Display What You Value Most


I have a friend with a bookcase in her living room. It has four shelves… and 36 books, 11 figurines, 24 photos, 2 souvenir coffee mugs, various snow globes, flower arrangements, vases, and candles.

People often define minimalism as removing all material possessions from your life. They ask me, “How do you live life as a minimalist? It sounds so boring.” But their definition is founded on an incorrect assumption.

Minimalism isn’t just the removal of all physical possessions. It is also the intentional promotion of the things I value most. It is about deciding what is most important in your life and removing the things that distract you from it.

Which bring me back to my friend’s bookcase. As I look at her bookcase, I ask myself, “What is it that she values most?” I can’t tell by looking her at bookcase—it’s too crowded with things that are less important.

One benefit of minimalism is that you are able to visibly declare what is most important to you. Look around your living room. What does it communicate about you? If a total stranger walked in, what would they identify is most important? Is it? Or has the most important things in your life become crowded out by less important things?

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. rachel says

    I am a minimalist, too. I understand your thoughts about your friends bookcase. Last time we visited the outlaws, we were all watching TV. I could not focus on the program, because of all the stuff in the room and all over the walls. I started counting items just on the TV wall. I stop count once I hit 100 and I was not done. It hard to look at all that stuff.

    • Bobbie says

      I would suppose you never heard or understood the theory “To each his own” ??? Just a thought that crossed my mind.

  2. says

    When people walk into our living room, usually the first thing they remark about is the lack of a TV. There is not a lot of stuff sitting around either. People are generally amazed that our family actually talks and plays together instead of watching TV!

  3. sarah says

    This is my favorite benefit of minimalism! Not only does it communicate to others what I value, it also reinforces those priorities to myself every day -and that is what is most important.

  4. says

    > intentional promotion of the things that you most value

    Excellent point! My living room is pretty minimalist (compared to the rest of my house) – but I can do more. I can make sure my living room includes *only* those things I value. Thanks for the nudge.

  5. Christy Z says

    I love that people ask me about the things in our house – everything that’s left has a story and is loved.

    But we have to take care that because we have chosen minimalism, we don’t impose it on others – your post sounds very judgmental of your friend. It may be more cluttered than you would choose, but it sounds like the contents of her shelves make her happy and DO reflect her values- reading, travel, family etc.

    • Bobbie says

      That is sort of what my earlier comment was attempting to endorse. We are all different and that is mostly what makes each of us unique. How boring would it be if we were all exactly alike? God made each of us, and we should admire the brave souls who are minimalist by choice.

      • Meg says

        I think the article and questions prompt us to take stock of what is important to us and remove all else. Then our treasures will shine and show who we are as individuals. Removing what isn’t important to us isn’t going to make us all the same, as we don’t have the same stuff to begin with. Decluttering or minimising is about finding the right amount of stuff for YOU, that adds value to your UNIQUE life. Brave souls? I would say excited souls!

  6. Heather says

    Just starting the journey toward minimalism. I thought before that we didn’t have enough stuff displayed. Any thoughts on how to display pictures well so they don’t look like clutter?

  7. BrightStar says

    I have been pursuing minimalism and decluttering for a while now, and I feel my house is fairly minimal and streamlined. With one exception- my own bookcase. It is stacked to the brim with books, framed art courtesy of my child, a few knick-knacks, and several pots/vases scored at flea markets that hold remotes, gum, marbles, and other odds and ends. This is done completely on purpose. I think it’s visually interesting (it’s like a really big collage!), and when people come over they are drawn to it, and since I stack my favorite books in the front we usually end up having good conversations about these books. As a reformed pack rat, going completely bare-bones wasn’t something I wanted to do, so I have added this bit of controlled chaos to my otherwise streamlined house. :)

  8. says

    I’ve been thinking of becoming a minimalist since 2 years ago but i don’t know where to start. I feel overwhelmed just thinking about where to start. My husband says, I should start with clothes…and shoes…and purses :) My husband on the other hand is a collector of almost everything about movies and other ‘stuff’ Still I am hopeful…

    • Lisa says

      Hi, Strapless,
      I just saw this, but you can start with one drawer or one small closet. Or pick a category like purses or coffee cups. Just go through them one at a time. Ask yourself if you have used it within a year, if not, give it away. I don’t feel bad when I know someone else may enjoy it. I wouldn’t try to do your husband’s. give him time to see your wonderful results. I LOVE purging my closet. But it is an ongoing process. What you don’t feel capable of getting rid of today, you might 6 months from now. Good luck.

  9. vicki says

    I agree with brightstar. Your bookshelves are what you are showing as important to you.
    I like that is about your kids artwork and books.

  10. Cheryl says

    @Heather I display my pictures as works of art or focal points. I have 3 family pictures in my entryway that are in the same 11×14 frames. It is very intentional – not a random grouping. Similarly, I have a collection of photos on my piano – each in its own interesting frame but not crowded.

  11. Jon Weston says

    My family has inherited so much from previous generations, we’ve found it hard to know what to do with it all. It’s doubly hard when sentiment is attached. So now when we de-clutter, we try to ask ourselves how many different goals an item satisfies — is it useful? Is it beautiful? Does it have a family history? Is it made to last? Is it highly liquidable?

    The more of these requirements an object has to have, the fewer we keep — and the ones that we do keep, we cherish.

  12. Tim Hites says

    Sold my Sony Trintion Color TV to my father in law in 1978. Have not owned one since.

    We raised two kids and took them to the bookstore every Firday and gave each of them some $ and let them get whatever they were excited about reading.

    I quit telling people we didn’t have a TV because they would look at me like I was a Communist! I also had people ask if we weren’t depriving our children of an education.
    My son has two Masters Degrees, has published two books and works for the London Metro Police Dept. My daughter has a law degree and is an attorney working for a wind energy company in Portland so I guess they survived despite their cultural deprivations.

  13. BMarie says

    I’m having a hard time finding the line between meaningful items to display and knickknacks that have unnecessary emotions attached to them.

    Out of curiosity, what do you choose to display in your home? (Bonus points for posting pictures!) :-)

  14. says

    Great post! I had never thought of minimalism in terms of quality over quantity. I always thought of having little rather then having only what you truly value. Thank you for the insight!

    • Tina says

      We have been cleaning out my mom’s condo. Found some beautiful dishes. Kept the serving pieces from one set and am taking more of another set because I like the colors better. I have one display piece in my living room, when it gets full, things have to go. What’s important? Pictures of my children and grandchildren. I very seldom, maybe once a year, buy anything new. People give me a lot of clothes, cuttings of indoor plants, shampoo, soap. More is going as the dishes are coming in.

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