself the gift of health and happiness; to live fully and freely is to live with L’art de la Simplicité.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
DOMINIQUE LOREAU is a French essayist who has lived in Japan since the 1970s. She is also the author of L’art de l’Essentiel and L’art des Listes.
Read an Excerpt
L'Art De La Simplicité
How to Live More with Less
By Dominique Loreau
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2011 Editions Robert Laffont
All rights reserved.
Western society has lost the art of living simply. We have too many material possessions, too many temptations and desires, too much choice, too much to eat.
We waste and destroy so much. We use throwaway knives and forks, pens, lighters, cameras – and to make them we pollute our water and air, the landscape and nature. It's up to us to tackle waste here and now, before we find ourselves forced to confront the issue tomorrow.
Only once we have eliminated waste can we catch a glimpse of new possibilities ahead; only then can our everyday, essential activities – dressing, eating, sleeping – take on new meaning, a different and deeper dimension. We do not seek perfection, but a life more richly lived. Opulent luxury brings neither grace nor elegance. It imprisons and destroys the soul, while simplicity offers the solution to so many problems.
An excess of possessions leaves us no time to devote to our bodies. But when we feel comfortable in our own skin, we are free to cultivate our mind and spirit, better able to attain a happier and more meaningful existence.
Simplicity means possessing little, clearing the way for the bare necessities, the quintessence of things.
Simplicity is beautiful because it brings hidden joys.
The burden of possessions
THE NEED TO HOARD
Most of us journey through life with a great deal – often excessive amounts – of baggage. We should pause for thought and ask ourselves, why we are so attached to things?
For many people, material wealth is an expression of selfhood, proof of their existence. Consciously or otherwise, they associate their identity and self-image with the things they possess. The more they have, the more secure, accomplished and fulfilled they feel. Everything becomes objectified and aspirational: material goods, bargains, works of art, acquaintances, ideas, friends, lovers, holidays, a god, even the ego. People consume, acquire, accumulate, collect. They 'have' friends and contacts, 'hold' diplomas, titles, awards. They stagger under the weight of their possessions and forget, or fail to realize, that their acquisitiveness saps their vital energies, making them listless, and subject to increasingly urgent needs and desires.
Many things are superfluous, but we only realize this when they are gone. We used them because they were there, not because they were essential. How often do we buy things simply because we've seen them in someone else's home?
HOARDING AND INDECISION
'The world of relationships and acquaintances is rich enough to fill our lives, without the need to add useless ornaments that do nothing but encumber the spirit and our leisure time.'
Charlotte Perriand, A Life of Creation
Making a simpler life means making sometimes difficult choices. Many people end their lives surrounded by literally tons of objects they feel no affection for, and which are of no use, because they have been unable to decide what to do with them, and lacked the courage either to sell them, or to give or throw them away. Such people remain anchored to the past, to their forebears, their memories, but they ignore the present and cannot envisage the future.
Throwing things away requires effort. Getting rid of things is not difficult in itself, but judging what is useful and what is not can be. Letting certain objects go can be extremely difficult, but your satisfaction will be all the greater.
FEAR OF CHANGE
'Respectable men who are well-to-do Want you to think just like they do.'
Jake Thackray, 'The Scapegoat' (from Thackray's version of Georges Brassens' song 'La mauvaise réputation')
Our culture finds it hard to accommodate people who choose to live frugally: they constitute a threat to the economy, and to our consumer society. Such people find themselves marginalized as individuals to be viewed with fear and suspicion. People who, by choice, live modestly, eat sparingly, waste little and never – or hardly ever – indulge in small talk, are generally thought of as mean, hypocritical and antisocial. But to make that change is to embrace life. We are vessels, not commodities. Ridding ourselves of our possessions can help us become the man or woman we always wanted to be.
Many will object that they experienced hardship as children and see the process of material divestment as wasteful in itself. It makes them feel guilty. But this process is only wasteful if we throw away things we can still put to good use. If we rid ourselves of things that serve no purpose, we are not wasting anything. It is far more wasteful to hold on to something that's of no use to us: we waste our available space when we cram it full of things, and we waste energy trying to decorate our sitting room to match the photographs in interior magazines. We waste time tidying things up, cleaning them, hunting for them.
Do memories make us happy? Objects are often said to have souls, but should our attachment to the things of the past clutter our future, or keep us trapped in the status quo?
CHOOSE THE MINIMUM
'A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.'
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Economy as a way of life is a practical philosophy, because living with little improves the quality of existence.
Things are not the embodiment of our inner being. To embrace minimalism we may need a degree of spiritual and intellectual baggage, rather than material possessions. Some cultures, such as Korea, are instinctively drawn to simplicity and understatement, as Korea's artistic tradition amply demonstrates.
We can all choose the riches that come with owning little. What matters is the courage to carry our convictions through. Discipline, clarity and determination are the preconditions for a life lived with the strict minimum, in clean, airy rooms. Minimalism requires an ordered lifestyle and careful attention to detail. Eliminate as much as possible, resist becoming overwhelmed by objects and items of furniture, then concentrate on what really matters, free of the constant concern that comes with clutter. Decisions will become natural and instinctive, your dress sense will be more elegant, your home more comfortable and your diary less crowded. Basic good sense will reassert itself. You will find yourself contemplating life with greater lucidity. Learn to eliminate quietly, carefully, but firmly and thoroughly.
Pause for a moment and think about what you can do to achieve a simpler, easier life. Ask yourself:
What makes my life complicated?
Is it worth it?
When am I happiest?
Is having more important than being?
How far am I prepared to divest?
A tip: make lists – they will help you declutter your life.
USE AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE
'[The] ability to live without furniture, without impedimenta, with the least possible amount of neat clothing, shows more than the advantage held [by the Japanese] in the struggle of life; it shows also the real character of some weaknesses in our own civilization. It forces reflection upon the useless multiplicity of our daily wants.'
Lafcadio Hearn, Kokoro
Pause in front of any object that catches your attention, and reflect on its gradual dissolution: it is crumbling slowly, and one day it will return to dust.
Nothing is more gratifying than knowing how to gauge, methodically and clear-sightedly, the true value of every object encountered in life: what is its practical use, what aspect of life does it belong to, how does it enhance your existence? Try to discern its constituent parts, their probable lifespan and the feelings and sensations they inspire in you.
Do not enrich your life with objects. Instead, enrich your body with sensations, your heart with feelings and your mind with principles.
Clearly, the only way to avoid being possessed by material things is to own nothing (or almost nothing) and, above all, to desire as little as possible. Accumulated possessions are a burden. Multiple, eclectic desires are also burdens.
Divest yourself of material things as you would remove an uncomfortable, chafing item of clothing. Only then can you reach your fullest potential.
We cannot be open and receptive if we have not made space first. Do not place material things above human values, above your own hard work and peace of mind, above beauty and freedom, or above living things in general.
An excess of things is invasive, overwhelming. It deflects our attention from the essentials. Our minds become cluttered, like an attic full of objects accumulated over time. We feel constrained, unable to move forward. But if we fail to move forward, we are not living. If we carry on accumulating possessions and pursuing multiple desires, we become confused, anxious and listless.
Think about how you feel when you pack the bare essentials into your car and set off for an unknown destination!
THE POSSESSOR IS POSSESSED
We do not possess things. We are possessed by things.
Each of us is free to have whatever we like, but what matters above all is our attitude to things, our knowledge of our own limits, needs and expectations: what we like to read, what films we enjoy, the places that make us profoundly happy.
A lipstick, some ID, a little money: the only three things a woman needs in a handbag. If you have only one nail file, you'll always know where to find it. Beyond basic comfort, a quality environment and one or two pieces of good furniture, material things should be of minimal importance. Refusing to own too much brings a greater appreciation of the things that give us spiritual, emotional and intellectual pleasure.
Throw away whatever is useless or worn out. (Or leave it on the street with a notice inviting anyone who can make use of it to help themselves.)
Give away useful items (books, clothing, dishes) to hostels or charities. The gesture will cost you nothing. On the contrary, you will feel a greater sense of satisfaction and well-being. Sell things you no longer (or rarely) use. Once you've made space, savor the privilege of having nothing that may prove attractive to thieves, mites or jealous minds. To own more than the strict minimum is to burden yourself with extra worries. And as everyone knows, throwing things overboard is the best way to stay afloat.
At home: say no to clutter
MAKE YOUR HOME A STRESS-FREE RETREAT
'Space and light and order. Those are the things that men need just as much as they need bread or a place to sleep.'
A home furnished with nothing but a handful of beautiful, absolutely essential things is a haven of peace. Cherish it, clean it and inhabit it with care and respect – it is a protective shell for your greatest treasure: your own self.
Only once we are free of material concerns can we truly thrive.
The body shelters our mind and spirit, and home shelters and nurtures our body. Only when the mind and spirit are free can they truly develop.
Each of our possessions should remind us we need nothing but the thing itself, that it is absolutely fit for purpose, that without it we would find it hard to 'function'.
Home should be a place of rest, a source of inspiration, a healing retreat. In our overpopulated, noisy cities, we feel distracted and assaulted by color and variety. Home should be a place to replenish our energy reserves, and find new vitality, harmony and serenity. It should be a place of protection, both materially and psychologically, for body and spirit alike.
Malnutrition may be physical or spiritual. For the spiritually malnourished, home has its role to play. Our health depends on what we eat; what we choose to put in our home can have serious repercussions for our psychological well-being.
FLUIDITY, VERSATILITY AND ZERO DECORATION
'It was this love of the abstract that led the Zen to prefer black and white sketches to the elaborately colored paintings of the classic Buddhist School.'
Mai-Mai Sze, The Tao of Painting
'Superfluidity' in an interior is the product of careful planning and choices. The result is an ideal space requiring minimum maintenance, tidying or other work: a space that delivers comfort, calm and joie de vivre.
Bauhaus, Shaker and Japanese interiors are characterized by their shared focus on efficiency, flexibility and the concept of 'less is more'.
A plainly furnished home allows you to move around with ease. Objects and furnishings should be lightweight, aesthetically pleasing and comfortable. The eye should detect the softness of a carpet, the scent of a wall treatment in aromatic wood, the cool, fresh feel of a shower space. Throw out cumbersome ashtrays, woolen rugs too heavy to move, lamps with leads that constantly snare the feet, fussy embroideries inherited from a beloved aunt, tarnished copper pots that never come clean, and the hundred other dust traps cluttering your chimney piece, dresser, sofa and shelves.
Focus on altering intrusive architectural details, installing functional, soft lighting, replacing faulty taps. Comfort is an art, and without it, any attempt at decoration will be in vain.
'Floating' architect-designed interiors – the epitome of 'white space' – are designed to allow objects to live and breathe thanks to the empty space around them. Devotees of the style make few compromises: a handful of books, a scented candle and a big, soft, good-quality sofa.
A room furnished with empty space draws in natural light and becomes filled with positive influences. Any object becomes a work of art; a minute of your time becomes a moment to treasure.
People who live in clean, empty spaces feel in control of their lives. They are not 'possessed', and feel a greater satisfaction and comfort as a result.
There is no beauty without empty space. There is no music without silence. Everything takes on meaning and significance. In a plain, minimalist interior a cup of tea, a book, or the face of a friend on Skype asserts tremendous presence. In an empty space, everything becomes a composition, a still life, a picture.
The Bauhaus movement's first houses were much criticized for their austere appearance, despite their undeniable beauty. But they were models of functionality and common sense, even temples of the senses, with spaces set aside for sun-lounging, bathing and personal care. Everything was carefully planned for comfort and practicality.
SLIM YOUR HOME
Simplify your interior by creating one large space (for example) from three small rooms. Ridding yourself of useless objects delivers the same sense of well-being as natural, whole foods after a diet of industrially produced ready meals.
Eliminate whatever is not working perfectly. Ask an electrician to help you run wires and leads behind skirting boards, under parquet floors or in concealing strips. Change faulty taps, noisy flushes, cramped shower cubicles, awkward door handles – the many tiny annoyances that pollute our everyday lives.
One of the great advantages of our time is the miniaturization of our means of communication, so that we need less and less space in which to work.
Decoration is unimportant in a home – what matters are the people who live there. Quality materials are the key to comfort. Choose them with your eyes closed. Remember that cashmere is not a luxury for the wealthy: a pashmina shawl will keep you warmer in bed than two cheap blankets, adapts to any room in the house, and can be carried in your car or onto a plane. It is beautiful, wonderfully soft, and lasts for years.
Choose monochrome over color. Color can be tiring to the eye: white, black and gray are the absence of color and the fusion of all colors. They offer the essence of simple style, as if life's complexities had been eliminated by a process of distillation.
YOU ARE THE SPACE YOU INHABIT
When we take possession of a new living space, we try it on like a new coat, see how well it fits our personality, and settle into it like a protective carapace, a cocoon.
Often, the things we choose to communicate to the outside world reflect our innermost sense of self. Yet many people remain undecided as to their personal tastes, unsure of what brings them true satisfaction.
Creating an environment that matches our deepest aspirations enables us consciously to orchestrate the existing link between our inner and outer selves.
Architects and ethno-sociologists agree that our living space makes us who we are, that a home shapes the mind and spirit of the people who live in it.
Our environment trains our personality and influences the choices we make. Our understanding of a person deepens once we have visited their home.
Home should not be a source of worry or additional work; it should not be a burden. On the contrary, it should be a place in which to replenish our inner resources.
'Clutter' has the same root as 'clot'. Just as a blood clot blocks the circulation, so clutter can disrupt the proper functioning of an interior.
Too many homes look like bric-a-brac shops or furniture storerooms. In a traditional Japanese interior a room is only 'lived in' when it is physically occupied. When a person leaves a room, they leave no trace of their existence or activities. All practical items (futon beds, ironing boards, work desks, occasional tables, floor cushions) are compact, or designed to be folded away, so that they can be stowed out of sight after use
Rooms like these allow their occupants to move freely, undisturbed by the memory of other presences, from this world or any other.
Excerpted from L'Art De La Simplicité by Dominique Loreau. Copyright © 2011 Editions Robert Laffont. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
PART I MATERIALISM AND MINIMALISM,
1. Material excess,
2. In praise of minimalism,
3. Ethics and aesthetics,
PART II BODY,
1. Your beauty,
2. Minimalist beauty care,
3. Eat less but better,
PART III MIND,
1. Your inner ecology,
2. Other people,
3. Polish yourself like a pebble,
About the Author,