Book Review: L’art de la simplicité

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As of late I’ve become increasingly intrigued by the thought of minimalism and living a less stressful life (tiny Parisian apartments and horrifically busy morning commutes during metro strikes will do that to you). This interest has manifested itself through reading dozens of essays by The Minimalists, getting back into yoga, and listening to far too many podcasts and YouTube videos on the subject.

By the time I stumbled upon Dominique Loreau’s L’art de la simplicité at Shakespeare & Company, I was already deep into the idea that I wanted to live a simpler, more meaningful life. Loreau’s book seemed a perfect marriage between those sentiments and other longtime interests of mine, such as Japanese culture, mindful eating, and self-care.

Loreau is a French woman who’s lived in Japan for decades, and has taken bits from both cultures to form her philosophy, which boils down to living a more meaningful life by consuming less – less of material goods, products, and even food. In their absence, she promises you will have a clearer head, sharper mind, and greater appreciation for all aspects of life.

Based on other reviews I’ve read, this book can be quite polarizing, and after reading it multiple times I can understand why.

Loreau’s writing style is unapologetically frank and direct (she is French after all), which seems shocking to people who aren’t used to that type of talk. I didn’t take offense to that, but more so the stream-of-consciousness way in which she wrote, which made chapters seem a bit all over the place at times. I also found that the book was riddled with contradictory advice – she’d vilify one thing in one chapter, only to recommend it in another. All in all, the book seemed to be in dire need of a good edit.

When it comes to the content itself, while I wasn’t a fan of all her advice – she is obsessed with thinness and recommends regularly fasting and eating tiny portions of food – I did like most of it. She exalts the benefits that come from taking care of your body properly, having a tidy living space, eating healthy foods, buying a few expensive quality goods instead of many cheap poorly-made ones, managing your stress levels, and living within your means.

I also found some advice to be very practical, such as keeping track of and being sensible about your finances so as not to become a slave to money or debt. I also particularly liked a segment of chapter in which she recommended writing down your ideal self, to keep you motivated and give you clear goals if you are feeling unhappy about your current situation but are not sure where to begin to change.

That’s not to mention other beneficial parts of the book, such as the chapters about freeing yourself not only from physical clutter but from mental clutter as well, and keeping only friends and acquaintances that bring true value to your life.

Loreau’s book is not without its faults but overall has a good message. It also has some ideas and principles that you can easily apply to your life, which personally have been beneficial for me so far, and which I think would help others, too, who are looking to declutter their mind and life.

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