“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?
When my mother’s health was declining, I put 90% of my belongings into a storage room and moved into her spare bedroom to care for her. It was liberating to only have the few things I needed. I then spent four years surrounded by her eight-decades of collections and antiques. It took two estate sales, three yard sales, eBay, OfferUp, and Craigslist to empty her house when she passed. I began thinking about my overstuffed storage room and how I hadn’t needed, wanted, nor missed any of it in four years. “The Purge” began, and continues.
TeddiAnne Krehbiel says
Your aren’t a minimalist, you are a meaningfulist.
– – Renee Grems, my best friend
After cleaning out my moms house when we placed her in memory care, I realized I didn’t want to saddle my kids like that. I got rid of everything that I’d just “picked up along the way.” Everything I surround myself with now has meaning, like the light that was my granny’s and then my moms. I donated the lamp from Lowe’s that I never used and had no meaning. I went through 1600 slides and digitized them (down to 570) and I shared with my siblings and then donated the many pieces of equipment (projector, screen, table, several hand held slide viewers, and @ 50 slide holders).
If something comes in my house (other than consumables) there better be a good reason/need.
I am also 100% paperless.
I know it is a heartache to bring changes but see it this way … this makes it easier to sustain certain things…. I am sure that your granny and mom would want to keep some papers that are
Meaningful ( postcards, notes letters and stamps…) I have been cleaning my basement and ohhh … there is so much that I haven’t touched or used for a decade. So now on , it brings 1 thing in then I need to throw one thing ! Simple as this. I love my basement !
I love this! Thank you for sharing.
Edie Sine says
I realized, as we were downsizing our home, that it was “Time for someone else to enjoy them”, as we had over the years. That gave me great comfort in letting them go.
Our lives take on meaning not from what we gather,
but from what we scatter.
I keep 3 of my own quotes (rendered out of all the reading I’ve done over the years):
1. Less is best when stressed.
(Less stuff, less of a chunk, less inputs).
2. To live with less, on less, in less space. That is my journey. ◼◾▪️
3. This very ground. (I cycle a lot and when on a big hill, and determined not to dismount and walk the bike the rest of the way, I repeat this phrase as I look down beneath my pedals–just here, just now, that is all there is).
Nat K says
I will make sure our teens will get those daily – thanks – ?
Stacy Olson says
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
My dad read this book about the environment vs consumerism to my siblings and myself many times when we were young. He also read it to his 2 granddaughters ( my daughters) before he passed away. I believe that it should be on everyone’s read often book pile.
Everything you own will someday end up in a landfill…
Heather Queen says
I have too much and want to donate but where
There are several Charities, such as Harvest House, Safe Haven, or rResale Shops that benefit Charities
Always ask yourself: “do you need it, or do you want it?” unknown
Sara Brankaer says
Totally agree with 9, it’s why we teach our children to live simply, like our parents taught us. But 7 is a weird one … it’s like saying “if brushing your teeth worked (to keep your mouth from stinking ;-)), don’t you think you’d be done by now?” or “if working out helped (to feel fit, to combat back pain, …), don’t you think you’d be done by now?”…
Organizing the stuff you love and use is a necessary AND fun way of interacting with that stuff. I own quite a bit of fabric and sewing supplies, and spend quite a bit of time organizing my sewing stuff, only to make a very joyful mess again, only to organize again. It’s fun! Folding (and fondling) fabric is fun! And it often inspires my next make. Who doesn’t love sorting their coloured pencils in rainbow order? We wash dishes every day, and when the fancy strikes me, I will sort through my kitchen cabinets and reorganize them. Not because organizing is useless, but because a year ago I only used wheat flour and since then I’ve added different types of grains to our staples, like buckwheat and spelt, and I enjoy using them and want to make them easier to access. Since we no longer have babies, organizing is the way to get rid of bibs and bottles that are no longer useful to us.
So I say: joyful organization is a great way of interacting with our physical world and possessions!
Kari Wishingrad says
“Clear your Clutter, Transform your Life”
My business motto as a Professional Organizer
Minimalism is learning where to draw the line! By MinimalistMindfulOrganised
“Don’t own so much clutter you will be relieved to see the house catch fire.” Wendell Berry
GOD IS ENOUGH
I AM ENOUGH
I HAVE ENOUGH
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
AND LESS IS MORE
Barbara Tetley Anderson says
“I would hate to look at a piece of furniture (possession) that I have, with the last memory of it being, ‘I won’.” (Direct quote from my daughter)
“THAT (any piece of furniture, any dish, any anything) is not my Grandmother’s legacy. I am her legacy”. (Dealing with guilt over discarding family stuff)-Beverly Treadway
The first was a comment made by one of my daughters while I was telling them of some of my frustrations, “discussions” (somewhat arguments) my 2 siblings and I were having over who got some of our mother’s possessions when paring down her possessions to move her to Independent Living in a Senior Living Community. It was very apparent that my 2 siblings had been discussing what I had been given over the years, vs. what they had, and it became a “keep it all even” game, even though they seldom “came home” since our Father passed 27 years ago.( I lived closer, came home more often, etc. ) Weeks prior to arranging a few days of when my siblings would come home to help clear out stuff, I kept myself up at night, hoping to get that antique dresser that was my Grandmother’s. We all had it on our “would love to have it” list. When it came time for choosing, taking turns, etc., I took a hard look at it. That dresser was in my grandmother’s home, then in my own bedroom in my parent’s home. I wanted it. But did I NEED it? I REALLY looked at it. Was it worth saying “I WON!”? I could tell my sister loved it. I let go of the desire to own one more thing, and a burden was lifted. That dresser was not my Grandmother’s legacy. I am her legacy.
This is a powerful reminder.. especially when coping with loss or change.
These are quotes to read multiple times throughout you minimalism journey. At each stage a different quote may spark and AHA moment that really drives home reminders of why you’re on this journey.
Happiness isn’t getting what you want; it’s wanting what you’ve got.
Natalie Murray says
Happiness isn’t getting what you want; it’s wanting what you’ve got.
My father-in-law once said to my husband and I; you never look back on life and wished you worked more.
Simple and profound.
The quote that changed me (in my 40s) is “You don’t own things. Things own you.” -Fight Club.
That hit me like a brick, and I realized that I lived for my things – sorting cleaning, organizing, prioritizing, acquiring, storing, displaying, having. I started then to stop collecting and to start giving away excess and extras.
The more I gave away, the better I felt. I have gradually joined the minimalism movement, because it is so freeing, and because I truly don’t want any of it any more. I want to be a human being, not a human doing or having.
Charlene Nelson says
That is the one that most resonates with me! I have just started really considering minimalism as a way of life. What has pushed me there is realizing how much time and money it costs to keep all our “toys” operating. Repairs, maintenance, insurance, licenses, etc. We often have to make ourselves use them just to see if they work! It is crazy. I’m starting to appreciate the value of empty space!
Much like an older friend of mine once told me: Everything you own, ows a piece of you.
Much like an older friend of mine once told me: Everything you own, owns a piece of you.
“This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through. My treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue. The angles beckon me at heavens open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”
~song by Jim Reeves
I would like to say thank you for sharing your wisdom and understanding with such generosity!!
Major influences toward minimalism occurred for me in 2018 and 2019 while settling 2 estates, one a friend and another a family member. I was finally free to begin going through my own household in 2020. For the last 8 months, I have repeatedly turned to a quote from Joshua; it has served as my north star: “KEEP ONLY THE BEST.”
(And I might add – “if you keep any at all!”)
Charis Kelly says
“You don’t need more storage, you just need less stuff,” a Meme I came across on Pinterest, unknown author, while I was searching for storage ideas. The simple statement sparked a whole new way of living for me! My kids didn’t need more storage boxes, they needed less toys, I didn’t need more coat hangers, I needed to donate un-worn clothes…and so it went on and I became a minimalist!
Ann C says
I have no idea where I read this, it may have been one of your books, but now it’s on my fridge.
“You have to organize your things over and over, but you only have to de-own them once,”
Linka Tobola says
Ah…yes, at 73, I recall as a youngster, we shopped because we
actually needed an item/items. Whoosh! All changed in my 30’s
moving forward to 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Shopping became a
glorified “habit.” Who found the best item at the lowest cost?
So, now I pitch and throw to keep only BEAUTY in my sight.
THANK YOU! YOU’RE AN ENCOURAGEMENT ON THIS JOURNEY!
“Do I own the item or does it own me?”
“Less, is more”
Says it all for me.
Rhonda Jones says
How do you minimalize when your spouse wants to keep everything? I don’t know what to do.
Amy Lynn Bell says
Keep on loving him and keep on minimalizing. Although you can only change yourself, you can also set a positive example through your quiet everyday actions. Only minimize that which is yours. Be sure to respectfully ask him before minimizing anything that is shared or his.
Carol Beebe says
Re:#9, I think it’s a Buddhist saying, “it’s easier to fill a small vessel.”
And easier to carry it. [I am a firm believer in carrying a small purse or backpack, if one at all. When my child was small, I let her only bring two toys or objects with her — one in each hand — because I wasn’t carrying anything when she got tired of it. I wanted her to enjoy where we were going, not what we brought with us.]
Cheryl Goldstein says
The quote that got me started is from William Morris: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” I had a graphic of that quote from Becoming Minimalist hanging on the wall in my home for years, as I slowly downsized over 4 houses. Now I live with my husband in a 400 sq ft RV and travel the country. We have photographs of all the “things” that we gave away and love looking at them on the computer, but we feel so much lighter and are very happy with so much less.
Linda Sand says
Wait until tomorrow to pay.
Putting things in my online shopping cart but refusing to check out today helps me get through the urge to buy since I seldom still want that thing by tomorrow.
Brilliant idea. Thanks for sharing. Adopting this!
Charlene Nelson says
I do that a lot! Great advice!
My dear old Dad told me when I was well grown, that had he had plenty of money when I was a child, he wouldn’t have over indulged me as it wouldn’t have been good for me. A wise man. I’m grateful
My dear old Dad ( sadly no longer with us ), told me once that had he had plenty of money when I was a child, he wouldn’t have been over indulging me, as it wouldn’t have been good for me.A wise man. Very grateful.
The fear of losing yourself is replaced by the joy of finding yourself
Valerie Rogers says
For quotes, I’ve many. Our upbringing hard wires much into us. My mum told me as a mini-kid “life is tough enough – keep the burden light.”
Miss Anonymous Ness says
Quarantine life can really make you realize how unnecessary it is to go to Target (and buy all the stuff you “need”).
Aprile Thompson says
I grew up in a house by a mother that survived the dirty thirties and who raised ten kids on a shoestring. She had grown up in a wealthy household with the finest of everything. She thirsted after the finer things (possessions), so she bought them. We went hungry, with few clothes, scrabbling around for school supplies. While she had fur coats, diamond rings and cars. I continued to live in poverty most of my life but it taught me that I could have fun with little in the way of material goods. I raised five kids on my own as a single mother. My kids are all grown with families of their own and are doing well financially even through this Pandemic. They work to live not live to work. My kids always came first! Their father did not hold these same values he was more concerned with acquiring positions and possessions.
My kids did not go hungry or without clothes. I made sure that they were taken care of first. They learned that family is the most important thing. I taught them to value each other over fancy, shiny new objects. And now their kids come first with them.
It takes conscious choice, hard work and consistency to change your family dialogue. It is not just possessions that get in the way of “a good life” but an attitude. You can’t fill the whole inside you from the childhood trauma you endured by owning more, eating more, drinking more, taking more drugs, etc.
Re your request for helpful quotes, I would definitely include these Scriptures which I need to remind myself of frequently —
Matthew 6:19-20. “Store not treasures on earth where moth and rust can corrupt; rather store up treasures in Heaven where there is no corruption and thieves cannot break in and steal”. Jesus
I Tim 6:6-8 “We brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out”. Apostle Paul
p. s. Love your own quotes, Josh !
Lora Kinder says
I was struck by a comment in one of your articles. “We look at people who have little, and we are struck by how happy they are, even though they own less. What if they are happy because they own less?” Here I thought they were more grateful that we more prosperous people, but it occurred to me that they were less burdened! I’ve never looked at possessions the same way since!
Mary Quick says
Here is a poem I came across in my reading:
I am finally down to what I need: one
table to double
one pen, and enough
alphabet to spell
Your name when
You choose to
by Jeanne Murray Walker (from Christian Century Magazine, March 27, 2019)
“Never cry over something that can’t cry over you!” – Unknown Source
Tricia Yvonne Petrinovich says
One of my fave quotes, applies to material possessions too:
“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.” C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity
Lulu Edwards says
That is a lovely quote! It is one of those things you already know but by being expressed in a different way, makes so much more sense. Thank you Tricia Yvonne Petrinovich.
From a fellow Girl Scout mom: “It was fun…and now it’s done” :-) That really helped me reframe going through the fantastic crafts, art work, and school projects that we tend to accumulate! Releasing guilt is a wonderful thing…especially since I’m an expert guilt accumulator ;-)
Malinda, I loved your quote and it has helped me this week!!! The only real hobbies I have ever had were letter writing and sending cards. The latter started me into rubber stamping and creating my own. It has been hard to let go of some of my beautiful stamps, but I’m pretty sure I’m through! Your quote has inspired me to let go!!
It was fun (for over 30 years), now it’s done!
Mary in Maryland says
My Dad used to say, “You can have anything you want, but not everything.” And one I made up myself, “More than enough is too much.”
Amy Lynn Bell says
“You can never get enough of what you don’t need, because what you don’t need won’t satisfy you.” ~ Dallin Oaks
2 things the Minimal Mom said…
“I recognized that I just don’t have the capacity to manage all the things.”… all my feelings finally put to simple words, WOW!
“I started my journey with Joshua Becker…go check him out!”
Thank you Dawn & Joshua for your continual training and encouragement! Bless you for blessing us!!
“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
“If you’re not using the stuff in your home, get rid of it. You’re not going to start using it more by shoving it in a closet somewhere” – Joshua Becker
“You don’t need more space, you need less stuff” – my Mum
My favorite quote of Marie Kondo’s I think speaks to this: “Storage experts are hoarders.” She is not a minimalist, by the way, but her prescription to keep only those things that spark joy certainly resonates with “less” for me.
Oh, Joshua! You consider your thirties “such a late point in your life”. I began my minimalism journey in 2018 at the age of 60. There was nothing to be found in my 30’s except Elaine St. James. I read something from you every single morning for inspiration. I started at the beginning and read from the archives. You have found your true mission and it is helping all of us find our way! Thank you so much!
I’m with you Bess. I emptied out 3 houses of family STUFF and decided I was over it all at the age of 50. At that point I had never heard of minimalism, I just knew I was on overload. People make fun of me because I’m always cleaning out. I read every one of Joshua’s postings because it keeps me on track. I don’t want to leave my family with a major burden when I pass and I’d rather walk in the park then dust more stuff.
“I’d rather walk in the park than dust more stuff” says it all for me. Thank you, Betsy!
joshua becker says
Well, I only meant that at that point in life, minds become harder to change. I certainly hope thirties isn’t a late point in my life, although nobody knows for sure.
Carol Beebe says
Back in the 70s we had “voluntary simplicity”
More love ❤️- less stuff! and Live in the Precious Present ? because each day is a gift!
I also began with Elaine St. James! I still have her little book which I picked up at the book store. I think it was 1994.