11 Best Books on Simple Living to Read in 2021

Looking for the best books on simple living to inspire your journey? You’ve come to the right place!

A simple life comes in many forms, and there are countless pathways to get there. While this freedom to define your own simple life is exciting, it can feel like you’re drifting at sea without an anchor.

Because there’s no concrete definition of what this lifestyle entails, I use books about living simply to point me in the right direction. Reading the stories and lessons of like-minded people who’ve transformed their lives is incredibly motivating.

And because simple living encompasses so many practices–gratitude, minimalism, self-reflection–it’s helpful to learn about those related topics as well.

Whether you’re a simple living newbie or a veteran, you’re sure to find a new favorite from this list of books on simple living.

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Five books about living simply standing upright with daisies sticking out of pages.

Shortlist of best books about simplifying life

  1. Soulful Simplicity
  2. The Joy of Less
  3. Atomic Habits
  4. The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own
  5. Slow: Live Life Simply
  6. The Happy Mind: A Simple Guide to Living a Happier Life Starting Today
  7. What Now?: Meditation for Your Twenties and Beyond
  8. When It’s Never About You
  9. The Year of Less
  10. Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World
  11. 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste

Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver

If you only read one book on simple living this year, make it this one.

I picked up Soulful Simplicity shortly after I decided to live a simpler life, and it quickly became one of my favorite books of all time. It’s a memoir, handbook, and warm hug all bundled into one easy-to-read package.

Carver’s obsession with perfectionism, productivity, and success mirrored my own personality, which made her journey very relatable. Although I don’t have children, I never felt like parts of the book weren’t “for me” (childless people–you know what I mean).

The book is divided into four sections that dive into different key aspects of living simply:

  • Connecting with yourself
  • Decluttering your home
  • Freeing your schedule
  • Loving and honoring people–not stuff

After each section, Carver invites you to pause, “put your hands on your heart”, and reflect on the lessons you’ve learned thus far. It may sound cheesy, but it’s exactly the type of reflective practice that keeps a simple life on track.

Soulful Simplicity is a treasure trove of powerful quotes and clever tips–I have over 30 bookmarked pages that I refer to again and again. It’s truly the perfect simple living book for beginners.

The Joy of Less by Francine Jay

Your home is a living space, not storage space.

— Francine Jay

Francine Jay is the woman behind this famous simple living quote. Her book, The Joy of Less, has inspired countless people to declutter their homes and transform their relationship with possessions.

The Joy of Less is split into four parts:

  • Part One offers inspiration and words of wisdom for the work ahead
  • Part Two describes the 10-step STREAMLINE method for decluttering
  • Part Three takes you through each room of your home and offers targeting decluttering strategies for each
  • Part Four has tips for investing your family in the clutter-free mentality, along with other simple living suggestions

If you want to rid your space of unnecessary stuff–and keep it that way–this book is for you.

Atomic Habits by James Clear

At first glance, Atomic Habits looks like it belongs on a list of productivity books rather than books on simple living. But Clear’s book gives a concrete strategy for overcoming one of the biggest hurdles to simplifying life: changing our daily habits.

The book offers a few simple yet highly effective strategies for modifying our behavior, including Habit Stacking and The Two Minute Rule. By the time you finish reading, you’ll be a master at setting and maintaining helpful habits.

I’ve used Clear’s techniques to create lasting routines, from a morning of mindfulness and exercise to flossing every night without fail (that’s an accomplishment!).

The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker

Joshua Becker is a bestselling author whose books on minimalism and intentional living have defined the genre. While this isn’t his most recent book on simple living (that would be 2018’s The Minimalist Home), The More of Less has plenty of relevant lessons to share.

What I like about The More of Less is how it approaches the topic of owning fewer things. As Becker notes early in the book, “I already knew that possessions don’t equal happiness. Doesn’t everybody?”. Unfortunately, knowing is only half the battle.

While it’s nice to know HOW to declutter, it’s equally important to understand WHY you had so much stuff in the first place–and how to break the cycle. Becker’s book tackles both sides, and also shares numerous stories of other people who’ve taken steps to live more minimally.

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SLOW: Live Life Simply by Brooke McAlary

Much like Soulful Simplicity author Courtney Carver, Brooke McAlary had a life-changing event that caused her to reevaluate her priorities.

Between caring for two young children, running a business, and scheduling life around her husband’s busy workload–all while suffering from post-natal depression–Carver realized her “successful” life was slowly killing her.

In an attempt to regain control, she started decluttering. The act of “removing the excess” snowballed into a journey to live slowly, simply, and meaningfully.

SLOW is a collection of Brooke’s struggles, lessons, and practical tips to declutter, de-stress, and reconnect with what truly matters in life. If you’re a fan of her podcast or want a simple living book that reads like a friendly conversation rather than an instruction manual, this one’s for you.

The Happy Mind: A Simple Guide to Living a Happier Life Starting Today by Kevin Horsley and Louis Fourie

The Happy Mind speaks to the very essence of simple living: what is true happiness, and how do I hold onto it?

Spoiler alert: there is no specific definition of happiness. Instead, each and every one of us defines happiness on our own terms.

The Happy Mind takes you on a journey to understand what makes you happy, why you do things that make you unhappy, and how to create happiness that lasts instead of seeking short-term gratification.

Plus, there are tons of actionable suggestions and mini-mantras you can use daily, like “today’s action determines tomorrow”. It’s an excellent read for anyone new to minimalism and simple living.

Save me for later!

What Now?: Meditation for Your Twenties and Beyond by Yael Shy

Confession time: I used to think meditation was a bunch of woo-woo nonsense. And then I did a multi-day mindfulness PD when I was teaching at a high-poverty school, and quickly realized the benefits.

Young adults face a barrage of emotionally-charged questions on a daily basis. We wonder if we’re making the right career choices, if we should move closer or further from home, if we should start a family or become a digital nomad… It’s a lot to manage.

What Now? is a modern take on Buddhism, mindfulness, and meditation. It tackles relevant topics like burnout, anxiety, and self-judgment, and provides the tools to overcome them.

If you’re a fellow millennial or Gen Z, I highly recommend picking up this book.

When It’s Never About You by Ilene Cohen

Being a people-pleaser makes it hard to live simply–trust me, I used to be one! When you feel compelled to accept every invitation and request for help, you end up exhausted–physically and emotionally.

Cohen’s book gives people-pleasers the tools we need to reclaim our time, our sense of self, and the respect of others.

Learning how to say “no” is essential to maintaining a simple lifestyle. Once you have the confidence to graciously refuse demands on your time, you can start living for yourself and the things you value most.

The Year of Less by Cait Flanders

The Year of Less is one of the most insightful books on simple living. Touching on themes of consumerism, hedonism, and sustainability, Flanders takes us through a year of her life where she bought only consumable items (groceries, shampoo, etc.).

During those 12 months, Flanders realizes that many of her (now off-limits) coping mechanisms–alcohol, shopping, takeout–were making her life more miserable. This powerful insight pushes her to question what makes her happy, and to change her habits to life more simply and sustainably.

While Flanders does talk about tangible things like how she decluttered her apartment, The Year of Less is much closer to a memoir than a self-help book.

If you were hoping for a decluttering guide, I suggest buying Francine Jay’s The Joy of Less. But if you want to get inside the mind of someone going through the struggle of simplifying, this is the simple living book for you.

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport

When you think of clutter, what comes to mind? Overflowing dressers? Shelves full of knick-knacks?

We tend to tackle physical items when decluttering because it’s right in front of our faces.

But what about the clutter of time-sucking apps, notification bells, and 20+ open tabs? It’s much harder to conceptualize when it’s tucked away in the virtual world.

Digital Minimalism is the technology equivalent of Marie Kondo’s renowned Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Newport examines the healthy relationships digital minimalists have with their phones, social media, and other online mediums, and shares tips for how you can achieve the same balance.

His 30-day “digital declutter” process is an essential part of my minimalist decluttering checklist.

101 Ways to Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellog

This may seem like an odd choice for a list of books about simple living. However, I believe there is an undeniable connection between living simply and living sustainably (hence the content of this blog).

The goal of zero waste is to create as little trash as possible, which means avoiding products that can’t be sufficiently composted or recycled. Kellogg has been a champion of the zero waste lifestyle for years, but her approach is friendly and judgement-free (unlike some extreme members of the movement).

The 101 ways are organized into categories like “Kitchen and Cooking”, so it’s easy to quickly flip to the section you’re interested in. Her tips range from DIY recipes to product swaps, and they’re all accompanied with the “why” behind the suggestions.

It’s easily my favorite book about sustainable living because the content is so actionable.

I learned tons of simple tricks from 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste, many of which I put into practice the next day. Some of my favorites include her all-purpose cleaner recipe and a tip about covering leftovers with plates instead of plastic wrap (why didn’t I think of that before?).

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