“Something deep in the human heart breaks at the thought of a life of mediocrity.” —C.S. Lewis
At the time, I was just looking for a little relief. I was weary of living paycheck-to-paycheck. I was weary of spending so much money on myself knowing there were others that needed it more. And I was weary of the time and energy being wasted on cleaning, organizing, repairing, and maintaining our home.
Our decision to intentionally live with fewer possessions was motivated by discontent. But regardless of our motivation, shortly after the decision was made, we found countless life benefits: freedom, productivity, rest, and a whole bunch more.
Though not expected, we also discovered intentionality in some very valuable places.
We found intentionality in our values and passions. Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. And while this looks different for each person, it always requires its pursuer to further define his/her passions—and discover intentionality because of it.
We found intentionality in our finances. Owning less did not provide us with more money (except for the items we sold), but it did provide us with more opportunities for our money. Once we became attracted to living with less and the hold of consumerism on our checkbook was broken, our money could be used for more valuable purposes than the clearance rack at the local department store. New opportunities to help others became available—and new decisions were forced because of it.
We found intentionality in our health. Six months after discovering minimalism, I was faced with a pending birthday. After spending so many months removing the clutter from our home and life, the last thing I wanted to receive was anything that could become clutter. Brainstorming nonphysical gift ideas, I took notice of a new fitness gym that had just opened down the street from my house. And for the very first time, I had space, the motivation, and the finances to get in shape and place a priority on my physical body.
We found intentionality in our diet. Interestingly enough, the last thing you want to put in your body after working-out is junky, processed food. As a result, we started making healthier food choices: more fruit, more vegetables, less sugar. I began to form new friendships with other simple living advocates—many of whom modeled intentional diets. Over the years, we have experimented with many of their ideas. Each time, we discover new foods to eat and an increased understanding of the food we put in our bodies.
We found intentionality in our spirituality. Minimalism offered the opportunity to slow down. It also provided motivation. As I began to realize how much of my thinking had been hijacked by advertisements and consumer-driven society, I was drawn to the practice of meditation and solitude. I was drawn to find new voices for guidance. Being raised in a religious home, I was also drawn to find the voice of a higher power—one who knew far more and could reorient my life around greater, more eternal pursuits. This voice is still and small. And it requires each of us to slow down long enough to listen.
We found intentionality in our relationships. Owning less opened the door for new relationships in our lives. We were able to become more involved with our neighbors and our community. We were more willing to have people in our home as preparing for their arrival became easier. We spent less time shopping and cleaning and organizing and began to spend more time with the people who made life enjoyable. Our capacity for and appreciation of relationships began (and continues) to grow.
We found intentionality in work. The longer we lived with fewer possessions, the more our view of money began to change. It became less important. Our essential needs are met and we have enough left over to practice generosity—what else is needed? As our view of money shifted, so did our motivation for work. Work became less about the weekly financial deposit and more about the value and contribution we could provide to peoples’ lives. It opened the door even wider for honesty, cooperation, people, passion, and joy at work.
We found intentionality in our heart pursuits. Living with less opened the opportunity for contentment, gratitude, and generosity to take root in our heart. It forced us to redefine happiness. Happiness was no longer for sale at the department store. Instead, we discovered it was a decision available to us all along. And once we stopped looking in the wrong places, we were able to find happiness in the right places.
Minimalism was entered into because of discontent in our lives. But among its greatest gifts, it brought us intentionality. And we couldn’t be more thankful.
If you only get one life to live, you might as well make it the best one possible. (tweet that)
Julie Bouchet-Horwitz says
Thank you, Joshua! I’m so glad that I discovered you and your website. I’ve been “trying” to declutter for many years and admire Bea Johnson and her Zero Waste lifestyle. But I didn’t know how to do it. So I searched for: “step by step to minimalism” and found your website. I was already decluttering but through the guidance of your book, The Minimalist Home, and through your website, my home is taking on a new life of order and space.
And, it’s true. There is much less “pick up” at the end of the day. It’s much easier to clean, and the house is very orderly and calm.
My adult daughter and I are going to take the next declutter course together.
I found It really helps to have support. I learned that from one of your videos and it has made all the difference. I look forward to each morning email.
Blessings to you and your family!
I am so happy that this reading came to my mail box today.
I have so much stuff that I couldn’t imagine a minimalist life style. Reading this and seeing the benefits that others are enjoying brings me hope.
I was one who stayed away from the blogs such as ten tips for a minimal lifestyle etc, I guess I stayed away because those ten tops didn’t really help me to understand why I needed so much at the time.
I am now able to spend more time thinking and reflecting on my whys. This helps me to understand and get to the root cause of why acquiring was so important. Was I bored? Was it a time filler? A hobby? To be honest I am disgusted by the amount of stuff that I have. I am trying not to be too hard on myself but instead be greatful that I am coming to terms and ready to part with most of the stuff. This is providing a space for me to embrace the experiences that await me and my family. Memories not stuff.
We die once, but live daily. Intentionality happens one day at a time.
Everytime I read your articles, I realize how much of my life was wasted on things, buying boxes to store things, reorganizing things, moving things, searching for things. Wow, so much of my energy wasted. I’m 70 now and hope it’s not too late to make a difference in my life. As a graphic designer, I was always aware of composition in print advertising, aware of not having too much in the design, having breathing room, having a focal point so that interest was drawn to the proper place, all the while not even realizing it could be apply to my personal life. I’ve always said less is more, but all around me, we are taught that more and bigger is better, and that is essentially what I fell into. I’ve already donated boxes of goods and not missing one item yet. There will be a few more loads as I go through things slowly, not only to assess its need but to assess my feelings and address them on the spot. Thank you all for your info and input.
Maria Pinto says
Check out the books by Helen and Scott Nearing who 50 years ago were pioneering Voluntary Simplicity before it became fashionable.
Like Babette said I too wish I had understood the concept of simple living/voluntary simplicity/minimalism years ago but I think my mind and heart have always been there. Growing up in a bid family in the 50’s we shared a lot and hand me downs were the norm. It didn’t matter if my older sister wore something and then it became mine, it was new to me. Then from my late teens I discovered flea markets and thrift stores. Nothing can compare to buying what you need second hand, and also knowing you are keeping something out of the landfill as well.
This is the start of a journey that is already changing our lives for the better! We only deeply regret that we did not know all this years and years ago; but it gives us hope for the future and each day we look forward to the guidance that is available for new growth to simplify and enjoy the life we crave.
Jushua — I am enjoying your writings on the subject of minimalism. I went through one round of downsizing when I read Marie Kondo’s book. Now I feel ready for another round. I’ve decided to go on a “no-spend” (i.e., buy nothing except living essentials) during 2020 while simultaneously intentionally de-cluttering. I look forward to your posts to help me with this challenge! May you have the best of new year’s ever. — Asil
My favourite sentence from this article:
“And it requires each of us to slow down long enough to listen.”
Thanks for the article Josh. I’ve been reading your blog for a few months now, and I really enjoy the practical/easy to follow advice. I would have never imagined the minimalist lifestyle would be for me, as I was always chasing happiness at the checkout counter, but as you said, life is so much more fulfilling now.
A great article on decluttering your life physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually for better health and inner peace.
This is what I have been doing (as much as I can) as part of my journey in rediscovering my feminine essence.
Hurrah, that’s what I was looking for, what a data! existing here at this website, thanks admin of this site.
Thanks for listing out the values that we could add by subtracting stuff from our life. I have been reading about Minimalism for few months now and have found it concurrent to my inner voice.
My purchases have been limited and on need basis as I have reevaluated value that every item will add to my life. I dont own much stuff hence its easy to keep whats needed.
Thanks Joshua for continued inspirational and purposeful thoughts.
Glenn D. Hudson says
Moved into the house I grew up in with 3 brothers and my father. I inherited lots of stuff that was never taken when my brothers and I moved out. I am dealing with my father’s stuff after his passing and the stuff left behind by my brothers. All but my youngest brother are “collectors”. I am giving this up. The James Morris quote “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful” has been helpful. I am an artist but collected stuff. I also found things to repurpose and not have to buy more. After further encouragement by your writings I am moving along vey well. I am committed to finding home for 90% of all the “stuff”. It all needs to live a new life and so do I, one with openness and space. Thanks. Glenn
Glenn D. Hudson says
P.S. The words of friends and the words of the people that comment mean so much. Thank you all. Glenn
The fact that you would discover Intentionality in so many areas of life, simply by minimizing your possessions, points to the destructive power of Things. Look what they were blocking you from!
I’ve been doing this for quite some time now. It’s difficult to embrace the concept fully w unwilling family and “stuff.” I’m discovering that intentionality in our relationships is where the process MUST begin. Life is meant to be lived, not always struggled against. The idea that we only keep things we see as beautiful or useful in our lives and homes also applies to our relationships w others. Toxic feelings can have far-reaching effects and removing ourselves from them truly lets us embrace the relationships that are more productive and meaningful. The manner in which we interact w our children sets the tone for future generations. That’s pretty important!
poisonous aspects says
I can’t believe I’ve been going for years without knowing that.
TYVM you’ve solved all my problems
Liz Neighbors says
Debbie Summers says
I was lucky to find your blog and have been reading older entries, you’re writing inspires me to continue on a journey that makes me feel different from many of those around me who are focused on getting MORE… I recently moved and downsized my life. My husband and I have been making changes in our buying habits for the past 2 years and we gave away and donated a lot of “stuff” we didn’t want, need or use. I feel free!
dawn christy says
I am yearning to declutter and minimalise my life. as a person with a cluttered mind due to depressive illness I feel it will really contribute to my wellbeing and a bit of a happier life/dawn christy leeds
Christy — Happiness and well-being might be hiding amonst all the “stuff” you’ve accumulated :-)
I was thinking and brainstorming on this idea .. I thought of what people might think when I start implementation on this … I guess I thought too much now some action is needed .. Thank you
Luckily technology allows us to own less books.
Maria Pinto says
There is also the library with a vast amount of knowledge and pleasure in books, although I do love my own books and don’t see them as clutter or distractions.
Sue Macomber says
This is a great post! It is important to reduce the clutter in all areas of our life and make consumer and professional choices based on intentionality. It is important to remember that what we put on our bodies is as important as what we put in our bodies, so be cautious of the chemicals in your skin care. Let’s not clutter our bodies with health damaging chemicals! Plus, to live intentionally, it is important to make responsible consumer choices.
Thanks for the inspiring article! Very helpful advice, considering I have just gotten out of the “extreme couponing” lifestyle. Practicing meditation and yoga were the first indicators to me that I cannot be calm AND have this massive hoard of “stuff”.
Inspiring post! My aspirations toward minimalism began in 2010 when I realized, to my disgust, that I was outgrowing my modest home. As I began shedding my belongings, with a sort of determination born of exasperation, I became aware of the intentionality that you so beautifully write about here. Now I pay much more attention to the consumption habits I have developed.
Hey Joshua, What would you say to a collector sitting on Thousands of dollars worth in
of collectibles? Many on display in the home and many are tucked in closets. I think your latest blog is awesome, but have always wondered what you would say to a collector of antiquities, comics, toys, cars or anything else. Thanks.
Minimal Girl says
That quote from C.S. Lewis is amazing!
Mary Cannette says
I love your site, but I really need some more practical hints. Something that says do this or do that to become more minimalist, not just ideas.
Minimal Girl says
Hey Mary, try this classic post from mnmlist: http://mnmlist.com/how-to-do-minimalism-in-steps
Bethany @ Journey to Ithaca says
Also, if I may be so bold… ;-)
Aimee Wiley says
Thank you for being bold. I enjoyed both the old and revised article, as well as a couple of others I read on my visit to your blog. I shared your revised version on my blog’s FB page, too:)
Anna B says
Hi Mary…Have you read Dave Bruno’s book from several years ago, 100 Thing Challenge? Even if you don’t subscribe to the idea of x-number of possessions, his book is great, with many practical tips, and funny too.
I’m just beginning this journey of minimalism myself and find the old “use it up” saying works really well as a mantra! :-)
Use it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Or do without.
Best to you!
Lovey his post, lots to think about …
Sorry for typos, should have read “Love this post” not “Lovey his post” !!!
Silly iPad …
Bethany @ Journey to Ithaca says
I, too, have found that minimalism has led to so much more. Having less possessions also led me to become more intentional in all areas of life. Having more downtime led me to explore spirituality more deeply, and going against the “norms” of our culture led me to question the “American Dream” more and more. In the end, I went from decluttering, to getting rid of it all–including the house–and moving 1200 miles away to start over in an apartment. I now have far less than 100 possessions, but that isn’t my focus anymore. The focus is enjoying a life independent of the “script” we’re all supposed to follow, and of pursuing our dream of eventually (by summer) living aboard full-time.
Barborka On The Run says
Great article, I’m taking baby steps, but can’t wait for every one of them, I’m glad your book is in the bundle as I just got it through one of the Paleo blogs :)
Sandra Pawula says
I think Intentionality is exactly why I’m so draw to read the work of minimalist, which i was just pondering yesterday. Your article beautifully expresses how intentionality transforms the quality of our life and gives us the opportunity to connection with something bigger, deeper, and more profound.
I love this post because it defines why minimalism is such a popular movement right now – I feel that you start off with minimalism for a reason, maybe debt or health or whatever it might be. But you end up with a host of other amazing benefits that just changes your life for the better. How could you not love such a lifestyle change? For me, being aware of inequalities out there was one of the major benefits of being a minimalist. I realized at a very young age that there was inequality in the world, and for me, being a minimalist kind of helps that inequality. I am not taking more than what a person in India would take from Mother Earth. It makes me feel like more a part of the natural cycle of the world than anything else.
Rod J. Rogers (@FreeAgentRogers) says
Actually, I like having ‘stuff’, but not too much! A theologian recently advocated living a simple, separate, and deliberate lifestyle. How you define those therm may vary, but getting away from the focus on accumulating for the sake of accumulating is key.
Michelle Russell says
Joshua, it’s interesting how the benefits of minimalism unfolded for you and your family so organically over time. And I’d bet that’s probably due to your intentionality about the process right from the beginning, whether you were conscious of it at the time or not. Seems to me you went into the process with great awareness and an openness to be changed.
I think one of the reasons minimalism gets a bad rap is because it so often gets promoted in terms of arbitrary “here’s a list of the X many things I own” or “cut the clutter! 20 tips for a minimalist lifestyle.” People get the idea that it’s about deprivation and shy away.
That’s a natural human tendency—it takes energy to dig deep and try to understand any new subject, so if we don’t immediately see how it will *eliminate* rather than *cause* pain for us, we’re likely not to bother.
But there’s a difference between mere contentment and true happiness, and I believe part of that difference lies in the very intentionality you’re talking about here. Contentment is pleasant, sure…nothing is really wrong, and you’re comfortable.
But to actively choose the things that truly matter to you and deliberately chip away at what’s extraneous so you can focus on them? That approach to life brings true joy. And that joy, as you’ve shown us here, naturally feeds on itself and grows over time.
Ellen Scott Grable says
Well said and I could not agree more! I often have difficulty explaining to people why I choose not to grow my business at this time. I have enough for the life which brings me joy and allows me significant “free time.” The funny thing is time isn’t free it is our most valuable commodity and it should be spent intentionally.
Maximal wishes for a wonderfully joyous life of minimalism.
Fabulous post! All of it rings true for me. Intending to live a minimal life in Dubai – a culture dominated by materialism (particularly in the expat community) – continues to be an interesting experience on a daily basis :-)
Miss Growing Green says
“Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.”
In our journey towards minimalism we have found intentionality in many of the same places you have, namely our finances, diet, and relationships. Thanks for the great post!
I am at the beginning of the process, but, thus far, I have found that minimalism has brought me a feeling of peace.
I’m also am just beginning my journey and I’m finding the same thing.
Peace, intentionality, focus, predetermined direction, purpose…. all coming into view.
Anders Hasselstrøm says
Thanks for another inspiring article about minimalism. I have been reading motivational blogs for a long (!) time and I have always skipped all the blogs advocating for a minimalist lifestyle. Recently I gave it a try and I must admit that I have found secrets for happiness in minimalism that I now use in my own life. I has become an integral part of who I am and what I stand for.
Before I started implementing some of the ideas you have brought up I was worrying about a variety of things and money was one of them. However, I have experience a relief and an increase in my well being when I’m not thinking about money all the time because I have no need for spending them.
Part of my personal development and motivation to strive for a process in life filled with happiness.