“Love people, use things. The opposite never works.” —The Minimalists
I discovered minimalism in my mid-30’s. At the time, my life was typical-suburban American: house in a neighborhood, stable job, one wife, two kids… everything but the dog and white picket fence.
I have discovered recently that the older people get, the harder it becomes for them to change their mind on things—especially worldview.
So it was no small feat that everything about my view of possessions and consumerism changed at such a late point in my life.
To figure out how that happened, I sat down this weekend to think of the most significant and most influential words and phrases that I heard about minimalism to change my mind.
Here they are:
10 Inspirational Quotes That Forever Changed How I View Possessions
1. “Maybe you don’t need to own so much stuff.” —My neighbor June
In one short sentence, on a Saturday afternoon, I was introduced to minimalism and a new way of life.
After a long day of cleaning out my garage while my 5-year old son played alone in the backyard, my neighbor shared these words with me. I had been commenting on how much time and effort had gone into my cleaning project when she responded with just those few words.
It was a magical moment as I stood face-to-face with the reality of my unneeded possessions. How they were not making me happy. And even worse, how they were distracting me from the very things that did.
Maybe I didn’t need to own them in the first place. It was a powerful truth that opened my mind and heart to everything else on this list.
2. “Every increased possession adds increased anxiety on to our lives.” —Randy Alcorn
Possessions add stress—they need to be cleaned, organized, and cared for. Everything we own becomes our responsibility to deal with and take care of.
Possessions are not passive, they are not just acquired and forgotten while they care for themselves. They require our attention. Everything we own takes up physical space in our home and mental space in our mind.
It was this quote, from Randy Alcorn, that first opened my eyes to that reality.
3. “I could probably go on for awhile about this, but let me just list a few key benefits.” —Leo Babauta
One of the first articles that I read about how to create a minimalist home was written by Leo Babauta. You can find it right here: A Guide to Creating a Minimalist Home.
Before offering a number of steps to take in creating a minimalist home, he begins by listing out the benefits of a minimalist environment.
It was that section of the blog post, even before the practical steps, that spoke the most to me. When he encouraged me to notice the possibility of how minimalism would improve my life, I became keenly aware of noticing as many benefits as I could.
The life-giving benefits of minimalism became a recurring theme in my life and on this blog as evidenced here: 21 Life-Giving Benefits of Owning Less.
I own less because it is a better way to live.
4. “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.” —Joshua Becker
I hope I don’t cross a weird line by including my own words on this list.
I began writing about our minimalist journey the same weekend we started the process. And, as many writers would attest, writing has a habit of introducing new thoughts into my mind. As a result, some of the most influential thoughts (quotes) in my journey came when I forced myself to sit down and write out what I was thinking.
I was trying to explain in a blog post one time how minimalism was about more than getting rid of stuff. How it was actually about aligning my life’s resources with my greatest values.
In trying to explain that process, I defined minimalism as the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.
The sentence, once I wrote it, further cemented the journey in my mind of why it was so important and significant to own less.
5. “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.” —Charles Spurgeon
This sentence, from Charles Spurgeon, was a lightbulb for me. It surfaced in my mind an important reality about contentment and happiness.
If I wasn’t content with what I currently had, what made me think I would be content with more?
Equally important, if I was not happy today, what made me think I’d be happier with more? And if I wasn’t grateful for what I had already, why would I be grateful with more?
This quote explained to me the foolishness of always needing more to be happy.
Find happiness where you are today. Find contentment, gratitude, and joy exactly where you are. You certainly don’t need more stuff to arrive there.
6. “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” —Jesus Christ
I don’t dive deep into my personal faith on this blog—that’s not the point of it. If you want to read a deeper conversation about how my faith has impacted my journey into minimalism, you can find that in The More of Less.
But this quote from Jesus tied a lot of things together for me. Not just how minimalism interacts with faith, but how minimalism interacts with generosity. The less we own, the more we can help others.
7. “If organizing your stuff worked, don’t you think you’d be done by now?” —Courtney Carver
Courtney, in one sentence, articulated everything wrong with “better organization” as the solution for our stuff problem in America and around the world.
So many people think that they’ll be fine with all their stuff if they just find a better organizational system. I was the same way.
But “organizing” never ends—it never solves the problem. We can organize all our stuff today only to have to organize it again tomorrow.
Organizing is always, only a temporary solution. Minimalism, on the other hand, is a permanent solution to our stuff problem. Courtney helped me see that and further reinforced my passion to own less.
8. “You can always minimize just a little each day, but do you really want to be decluttering forever?” — Zoë Kim
Three times every year, I take people through a 12-week course to own less and live more. If you already own less, there’s no need to take the course. But if you’re struggling to get there, it’s been helpful for many.
One aspect of the course that people find helpful is that I allow them to retake it as many times as they want—sometimes life gets in the way and I want everyone to succeed.
This means, of course, that people can work through the weekly challenges on their own timetable—which is totally fine. But I do try to encourage people (including myself) to keep making progress and keep moving. It was Zoë’s quote that gave me the right words to explain the importance of working hard and continuing forward.
On your minimizing journey (especially if you are just getting started) remember: You can always minimize just a little each day, but do you really want to be decluttering forever?
Instead, stay focused and work hard. The sooner you own less, the sooner you can begin the rest of your life free from the burden of unneeded possessions.
9. “Wanting less is a better blessing than having more.” —Mary Ellen Edmunds
Mary Ellen’s words caused me to see the pursuit of possessions in a new way. As I began to notice, it is one thing to own less, it is something completely different to want less.
There are many who want to declutter and organize their stuff—but if the desire to acquire more is not overcome, their houses quickly fill up with stuff again.
It is only when we overcome the desire for consumerism and genuinely desire to own less, that the greatest benefits of minimalism are experienced.
Once we own less and want less, we are able to redirect our money, time, energy—even our entire lives—toward things that matter most. This is the true life that minimalism provides the opportunity to be lived.
Mary Ellen Edmunds, in these words above, sparked that thought and forever changed my view of possessions and consumerism.
10. “Your life is too valuable to waste chasing material possessions.” —Joshua Becker
This has become the one phrase I use to end all of my presentations about minimalism. And I wrote it in preparation for my very first talk (Omaha, NE)—almost 10 years ago. I haven’t improved on it the entire time.
This quote is the perfect summary of why minimalism is the best course of life for all. Our lives are simply too valuable to waste chasing and accumulating material possessions.
We were designed for greater pursuits. Somewhere along the way, the world came along and hijacked that passion and directed it toward physical possessions.
But you are too important to waste your life’s energy chasing bigger houses and nicer cars and new fashions. Pursue those things that matter most: love and relationship and impact.
Those are the only pursuits worthy of your one life. Don’t waste it on anything else—especially not physical objects.
Those are the 10 most inspirational quotes that changed how I view possessions.
I’m interested in yours.
What inspiring quote (or quotes) forever changed your view of material possessions?