“Wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.” - Maya Angelou
Four years ago, my life changed forever. The Saturday started out typical: woke up, drank some coffee, ate some breakfast, and started in on the day’s project. It was the first morning of a beautiful three-day weekend in Vermont. My wife and I had decided to spend the Saturday spring-cleaning the house. My project was to clean out the garage. After the cleaning was finished, we’d begin relaxing and enjoying the holiday weekend. But my life was turned upside-down before we’d ever get there.
“Maybe you don’t need to own all this stuff,” was the last statement my old-self remembers hearing. It was said by my neighbor right after I began complaining to her about how much work it had become caring for our house – everything from my garage was piled in the driveway at the time. She had used the word “minimalist” earlier in the conversation. And at that very moment, I found minimalism… or it found me.
As a result, my life has been refreshed, rejuvenated… improved. It’s been a crazy ride. And over the last four years, my life has changed in ways I never dreamt possible. Just consider these four statements I never would have made four years ago:
1. I wish I owned less stuff. Since that weekend, it’s been a four-year journey of minimizing possessions from my home and life. We immediately went to work removing everything we no longer used or loved. At the end of the process, we took a breath. But soon thereafter, we began noticing more things around the house we could live without and began removing them as well. Even after another clean-sweep through the entire house, we still owned more than we needed. We removed some more… bought a smaller house… and continued the cycle. Of course, none of this happens in a vacuum: holidays and birthdays come and go, moments of consumer-relapse occur, new hobbies emerge, kids get older, tastes change. Even as someone trying to live a minimalist life, things still begin to collect around me. As a result, when I look around my house today, I still wish I owned less stuff. And that’s something I never would have said four years ago.
2. I don’t mind earning less than I did last year. Somewhere along this four-year journey of intentionally living with fewer possessions, an important realization occurred in my mind. Living with less means I can joyfully earn less… if the right opportunity presents itself. The measure of success in my life is no longer tied to my house, my car, or my paycheck. I will measure success in other ways: integrity, character, family, friendship, joy, love, peace (just to name a few). Because of that change in perspective, when a new career opportunity presented itself one year ago that offered so many of the things I most value in life, I accepted. Interestingly enough, I had turned down virtually the same position 6 years ago because of financial reasons. But last year, when it surfaced again, I took it despite the smaller paycheck. As a result, I earn less money than I did one year ago. But I don’t mind a bit.
3. I’d love to tell you my story. I love my newfound life. I have more time, more energy, more mental-capacity, and more money to pursue what is most important to me. Owning less means less burden, less anxiety, and less stress each and every day. Because of the numerous benefits, I love sharing my story with others. I love seeing the realization in someone else’s eyes that possessions are not the answer to our heart’s greatest pursuits. And I love inspiring other to come join a movement of men and women all over the world who have decided to intentionally live with fewer possessions. I enjoy sharing my story because it stands as a clear invitation to find something better… and I’m not sure I could have said that four years ago.
4. I know, deep-down, you want to own fewer possessions too. None of us really believe it. No one really believes that possessions equal joy. It’s just that we’ve been told so many times and from so many angles that we would be happier and more satisfied if we accumulate more, we have started to believe the lie more than we realize. Our lives begin to align with that pursuit. We start to buy bigger houses, nicer cars, newer technology, trendier clothing, and more toys for ourselves and our family. As a result, our possessions begin to burden us more than we recognize. They no longer serve us – instead, we serve them. But in our deepest heart, we know our possessions aren’t adding value to our lives. Even worse, we can probably recognize how they are subtracting from it. I know, deep-down, you want to own fewer possessions. I know because I’ve been there. And why else would the message of this article resonate so deeply inside you?