Memorial Day is a holiday in the United States where we pause to remember those who died in active military service. May nothing I write in this article overshadow that fact…
On a purely personal level, readers of this blog will know that Memorial Day weekend signifies something completely different in my life and my family’s life.
In the last 12 years, my life has changed dramatically because of minimalism. As I sit down to reflect, here are some of the most significant changes that have taken place.
12 Ways My Life Has Changed After 12 Years of Minimalism:
1. I own less.
I have never counted my things—never wanted to actually. But when we first made the decision to become minimalist, we easily got rid of 60-70% of our things.
A lot has changed since then. We’re in a different season of life. Most significantly, my kids are now 17 and 14 (rather than 5 and 2) and with their growing bodies and growing independence, different possessions have come and gone over the years. So I would never try to guess on a % at this point.
But we still own much less than when we started this journey—and I can’t even begin to imagine how much stuff we would own if we hadn’t been pursuing minimalism these last 12 years.
2. I live in a smaller home.
We moved 9 years ago from Vermont (where my minimalism story began) to Phoenix, AZ. When we did, we bought a smaller home than we lived in before. We knew the neighborhood where wanted to live and waited for the smallest model of home to become available.
We bought a smaller home for numerous reasons and have never regretted that decision—even as our children have grown.
3. I have more money in savings.
I suppose, as you grow older, it would be expected that you would have more money saved and more money in your retirement accounts. But that is clearly not the case for every American. For us, however, it is.
While my income has increased from 12 years ago (as would be expected), my expenses have significantly decreased (see Point 1 and 2 above). Because of that, we’ve been able to save more than if our expenses had remained the same.
4. I am more generous.
Because this blog was covering our modest financial needs, we used the book money to start The Hope Effect, a nonprofit organization changing how the world cares for orphans that is currently working in 5 cities around the world to make a difference for orphaned children.
Earlier this year, we exceeded $1M raised to help orphaned children find families. This is something that would never have happened had it not been for minimalism 12 years ago.
5. I have better habits in my life.
Minimalism in my possessions resulted in countless other lifestyle changes in my life. When I became intentional with my belongings, I also became intentional with other daily practices: how I spend my time, how I care for my body, and how I seek to make the most of my life.
Would some of these habits of eating healthier, exercising more, and writing more have happened anyway in my life? Possibly, I suppose. But minimalism certainly brought them about sooner.
6. I don’t try to impress people with the things that I own.
12 years ago, I had three bookcases full of books in my office, even though I read less than half of them.
I remember one afternoon after finding minimalism looking at the shelves and realizing, “I keep these books only because they look impressive. I’m literally using unread books to impress people when they come in my office.”
It was a lightbulb moment for me.
I also realized, as I looked around my office, I had hung my diplomas on the wall behind me for that exact same reason. Now, I realize there are other people who have those items in their office for reasons other than the ones I recognized in myself.
But it was a significant changing point in my life when I recognized how I was trying to use stuff to impress others… rather than trying to impress people with the life that I lived.
I no longer try to impress people with the things that I own—whether it be books, clothes, cars, houses, or technology. There are much better, and more fulfilling ways to make an impression on peoples’ lives.
7. I have more time.
Excess possessions are a burden on our lives and schedules. They require cleaning and maintenance and organizing and repairing and replacing.
And that doesn’t even begin to mention all the time we spend working, just to make the money, to spend the time shopping, to buy the things that we bring home to clean and organize and manage and maintain and ultimately replace.
Owning fewer possessions has freed up my life for more important uses of my time. And removing the pursuit of accumulating possessions has freed up even more time.
8. I see the entire world differently.
I see culture differently. I see society differently. I see advertisements differently. I see marketing differently. I see shopping differently. I see money differently. I see work differently. I see people differently.
The way I see the entire world has changed dramatically since beginning to live a minimalist lifestyle. And that is no exaggeration. The way you see the world will change as well.
9. I have a new career.
12 years ago, I was a pastor and loving every minute of it. I had not chosen the job to get rich, I had chosen the career to make a difference in peoples’ lives.
As this blog grew and the time demands continued to increase, I was faced with a choice: choose one or the other. So seven years ago, I changed my job and the good I try to bring into this world.
BecomingMinimalist.com has been my full-time career for the last seven years. And I have no intention of quitting anytime soon. I love what I do.
10. I have seen much growth in the minimalist movement over the last 12 years.
When I started Becoming Minimalist 12 years ago, I don’t know of any other blogs or websites dedicated solely to minimalism. There were people writing about minimalism (Leo Babauta comes to mind), but nobody writing about it solely.
But over the last 12 years, things have changed dramatically. There are now countless blogs dedicated to minimalism. There are also countless YouTube channels, books, and social media accounts. You can even find a documentary on Netflix.
I am grateful that the movement continues to grow and stand proud with all the other writers and creators who have helped proclaim the message of living more by owning less.
11. My faith has grown.
My faith has always been important to me. As I explain in The More of Less, my spirituality has greatly influenced my understanding and practice of minimalism. But equally so, minimalism has influenced and grown my personal faith.
I have learned lessons about the intersection of faith and myself, the world, money, and possessions that I could not have learned through any path other than minimalism.
12. I love helping others own less.
Minimalism, at first, was just a personal journey. In fact, this blog, that now reaches 1-2M readers every month was started as just a personal diary. I wrote about cleaning out my office and closet, and the time I threw out my wife’s Jell-O molds.
But along the way, my focus changed. Rather than writing about my own journey, I began using this space and my experience to help others own less and live more.
Over the last 12 years, I’ve written four books, engaged with social media, started a magazine, created an app, and launched a YouTube channel. Always with one goal in mind: help others discover and embrace minimalism.
I love the work that I do. And none of it would have happened without discovering minimalism, 12 years ago today.
Thank you so much for being a part of it.