“Wouldn’t take nothing for my journey now.” —Maya Angelou
Several years ago, my life changed forever. The Saturday started out typical: woke up, drank some coffee, ate some breakfast, and started in on the day’s project. It was the first morning of a beautiful three-day weekend in Vermont. My wife and I had decided to spend the Saturday spring cleaning the house.
My project was to clean out the garage. After the cleaning was finished, we’d begin relaxing and enjoying the holiday weekend. But my life was turned upside-down before we’d ever get there.
“Maybe you don’t need to own all this stuff,” was the last statement my old-self remembers hearing.
It was said by my neighbor right after I began complaining to her about how much work it had become caring for our house—everything from my garage was piled in the driveway at the time. She had used the word “minimalist” earlier in the conversation. And at that very moment, I found minimalism, or it found me.
As a result, my life has been refreshed, rejuvenated, improved. It’s been an amazing journey. And over the last several years, because of minimalism, my life has changed in ways I never dreamt possible.
Consider these four statements minimalism has made possible and the joy found in each of them:
1. I wish I owned less stuff. Since that weekend, we have been on a journey of minimizing possessions from our home and life. We immediately went to work removing everything we no longer used or loved. At the end of the process, we took a breath. But soon, we began noticing more things around the house we could live without and began removing them as well. Even after another clean-sweep through the entire house, we still owned more than we needed. We removed some more, bought a smaller house, and continued the cycle.
Of course, none of this happens in a vacuum: holidays and birthdays come and go, moments of consumer-relapse occur, new hobbies emerge, kids get older, tastes change. Even as someone trying to live a minimalist life, things still begin to collect around me. As a result, when I look around my house today, I still wish I owned less stuff. And that’s something I never would have said years ago.
2. I don’t mind earning less money. Somewhere along this journey of intentionally living with fewer possessions, an important realization occurred in my mind. Living with less means I can joyfully earn less if the right opportunity presents itself. The measure of success in my life is no longer tied to my house, my car, or my paycheck. I now measure success in other ways: integrity, character, family, friendship, joy, love, peace (just to name a few).
Because of that change in perspective, when a new career opportunity presented itself that offered so many of the things I most value in life, I accepted—despite less pay. As a result, I earn less money than I did before. But I don’t mind a bit.
3. I’d love to tell you my story. I love my newfound life. I have more time, more energy, more mental-capacity, and more money to pursue what is most important to me. Owning less means less burden, less anxiety, and less stress each and every day.
Because of the numerous benefits, I love sharing my story with others. I love seeing the realization in someone else’s eyes that possessions are not the answer to our heart’s greatest pursuits. And I love inspiring others to come join a movement of men and women all over the world who have decided to intentionally live with fewer possessions. I enjoy sharing my story because it stands as a clear invitation to find something better… and I’m not sure I could have said that before minimalism.
4. I know, deep-down, you want to own fewer possessions too. None of us really believe it. No one really believes that possessions equal joy. It’s just that we’ve been told so many times and from so many angles that we would be happier accumulating more, we have started to believe the lie more than we realize. Our lives begin to align with that pursuit.
We start to buy bigger houses, nicer cars, newer technology, trendier clothing, and more toys for ourselves and our family. As a result, our possessions begin to burden us more than we recognize. They no longer serve us—instead, we serve them.
But in our deepest heart, we know our possessions are not adding value to our lives. Even worse, we can probably recognize how they are subtracting from it. I know, deep-down, you want to own fewer possessions. I know because I’ve been there. And why else would the message of this article resonate so deeply inside you?
Nhon Pham says
It’s so interesting. Someone is dreaming about buying more while somebody is trying to possess less.
BTW, we have our own choice and the power to create what we want in our life. Congrat for your new journey and I can see you are helping so many people. How if people, especially not-rich people decide to live a minimalist life than feeling worry about the future?
#2 is a big one. We are so ingrained with bigger salaries being the goal that we lose our joy in producing and doing work we love. So much is lost when we give up who we were meant to be because more money seems like the answer. This is why I love the marriage of minimalism and Dave Ramsey’s financial peace that my family is living by. It’s a journey, we will never arrive, but we are becoming more and more the family and individuals we are on Earth to be.
Nhon Pham says
“It’s a journey, we will never arrive”. That is a good point. Why we have to arrive? :-) Let’s enjoy the journey.
I never considered myself materialistic…. until i started getting rid of stuff…OMG!
I enjoy shopping, but considering, “Do i really need this? Do i really want this?” Has stopped me from so many purchases.
Brooke Moore says
Dear Josh, I have been so inspired by you, I started my own consulting business to help others simplify. simplifywithbrooke.com
I already have several clients :)
Thanks for your words, i’ve been reading everything you write for the past 6 months.
Warmly, Brooke Moore
I’ve only been into minimalism earnestly for a couple years. Before that I was all about conspicuous consumption.
In the town where I live, everyone likes to pretend they are rich even though they have empty lives void of significance. I’ve since found a small community of people dedicated to living more while having less.
Your posts have had a profound impact on my life and encouraged me to follow my heart and boldly live and teach others fundamental truths about life.
And hopefully make some money doing it while money is still accepted for services.
Happily giving thanks,
King Freeman says
It’d a great way to truly find ones self. A real eye opener!
Tracy Whitworth says
On Thanksgiving, it’s disappointing to find so many retailers open and people wanting to shop, which translates into people having to work. I honestly believe shopping has become a pastime. The one non-sectarian holiday set aside to be grateful should be just that.
It’s totally become a pastime. Retail therapy, I hear often…
Yeessss! Retail therapy.
Do you think consumerism is an addiction like any other? One that is used to mask inner pain. Perhaps we buy things: clothes, homes etc… to mask our inner insecurities and to present perfection to those around us. Some people drink, take drugs, just to escape from their reality. Maybe some people shop to create a sense of abundance and value and worth around them to disguise the feelings of worthlessness. The irony is the minimalism strips all this away and leaves us the time to focus on our insecurities and overcome them by facing them head on rather than disguising them with a state of inebriation or by distracting ourselves with shiny pretty things.
It began for me, five years ago when I returned from Cambodia and was immediately overwhelmed by stuff. I took note of how happy the people were, with next to nothing. I spent a couple of years thinking, planning and dreaming. A year ago, I began in earnest decluttering and simplifying. This is not for the faint of heart. But if you just start, amazing things can happen. In April I began building the tiny house on wheels. In September, my house sold and now I am about to move into my tiny. A simple 240 sq ft with lofts, off grid with a solar system and water catchment. My new home is zero waste, simple and nourishing. I have no mortgage and very few bills. I can work less and travel more. If you say you want to do this, I say, Yes. you can. One step at a time… Marcella
How exciting Marcella!!!! Congratulations!