On this weekend, 14 years ago, I discovered minimalism.
It was Memorial Day weekend of 2008 and my wife and I set aside Saturday morning for our annual Spring cleaning.
I volunteered to clean the garage hoping my 5-year-old would enjoy the project. His interest lasted about 30 seconds. Unfortunately, my cleaning project would take several hours.
As my frustration grew, I struck up a conversation with my neighbor who had been busy working on her home as well. When I commented how frustrated I was after so many hours of working on the garage, she replied to me, “That’s why my daughter is a minimalist. She keeps telling me I don’t need to own all this stuff.“
I looked at the pile of dirty, dusty possessions I had spent all morning cleaning and organizing. At that very moment, out of the corner of my eye, I saw my son swinging alone on the swing set in the backyard—where he had been all morning long.
And I suddenly realized not only were my possessions not making me happy, they were actually taking me away from the very thing that did bring me happiness. And not just happiness. But meaning, joy, significance, and purpose.
That moment was the beginning of minimalism in my life.
I started this blog, Becoming Minimalist, that exact same weekend. I can’t imagine there’s anyone around who has been reading this blog for 14 years. But if you have, do let me know in the comment section! I’d love to thank you after all this time.
Minimalism is a lifestyle I was attracted to immediately and it is an approach to life that I continue to pursue—even 14 years later. Even though the world will shout consumerism to me from every billboard, website, and advertisement, I have not strayed from my pursuit.
Here are 14 reasons I’ve been able to sustain minimalism for 14 years:
1. I write about it.
I like to think I would have stuck with minimalism even without starting this blog, but I’m not entirely sure.
On a broader scale, that is what journaling does for us—it forces us to see the world differently and think about it more deeply.
No doubt this blog has been a significant reason I’ve sustained minimalism.
2. I noticed, quickly, the benefits of owning less.
One of the earliest themes on this blog was what I called, “Benefits of Minimalism.” Every time I noticed a positive way my life was improving because of minimalism; I wrote it down. I eventually ended with over 20 practical, life-giving benefits.
Things like: more money, more energy, more focus, more time, better example for my kids, more opportunity for contentment and gratitude.
The more we notice how minimalism improves our life in practical ways, the easier it is to sustain the lifestyle going forward.
3. I tried to introduce minimalism to others.
Not only was I immediately drawn to the idea of owning less, I loved it as soon as I got started.
As a result, I was quick to tell my friends about minimalism. Every time I mentioned it, I would explain how freeing and wonderful it was. Many would respond, “You’re right. That sounds great. I definitely own too much stuff too.”
And with every conversation, my resolve to continue grew.
4. I chose to counter consumerism in my life.
It is one thing to declutter your home, it is something entirely different to not fill it back up again with stuff. A bit like changing your eating habits after the diet ends.
It takes more effort and focus to overcome consumerism, especially in our world today, but it’s possible. And I’m glad I worked to do that.
5. I read a lot.
The first book I ever picked up in my pursuit of minimalism was Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston.
The book sparked new thoughts I hadn’t considered before about clutter and how I looked at my home. Reading helped rewire my brain to see the world differently.
I continued to read about the topic of minimalism and simplicity: books, articles, and blog posts. Whenever I read, I learned something new about myself and/or physical possessions.
The rewiring that took place laid a foundation for minimalism to become second nature to me.
6. I have a supportive spouse.
Kim and I disagree on how minimalist we should be. But we are both on the same page about the benefits of owning less. And I never overlook how helpful that is in my own personal pursuit.
I know plenty of people who are pursuing minimalism without a supportive spouse and many have been able to remain aligned with that pursuit individually, so it’s entirely possible.
But without a doubt, my wife’s support has made it easier for me.
7. I value the invisible.
Because faith has always been important to me and an important element of my worldview, I see value in pursuing the invisible over the visible.
“What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal,” is how the old proverb goes.
Because of that worldview, I could see the trade that minimalism offered: trading the seen for the unseen. And the more I pursued that exchange, the more I experienced it in my own life.
Without question, my understanding that there is more to this world than the physical things I see around me has kept me passionate about minimalism all these years.
8. I have kids.
Having children in the home doesn’t make minimalism easier, but it does make it more important.
Our kids are watching us as parents. They notice how we spend our time, our money, and our energy. If our focus is spent on accumulating more physical possessions than we need, they will learn to live life in the exact same way.
I have tried to live a minimalist life, not to the detriment of my kids, but for their advantage.
Knowing that their little eyes are watching has kept me extra-focused on intentionally living with less.
9. I became more generous.
I have learned that generosity is both the product of minimalism and the very lifeblood of it.
When I started owning less, I found that my excess could be a blessing to others. The very items collecting dust on my shelves could be used by someone in my community. That realization encouraged me to declutter even more.
Additionally, as we began buying less, we found more opportunity to give and help solve problems in the world that we were passionate about solving.
Minimalism didn’t mean we hoarded extra money and time all for ourselves. Just the opposite, it allowed us to give more and more.
And the joy that comes from giving compelled us to continue embracing that opportunity.
10. I pursued character to impress.
Some people like to say, “I don’t try to impress anybody.” And I understand the sentiment behind the idea.
However, the truth is we are all going to leave an impression on others. Whether we want to or not, we are all going to be remembered in some way by the people closest to us.
When I shifted my focus away from buying stuff, I noticed an entire world of opportunity to impress people by my example and the life I live. Our character and passions are always going to leave a bigger impression on others than our things anyway.
Like the saying goes, “Nobody is going to stand up at your funeral and say she had a really nice couch and beautiful shoes. Don’t make life about stuff.”
Making a conscious effort to pursue character over possessions furthered my resolve for minimalism.
11. We did some traveling.
One of the first decisions we had to make after becoming minimalist was deciding what to do with a few extra dollars.
We had sold a few things. But more importantly, we had stopped buying stuff. So when the monthly credit card statement appeared, it was much lower than usual.
Kim and I sat down to decide what to do. We didn’t have any consumer debts to pay off, so our options were: 1) Save it; 2) New carpet; 3) A short trip to the beach with our kids.
We chose Option 3, and I’m so glad we did. From the very beginning, that decision provided a practical example of what opportunities could be available to us as we owned less.
Over the last 14 years, because of minimalism, we’ve been able to travel more as a family than if we continued to buy stuff we didn’t need. And the benefits of that are important.
12. I discovered the habits needed to maintain a minimalist home.
Owning less removes much of the clutter that zaps our time and energy maintaining a home.
But it doesn’t remove all cleaning that needs to happen. A lived-in home still gets used (obviously).
I noticed very early in my minimalist journey that clutter seems to attract clutter. When I left a kitchen counter cluttered, it just collected more and more. When we left the toys out overnight, more gathered the next day.
Maintaining even a minimalist home requires daily, weekly, and seasonal habits. Of course, minimalism makes those habits easier and less burdensome. But I still needed to take the time to learn them.
And I’m glad I did because there is nothing better than waking up every morning to a tidy home. Minimalism allows that.
13. I began experimenting with less.
The first “experiment” we ever tried in our home was going down to one television for the summer. We loved it and kept it!
Later, I’d experiment with the clothes in my closet by trying out Project 333 for three months. Again, loved it!
With almost every “experiment” I tried, I learned that I needed far less than I thought I needed.
Not every experiment with less became a lifestyle forever, but each time I learned something new about what was needed and what wasn’t.
14. I always knew minimalism was about something more than minimalism.
Becoming a minimalist has never been my greatest goal in life—nor will it be. There are greater pursuits in life than simply trying to own less stuff.
Minimalism, to me, has always been a means to an end.
I want my life to make the greatest difference for the greatest number of people. Owning less frees me to do that.
Seeing the bigger picture behind minimalism and the greater motivation for it keeps me focused on owning less.
And will continue to do so for years to come.