Your Son/Daughter is a Minimalist. This is Good News.

letter-to-a-minimalist

Dear Mother/Father/Grandparent of a Minimalist,

I should probably start with a quick introduction. My name is Joshua. I’m 38 years old. I live in Peoria, AZ with my beautiful wife and two wonderful kids. For most of my life, I lived a relatively-typical suburban existence. But then something changed, I decided to become a minimalist.

For me, the change happened one Saturday afternoon while cleaning my garage. My driveway began to fill up with physical possessions that needed to be cleaned and reorganized. Meanwhile, in the backyard, my son played alone kindly asking me to play with him.

At one point, I commented to my neighbor about all the time and energy required to maintain my house and my belongings. She replied, “Well, maybe you don’t need to own all this stuff.” I remember the comment like it was yesterday. I looked at the pile of junk in my driveway… I glanced at my young son alone in the backyard… and in that moment, I realized my possessions were not bringing me joy. Even worse, they were distracting me from the things that did. A minimalist was born.

Today, I wanted to write you a letter.

Someone you love dearly has recently made the same decision I made years ago. They have decided to intentionally live with fewer possessions. And now, they are forwarding this article to you because they would like to further explain minimalism and their decision.

Likely, there are a few things they’d like you to know:

1. Minimalism may be counter-cultural. But the lifestyle is not new—neither is the appeal. For thousands of years, people have been intentionally choosing to simplify their lives and live with fewer possessions. Minimalism is not new, nor is it a fringe movement. Material possessions have always failed to satisfy the deepest longings of our heart. And it is great to see in our world today, simplicity becoming more and more popular.

2. Minimalism is highly customizable. People embrace minimalism for any number of reasons: travel, entrepreneurship, the environment, or simply so they can focus more time on the things that matter most. Regardless of the motivation behind the decision, minimalism will always be applied uniquely. It has to be. We all enter at different stages in life with different passions. As a result, minimalism has no hard-and-fast rules. We are all going to apply it a little bit differently.

3. We are experiencing many life benefits living with less. We may try to convince you. Apologies in advance for any lack of patience. Minimalism offers countless life benefits. Almost immediately, we find more time, energy, focus, and money for the things that bring lasting joy into our lives. We spend far less time shopping, organizing, cleaning, and rearranging. We find greater opportunity to pursue our greatest passions. It’s fantastic! And because we love you, we are going to try and convince you of the same. Apologies in advance for anything we say that is not motivated by love, grace, and patience.

4. This could be a passing fad for your son/daughter, but it’s probably not. Certainly, there are some people who choose to embrace minimalism for only a passing season. But most people I know choose to embrace it for the rest of their lives. It’s just a better way to live.

5. Removal of the things you have given is not a rejection of you or your love. One of the most-asked questions I receive comes from people who are afraid of offending someone by getting rid of something that was given to them. There is a fear that removing it will result in hard feelings by the original giver. Most likely, this includes things you have given to your son, daughter, or grandchild. Some of them are going to be sold, donated, or thrown away. Rest assured this is not a rejection of you or your love in any way. Instead, it is based solely and entirely in their pursuit of living with less. Please do not take it personally.

6. Kindly reconsider the gifts you are going to give. Minimalists find great joy and intentionality living with less. We have worked hard to remove the clutter from our home and life. And it probably took far more physical and emotional energy than we realized when we first got started. But now, we fear the slippery-slope of accumulating clutter and allowing consumer-based happiness to creep back into our lives. You can help by reconsidering the gifts you give them and their kids. Minimalists are not against gift-giving. We really do appreciate them. But we enjoy experiences over possessions, quality over quantity, and needs over wants. We hope you will respect that decision.

In conclusion, your son/daughter has decided to simplify their lives. They have decided their lives are far too valuable to waste chasing possessions. You ought to be very proud of them. This is good news.

Sincerely, Joshua Becker

Image: Glyn Lowe Photoworks

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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Comments

  1. says

    Wonderful post…I will be sharing with loved ones. Choosing to live minimally has not been easy and we’ve been questioned and sometimes received less than positive comments from family because of our choice to intentionally live a simple/minimal life.

    I especially love your explantation that the ‘removal of things you have given is not a rejection of you or your love.’ While we appreciate the gifts given to us and the love behind it, we definitely do not keep everything we’re given. Instead, we view gifts like flowers…we are thankful for the giver’s love towards us, we enjoy the gift for a while and then when the gift is no longer useful or fits into our lifestyle, we let it go.

    And yes, my life is far too valuable to waste chasing possessions!

  2. says

    I love this post. It made me think of when I was in my young 20’s with nothing but a few clothes, a car and a trombone. One day I decided to move from NYC to Los Angeles and started driving. When I moved back I had nothing more. What freedom that was!

  3. says

    This is the letter I need to send to my parents. They are firmly entrenched in their world of posessions, and it was hard for them when we started taking steps towards minimalism. We purged room fulls of stuff from our house… and then we purged the house, selling it to downsize to a smaller apartment.

    When we first started downsizing, we often got comments from my parents relating to the stuff we were getting rid of and whether or not they should give us any more stuff. I think they were also worried that we were purging many of the things they had given us. At one point my father gave me a miniature tool set, and while his heart was in the right place, it was a cheaply made duplicate of things I already owned and ended up getting donated.

    I think this is a fantastic letter to the parents of anyone starting out on a path towards minimalism, and I’m sure many will be happy to use it. I think items 5 and 6 will be particularly useful. Thanks for sharing this letter.

  4. Tara says

    This is completely perfect! This post has been sent to my parents and in-laws. We are “Becoming Minimalists” and they don’t understand our deviation from consumerism. Not only is minimalism healing and cleansing for the soul, it is better for the environment. My father continues to persuade us to let him buy a new couch for our house, which was a hand-me-down. But the couch is perfect except for two small tears on a section. We continuously have to tell him that we are fine and actually happy with this couch but he doesn’t understand. He grew up with very little and has worked hard for the ability to provide nice things. So, I get it. I really do. But finding the words to help him understand that what’s right for him may not be what’s right for us, has been trying. I appreciate your insight and helpful words!!

  5. says

    My dear husband is a hoarder which means that I will never be able to live a minimalist life. =) With that said, we have made great strides in reducing clutter. We have implemented a one in one out rule ie if he wants a new pair of shoes, an old pair must go.

    • Leah says

      My husband is a hoarder too, but I think he might come round yet. Recently, we decided to completely remodel the loft, which has been his domain so far. He never wanted to anything about the loft, because he felt fine up there surrounded by his clutter. But our daughters and I promised him something he couldn’t resist: we’d convert part of the loft into a home cinema.He took the bait, and now he’s actively helping me getting rid of the clutter in the loft. Now – after 21 years of marriage – he’s finally ready to let go of all the stuff he used to cling to.
      So, don’t despair yet. Your hubby might come round too. Miracles do happen!

    • Kristi says

      My husband is borderline hoarder but totally in denial. He is a good provider but his heart is set on the money, not the joy that can be had in life. Since I can only minimize so much in my full house of kids, pets and husband, the only thing I can do is minimize the stressors I deal w on a regular basis. Tricky task at hand.

  6. says

    This is wonderful and couldn’t come at a better time. I tried to explain my journey to my daughter tonight and wish I had seen this earlier. I will be sending it on to her. thanks!!

  7. says

    I think the letter could be more useful with practical tips for how to show love or how to give gifts to grandchildren without violating the minimalist principles. Perhaps they don’t care so much WHY you do it, but don’t know how they fit in? How does a long distance grandparent relate to a child apart from giving objects that the child will connect to the grandparents?

    • Beth says

      Terri, I started doing things like adopt an animal from a sanctuary or zoo for them. They get sent of packet of info and pics of their animal, so they have something cool from the grandparents, but without a bunch of stuff. Plus they are helping an animal. You can also buy a square inch of the North Pole at Xmas time, it comes with a deed, map of where your property is, personalized letter from Santa…try to think more in terms of unique and you can come up with some great ‘things’ that don’t include a bunch of clutter.

  8. says

    This is perfect – but I am not sure how my parents would react to this. They have always been apprehensive of me becoming too much like what they were like when they were younger. They were poor and living without a lot of luxuries. They want me to have the best life possible, but in their opinion, I am shunning all of that, and choosing to live as they did, simply and without a lot. I hope eventually they can make peace with it, and realize I am happy as I am, without the luxurious cars, and houses they want for me.

  9. SptBike says

    At 59, and after a messy and hostile divorce… I have seen the light… My wife left the state with her ‘valued’ possessions and left me with 5,300 sq. ft of house with a collection of ‘stuff’ after a 26 year marriage. I’m so over consumerism. It hurts me to buy anything new now… knowing that I wasted, not only personal resource, but environmental resources to manufacture ‘stuff’ I have rarely used. I now strive for a life of simple elegance. I will live and travel light. Having this discussion with my mom, who recently celebrated her 91st birthday, she admitted that she spends countless nights awake worrying about all of the ‘stuff’ I will have to dispose of upon her passing. She understands, and has help me, focus on heritage and the ties to the past, without the burdening of the ‘stuff’. Every piece of family heirloom that I retain, has a rich and deep story that I cherish, and I am grateful to add it to my load, and have accepted a few, but important item to my ‘back-pack’. Let family know, it ‘they’ who are important… Not the ‘stuff’ in the garage, the closets, under the bed, in the cabinets and in the many many drawers in the typical suburban house. I want to be comfortable; I want heritage; I want to be proud of the possessions that I retain, but most of all… I want to be light and free of material possessions that don’t add real and sustained value to my life.

  10. smallfry says

    I just forwarded this to my parents and to my husband so he may tell his parents. Love it and I hope it helps them see why we are doing this and will hopefully inspire them to do something like it.

  11. Gina says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I have been trying to find a way to tell our families about our desire to live minimally and have struggled. This note along with a few sentences of our own words will be a perfect way to start an open and honest conversation with our families. I still don’t expect the conversation to be easy or any more well received but this is a great opener. Much appreciated!

  12. says

    I’m here for the inspiration and waiting for the day that I’m finally ready to take the big step… Being a minimalist attracts me, but it’s a process and I’m letting it take some time.

    I love the way you have written this, especially the ‘experiences over possessions, quality over quantity, and needs over wants’, because that really sums it up and yes – I agree to it all!

  13. says

    I was thinking more about this and I came up with a number 7.

    7. You are still part of our life. You might be wondering how you fit in now that we’ve gone minimalist. Minimalism doesn’t mean we want fewer people in our life or that we want less contact with our friends and family. It’s quite the opposite actually. We are minimalizing stuff in our life so that we can make room for the things, activities, and people that bring us joy. This includes spending time with the ones we love. We want to visit, we want to have wonderful conversations, and we really want to include you in many fun activities and events. You are part of our life now as you always have been; nothing has changed in this regard.

  14. says

    My husband and I have adopted minimalist principles and began our journey to owning less about two years ago. We’ve purged more from our home and lives than I ever thought possible and I’m still not done. We continue to enjoy many comforts and beautiful things – the difference is we can now enjoy them so much more! :)

    Last year, around my birthday, I sent a “Gift Wish list” to my closest friends and family. I jokingly reminded them of our new lifestyle and boldly offered suggestions for what we’d love to receive from them in the future, should they be in the gift-giving mood.
    1) YOU! Let’s go for coffee, have lunch, or simply hang out and chat for an hour.
    2) I love Jar candles (autumn and seaside scents are my favorites)
    3) coffee! We have one of those 1 cup at a time coffee makers so a sampler pack of coffee will always be a welcome gift!

    To my surprise, every single person on my list let me know how much they loved receiving the wish list and some even sent me a list of their own. It made my birthday and Christmas time so much more joyful! The gifts we requested were either experience based or consumable so it’s a win for the giver and the receiver!

  15. says

    Very well said–I especially appreciated the last two items about not taking it personally if gifts have been removed, and reconsidering giving gifts in the first place. For so many people, giving stuff = showing love, when in reality, time, affection, and attention are so much more precious.

  16. Victoria says

    Thank you, Joshua, for your blog and ideas you`re sharing. I find them very inspiring and I think I can start my way to minimalism too step by step. Actually I had this philosophy for a long time when I was a teenager but now I really know that it is the most appropriate lifestyle for me to have more freedom and to enjoy every moment of my life.

  17. Zuzanna says

    Wish my parents could understand english. Our basement is sooo cluttered and messy and I argue with them so often, fighting and trying to convince. They have 5 similar things of one kind and milion unuseful items which destination is unknown. I have to say they are much more minimal :) since I became to live far from most of my past consumer needs. But I still work on them. So thanks for help with this article

  18. Beamarshall says

    And after a certain amount of time/living you come to realize you have more than enough clothes/dishes/furniture to last the rest of your life; so you start sharing the extras..via gift of heirloom china to the children, or excess tools to those starting out in life/marriage, or via Goodwill/shelter/donation center. I still struggle with clearing out books and fabric.. but when I go I’m sure they’ll be useful to somebody.

  19. Lisa says

    We have become minimalists over a number of years, each time we move house with less and less (and to a smaller and smaller house).

    Your comment about gift-giving is one we have thought over extensively. We struggled with this for a long time. Family would give us things and we didn’t know what to do with them. I’d feel burdened with something that I didn’t want and went directly counter to my efforts to own very little. They resorted to giving us gift certificates with notes such as “I was going to get you something but I knew you’d just sell it on Kijiji…” So we were making it difficult for others, and coming over as ungrateful at the same time. One day, I suddenly realized there was no need to be this way. We now rejoice at all gifts given to us and genuinely thank the giver. Why? Because a) There’s no point stressing over things, especially something like being given a gift! b) Gifts we don’t want are GREAT for re-gifting. We keep a spot for this in the house, and it helps us avoid shopping for gifts, and saves time, c) We can often enjoy the gift for a while and then pass it on, and d) By changing our attitude, we preserve the goodwill between people that goes with giving. This is not a time for a lecture or for imposing our own morals on others. There are more appropriate times for that, and we believe our own actions will speak the loudest as we practise minimalism in our daily lives.

    I think our families have noticed that we have changed regarding gift-giving, and I think it has made it easier for all of us at times of celebration.

    You describe the best gifts as experiences. This word is useful – we have been using “consumables” with family, which makes them think we’re greedy and asking for food. I do explain that many non-edibles also fall into this category (think candles, incense, soap, etc.), but using “experiences or consumables” is a lot better. The best gift I received from my Dad was a donation in my name of bedkits to Africa.

  20. says

    Thank you so much for this post! My husband and I recently found ourselves on the minimalist path and I have yet to try to explain it to my family. I worry that they will be offended when we give away things they gave us or that they will feel like we are rejecting the lifestyle they have chosen. I absolutely don’t feel like the way they live is wrong. It is just wrong for me. I will definitely be sharing this post!

  21. Angela says

    I not only want to send this to my family, but our friends as well!

    Wonderful post – thank you for sharing!

  22. jasmine says

    I have always been a very organized person i have loved getting rid of things for the sake of space. my parents are getting older and i have purged as much stuff on my own that i could before it became a struggle to get Them to start doing it. I worry that if we can pull to gether and do it it will contiune to be stressful . They have given me jewlery that i cant get rid of because they bought it for me because i dont wear much of it because of my job i hope one day they will understand its the though that counts and i will still have the memories of the things they did for me not the things they gave me.

  23. Crystal says

    Becoming a ‘minimalist’ has been one of the best things to happen to me and my family. It has been a process over about 4 years now. We’re still improving. Just last weekend we did another purge. The small filing box was reduced to a folder (originally a large 3 drawer cabinet), and the bookshelf is down to one row of books (from probably 4-5 large bookshelves). It has been tough with 2 small kids … feeling like we don’t want to deprive them, but still keeping true to our philosophy, but we’re learning what works for us. Everytime we move (about once a year so far) we think ‘great! This move is going to be so easy!” And then after we move we think “We need to get rid of more stuff!” So its a process! But my house is SO easy to clean now, and the kids actually don’t need much to be fulfilled and happy. Life is good!

  24. Vivienne says

    I am just beginning to embrace a lifestyle change to being minimalist though its tough because my husband and kids aren’t motivated. Over the past year I have been de-cluttering our house without too much problem but its a slow process and I can’t downsize things that husband and kids want to keep. For me it started with our finances, getting organized with a budget and a plan to get out of debt. The turning point being the realization that we waste a lot of money on stuff we don’t need and can’t afford. The first step I made was to be aware of my shopping habits. I stay out of huge stores like Wal-Mart where the temptation to buy is huge because something is on sale even though we don’t need it. Its a very slow process but I am starting to notice a difference. There are less piles on the floor, in the closets, in drawers, cupboards and surfaces. I can find things when I need them. Our finances are on track and we have paid off 25% of our debt. Best of all I sleep better at night and for now I am happy that my kids are noticing the positive difference that having less has made.

  25. Eszter says

    I must admit I am a borderline hoarder.:(
    I enjoy looking around in my room and seeing each and every item with its own story,with its memories,the feelings they bring up in me. At the same time I do want less. I am very organized and it is getting a hassle to organize my stuff. I really enjoy your posts. They inspire me, more: they actually motivate me. I am getting able to get rid of things without an emotional breakdown. I did start going through the kitchen first and will end in my bedroom. Wish me luck!

  26. Marie says

    I have embraced being a minimalist again. I say again as when I lived on my own I always disposed of things I no longer wanted or needed. I gave them away to friends and family or charities. My problem now is I am married to a borderline hoarder! Getting my husband to part with anything is tougher than pulling teeth, so when I want to rid the house of *stuff* he is there to go through things and say he wants to keep them. I am at my wits end on how to cope with this! I have got to a stage where I am unhappy because of his *stuff* It’s loaded into every available space in our small home. Any cupboard or closet I don’t use is full to the brim with boxes and totes full of his things. Some of these things are from when he was a child…..he is now 71 years old. Does any one have any ideas to help me through this before I go crazy!

  27. Sharon says

    Thank you so much for sharing, I love reading your blog. We are on our way to a minimalistic lifestyle. You have been truly inspirational.

  28. RL says

    My fear about removing gifts from family has more to do with the guilt of wasted money and effort than with giving the impression I’m rejecting them. When I struggle with removing anything, whether I bought it or someone else did, my first thought is usually about the cost.

    However, I also know that some gift-giving and spending is done out of guilt. A certain relative was obsessed with making sure she spent the same amount of money on each child and grandchild, even if it meant making up the difference with a cheap or useless trinket. So maybe this effort can encourage the gift-givers to take a closer look at their compulsions as well.

  29. Tim Swartz says

    People laugh when they come over and realize I have just 1 pan and 1 spoon. Been that way for 20+ years. No dishes what so ever. Perhaps I choose the simple life because I am lazy or perhaps because it makes me happy. When I grew up I wanted everything, now I just want what is useful.

  30. Yasmin says

    how true I was bought up in the Air Force and when left home at 16 I moved a lot I hate lots of things around me my thought is if you have not used it in 6 to 12 months then let it go , I’m now nearly 60

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