As we grow up and become fully functioning members of society, our lives become more and more complex, cluttered, and chaotic. We are constantly being asked to do things by our boss, colleagues, spouse, and children, and as a result of this we end up getting pulled in a thousand different directions. Even though our intentions are good in trying to satisfy all of these requests, by spreading ourselves too thin we often end up doing more work but producing lower quality results. This lifestyle of putting in extra effort for less return will eventually take its toll on your happiness and even your health if it goes on for too long. In order to avoid getting burned out in this way we need to learn to simplify our lives, and that is exactly what this week’s entry into the Scott Drotar Literary Review can do. This guide to a simpler way of living, “Essentialism” by Greg Mckeown, will teach you how to remove the clutter from your life.
“Essentialism” is about figuring out what people and things in your life are actually important to your well-being and happiness right now, and then learning to eliminate everything else (the clutter). The author uses the analogy of cleaning out your closet to present the Essentialist way of thinking. He describes how when you go through your clothes in your closet, you typically have 3 piles. One for the items you will definitely wear and will keep (the essential items), one pile for the things that don’t fit or you will never wear again (the nonessential items), and one for the clothes you are not sure about (the reason you need this book). The method discussed in this book will allow you to effectively deal with this third pile, so that only the essential items remain. Mckeown does a terrific job of breaking down this process into easily digestible segments that allow you to absorb and apply the techniques gradually.
One of the things I liked most about this book was that the author makes it clear that his method is not a one-time event where you purge your life of the nonessential items and live happily ever after. Adopting an Essentialist perspective is a way of life. These Essentialist ideals have to be practiced constantly in order to be effective, because the world around you will always be presenting you with requests, and you must decide whether they are essential or not. While Mckeown does admit that it takes a lot of time and energy to fully adopt the Essentialist lifestyle, he also states that the rewards for completing this process are well worth the effort. Additionally, the various Essentialist techniques are discussed independently, and though the results are amplified when the skills are used together, you can implement only a few of them and still see an improvement in your life.
The one problem I had with this otherwise wonderful read was that at times his way of thinking was a little utopian. He talks about cutting certain people out of your life and refusing requests that are nonessential without giving much thought to the possible consequences for some of these actions. While maybe a few select individuals could get away with ignoring social niceties and saying no to their superiors at work (and he does discuss how to do these things tactfully), most of us have to endure a certain number of nonessential items in our lives in order to survive socially and professionally. His Essentialist lifestyle is wonderful on paper, but it would be difficult for most people to actually completely implement this way of thinking and maintain their way of life. Despite this overly optimistic perspective, their is a lot of valuable and applicable information to be gained from his method and way of thinking.
So often in life we get to the point where we are so busy that we end up working our ass off just to stay afloat. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live that way. By adopting and developing the Essentialist lifestyle, we can actually do less, but achieve more. This incredibly valuable information, coupled with the accessible way Mckeown presents his methods, are what make this such a great book. That is why “Essentialism” gets a 4 out of 5 on the Roll Models Review Scale.