How Simplicity Appeals to the Heart

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.” – Carl Jung

Over the past two years, I have had the privilege to write and speak often on the topic of simplicity. The simple message that there is “more joy in pursuing less than pursuing more” has been presented to audiences in various venues, has been discussed in small group settings throughout the country, and has been a constant conversation piece in my one-on-one relationships wherever I go.

And through it all, I have found that the message of simplicity appeals and resonates with the heart. In fact, the number of people who have told me that I am wrong and have flat-out argued against me can be counted on my fingers – that’s less than ten over the recent years… and I can distinctly remember each of them.

I have come to believe and understand that minimalism, the intentional promotion of the things I most value and the removal of everything that distracts me from it, is a message that appeals to the heart and resonates with the soul. It is an invitation that is appreciated, desired, and often accepted when offered.

In short, simplicity appeals to our heart because:

Our heart knows that possession don’t equal joy. We know intuitively that happiness is not found in owning more. Instead, happiness is found in the pursuit of our lasting passions.

Our heart recognizes freedom when we experience it. Possessions burden us… often far more than we realize. The heart desperately longs for freedom and the opportunity to be tied to things of true value.

Our heart desires fiscal sense. Nobody lives their life for the purpose of accruing large amounts of personal debt. Our souls desire to live within our means – not enslaved to a creditor. Simplicity provides fiscal freedom.

Our heart knows its resources are limited. Money, time, energy, focus, and love are finite resources. We do not contain an infinite amount of any. Therefore, we must make intentional decisions about where they are allocated. And the heart has little desire to spend them all on owning more.

Our heart knows truth. Most of our world is living a lie. They are passionately pursuing things of a finite nature. Society, culture, and advertisements promise lasting fulfillment in bigger houses, nicer cars, and trendier clothes. But lasting fulfillment can never be found in temporal pursuits.

Our heart knows when it is being fake. Sometimes, we collect possessions just to put on an outward facade to portray to those around us that our life is successful, put together, and all figured out. But deep down, we know it is not. And in the deepest places of hearts, we desire to stop pretending and be completely real and vulnerable… for the first time in a long time.

Our heart desires to pursue its passion. Very few would ever say that “owning stuff” is their greatest desire in life. Instead, we desire to find love, meaning, and live our lives for something bigger than ourselves. In this way, simplicity paves the way for our heart to accomplish its greatest desires.

Our heart finds joy in lasting value. What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. Our souls desire to live for the things that matter by finding joy in the invisible, lasting things that can not be purchased with money.

Our heart longs for the higher attributes. We desire contentment, generosity, gratitude, and self-control. We want our lives to be described and remembered with those words. And the intentional rejection of possessions allows greater opportunity for these positive heart habits to emerge.

Unfortunately, we have been deceived. As a society, we have too easily succumbed to the lie that there is greater joy in owning more. But we all know it’s not true… our heart has been arguing for less all along.

It’s time we stop chasing empty pursuits. And start listening to the heart that knows us best instead.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

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

Follow on TwitterLike on Facebook


  1. SallyGirl says

    I loved this post. I would like to challenge one point, respectfully of course, and that is the notion that love is a finite resource. The other things you mentioned, I can see that they are finite, but I really do believe that we are capable of infinite love. Now, obviously, time is quite limited, and as such, we can only spend so much with those we love or pursuits we love, but the love itself has the potential to be boundless. That, of course, is just my two cents, but I wanted to share it. I really enjoy your blog!

    • says

      Thanks for the comment Sally. The use of the word “love” in that sentence is certainly one that stuck out to me when I wrote it… and one that I have received a number of comments, e-mails concerning. My point in making the statement was that, as humans, there are a limited number of things that we can dedicate our love towards. And we need to make wise choices because of it.

      I define love as more than an emotion, but as a commitment. And it is not possible to commit our lives to everything around us. We cannot love people, possessions, power, and prestige all at the same level. Something will always suffer if we try.

  2. Marlene says

    sometimes things can bring us joy. its just having lots of stuff that we don’t need that brings misery. more debt ,more clutter and more space to contain that stuff.

  3. says

    Amen to that. I have a storage unit filled with all of my Dad’s worldly belongings, but the one object I would grab in a fire is sitting right in my bed-stand, and it’s the gold and tiger-eye ring he wore all his life.

    “Our heart knows that possession don’t equal joy” and that stuff DOES NOT equal people.

  4. says

    I very much agree with the ideas that simplicity apeals to the heart. We simplified a great deal in the last couple of years. We purged a majority of our belongings and sold our 4 bedroom house in favor of a 2 bedroom apartment. Moving from a house to an apartment has simplified our life so much that we have much more time for the things that really matter in our life. We greatly simplified and reduced the maintenance aspect of our home life, which freed up time for us to do more meaningful things as a family.

  5. Jon says

    Let me put forward a different perspective and one Im sure may rub some the wrong way. I agree owning stuff is a burden on many levels but what if you are not white as many of you appear to be. Is minimalism and the discarding of all outward signs of status and identity a luxury only those in society who aren’t judged by virtue of their race necessarily can afford? If you were African American could you live a minimalist life, a life of simplicity and still be respected and treated well? Could it be that society would see you as inferior pandering to stereo types if you dont have wealth and material sign posts to validate your standing? For many minorities, having an outward display of abundance is the only way to gain respect and a foothold in a very unequal society. Therefore, is minimalism, much like golf, a white mans philosophy?

    • remus says

      I think it depends on what are your goals of achievement . For those who embrace the minimalistic philosophy, its because they have seen & experienced the lack of freedom possession and clutters has effected their lives. Which is the reason why they seek something of the opposite. If seeking validity in a society standing is what one desires for security and social standing to function, then embraced that philosophy instead . Perhaps until you’ve experienced all that, a minimalistic approach then may balance everything out. Until then, possession and abundance becomes the individuals goal of perceived success.

      • remus says

        Following up with what my thoughts are, rational minimalism does appeal to the heart because it liberates ones mind and soul from the clutters and possession of trying to owned excessively in the hope a superficial society perceived us as successful not realising the cost it has on our freedom .Minimalism then i believes is a subtraction of all those that will eventually burden us which takes away our freedom and joy.

    • dawn says

      the only thing i have to say Jon, is that if we have to “prove” to people of any color we are rich by showing tangible things, they do not know the true meaning of rich and are not worth our finite time.

      • MamaJama says

        In many cases, it can be shown, without a doubt that appearances can make or break (literally) a minority man. You’re debating a philosophy, a lifestyle, we’re talking about the freedom to live (in any form that doesn’t lead to one’s death based on one’s skin color). Don’t take your freedom (that eludes others) for granted.

    • Michele says

      Jon, you have indeed summed up well some of the issues I am dealing with as a black woman. I feel deeply called to minimalism; however, I live in the inner-city and I go to a predominantly black church where Michael Kors and Coach purses and Lexus cars abound. We see no problem with our excesses; indeed we congratulate ourselves and other congregants for having attained what our ancestors only dreamed of having — large houses, enviable neighborhoods, name-brand goods and the best of schools for our children. Minimalism for the African-American man or woman may be perceived as a step backwards; it would fly in the face of all we’ve been instructed to get an education for. After all, we’re encouraged to get an education so that we can have a “better life” (i.e. greater material possessions, more monetary stability, fewer economic worries) than our grandparents had. No one cares about my feelings about minimalism. They just invite me to get my nails done and say they’ll pay for me. It’s a foreign concept to many black folks…it’s an elusive philosophy a bit akin to grasping oil with the hand. It’s no wonder I often feel confused, alone and frustrated by what impresses today’s Christian of ANY color, race or background. Jen Hatmaker said it best in her book The 7 Experiment: when it comes to money, we are so predictable. It’s very difficult for me to separate my heritage and culture from what I deeply believe. Not that it can’t be done — I will live the life I choose for myself that is reflective of my deeply held values. But it will come at a cost. I will be looked down upon. I will be excluded. I will be misunderstood. It’s not that whites don’t face these same scenarios when walking away from the world’s definition of success. It’s that I am walking away never having entered the promised land I have been told to look for.

  6. Emily @ Random Recycling says

    As I have been spring cleaning the past month, I’ve tried to take some of these lessons to heart. I’m a believer that the more you clear away the clutter, the more you open yourself up to calmness and new opportunities.

  7. Deb says

    I am approaching a landmark birthday and am trying to make sense of this crazy world we live in. Living simply should be simple, yes? Unfortunately, it may be one of the bigger challenges in my life. I have to work at it everyday and need support to do it. It took a long time to recognize the “things” for what they are. But we humans like things we can possess; our simple brains have difficulty grasping the value of the .intangible

  8. says

    I recently had a baby and since I’ve embraced the ‘rational minimalism’ lifestyle, I am able to play and cuddle with my son on weekends instead of cleaning house (or stressing about having to clean the house!). Because my house and chores are usually all in order by Saturday, he and I got out visiting friends (you know the friends, right? The ones we tell ourselves are friends because we see them on Facebook everyday??) Instead of ‘liking’ statuses to prove I care, I can spend my time with them over coffee. It’s so much better.

  9. Bonnie Jean says

    No,Jon, I do not think it should be any different if you are a person of color.
    If a black person is treated differently should she choose to abstain from excess material possessions, this is racism on the part of the persons who discriminate and has Nothing to do with minimalism.
    You will never cure racism by pandering to the people who practice it

  10. says

    Jon, that was a thoughtful question. Societal norms and the ways in which people accord status to others are going to vary depending not only on race, but culture, location, class as well. It might actually be more difficult for middle class white folks to lead a simple life surrounded by the entire white middle class expectation of what “success” is. But probably not. They are already a privileged class. In any group of people, others will try to define you by many things, including how much you own. We have to define ourselves through what resonates with our heart, and let them think what they will.

  11. says

    Joshua, I appreciate this blog SO much. I have said to many of my friends (who have subscribed to you too!) that what you write absolutely resonates with my heart.
    I have left the field of design and fashion intentionally because I could not fully embrace it. My heart was divided.
    I have embraced my love of writing and speaking, and am so excited about what God has in store for me.
    There is such a difference between having things…and “things having you”!! I feel free at last.
    Thank you!

  12. Tarri Christopher says

    Society, culture, and advertisements promise lasting fulfillment in bigger houses, nicer cars, and trendier clothes”. This one really resonates with me and think it is important to consider that this also includes food choices. Minimalism can and should extend to the way we sustain our bodies. So many of the principles of minimalism can be applied to our refrigerators and cupboards.

  13. Karen F. says

    I am a fairly new reader of your blog Joshua-and your writing encourages, stretches and convicts me. As a person of faith, I respectfully disagree with your ideas on the heart. The Bible tells us: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9). I do believe the soul, (our imagination, conscience, memory, reason and the affections) longs, desires, and knows these things. Many (simple) Blessings!

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Gratitude. It Matters. | November 22, 2012

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *