It’s almost unbelievable to me to think that this weekend marks 15 years since that Saturday morning in Vermont when I was first introduced to the word: minimalism.
In a world that continually exclaims “more is better,” the idea of intentionally owning less is countercultural—almost as if the idea must break through the noise. For me, it was a conversation with my neighbor. For others, it was a parent, a friend, or even this blog.
But regardless of how we came to be introduced to minimalism, the lifestyle begins to change us.
These last 15 years have been a journey of learning, understanding, and growth for me.
Whether you’ve been reading Becoming Minimalist all 15 years (thanks mom!) or just started today, I’d like to celebrate by sharing 15 lessons that minimalism has taught me over the last 15 years.
1. The power of less.
Our society often equates more with better, encouraging us to amass things in the pursuit of happiness. At the heart of every advertising message is the foundational message that this product will improve our lives.
Maybe the most profound lesson minimalism taught me was the power of less. Having fewer possessions has not only decluttered my physical space, it has allowed me to redirect my precious (and finite) resources toward things that matter.
2. Real wealth is intangible.
There is more than one definition of the word wealth. Merriam Webster offers three:
1. abundance of valuable material possessions or resources
2. abundant supply
3. all property that has a money value or an exchangeable value
When most people think of the word wealth, they define it (and usually desire it) in terms of financial or material resources.
But there are other things in the world that we should desire in “abundant supply:” relationships, love, faith, and impact all come to mind.
Very often, the pursuit of material wealth leaves those other pursuits lacking—rather than in abundant supply. Given the choice, I’ll prefer richness in relationships, faith, and love over dollars any day.
Minimalism helped me see that even clearer than before.
3. Contentment cannot be purchased.
Society often tells us we’ll be happier if we have more—just turn on the television, open social media, or flip through a magazine.
But the endless pursuit of more only leaves us feeling empty and dissatisfied. Our overly cluttered closets, garages, and storage units stand as visible proof of our ongoing discontent.
Minimalism taught me that true contentment cannot be purchased at a store. You’ll need to find it elsewhere.
4. The richness of giving.
In our race to accumulate, we overlook the joy of giving.
Generosity is something we desire to be true of ourselves—of course. But when 80% of us believe we’ll be happier if we have more money, the richness found in giving is rarely considered as a source of lasting happiness.
But there is a different way. And over the years of pursuing minimalism, I have learned that generosity is not just the byproduct of minimalism—it can also be the very lifeblood of it.
It’s a form of wealth that enriches not just the receiver but the giver too.
5. Comparison is the thief of joy.
Comparison seems to be built into the human spirit.
And one thing I have learned over 15 years is that if we’re not comparing our physical possessions to our neighbor, we’ll find something else to compare. Minimalism does not remove the tendency automatically.
However, minimalism allows me to compare one less thing to everybody else. And slowly, but subtly, I learn to cooperate and cheer, rather than compare.
6. Minimalism is a lifelong journey.
Decluttering isn’t a one-time activity but a constant process of evaluating what adds value and purpose to our lives.
15 years ago, I named this blog, Becoming Minimalist. And I couldn’t be happier with the name choice. In fact, I rarely (if ever) call myself a minimalist. Even 15 years later, I prefer to use the phrase “becoming minimalist.” Because consumerism doesn’t go away, and neither does life change.
Next year my daughter will graduate high school and my wife and I will become empty nesters (or at least that’s how it looks today). At that point, we will need to re-evaluate again, what is our greatest purpose during this season of life? What possessions do we need to accomplish that purpose? And what has become only a distraction?
Minimalism is a lifelong journey of making conscious decisions that align with our values.
7. Intentionality is a key to joy.
At its core, minimalism is about intentionality.
It’s about aligning our life resources with our greatest values—and removing any distraction that keeps us from them.
And I have found that the greatest, longest-lasting joy is found living in alignment.
Minimalism, essentially, is about choosing what to let in and what to let go, what to do and what not to do, what to pursue and what to release.
8. Minimalism sparks spiritual growth.
My personal faith has formed a rich foundation for how I think about minimalism and how I pursue it.
Equally so, minimalism has brought greater depth and understanding to my personal faith. And that was an unexpected surprise to me.
Faith is not a topic I speak about in great specificity here on Becoming Minimalist, there are other places where I do that.
But if you would like to know more, I go into greater detail in my book The More of Less, and even started a weekly faith-based email earlier this year called Focus on Faith. You can sign up here to receive it for free.
9. Our identity is not defined by what we own.
We live in a world that often defines us by what we own. But our possessions are just things; they don’t reflect our identity or worth. And sometimes those with the most possessions have sacrificed their very identity for it.
So, we should be careful to not measure success in life by material possessions. As the old proverb goes, “A rich heart may be under a poor coat.”
10. Our kids are watching us more than we think.
Over the last 15 years, I have spoken all around the world on the pursuit of minimalism. And no matter where I am, I am met with a similar question, “How do I keep my kids from envy and materialism?”
And my answer is always the same, “You need to keep yourself from envy and materialism. If you have a closet full of things you don’t need, you will have a hard time explaining to your child the foolishness of buying things you don’t need.”
If we want to raise children who are not consumeristic, we must model it for them.
11. Minimalism forces clarity.
The process of minimizing our possessions requires more than physical effort deciding what can be parted with. It requires mental effort identifying what we need to keep.
You can’t decide what to get rid of until you know what you need. And it’s hard to know what you need until you know what you are trying to accomplish with your life.
Minimalism forces questions of values upon you. Of course, it also provides the clarity and space to answer them.
12. Money can be spent on better things than material possessions.
Our money is only as valuable as what we choose to spend it on. When we choose material goods, like a big-screen TV or a new wardrobe, that’s the value we’ve gained—fleeting amusement or ever-changing fashion.
But let’s consider a different approach. What if we chose to spend that money on shared experiences, like a family vacation? The value of our money then extends beyond the physical.
Along those same lines, what if we directed those same resources to solve problems and effect change in the world? To provide a family for an orphaned child or clean water to a village? Suddenly, the value of our money is multiplied many times over!
The true worth of our money lies not in what we can buy for ourselves, but in the difference we can make in the lives of others. There are always better things to spend our money on than material possessions.
13. Minimalism is personal.
Minimalism doesn’t adhere to a “one size fits all” approach. It will look different for all of us—depending on where we live, our family, our career, our hobbies, even the problems we want to solve in the world.
There is great freedom to be found in this lesson. And almost everyone who decides to pursue a minimalist life learns this quickly.
14. Selfless work is often the most meaningful.
Through minimalism, I’ve discovered a new perspective on work.
When we choose to live with less, fewer financial resources are required. And we can begin to think about work differently. Rather than the means to an ever-growing paycheck, work can become a way to pour our heart into the world.
In needing less, we can focus more on contributing to the people around us and less on working for personal gain. As we do this, we find our work becoming a source of joy and satisfaction, not just an opportunity to acquire more and more for ourselves.
This shift, while seemingly counterintuitive in our consumeristic society, brings deeper fulfillment and purpose.
15. The world needs minimalism.
Embrace minimalism—it’s a gift waiting to be unwrapped. This philosophy is not confined to specific personalities, circumstances, or economic status. It’s an opportunity for intentionality, giving freedom to focus on what truly matters.
Through minimalism, we realize our greatest potential.
Minimalism isn’t about having less—it’s about making room for more purpose, more clarity, more fulfillment.
The world hungers for this transformation. Jump while you can. Minimalism is a call to elevate our lives, enriching our spaces and our spirits.
Reflecting on these 15 years, I’m immensely grateful for the journey minimalism has led me on.
But I am equally grateful for you—the Becoming Minimalist Community. Your many kind comments, emails, and support have allowed me to play this role in the world—encouraging all of us to own less and live more.
I hope during the next 15 years I will continue to grow and be challenged—and I wish the same for you.