Positively Speaking


“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” —Marcus Aurelius

Five years ago, I was introduced to minimalism by my neighbor. It was a short conversation, only a few sentences long.

I had been working most of the day cleaning up the garage and began complaining to her about the time and energy that goes into owning a home. She responded with a simple sentence, “That’s why my daughter is a minimalist, she keeps telling me I don’t need to own all this stuff.” 
At the time, it sounded like a completely revolutionary idea: intentionally live with fewer possessions and own only necessary things for life and purpose.

It felt like it was the first time anybody had ever invited me to own less stuff. I jumped in right away. Minimalism and its promotion became one of my greatest passions in life. And I owe it all to one short conversation with my neighbor, June.

Or do I?

I have often referred to that conversation as the first time anybody ever invited me to live with less—the first time somebody told me I didn’t need to own everything. But in reality, I’m not sure that’s true. In fact, as I look back over the course of my life, I can now see there were a number of people trying to make the same argument.

  • Environmentalists warned me against consumption and disposal and its negative impact on the environment.
  • Financial advisers warned me against buying more than I could afford and the negative repercussions on my credit score.
  • Spiritual advisers warned me against materialism and its negative influence on my spirituality.
  • My parents constantly referred to the need to buy less and not live beyond my means.

There were, indeed, numerous people introducing me to the idea of living with less—even from a young age. But looking back, each of them always stressed the negative consequences of materialism rather than the positive benefits of minimalism. Simply put, they warned me against materialism rather than inviting me to minimalism. And there is a big difference (for instance, none of their warnings ever stuck).

There is often a need to consider both the positives and negatives of a decision as we seek to live our lives effectively. And whether we are speaking into the lives of our children, our friends, our co-workers, or our very own, we should be open to discussing both.

But I try hard to frame my conversations by focusing on the positive aspects of life-change rather than warnings against the negatives as much as possible. For various reasons, I have found this works very well both in printed word and spoken conversation.

  • People always enjoy hearing a “good-news” story.
  • People are uniquely interested in themselves and the benefits of their actions.
  • People love receiving invitations and often ignore warnings.
  • People are searching for hope and answers.

This principle of speaking positively is important in promoting simplicity. But it is also important in any and every interaction where we seek to expand influence in our life and the lives of others. Embrace it.

You will find your influence expand. And your own personal attitude towards life will improve as well.

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

    What you wrote is very true. In this respect, aren’t we a bit like kids who prefer to be encouraged rather than told off? The first time I was introduced to minimalism was some (5? 6?) years ago, when I discovered a book by French author and minimalist Dominique Loreau, “The art of simplicity”. Suddenly simplicity seemed desirable, and has been ever since! Thank you for your web site, it has also been and still is one great source of inspiration for me (although it is my first comment)…

    • Marna Marie' Strauss says

      Hi Marie, thanks for the mention of this book by french author. I have identified that I want to move to minimalism but now its to put things into action :) i will def read this book.

      Thanks for the lovely website Joshua :-)

  2. says

    Joshua, This is a very deep, when you really think about it. How do we speak about eminent dangers without scaring people or turning them off? I think it’s worthwhile to take your suggestions to heart and also find ways to do this without compromising the message.

  3. says

    I’ve never really looked at this way. Now that I think about my own situation, I find it that throughout the course of my life people have warned me about buying too much and wanting too much. No one ever really showed me the benefits of what owning little and wanting less will actually do to your life—the positives. When a salesman tries to get me to buy their product, they always emphasize how it will make me better, quicker, faster, prettier, etc. and how it will change my life, not the other way around. Maybe minimalism is kind of the same way. Instead of pointing out the negatives of everything minimalism isn’t, we need to promote the good things it brings to our lives. And thanks to blogs like yours, this is totally possible. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Deb says

    I could talk ’till i was blue in the face to my oldest son about the dangers of going into debt but it never seemed to sink in until last year when he had the chance to change jobs to something he truly enjoyed and found out that he could not support himself and his family and pay the huge debt that he had accumulated over the years with the cut in pay this dream job would mean. It just took seeing it in a different light to realize what I had been trying to tell him. Just as in school, we all learn differently and teaching takes many different forms.

  5. says

    Joshua this is probably one of your classic posts, I shall certainly read it again. I’m doing the Simple Year course and in January I found myself thinking about what my greta grandmother would say about today’s consumption. She died aged 85 in the 1960s when I was a small child — the lessons she taught me often come back.

  6. says

    Hi Joshua, thanks so much for sharing this post. We live a paleo lifestyle and have since finding your blog really resonated with a lot of your minimalist messages. They inspire us every day. We are going to start implementing this positive talk into every day life. Thanks again.

  7. says

    So true! We seem to be wired to move away from things we associate with pain and move towards things we associate with pleasure. Hearing testimonials from people who found great benefits when they switched to the lifestyle helped encourage me when I first started out .

  8. Pat says

    Good morning Joshua, I am a long time fan and I enjoy your insights. I dove into living with less over 3 years ago and life has never been better! I went from a 2000+ square foot home with 2 mortgages packed with stuff to a very simple 236 square foot paid for home, and I now live on less than $1000 per month. I now have the time for what is really important, and I wonder why i did not do this years ago. Thank you so much for the inspiration. Can I ask where I might find the photo at the top of this post? It is simply beautiful! Thank you again.

  9. shebolt says

    You have hit on something huge. I’ve devoted my life and my career to making the planet a better place. I’m always amazed at the backlash to the environmental movement. You can’t tell me people really want to live in a world full of pollution and paved surfaces. I think the backlash is a reaction to the negative, preachy tone taken by environmentalists. Maybe, if we make our message more positive, as you are doing with the minimalist movement, we will reach more people and have a better impact.

  10. says

    Very true and the same theory applies to the whole concept of sustainability. Doom and gloom rarely work, instead you have to focus on all that there is to gain. Donella Meadows once wrote a brilliant article on the importance of dreams and visions in inspiring and driving change (within the sustainability framework) and much of the same thinking can and should be applied to minimalism. I certainly wouldn’t consider myself minimalist, but simply by adopting many minimalist behaviours we have gained so much joy, freedom and time.

  11. says

    I absolutely do think it is a process. I tell people our journey started last year when our basement flooded and we lost so much.

    I was helping a new blogger tonight and showing her my first blog from ’07 & ’08. One of the last posts I wrote was “I Want a Simpler Life.” Even I was shocked when I saw it because I was so different back then. Yet, I still yearned for it.

    But I’ve been this way to an extent for many years. In grad school, my goal was to be able to pack all my stuff up in a few hours and travel internationally if I wanted to. And I did in 2000.

    I think so many of us slowly come to this realization when we start to feel overwhelmed by “stuff” as we get older and realize it doesn’t hold the happiness it promised, In fact, just the opposite! ;)

  12. says

    This is a powerful message Joshua and needs some quiet reflection. Share, show and live the positives of embracing simplicity.

    It makes me think about my well meaning mother, who offered the “what if this happens” scenario to every adventure I embarked on. I’m so glad I jumped in to life regardless, I think her “what ifs” sparked a determination that carries me forward today.

  13. John says

    Thanks for the inspiring post! I very much agree with your observations. However, there is a missing political/economic component to this discussion. For most of us in America, minimalism is really the only practical economic choice these days. Yet, the wealthiest top 10-15% of the population are behaving like unabashed maximalists, and they appear quite happy being so. We also know that our government mostly works to help these maximalists get even richer at the expense of the rest of the population’s (and the planet’s) needs. How can one blend the personal/spiritual goal of living a minimalist lifestyle with working to create a fairer society?

  14. says

    You have stated very clearly and simply the reasons why we should simplify our lives and our possesions.

    I have read Dominique Loreau’s book, it was a great inspiration.

    It’s nice to own things, but the cost (financial and other) is too high. People around me who focus on stuff seem so stressed, because they have to work so much to afford it!

  15. says

    I have known that I should move towards this lifestyle for years but have always found reasons for not doing so, I now feel its now or never and reading all your posts I know it has to be now……………….

  16. says

    This is such a simple yet obvious way to think…yet most of us have completely lost the way. I can’t bear the world that we live in, that is so dependent on shopping for happiness, new things to make us feel better about our lives, needing rather than giving, making and giving homemade token gifts rather than the expensive/big presents now expected.
    At home, we keep saying that we have too much clutter; I keep trying to defend this by arguing that we have young children. Much of the ‘clutter’ is me trying to save things to recycle into crafts etc rather than just throw it away, we rarely buy new toys/clothes etc, and yet we still own so so much that even packing to go away for a weekend involves too many decisions, let alone keeping the house under control. So much of my current stress is based around this, I am sure. I love your concept of presenting a positive resolution than just warning of the dangers of consumerism etc.
    Thank you for such a thought-provoking blog:-)

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