We Are All Minimizing Something

“The whole of life is but a moment of time. It is our duty, therefore to use it, not to misuse it.” —Plutarch

“Oh, I could never be a minimalist.” I’ve heard it a thousand times.

When I do, I first ask myself, “I wonder what misconception would bring someone to think that?” And second, I think to myself, “But you already are a minimalist. You just don’t know it. You see, we are all minimizing something.”

Our resources are finite. We can’t have it all and we can’t do it all. Everyday, we trade our lives for something.

When I became minimalist:

  • I found more time for the things that I love.
  • I found more money for things of true worth.
  • I found more energy for things of lasting value.
  • I found more focus for things that brought real meaning.
  • I found more opportunity to pursue my greatest potential.

Intentionally or unintentionally, we are all minimizing something. I just chose to minimize the physical possessions that were not adding any lasting value to my life.

Image: visual panic

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    In fact many people are minimizing their personal plans, dreams and ambitions. We all are grown up to be like that. We have to realize this mistake and start to minimize something else to have time and energy for what we dream about.

  2. says

    I was a behavior helpline counsellor for an animal shelter for years. It was common for people to call to want to relinquish pets (cats mostly) because they were allergic. What we always explained (with some success) is that you can deal with an allergy by minimizing *all* allergens in your life/home. That meant getting rid of extra cushions, drapery, rugs, etc. What I often had to come out and ask was if the person was really looking for a reason to get rid of the pet. If someone really loved their pet, they would be willing to keep sheets on furniture that could be washed often (rather than letting fur and dander sink into cushions), remove extra decor that collected dust (which many people are allergic to) and stop smoking, avoid smoking ,etc. etc. The list goes on and on. But the key was that if you got as many other sources of allergens out of your life, the reaction you had to your pet wouldn’t be as bad.

    This probably seems off topic but it’s something I’m really serious about. People choose things over beings that can supply pleasure and love. I keep my house as allergan free as possible because my best friend has asthma. She’s more important than a lot of pillows. But she says I am one of the few people she knows who will do this for her.

    • romney says

      Depends what you mean by “deal with an allergy”. All this makes it easier to keep your house clean. Makes things a bit better when the dog isn’t there and you’ve scrubbed the place to within an inch of its life. But as soon as the pet returns, so does the full allergic reaction. The house is just a backup repository for the allergens, the pet is the source. Clearly you have never suffered the misery of an allergic reaction to a beloved family pet that can’t understand why you don’t want it to sit on your lap anymore. It is a much more difficult decision than you give people credit for. I kept my cat after we found out I was allergic to it and these weren’t just random asthma attacks. Never considered anything else. But thats not for everyone, especially if they have a severe reaction. You know, sometimes you have to make a hard choice, and sometimes parents love their children more than their cats for instance – I know a dedicated cat lover might find that hard to understand! But please don’t mislead people into thinking that this is cure for any but the most light of allergic reactions.

    • JoAnn Hale says

      Who knows!! I’ve adopted a dog couldn’t have him (8 MO.) in a new housing development. I would have kept looking for a new place to live..Just sayin

  3. Heather says

    @AlexM: I agree. I have four cats (all rescues from the local shelter) and I wouldn’t give them up for anything. A (wonderful, amazing, generous) friend kept them for me for a year while I was deployed rather than have me be forced to give them up. As you mentioned, I keep an extra sheet on the bed, over the quilt and pillows, and change it out every 4-5 days. I also try to vacuum and dust regularly, as well as minimizing the dust catchers in my home. Cleaning the air conditioner air filter is also really important. Sometimes I get tired of the cleaning, but that’s just when I skip a day or two. : P “Because they shed” is not a good enough reason to give up one of my babies. I’ll deal with fur and litter pans if I get their unconditional love in return — and their love renders any cleaning a minor effort. : ) <3

    Consider carefully before bringing a furry (or feathered) family member into your home — you should be prepared to care for them for their whole lives, not only while they're "convenient" for you.

    • says

      Some of us have to find other homes for our cats despite all these actions and additional medications, etc. I wish I still had cats, but at least I know that I found good homes for mine.

      • romney says

        I got lucky. Once we’d worked out the cat was causing the asthma attacks then we were able to take measures to at least not let it get to that level any more. It was still a struggle though. I never knew if I had a cold or it was the cat.

  4. says

    14 years ago I left home and everything behind. I moved overseas taking with me just one small suitcase. It was there and then when it hit me, I don’t really need many things. What I need the most, will always be there for me, no matter where on earth I am. My family!

    Somewhere along the way I forgot the lesson and now with a family on my own, I found myself in a house full of stuff. It may not be cluttered for many people but I know, it could be a lot better.

    It’s a lesson that I want to pass to my children: You are not what you own but what you really are & don’t let your stuff own you. Don’t let your stuff prevent you from discover places and do the things you are meant to do.

    I asked myself, Once I am gone, what do we get for owning more stuff than somebody else? Do we want to be remembered by the stuff we left behind or by the experiences we shared with those we love?

    I started with small steps, taking out one thing I not longer use or I don’t need once a day. But after a week I have gained momentum! I have taken 6 trash bags full of stuff from my closet alone. While going thru the things in the “black hole” (the name my children have for my closet) I realized that I have held onto things for silly reasons and for way too long.

    I just let it go, It feels sooo good, so liberating! Rest of the house: here I come:)

    • Vivienne says

      I went through the same process when I emigrated to Canada from the UK alone with two suitcases and a carry on many years ago. Then I got married and had a family and every time we’ve moved the truck got bigger and bigger. We don’t plan on moving again but if we do the truck would now be a lot smaller than the last one. I still have a long way to go but tossing a few things every week into a designated “charity box” seems to be a fairly painless way to downsize things we don’t use. The best thing about it is that as the stuff gets less and less I have more time and room to focus on people and the activities that really matter.
      Thank you for sharing.

    • JoAnn Hale says

      Yes it does. Look up The Fly Lady on Google she’s from North Carolina

      & get on her email list some stuff I delete but most I save and read. Give her a try!!

  5. says

    I completely ‘get’ your post Joshua.

    My first house was a small bungalow on an oversize lot in the city limits. We had a large vegetable garden and a small mortgage. Life was good. We sold that house and bought 5 1/2 stunning acres in the woods near the coast. We built our 3,000 square foot dream home on the top of a hill and had no view of our neighbors for 21 years and a small mortgage. I created sprawling gardens and had a fenced vegetable garden with raised beds. Life was grand. We divorced. I bought out my ex which put me in major debt. I remarried and we kept the home for another 6 years and then when the economy went south and work dried up we decided to sell. I was heartbroken. It was the house my son was born and raised in. It was my dream. We moved to the coast in a house half the size on a tiny lot. Life is simple. I walk the beach nearly everyday. My son moved in with his dad to attend high school and lives 1/2 hour away. I travel to see him every week, sometimes more. He likes the ‘city’ life now and has no desire to be out here “in the middle of nowhere”. I understand where he’s at.

    Every Sunday we go to our local farmers market. I grow a small garden on our tiny deck. I have a few potted plants and very little yard maintenance. Our friends don’t care what kind of car we drive or parties we attend. Our kayaks are worth more than my car.

    I feel as if I’ve always been on the path to simplification. Now, my dream house is more in line with a tiny house (or two). Being surrounded by expensive houses, neighbors with fancy cars and elaborate lifestyles never suited me well. We have more community in our sleepy little seaside village than I ever experienced in my 21 years with 8 neighbors. I feel as if I’ve finally (at 50+) grown up. I know what I want in life and it’s not ‘things’. I like having things that support us like our kayaks and computers. But I don’t need 3,000 square feet or a Ferrari to be happy. I strive to always minimize in all areas of my life. It frees me up, opens a place for other possibilities. Life is good.

    • says

      Darris – At (almost) 51, I am finally ‘growing up’ too.

      The stuff (that I THOUGHT) made me happy, is stashed in totes and on shelves and in boxes in the basement. And on bookshelves and kitchen cupboards and linen closest. You get the picture, I’m sure. : -)

      Why have I been so naive? I think of myself as a very intelligent person (most days!) but this accumulation of material goods is one of the silliest things I’ve done.

      I am jealous of your small house and beach-walking. Really. I love your line about ” I like having things that support us “. That is spoken like a true grown-up.

      PS: I love the photos on your blog. We vacationed in Carolina Beach, NC this summer and every morning watched the dolphins swimming in the ocean. It was heavenly. : – )

      • says

        Oh Mike . . . it’s been a process for sure. Love hearing your thoughts on this subject. Somehow it’s taken me half my life (I plan to live to 100 : ) to appreciate what is simply right in front of me. I can still get sucked into living large but I’ve always been happiest with the simpler things in life. When I start leaning towards consuming more I first ask myself “how will this support me in the simpler lifestyle that I love.” I still enjoy nice things just less of them. When I feel chaotic or stressed I know it’s time to unload some things.

        Come visit the Sonoma Coast someday Mike, you’ll never want to leave ; )

  6. kelly kirsch says

    I would give up everything before I would give up my two humans, two dogs and two cats. To them I have pledged my heart. Everything else is just “stuff”.

    • says

      Amen! I love your comment. : – )

      Back in the day, my “stuff” made me happy. So I thought the more “stuff” I had, the happier I would be. Was I ever wrong. Now I have all this crap taking up space in my basement (and other areas of the house) and I’m beginning to feel smothered by it.

      It’s time for some SERIOUS de-cluttering. Like you, I’m all about my family. And I have this overwhelming craving for empty S P A C E (instead of “stuff”).

  7. says

    Both poetic and thought provoking. Paying less attention to material needs clearly puts your focus on what’s important in life. It sure can be difficult to do in a society that generally values material possessions. It’s ironic that giving up those material possessions can in fact provides you more wealth.

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