Book Review – “Unstuffed” by Ruth Soukup


There comes a tipping point in our lives. A point at which we realize things have to change. Sometimes it is a good revelation. Sometimes it is a hard revelation. Sometimes it is both.

In the past few months, I have slowly had one of these revelations. My wife actually had it before I did. It’s catching on now. We have too much stuff. Our otherwise nice home is overtaken by things. Our kids’ toys. Clothes. And . . . this pains me to admit . . . my books. I am still of the mind that having a lot of books is a good things. Studies have shown that children who grow up surrounded by physical books achieve more. I will never be book free, at least I don’t foresee that right now, but I do need to cut back.

In an effort to help with this, I have been reading more books on minimalism and decluttering.

I knew my wife had picked up Ruth Soukup’s book Living Well, Spending Less before, and she really enjoyed reading it. When I saw that she had released a new book, Unstuffed, I really wanted to check it out. I was not disappointed.

Soukup’s book is like many books on minimalism in that it strives to help us break free of our need to collect and keep more and more things. It is different, however, in that it does not stop there. The subtitle of the book is “Decluttering Your Home, Mind & Soul,” and the book strives to show us how to “unstuff” all three areas of our life.

The first part focuses on the same aspects as many minimalist books: Cleaning up the house. Soukup encourages us to create a vision for what we want to see in our home, and then to do whatever it takes to make that vision a reality. She encourages us to realize that more storage is not the answer, purging is. She also focuses on one aspect that is probably the most difficult for many minimalists, reducing the stuff the kids have and get.

But here is where the book took a nice turn. The next section focuses on decluttering one’s mind. She encourages readers to cut back on what we do by paring back our schedules, by reducing the amount of paperwork we have to wade through, and by learning how to reduce the guilt of getting rid of things that people have given us. This last part is very difficult, as we attach memories to things so that we feel that if we get rid of the stuff, we get rid of the memories that go along with it. Soukup encourages us to realize that the memories will remain long after the things are gone.

The final area Soukup focuses on is unstuffing our soul. She starts by encouraging us to declutter our friendships by focusing our time on developing a few deep friendships as opposed to spreading ourselves very thin in all of our friendships. This is not to say we have no acquaintances and aren’t friendly to everyone, but we cannot have an infinite number of deep friendships. She then moves on to unstuffing our lives to support our wellness. By focusing on sleep, exercise, and taking down time, we can drastically improve our overall wellness of life. Finally, in the last chapter, Soukup focuses on unstuffing spiritually by relying on grace and realizing we are a work in progress. I really liked that last chapter, as many minimalism books seems to come from an “I’ve arrived, so why haven’t you” perspective. Soukup, however, is very clear that she is still growing and has obstacles to overcome, as will we all if we embark on this journey to unstuff.

Perhaps other books on minimalizing have some of these same concepts and I just haven’t read them yet, but this book struck me as very well-rounded.

Throughout the book there are gray boxes with practical tips on how to apply the information in the book itself. The first one, for example, is “five easy decluttering projects that will transform your living space,” and the projects include creating a collection zone, clearing the counters, sweeping the surfaces, pitching the pillows, and managing the media (pp. 17-19). These practical steps are nice, as they take the information from ideas into real-life projects. As my wife and I work on cutting back on stuff, we will go back to these tips often.

The book also provides an address to a site to take the information further, and she mentions an app to download to help spur the process along.

One of the things I liked most was how the author kept tying in the concepts with examples from her own life of how she faced and overcame (or is in the process of overcoming) the very struggles she is writing about. This made the book feel much more personal than some other books and articles I have read on the subject.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking to declutter, minimalize, and “unstuff” their lives all around. Unstuffed is a good and encouraging guide in the process.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of the book from Zondervan publishers through the BookLook Bloggers review program in exchange for my honest review.