Ten years ago, our lives changed dramatically. The realization that our possessions were actually distracting us from a life of joy and purpose and fulfillment became the motivation to pursue minimalism in our home.
As our family of four began removing nonessential possessions, we soon discovered more time and energy and focus for the things that matter most. And we discovered that our things had become a far greater burden than we’d ever realized.
We also began to discover that many of our thoughts concerning physical possessions were incorrect. These faulty mindsets were contributing to our over-accumulation and cluttered lifestyles. Slowly, but surely, our approach to possessions began to change as we experienced more and more the benefits of owning less.
If your family struggles with owning too much, consider these seven life-changing perspectives to help overcome your family’s obsession with stuff:
1. Owning fewer toys is actually better for your kids.
Parents want what’s best for their children. But often times, our desire to help them learn and develop results in the over-accumulation of toys. Did you know the research says the exact opposite? According to almost every scientific study on the issue, fewer toys will actually benefit your kids more. Here’s a recent one: owning fewer toys will result in deeper, more creative play for your kids—along with a whole bunch of other healthier lifestyle habits.
2. Buying more hobby supplies will not help you enjoy it more.
The story plays out almost the same way every time. We discover a new hobby (camping, music, sewing, art, etc.) and quickly begin gathering the necessary tools to partake in it. As we grow in our passion for the hobby, we accumulate more and more “supplies” thinking these items will help us enjoy the pursuit more. However, as my friend Kristoffer Carter once wrote, “Sometimes, our pursuit of tools gets in the way of our enjoyment of the hobby.” We’d often be better off improving our skills, rather than simply buying more equipment.
3. Hoarding kitchen utensils is not making you a better cook.
I used to think the only thing missing in my kitchen was the latest and greatest kitchen gadget. That somehow, one more piece of plastic would make my food taste better and my cooking a more enjoyable experience (because who doesn’t like getting frustrated trying to find that one utensil hidden somewhere in the drawer…).
Everything changed when I read this article by Mark Bittman in the New York Times titled A No-Frills Kitchen Still Cooks. An expert and veteran of commercial kitchens and classically-trained chefs, Mark changed my perspective entirely by listing out a limited number of utensils needed to prepare any recipe. I immediately minimized my kitchen. And fell in love with cooking.
4. Owning a bigger house is not improving your family life.
It’s an odd connection when you think about it, but we hear it all the time. The more square footage in our home… the happier our family will be. As if, somehow, more space to spread out will somehow bring our families closer together. My family has found the exact opposite to be true. Among countless other benefits, we have found that living in a smaller home has actually brought our family closer together. It has encouraged more conversation and deeper relationships. After all, when you can’t run from your problems, you are forced to confront them.
5. Keeping extra clothes in your closet is making your morning harder.
In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz explains how the absence of choice is not an ideal environment for the human spirit. However, he also explains how too many choices is equally undesirable—leaving us feeling less and less satisfied. It’s a life-changing perspective in many ways—you can watch him explain it here. Similarly, the abundance of options does not make life easier, it makes life more difficult and more complicated. We purchase more and trendier fashion thinking its presence in our closet will make mornings easier. But just the opposite occurs. The overabundance of choice only makes it more difficult.
6. Having more television sets is not making your family happier.
According to statistics, the average American home now has more televisions than people. This phenomenon is most certainly a result of our common thinking that more is always better. But in regard to televisions, there is an added assumption that giving every family member a chance to watch whatever they want will keep everyone happy. Again, we found the exact opposite to be true.
Years ago, our family of four decided to get rid of every television except for one. For us, it was just an experiment at first. But quickly into the experiment we discovered that having only one television in our home brought us much closer together. The amount of television we watched began to decline dramatically. But even more important, when we did choose to watch something, we did it together as a family.
7. The greatest gifts you can give your kids are not bought with money.
Very few of my fondest childhood memories involve physical possessions. Instead, I look back and recall moments we spent together, the example my parents set, and the lifelong values they worked hard to instill into me. None of those truly life-giving gifts were purchased at the local department store.
As we seek to overcome the empty promises and the temptation to own more, let’s remember all the benefits of owning less.
Let’s allow our perspectives to change about what is true, what is noble, and what is good. In the end, everyone benefits.