The Many Varied “Firsts” of Minimalism

We need a variety of input and influence and voices. You cannot get all the answers to life and business from one person or from one source.” – Jim Rohn

I have always loved hearing how minimalism works itself out in many different ways through many different lives. I love hearing how the idea of living with less is being embraced by others who, in turn, find more opportunity to live the life they always wanted because of it. And I always enjoy hearing the background stories of others who have intentionally made the same decision.

Because of that, I used the Becoming Minimalist Facebook page to conduct a fun, short, nonscientific survey concerning people’s different experiences throughout the beginning of their journey to minimalism. Hearing their wide variety of answers reminds me why I continue to love minimalism and will continue to inspire others to realize the simple truth that there is more joy in pursuing less than can be found in pursuing more.

I hope you enjoy some of the highlights too:

1. How were you first introduced to the lifestyle of intentionally living with less (minimalism)?

  • “I read about the 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno and started a UK version.” – Johannes W.
  • “Decluttering overstuffed storage spaces got me interested in spreading that neatness to the rest of my house.” – Erin M.
  • “Your talk to Mothers of Preschoolers @ Essex Alliance Church.” – Shana T.
  • Zen Habits.” – Susan S.
  • “I think over time by trying to raise 4 kids on one income and just got so tired of seeing how much we wasted and how much ‘stuff’ we looked at as disposable. Through circumstance my hubby and I found ourselves moving our family into an 1100sq ft house and ‘stuff’ just had to go! And then I got tired of going into debt just satisfy wants and not needs.” – LeAnne E.
  • “I was on Apartment Therapy which led me to the Zen Habits blog.” – Tina L.
  • “Some years ago, I had to evacuate my house because of flooding, I had too much ‘stuff’ to worry about, I began to self examine.” – Robert C.
  • I heard first about the minimalist lifestyle from this video: Jay’s Tiny House Tour and this: Rowdy Kittens story.” – Timea K.
  • “Through the blog Freebies 4 Moms.” – Lanetra M.
  • “Actually, I was doing a search for organizing websites and stumbled upon yours! That was about a year ago. I really liked and still like that your family is similar to mine as far as children of similar ages. It made minimalism seem doable for a family.” – Melissa W.
  • “For me it started with Flylady, she’s all about decluttering and I was looking to take her methods a step further (I haven’t been terribly successful yet) and found minimalism.” – Jennifer G.
  • “My parents, they are excellent role models!” – Anne G.
  • “A guest speaker at my high school who advocated for the homeless and willingly chose to live minimally. I forgot about the idea for 10 years…but I’ve been reminded and I’m getting back to that mindset.” – Katie D.
  • Read more responses.

2. What was the first book that you found specifically helpful in your decluttering/minimizing journey?

3. When you first began minimizing/decluttering your home, where did you start?

  • “Bedroom closet.” – Susan V.
  • “Living room.” – Tiffany W.
  • “The closets.” – Rebecca P.
  • “I started by getting rid of all knick knacks.” – Crystal M.
  • “Clothing.” – Carmichael J
  • “The kitchen.” – Jillian C.
  • “Dishes.” – Stacy A.
  • “Paper monster.” – Ellen G.
  • “I had a garage full of stuff from past roommates.” – Rowan T.
  • “Toys.” – Tama A.
  • “My book collection, and then my closet.” – Bernice W.
  • “Definately the wardrobe.” – Donna B.
  • Read more responses.

4. When you began minimizing your possessions, what was the first emotion you remember experiencing?

  • “Relief!” – Suze D.
  • “Peace.” – Andrea K.
  • “Freedom.” – Jessica S.
  • “Anxiety at first. After I decided that it was ok to let things go then it was very freeing!” – Simple Life Celebrations.
  • “The feeling is great!” – Beth Y.
  • “Confusion…where do I start then total relief and love for my new space…” – Cam L.
  • “Lightness.” – Tracie O.
  • “Peace , relief, and freedom :)” – Maria D.
  • “Liberation.” – Emily P.
  • “Contentment.” – Rosanna D.
  • “Calm.” – Stacey L.
  • Read more responses.

5. After beginning the decluttering/minimizing journey yourself, who is the first person you remember inspiring to do the same? And how did it happen?

  • “My mom. She had gotten completely bogged down by emotional attachments to things from the past–gifts, things that had belonged to my grandmother, crazy amounts of paper clutter. My sister and I offered to help, and she accepted the offer! The whole story would require an essay.” – April B.
  • “My best friend, she was drowning in trivia.” – Don J.

And if you haven’t already, I invite you to join the Becoming Minimalist Facebook Fan Page for more conversation, motivation, and inspiration.

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

    For me…

    1. Colin Wright’s site, Exile Lifestyle, which led me to Ev Bogue, which led me here.
    2. Ev Bogue’s no longer available first ebook.
    3. Closet.
    4. Desire to do more of it (what? I’m a bit OCD).
    5. Several close friends.

    Take care,

    Joshua Millburn

  2. laura says

    Peter Walsh was great inspiration; also various online blogs on downsizing, decluttering, simple living, etc. ( I googled these subjects) The kitchen is worse room to accumulate clutter like plastic containers, extra dishes, even utensils. Clothes closets have to be purged near the end of winter and end of summer, as the things I didn’t wear during those seasons I won’t wear next season. Freedom and contentment that these things get done. Plus donating to needy charities.

  3. says

    1. Zen Habbits
    2. The Urban Homestead, actually, which has a huge section on maximizing your space for gardening, and how much space in cities is wasted with grass. I realized my city needed to become a little more minimalistic when it comes to grass, and how much space around my home I’ve been wasting with other such “decorative formalities”.
    3. I started with my writing. I organized everything, typed up and scanned stuff, and threw away the six Uhaul boxes of paper. Then I started with my bookmarks on mozilla… ^.^;
    4. Amazement, and surprise. Definately surprise. I didn’t realize I could fit so many things in just 100 square feet.
    5. My mother. She minimalized our kitchen within a week, then the siblings’ toys.

    Thank you. Your blog is an inspiration!!

  4. Jax says

    1. I think it was my parents, who insisted on having a clean and tidy house when I was a small kid. Not much options though when you live in a small cabin without water or electricity. In my youth and early adult age I was quite messy and disorganised despite my early upbringing.
    2. Many years later, I found a book by the bedside table (partly read) at my girlfriends parents’ house which she had given them in an effort to gently push them away from the packrat path; Clear Your Clutter by Karen Kingston. Even though I was a bit familiar with neat and tidy, this was a serious revelation. I gushed about the book and got my girlfriend to read and when we got home box upon box got sent out the door… :) More than ten years later, I still hope people find this book, read it and get started the way I did.
    3. The closet, getting rid of at least 25 shirts I had never used.
    4. “Wow man! I am starting to live my own life by my chosen rules.”
    5. I think I bought a copy of the book for my mother and her husband. Mother agreed with me on the book, while the husband is still a bit of “you’ll never know when you need it” person.

    Thanks for reminding me of where I came from and where I am at this point in the journey. It’s a great blog.

  5. says

    1. Patrick, the love of my life, who I met about 16 years ago when he had a duffle bag and a backpack as all of his worldy possessions (though I didn’t change my ways to match his minimalist ones for many, many years).
    2. The Circle of Simplicity by Cecile Andrews.
    3. I actually can’t remember. I was such a mess I just flittered around ineffectively decluttering here and there as best I could.
    4. Complete panic mixed with depression.
    5. My friend Holly, a fellow packrat.

    What a fun survey. I enjoyed reading everyone’s answers. Mine sound a little depressing in comparison to everyone else’s. It took me a long time to embrace minimalism, and it took three years of hardcore decluttering. The start was a bit “tangled” but it’s all good now!

  6. Angela says

    1. Getting into debt and then reading a Suze Orman book where she talks about material clutter. I was at a strange crossroads in my life anyway, and at first it just started with clearing out things to sell to help clear my debt… and suddenly I had a eureka moment, when I made the connection between my debt, my stuff and my unhappy state of mind. At that point, I decided most of my stuff had to go.

    2. I read everything I could get my hands on! Most helpful were Flylady blog posts, Peter Walsh books, Your Money or Your Life and the Karen Kingson book. There is also a plain white book with the green cube on the front… I remember that being really useful too. There were lots of rubbish ones though – ones which started with advice on how to organise and store stuff, rather than insistence that you get rid of it…!

    3. I began with a wall of fitted wardrobes in my bedroom, which were used to store anything and everything that was ‘important’…I had a eureka moment when one of the books pointed out that you can only put away the amount of stuff that fits in the storage space you have for it. Looking at all the things I had around my flat, I realised that the stuff which was causing the mess was all the stuff I used, and the stuff that was packed away perfectly could actually go as I never touched it. Since the wardrobes were the biggest storage area, I just started with them.

    4. Shame as I was going through my possessions – I think I had the beginnings of compulsive shopping behaviour as there were so many duplicates and unopened, brand new things. I was ashamed at the money I had wasted. Once I had faced that and got rid of the excess, I would say relief, then a sort of soothing comfort which grew as I gradually worked my way through drawers and cupboards, and then went through them again. Finally, I made the conscious link that the less stuff I had, the happier I felt. Then I read some article about saving things in a fire, and thought, actually, I wouldn’t care it if all went – nothing was irreplaceable, and even with the sentimental stuff, I still had the memory. To get to that point was amazing, considering that I had started from a point where I really believed that the stuff I owned was the measure of myself, my success etc etc. Now, I can’t believe I felt that way, but rather embarrassingly, I did.

    5. I’m not sure I have inspired anyone – it has been a very private journey. Friends knew that I was selling a lot of my things, but I don’t live with anyone, and I never used to have people over as my flat was so untidy and cluttered, so no one has really witnessed the change apart from me. But that is enough – the only way I can describe it is like sloughing off this old skin of my past life in order to discover the new shiny me underneath.

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