50 Minimalism Quotes… Through the Centuries


Voluntary simplicity (and/or minimalism) is certainly not new. In fact, it has been practiced and encouraged for thousands of years, literally. Just consider the following men and women who have advocated for a lifestyle of minimalism.

(To place emphasis on the history of the movement, they have been arranged chronologically by author’s birth year).

1954. Sandra Cisneros. “But I deal with this by meditating and by understanding I’ve been put on the planet to serve humanity. I have to remind myself to live simply and not overindulge, which is a constant battle in a material world.”

1948. Jackie French Koller. “There are two ways to be rich: One is by acquiring much, and the other is by desiring little.”

1947. Linda Breen Pierce. “Simplicity involves unburdening your life, and living more lightly with fewer distractions that interfere with a high quality life, as defined uniquely by each individual.”

1943. Tenzin Palmo. “One of the advantages of being born in an affluent society is that if one has any intelligence at all, one will realize that having more and more won’t solve the problem, and happiness does not lie in possessions, or even relationships: The answer lies within ourselves. If we can’t find peace and happiness there, it’s not going to come from the outside.”

1940s. Duane Elgin. “The intention of voluntary simplicity is not to dogmatically live with less. It’s a more demanding intention of living with balance. This is a middle way that moves between the extremes of poverty and indulgence.”

1940s. Richard Foster. “We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy.”

1940. Doris Janzen Longacre. “The trouble with simple living is that, though it can be joyful, rich, and creative, it isn’t simple.”

1936. Tom Robbins. “Any half-awake materialist well knows – that which you hold holds you.”

1936. Richard Bach. “The simplest things are often the truest.”

1935. Harold Kushner. “Our souls are not hungry for fame, comfort, wealth, or power. Our souls are hungry for meaning, for the sense that we have figured out how to live so that our lives matter.”

1935. The Dalai Lama. “If one’s life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: satisfaction with just enough food, clothing, and shelter to protect yourself from the elements.”

1926. Thich Nhat Hanh. “Smile, breathe and go slowly.”

1920. Elise Boulding. “The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.”

1918. Vernon Howard. “You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.”

1911. E.F. Schumacher. “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.”

1900. Antoine de Saint-Exupery. “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

1899. Edwin Way Teale. “Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves.”

1895. Lin Yutang. “Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is the noble art of leaving things undone.  The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.”

1886. Mies Van Der Rohe. “Less is more.”

1879. Albert Einstein. “Make things as simple as possible but no simpler.”

1879. Will Rogers“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.”

1879. Katharine Fullerton Gerould. “Simplicity is an acquired taste. Mankind, left free, instinctively complicates life.”

1876. Francis Jourdain. “One can furnish a room very luxuriously by taking out furniture rather than putting it in.”

1872. Bertrand Russell. “It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.”

1836. Anna C. Brackett. “We go on multiplying our conveniences only to multiply our cares. We increase our possessions only to the enlargement of our anxieties.”

1834. William Morris. “Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

1834. Charles Spurgeon. “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”

1828. Leo Tolstoy. “There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth.”

1817. Henry David Thoreau. “Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Things do not change, we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.”

1817. Baha’u’llah. “Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge.”

1813. Henry Ward Beecher. “It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is, not according to what he has.”

1804. George Sand. “Simplicity is the most difficult thing to secure in this world; it is the last limit experience and the last effort of genius.”

1783. Joseph Brotherton. “My riches consist, not in the extent of my possessions, but in the fewness of my wants.”

1774. Elizabeth Ann Seton. “Live simply so that others may simply live.”

1771. Hosea Ballou. “Real happiness is cheap enough, yet how dearly we pay for its counterfeit.”

1562. Lope de Vega. “With a few flowers in my garden, half a dozen pictures and some books, I live without envy.”

1452. Leonardo da Vinci. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

1380. Thomas a Kempis. “Purity and simplicity are the two wings with which man soars above the earth and all temporary nature.”

864. Wu-Men“If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things, then this is the best season of your life.”

570. Muhammed. “Poverty is my pride.”

330. Saint Basil. “If one had taken what is necessary to cover one’s needs and had left the rest to those who are in need, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, no one would be in need.”

55. Epictetus. “Contentment comes not so much from great wealth as from few wants.”

1 BCE. Seneca. “It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.”

5 BCE. Jesus Christ. “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.”

6 BCE. John the Baptist. “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.”

341 BCE. Epicurus. “Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.”

469 BCE. Socrates. “The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”

500 BCE. Lao Tzu. “Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

551 BCE. Confucious. “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

563 BCE. Buddha. “To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.”

With such a rich history, it’s nothing short of a high privilege to continue writing the same story that started so many centuries ago.

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. Nicole says

    On my minimalised computer, with my minimal number of folders and favourites – this post is a must have, must keep, must read over and over. Thank you Joshua for pulling all of those quotes together in one post.

  2. says

    Hi Joshua.

    Great collection of quotes, and clever to show that minimalism has always existed and always will.

    I like this one: 1813. Henry Ward Beecher. “It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is, not according to what he has.”

  3. says

    And it’s important to remember that minimalism/simplicity isn’t dead. There will always be the few who understand that stuff doesn’t make them happy.

  4. says

    I couldn’t help but notice how prior to the 1800s, all the quotes are much shorter (i.e., more minimalist). There is much wisdom to learn from the past. :)

  5. says

    “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” Matthew 13:44

    Speaks volumes for a minimalist life both physically and mentally.

  6. says

    Joshua, this is a fantastic list! I’ve bookmarked it. It’s fun to see so many that I have heard in the past (but did not know where they came from until now!). Thanks for taking the time to compile all of these.
    Dr. Laura

  7. says

    It took me a while to figure out that the year was not the date of the quote, but the date of birth of the person quoted. As the time machine went backward, it made you think about the speaker and the world he or she was born into. Very cool, Joshua.

  8. The Tiny Homestead says

    timely! I needed some encouragement tonight after finishing up from cleaning out part of the basement. It’s still so exhausting dealing with stuff. For some reason I guess I keep expecting all of that to go away.

  9. Christine says

    I’m so excited! You used a quote I posted in the past, by Jackie French Koller. That is from one of my favorite books and is a quote that I reflect on whenever I feel materialism taking over. Thank you!

  10. says


    Thanks for compiling this list, I have seen many of these quotes before but never in the same place! I just wanted to chime in and recommend reading the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, whether or not you are Christian. The author Solomon was extremely rich but he realized that contentment did not come from material possession. There is a lot to be learned from the text, and it might be written earlier than some of these quotes have been.

  11. says

    These are beautiful and wondrous quotes – and what surprised me was the dates or the timeline. It appears that people, throughout the centuries, have looked for happiness in the material. The journey to remove that notion of fulfillment is one that appears to be not singular to our current society of consumerism and “more means happier” society.

    What a fascinating list.

  12. says

    Thanks Joshua,

    Tom Robbins, i can’t get enough. Minimalist writing on minimalism. Thanks for these, It’s amazing how just a few words can provide so much truth and motivation.


  13. says

    As a fanatic of minimal designs, I find so interesting this blog based in another simple concept. Congratulations for the blog, we will come back soon to check!


  14. says

    ” My friends are my estate” by Emily Dickinson. I just love that.
    Each morning I try to ask …not What is the most important thing to do today, WHO is the most important person today, to spend time with, to listen to, to help out, to work for, to laugh with, to cry with, to just simply enjoy. It has helped me so much to feel content at the end of my day.
    I found your blog by way of my daughter!

  15. says

    hi joshua,

    love, love, love quotes!!! was just perusing the web tonight and found this. i posted some earlier today too, thanks for gathering them together. always enjoy reading your blog!

  16. D says

    Really a bunch of great quotes – truly inspiring. One bone to pick though, how could Jesus Christ to have said what was quoted in this article at 5 BCE? (5 years prior to the estimation of the year of his birth/conception)

    Am I missing something here?

    • says

      Those dates represent the authors’ birth year, not the date of the quote. And although somewhat debated, it is generally believed that Dionysius was off by a few years when trying to estimate exactly the birth year of Christ.

  17. Bithead says

    Confucius’ quote is not from 551 BCE – Confucius was *born* then. All his quotes and sayings are found in the dialects, written by his followers after 475 BCE

  18. lisa says

    A.D. 63 Apostle Paul- 1 Timothy 6:6-8 “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

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  21. Stan says

    Yeah, my top favorite post in the long term. I’ve been here many times since bookmarking. Thank You for collecting, Joshua! :)

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    • Tyler says

      I loved minimal photography. It spoke to me and I remember the little things not the big things. Before my mother passed I was into it and was looking up meditation and minimal. After she passed I dug deep to see who I really am and I have been learning new things about myself since she passed and turns out a have a lot of minimalist in me. Best part is that she’s here with me along the journey of new experiences. Sorry for the rant. Just Happy. Feels Great. ~Tyler~

  23. Maria says

    I love all these Quotes but I read another one that I like to remember too—- Ask not what our country can do for you but ask what we can do for our country. It seems as though we take no pride in keeping America clean. In living a lifestyle of less hopefully we will not produce more thrash that ends up in the streets. This probably does not make sense but it is just an opinion.

  24. says

    “Unless we wish to drown, we have to chose between what is important and what is not, what is meaningful and what is not.
    We have to become selective.”

    – Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Ultimate Meaning

  25. Anonimo says

    Recordar a todos estos pensadores por sus frases minimalistas a través de esta recopilacion que has hecho me ha gustado mucho. En especial porque había muchos que no conocía. Al leer tu entrada recordé a una poeta mística hindú de la edad media, aproximadamente del año 300, llamada Lalleshwari, que en cierto modo fue minimalista, ya que se despojó de toda posesión, incluso dejó su hogar y su ropa para convertirse en una mística desnuda errante. Y precisamente un fragmento de sus poemas habla de ello:

    “Usa las ropas necesarias para no tener frío.
    Come sólo lo suficiente para amortiguar el hambre”.

    Como ves, habla en oposición a cualquier tipo de exceso, no sólo el de pertenencias materiales.

    Me alegra haber encontrado tu blog, la perspectiva minimalista es muy interesante y me gusta como presentas la información.

    Buen trabajo!!
    Un saludo :)

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