Minimalism: Addition not Subtraction.

minimalism-addition-not-subtraction

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” — Hans Hofmann

Four years ago, my neighbor looked on as I pulled item after item out of my garage. Winter had ended in Vermont and our Saturday morning had been committed to spring cleaning around the house. I chose the garage. Unfortunately, minutes turned into hours. And hours turned into most of the morning and into the afternoon.

Fortunately, my neighbor noticed my frustration and introduced me to a brand new way of life when she asked quite simply, “Maybe you don’t need to own all this stuff?”

And a minimalist was born.

Starting immediately, and for the next months (and even years), my wife and I began systematically removing unnecessary possessions from our home. We sold, donated, or recycled items from nearly every aspect of our lives: clothes, toys, decorations, cookware, entertainment, sporting goods, furniture, storage—the list goes on. Eventually, even moving into a smaller house.

As a result, we have discovered some amazingly practical benefits to owning less. We have more money left in our pockets. We have more time available at our disposal. We have removed ourselves from the consumer-driven culture around us. We experience less stress on a daily basis. And we have discovered more freedom to pursue the things in life that we truly value.

Because we have chosen to live with less, we have found more opportunity to invest in relationships, grow spiritually, experience gratitude, express generosity, discover truth, and find contentment. With our newfound time, money, and energy, we are free to pursue our greatest passions.

An important realization quickly followed. Minimalism is less about the things you remove and more about the things you add. The joy of minimalism lies in what you choose to pursue with your life rather than material possessions. And in that way, minimalism is far more about addition than it is about subtraction.

Image: *m5

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

    Hi Josh,

    Great way of looking at minimalism. It really is a lot of addition but often in less tangible ways. Truthfully, I’d much prefer all that freedom that comes with minimalism because I really do feel like I have more. It’s funny when people see my closet and say I have very little clothes. I only keep the clothes I actually wear. The feeling of satisfaction I get from them is much more than I can ask for with a lot of clothes.

  2. says

    This article speaks to me! This is exactly how I feel. I have been in the process for the last year of downsizing stuff. It takes a while! I even go back and redo a certain area again…It takes time, but my uncluttered home and life is so worth it.

  3. says

    Appreciate your perspective. I want my life to be about more than stuff. These past few years I’ve been thinking about this subject & making lifestyle changes. It’s been a process for my husband and I; we’ve had to rethink what we need and what we want to do with our lives. It’s been fun to give things away to people or organizations who may actually need them.

  4. says

    Amen. I think what many people struggle with is the fact that they don’t know where to start. Much like how using crash diets provides a temporary solution to weight management, the process of becoming a minimalist is a fundamental change in lifestyle, and it won’t and can’t be done overnight.

    Start small with something like cleaning out a closet, and then month-by-month and year-by-year you’ll find you can easily tackle other areas to systematically remove unnecessary items. Before you know it, you’ll have changed your lifestyle (much like eating healthy all the time as the norm) and will probably be ready to move to a smaller home.

  5. says

    I really appreciate this article. TY! The perspective that it is less about the things you remove and more about the things you add really resonates with me on so many levels. Even what we put into our bodies and minds- foods and thoughts – I think the secret is to add “better things” and in the process- there is then less room for the not so good or not so important “stuff”. It’s nothing to do with deprivation :)

  6. says

    most of the time our anxiety is caused for attachment to things that actually we don’t have!!

    become minimalist would be a great way to be free

  7. says

    This is so true! I think my favorite addition is time- time with my family instead of purchasing and maintaining things. It is also amazing how you start to appreciate everything so much more.

    Kate

  8. says

    “With our newfound time, money, and energy, we are free to pursue our greatest passions.”

    I find this particularly true. Minimalism is not about not spending money or not having fun and being frugal all the time, having no belongings because you don’t enjoy them or something. It is about that you don’t buy crap that messes up your home and instead save the money and go on great vacations or even being able to take a year off from work.
    Minimalism enabled me to leave my old sucky job, move to a new country and do the job I like instead. If I had all the stuff I had one and a half years back, I would not have been able to do this, because I would have to deal with my stuff first (where to put it when I go and so on) which would have made the hurdle towards my goal much higher and I probably would have stayed where I was because it was easier.

  9. says

    I can personally attest to what you’ve said here Josh. My most recent example is in my divorce with my iPhone. I took this step just 10 days ago and reckon I’m experiencing much of what you’re saying here. Thanks for your regular inspirations and advice. Cheers, Jon.

  10. Diana says

    Love this post, Joshua. It’s so true that simplifying our lives isn’t just about endless subtraction & declutter. Rather they serve as a part of the process to free us from meaningless distractions. I think sometimes people get so caught up with the deprivation model (out-fighting each other to own less number of possessions etc) and unfortunately lose sight of the true essence of minimalism & simplicity, which is to actively live each day intentionally cherishing and doing things that truly matter & add value to our lives. Thanks for the brilliant reminder :)

  11. says

    Another superb article Joshua,

    What many people fail to see is how a life of materialism can become completely life-consuming. It’s only any when you step away from the bright, dazzling lights of consumerism that you realise how much of your life is taken up by the drive for more material possessions. Just think about it for a moment! You spend time reading and watching adverts about stuff, you may even spend some more time researching that stuff (you wouldn’t want to go and buy the wrong stuff!), then you have to go and buy the stuff (where sometimes you end up buying a little more stuff), after which you have to go to work to earn the money to pay for the stuff! At the end of this process you usually spend a little more time getting rid of the stuff before starting the whole process again.
    To put it simply material possessions do not equal happiness but having less debt, spending more quality time with family and friends and flourishing personally (physically and mentally) does!
    If you want to enjoy reading another inspiring website about how to live a simple,
    frugal, debt-free, minimalist life then please check out the
    http://www.thedebtfreeminimalist.com.

    My latest articles include:

    Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after you. (A tale of accumulated marginal gains)

    Are you a clutterist? Take the 5-a-day challenge (and i’m not talking fruit!)

    The duvet which made a difference (a tale of giving)

    Is the iPhone such a smart phone?

    A tale of opportunity cost (and the effects of compound interest)

  12. says

    I often wonder if becoming a minimalist is inherent with age. I have heard how as one gets older, there’s this tendency to get rid of things. Now, I’m doing it, too. I look around the house and realize “things” get in the way of a neat and orderly environment. If only I had learned this concept when I was younger. Less possessions = less clutter=less stress. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.

  13. Barbara says

    I have been in the “simplying” phase for many years. What I think I need today is not what I think I will need tomorrow. It is like peeling an onion – layers of things sloughing off as I continue to review and reevaluate my life and needs. I love the less than lifestyle! But for me it is an ongoing process.

  14. Monica C says

    Really love reading your posts. I have come to minimalism late but already I am enjoying the benefits. Thanks!

  15. says

    Great article. This is THE definition of minimalism. A lot of people get caught up in what to minimalize, especially the physical possessions. The idea of minimalism is actually to increase – increase what makes you happy and come alive. It’s about putting your efforts into those things. When that’s the spirit, the things you don’t value much will naturally take a backseat.

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