Why Minimalism Should Not Be Entered Into Lightly

“Choices are the hinges of destiny.” – Pythagoras

Because of the nature of this website and our personal story, I have the opportunity to read scores of e-mails from people who have decided to choose minimalism as a lifestyle. Usually, I tell them the same thing, “Good for you. Enjoy the journey. You’ll never regret following through with your decision.”

And make no mistake about it, minimalism is a decision. It is a choice to live counter-cultural. We have been told since birth to consume and collect. Deciding to become minimalist rejects those messages and intentionally chooses less instead.

While life is full of decisions, some of them are bigger than others. Some of life’s decisions can be made without much forethought. But other decisions should be made only after all of the consequences have been considered. Becoming minimalist is one of those decisions – it is not a decision to be entered into lightly. While on the surface, minimalism seems like just throwing away a bunch of clutter. It is, in fact, a journey that will ultimately end in your heart, mind, and soul.

Because of that, it would be wise to think through the impact that minimalism will have on your life before choosing it. Consider how this one decision will affect your entire world:

It will rock your emotions. As you begin to purge your possessions, you will begin to wrestle with the “why’s” of your belongings. “Why do I have a basement full of stuff I never use?” “Why have I held on to old t-shirts or jerseys from high school?” “Why have I never thrown away these mementos from a past romance?” or “Why exactly is it so difficult for me to part with these items?” The truth of the matter is that you have known all along the location of your garbage can, recycling bin, or local goodwill. You have kept all that stuff for a reason… and discovering that reason is going to be an emotional process.

It will rock your values. At its core, minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things you most value and the removal of anything that distracts you from it. In order to remove nonessential items from your life, you will need to identify the essentials. You will be forced to identify and prioritize your essential values… maybe even write them down. As a result, you may come to the difficult realization that you have spent much of your life pursuing things that aren’t really all that valuable.

It will rock your view of society. Our world invents, produces, promotes, and purchases material possessions at an alarming rate. Our world loves stuff. It’s how they find security, impress their neighbors, and prove their worth. Becoming minimalist not only changes your view of possessions, it changes your view of society, culture, and its messages. And while your mindset has changed, society has not. So be prepared, culture begins to look much different when you are on the outside looking in.

It will rock your lifestyle. There are countless practical benefits of minimalism. You will have more time, more freedom, more money, and less stress. Subsequently, your lifestyle will begin to change. You may choose to get out of debt, work less, travel more, or start blogging (at least, that’s what I did). No matter what you decide to do, minimalism is going to change your lifestyle.

It will rock your relationships. Once you have made the decision to become minimalist, you will find minimalism to be a topic of conversation that surfaces regularly. People will be intrigued with your new lifestyle and they will ask you about your progress. You will enjoy speaking about the positive impact that the decision has made on your life. And they will soon desire the freedom that you are enjoying.

It will rock areas of your life that you never dreamt possible. The principles of minimalism will eventually creep into other areas of your life. You will soon begin removing nonessential items elsewhere in your life. Eventually, you will simplify your time commitments, your goals, your screen time, and maybe even your diet. A simplified lifestyle naturally flows out of a minimalist lifestyle.

Minimalism is a lifestyle that should not be entered into lightly. But don’t get me wrong, minimalism is a lifestyle that should be entered.

Just consider how this one decision will affect your entire life:

  • You will recognize emotions that are keeping you from living life.
  • You will live life for things that are valuable and lasting.
  • You will recognize the false truths championed by society.
  • You will experience a lifestyle you never thought possible.
  • You will inspire and encourage others to live in freedom.
  • You will ultimately simplify almost every area of your life.

On the surface, minimalism seems like just throwing away a bunch of clutter. But it is, in fact, a journey that will end in your heart, mind, and soul. And that’s why you’ll never regret it.

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

    I have always considered minimalism only a style in design, but didn´t realize it could entail your whole way of being. This article is an eye-opener. Thank you very much.

    • di says

      Many of us have no choice.

      Living without means I don’t get to live life as freely as others. My family and friends are non-supportive. There were times when I thought I’d never survive. This complicates my life.

      • Melissa says

        Di, it sounds like there are other things going on for you. Is there a support line you could call and talk to someone about it?
        Warmest wishes,
        Melissa

  2. Christine says

    I can’t believe how many areas of my life minimalism has touched. It has been about 16 months since I really “started” my journey and it has changed my life extraordinarily. Things that I never knew were so important to me started to surface and I am learning how to incorporate them into my everyday life. I have changed so much in the past 16 months, and I truly believe for the better.

    The one problem I have found is that I have less patience for people who are obsessed with consumerism. I guess I need to work on that!

    • says

      christine. in my original draft of this post, i actually included a section on “it will rock your relationship with others” addressing your point exactly. but i just couldn’t get it to communicate what i wanted to say… so i just encrypted it into my point on society instead. but the more i thought i about it, the more i realized the reason i couldn’t get it to sound right is because the reason for impatience with others is not based in minimalism, it is based in my heart. good point. thanks for raising it.

  3. Deb J says

    What a great post. I printed it out so I can show it to my mother who lives with me. I want her to understand why I am choosing minimalism and the things it is doing to me inside and out. Thanks.

  4. says

    You hit it right on. It’s a decision, it’s a lifestyle, and it’s definitely counter-culture. People can’t enter this half-heartedly or as their side hobby. I think a lot of people like the idea, but few follow through completely. This is a great post, though, on the implications and benefits of minimalism.

  5. says

    I’ve been reading your blog since last November and I wanted to tell you that I think this is my favorite post so far. I’ve only just begun my journey and I’ve experienced much of what you describe. You’re encouraging me to keep on going. Thanks.

  6. says

    I’m curious – do you have children? And if so, what does minimalism look like with kids? There always seems to be so much “stuff” around when kids are in the house. Toys, art supplies, clothing, plastic plates/cups, books, dvds, stuffed animals, booster seats, diapers, you name it! We consciously chose to stay away from lots of “extras” (wipe warmers come to mind!) but even so, there are so many things in our house. I’d love some ideas on living a more minimalist lifestyle with kids in mind.

  7. says

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post, Joshua. It gives me encouragement to keep on keeping on and making the slow small steps toward minimalizing my life.

  8. says

    We’re just beginning this journey. I am amazed at the level of peace it has brought to our home and we’ve only done a “first wave” of clutter purging.

    Thanks for being a great resource for those of us with young kids who aren’t looking for a “Only 50 possessions” lifestyle. I believe this moderate form of minimalism IS possible for us!

    • di says

      I lived with extreme minimalism most of my life, because I didn’t have a choice. The only choice I chose was not to be in debt.

  9. Steve says

    Becoming a minimalist has cost me money and I am constantly buying things!

    …”At its core, minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things you most value and the removal of anything that distracts you from it.”…

    If, like me, you value minimalist design and aesthetics you will always be searching for things that better match it’s principles.
    For example, if I have an ornate cup to drink my coffee from then the ornament on that cup would drive me to look for a more minimalist version.

    That means I am always assessing what I have got and comparing it what’s available now to see if I can get a more minimalist type.

    Yes I am constantly getting rid of stuff.

    The point I would make here is that a minimalist lifestyle is different from a simple lifestyle. I think a minimalist is concerned about the aesthetics of stuff (and other lifestyle elements).

    • di says

      Minimalism is defined differently for everyone. Your point of view involves aesthetics. Others may find alternatives or do without.

  10. Leo says

    I guess I could add in that it also leads to home improvement. As we’ve been getting rid of “stuff” I’ve found that we can now paint/refloor our rooms. When we moved in, each room was a place for our stuff but now the rooms can become an actual environment rather than a container.

  11. says

    what a beautiful post! i have found all of your points to be true in my own experience on the minimalist journey. we still have a little too much stuff, but that problem is getting solved steadily. we still have two ancient cars because cannot go without at least one working vehicle, and one serves as backup for the other (i know, i know). we don’t have grandchildren just yet, but when we do i will be sure to check in with you for some tips on minimalism around kids.

    but seriously, the minimalist experience makes everything so much clearer, particularly cultural and political issues, and makes it so much easier to make conscious choices in nearly every conceivable way.

    • di says

      I changed to one car when my insurance agent pointed out that for $5.00 per year, we could get coverage for a rental car.

      Having one car sure saves a lot of money and the car we do have is easier to maintain.

  12. Mark says

    I am assuming that the creator of this page has a high paying job. I have always been a minimalist. I am a man in my late 20′s. I can tell you from first hand experience that being a minimalist will only hurt you in the relationship department. That is, unless you have a job that pays very well. Women don’t seem to care if you don’t own many possessions. However, they still want to know that you COULD provide them with those items if someday they wanted them. It is the harsh reality of dating in an industrialized nation. Still, I will maintain my current lifestyle. I just thought I would add perspective from a different side. A side that is often overlooked due to lack of popularity.

    • di says

      I agree. I was a single Mom with 2 kids and one small income. There had been no dating opportunities for years until my kids left home and I inherited. All of a sudden, I became very popular, which ended up turning me off to many a beau.

  13. Ruby says

    Wonderful writing. To me, minimalism feels like the key to freedom. I find myself being drawn to writings on minimalism regularly, to offset the bombardment of advertisements and messages that sometimes have me reverting back to my old self. I started my “journey” about 6 months ago. In the process, I have discovered what is truly important in life. I feel like I have found joy in the most simple of things. I used to be a very cynical, depressed woman, and this had so much to do with me comparing myself to others — always believing that had it better than me. I have changed my entire outlook on life, without antidepressants…and I credit minimalism (the simplifying of my life) for this.

  14. kathleen says

    I’ve begun to declutter and minimalise in earnest and am finding it a liberating experience.
    However, it is negatively impacting on my family relationships.

    I live alone, but my Mum and Nanna are over involved in my life, always going through my house finding out what I’ve thrown out, where it’s gone, and why I’ve gotten rid of it. They say things like, “you’ll regret it later”, “you should have a bed base and bedside cabinets and a dressing table”, “you look poverty stricken”, and “you need to make your house homely, so that visitors feel comfortable here”.
    They think I’m mentally ill for making these choices, and it’s seriously undermining my serenity and self belief.
    I’m 33! I’m too old to be constrained by what my “two mothers” think of me and my life choices. But it is still a problem.
    How to deal?

    • Nancy Coney says

      You don’t have to be a monk. Have what makes you comfortable.
      Have one flower vase. Tell them it is for them.
      Your experience is normal. It takes them out of their comfort zone. Smile at them and tease them about something they keep in a positive manner. Keep it light hearted. It’s not your responsibility to convert them.

    • di says

      We have lived without bureaus for years. I store small items in large decorative, cardboard boxes in the bottom of each of our closets.

      We’ve never had a desk.

      We have an old couch with a new cover and an old rocking chair. We don’t have a TV. I do have a radio.

      We don’t have a dining room set. We eat in the living room.

      When company arrives, we sit in the living room and the kids play on the floor.

  15. SilverOctopi says

    So very well said. At first it’s just the idea of paring down your belongings, but it really is so much more than that in the end. I’ve been working on a minimalist lifestyle for the past year or so, and I’ve learned things I had no idea I was getting myself into – just from going through my stuff! As you said, there is a reason you’re keeping it, and behind the object is a lesson waiting to be learned and old emotional clutter waiting to be worked through. It will spring itself on you and ultimately you will be grateful. Although the brief period of therapy I’ve had was a tremendous help, minimalism is a very deep and effective therapy in its own right.

  16. Dana Drew says

    A real estate agent once set me straight on how to sell a home. She said how a prospective buyer will not like a ‘junky’ looking place. After decluttering my home, I remember looking around and wondering why it couldn’t have looked that great all those years I was living there. My house sold very quickly soon after but I never forgot that wonderful junk-free look with the cleared off counters and tables! I then strived for this look in each new place I lived in.

    Lately, I have been really wanting to apply this same principal to other areas of my life and this article gives some great suggestions to ponder. Wake up call – the part in your post about how we may come to realize that we have spent much of our lives pursuing things that aren’t really all that valuable. Ouch! That struck a nerve. Oh well, better late than never.

  17. di says

    I thought you believed in minimalism.

    Why are these posts becoming lengthier, more drawn out, taking more time to read, involving several concepts, repeating the same phrases, getting off the subject, taking longer to explain, extrapolating the obvious, reiterating what has been already said, not quite as short, taking up my precious time, becoming too involved, needing further explanation, assuming others are without logic or common sense, restating the same thing…

  18. ali d says

    dang…how much of your precious time did it take to write that response? I’m sorry I wasted mine reading it and writing this comment.

  19. says

    I am inspired. I have dreams of getting rid of all my stuff. The problem is the follow through. When I get to the bookshelf or to my closet, I start thinking that something is useful or that I might want it in the future. How do I overcome these things? Thank you.

  20. Greg says

    I would like to weigh in and accomplish three things (forgive me I’m studying to become an English teacher at the community college level – so if you don’t get the joke you are probably better off). First is to thank joshua and responders for well-articulated and heart felt points made. Second is too deal with the whole age thing; and third ask for any constructive advice that may cross your mind. At sixty I find myself torn between wanting to live life for life’s sake (be here now) versus finally learning to store acorns for the winter – never done well. I have flirted with a few careers, the longest being thirteen years as a social worker, after earning an MSW during my forties. So, while many would say that it is.. well.. sexy to be a man whose passion is helping others, few would (understandably) argue that one should do so at his own expense (well-being). I do not want to turn this into something Freudian, I just want to say that I am struggling with whether to move to the country, live on a few veg planted acres, and live in a renovated school bus – and that dileema sums up my deep dark secret when it comes to dating. On the dating sites it seems that the vast majority of women have been world travelers – with photos for proof – and they enjoy the finer things in life. No jealousy, resentment, opposition here; I just don’t want to be part of all of that. . . and yet, I like to think that I am a man’s man (translates to not a macho bone in my body, but willing to sacrifice that body for those I love), but here’s another rub: “I loves me some shoes!” I have more than a few pairs and fine myself coveting my neighbors’ (though I hasten to add mens’. . .) Whew! so that’s what it feels like to come out! I guess what I’ve taken too much time and space to say is that I am afraid. I think that I love and accept myself. I don’t think that I am needy. I think that I can be happy on a five acre estate with a garden and trees, and dirt on my knees and my twelve year old dog, Daisy, who really does love me hangups, shoes and all. I would just prefer to do it with a partner, and I am trying to find the courage to attract, find, or manifest her, if you will. As such, whether you are young or old, sane or not, please just pick one or two points here and respond from the heart. Thanks for listening.

    • Greg says

      Oops, spelling disclaimers regarding previous post from greg.

      “too” should have been to. . . “deelemma” should have been dilemma. . . “fine” should have been find. These darned computers just don’t spell as well as the old school typewriters did – I apologize.

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