Try Brainwashing, It Works.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Bernice Wood of Living the Balanced Life.

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dwyer

Our Story

The journey towards minimalist living is an ongoing, continual process. Similar to healthy eating, you’ll need to continue the habits and actions that got you to your current point. This may be daunting to the aspiring minimalists, but it should be a source of comfort. After all, there is no checklist, there is no certificate of achievement, you travel at your own pace, and you get to decide when you have “arrived.”

As a child, I was raised by 2 packrats (not quite hoarders, but close to it). I married young and took many of the tendencies of accumulation I saw as a child and tried to create my own home. With the addition of 4 children over the next few years, my family had a houseful of stuff before we even knew it was happening. Fast forward 25 years… we had become a married couple who had been overworked, overwhelmed, and had spent years trying to keep up with all the accumulated stuff that had come along with our family.

However, as the kids began moving out, we realized we were ready to lighten our load and began that process. But first, we needed to change the way we thought about things.

Clearing the mind first

Sometimes, before you can change your lifestyle, you have to remove the doubt, fear and self-limiting beliefs from your mind. For example, when it comes to removing the stuff and belongings from your life, here are some things you may be thinking:

  • These things are my life. Who am I if I get rid of them?
  • But these ____________ belonged to my mother! How can I get rid of them?
  • I want to be able to pass these things on to my children. Everybody needs a ____________.
  • Won’t my children be “left out” if they don’t have a ____________?

Change your thinking and your actions will follow

We discovered that once we started intentionally addressing (and answering) the thoughts that were going through our minds, it immediately freed us up to start making decisions to release our belongings. And what an awesome feeling that is!

Now, my husband teases the kids that if there is anything they want to keep, they better get it now before I sell or donate it. And after changing our mindset (and working so hard to free myself of accumulated things), the last thing I want to do is go buy something else to fill its place. The awesome freedom and peace that accompanies living with less is just too wonderful.

Do you need to change the way you are looking at some of the things in your life?


Bernice is the author of the ebook Find Your Balance. She writes about defining and living your priorities at Living the Balanced Life. You can also find her on Twitter.

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

    ■These things are my life. Who am I if I get rid of them?

    I really needed this one line for I have hit a wall after giving away atleast 50% of my posessions. I need/want to do more. This is a valuable thought processing tool.
    thank you.

    • says

      Remember that the principles behind minimalism are not just to own less stuff. There is a reason for it beyond living lighter on the earth. Having less gives us freedom to do more. If we move beyond being defined by our stuff, we need to explore who we really are. What are you passionate about? What do you want to spend your time doing?
      Good luck to you Vee!

      • says

        Yes I agree Bernice, having less distractions in my life help me focus on what I am most passionate about and that is knowing God thru Jesus Christ and following Him. Eliminating more and more things from my life is freeing up the clutter in my surroundings and my mind. I am able to focus more on Truth instead of the lies of the world. I am letting Him lead me in this minimalism journey and so far it has been very fruitful for both my husband and I.
        My dear friend Jo and I just started a small blog sharing our journey to minimalism. We are giving much right now and it is richly blessing us.
        Thank you for your post and the sharing of your life.

    • says

      It is amazing once you make that shift how you can look so differently at things. I have been appalled this past Valentine’s Day and now Easter season at all the frivolous stuff that is out in the stores for us to buy to *celebrate* the holiday. SO MUCH STUFF!

  2. says

    I keep taking more things away. I find that I really don’t miss them when they’re not there on the shelf….. and I no longer have to dust them. :)

  3. says

    I absolutely agree that sometimes you need to change your mind and your actions will follow. But sometimes it can also work the other way around.

    Years ago I was unhappy living in a big suburban home. I didn’t know why I was unhappy, but I was. When my first marriage ended in divorce I left my big home and moved into a small condo. I didn’t like it at first. It was too restrictive and there was no room for my stuff. But in time it grew on me and the notion of living a life with less revealed its benefits. In that case, my actions led and my mind followed.

  4. says

    Everything is scary when you start, isn’t it? Now I am comfortable with the stuff I own; oddly enough I appreciate my essentials much more.

    I’d suggest anybody to begin by downsizing their digital stuff. Get rid of every piece of software you do not regularly use. You don’t know how much time these drain from notifications, updates and generally slowing your machine until you get rid of them. Also try leaner alternatives to your applications: you don’t need photoshop if all you do is cropping images.

  5. says

    Great post Bernice! The ideas you’ve presented here are so true. Once we realize that our habit of accumulating things is just that — a habit, it becomes much easier to change our thinking.

    Another thing that has helped me is to listen to how others (non-minimalists) talk about their belongings. Once I started noticing the control peoples’ belongings had over them, it was easier to decide that I didn’t want that for myself. It’s suffocating.

    • says

      It did become a habit. And one thing that I think contributed to the collection is that we have lived in the same house almost 22 years. I read stories of others who have moved every couple of years and how that helps them keep them their belongings down. Considering that we would like to RV-live in a couple of years, I need to cut down the belongings even more!

  6. Marf says

    Good post, Thank You! After downsizing to live very comfortably in first a 19′, then a 30′ motor home, we “settled down” and soon the two of us bulged the seams of a 2,200 sq’ house. Downsized again, to 1,400 sq’ in a different state, and are bulging again. This has gotta stop! I’m overwhelmed. Bring back the freedom of the motor home, please!!

    • says

      That is where I want to end up, Marf, in a motor home! I think it will take some getting used to, but you have to have limits as there are only so many places to put things!
      Think about what you are filling your home with and why? Set some limits and rid youself of some of these items. :-)

  7. says

    Great post, Bernice!

    I used to accumulate clutter, too, but I’m a downsizing junkie now! My realization that I was treating objects like they had feelings helped me overcome my clutter.

    Now with more space I’m learning that it is better to have something that is higher quality instead of spending more of lower quality things (clothes/tools/appliances) that will wear out faster and need to be replaced more often.

    I hope you do get to start RV-ing. That sounds like so much fun. A lot more fun than a house full of stuff. :)

    • says

      I love not buying stuff. We recently bought a few things to helps us with planting a container garden, and I was very carefully weighing out the decision for each *accessory* we might need. There is as much garden *clutter* available as in any other category! We kept it lean and mean though! And now we’ve got some great seedlings going!
      And an RV full of experiences would be much nicer than a house full of stuff!

  8. says

    It’s so true that once you change your mind, your actions follow. I’ve shifted from being addicted to accumulating things to being addicted to getting rid of them! What I’ve found lately is not that I have issues with my own desire to downsize, it’s how to explain my lifestyle shift to others (especially when it’s such a major departure from how they have known me up to this point). How do we let others know without making them feel like we’re somehow judging their choices? Have any of you felt this way?

  9. says

    Henry David Thoreau said, “Simplify, Simplify, Simplify”. I am on this journey of zen living simply. Working toward “less stuff” is one of my goals. I see so many people living as slaves to possessions.

  10. says

    How fun to see you over here on Joshua’s blog Bernice. Hi girl!

    This is the one out of your list that really had me in it’s grips, “These things are my life. Who am I if I get rid of them?” Once I figured out that I am who I am regardless of what I own it opened up the floodgates for getting rid of the excess.

    • says

      Absolutely! Our *stuff* should not define us. And it is interesting that you speak of opening the floodgates. Its almost seems I can’t get rid of enough! But I do still live in a house with others so I will be hanging on to more than maybe I want to for now. Gotta help hubby grow into this a little more!
      Thanks Tanja!

  11. Sharmaine says

    I have been “peeking in” and willing myself to get motivated to to start minimalising our home. Most evenings I have been reading blogs on minimising, but just can’t seem to get started on clearing the clutter.
    One positive thing so far is that I have only slipped up once since making my New Year’s resolution to not purchase anything besides food for our home. In a moment of weakness, I bought 2 latte mugs as all my usual mugs don’t fit under the nozzle of our coffee machine – and guess what…these new mugs are just a bit too tall as well. I WILL TAKE THEM TO WORK tomorrow for the kitchen. I must be getting somewhere as there was no joy in purchasing them anyway (must admit that the clincher was that I had been eyeing them about 6 months ago – and they were now on sale at less 75%). Another lesson learnt – don’t buy it just because it is at a good price!!!
    Bernice, I think you have nailed my illness on the head -and knowing the cause will help me sort out the problem.
    1. These things are my life. Who am I if I get rid of them?
    2. But these ____________ belonged to my mother! How can I get rid of them?
    4.Won’t my children be “left out” if they don’t have a ____________? NO, THEY WILL LEARN FROM MY EXAMPLE THAT LESS IS MORE…..
    Gotta go….lots of stuff to get rid of, now that I understand what is holding me back!!

  12. kevin says

    I am just beginning living the minimalist lifestyle and it is exactly what I really believe is needed. I feel rejuvenated and more nourished. I feel balanced.

  13. says

    Great post. Finding myself asking the questions you’ve raised. Beginning to realise it’s not necessarily going to be an easy journey to take without involving the rest of the family. Hoping that by subtly making changes to my own attitudes about possessions, some positives will rub off on my family.

  14. What's With the Title? says

    This isn’t brainwashing, this is introspection.

    Hypnosis, mantras, seclusion in single-minded groups, paradigm-shifting extreme experiences, calculated trauma – this is brainwashing.

    Reminding yourself of things you’re liable to forget, analyzing your thought process, detecting irrationality – this is increased self-awareness.

    I was hoping I to find advocacy of the former.

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