Perhaps one of the most influential and defining moments of my journey into minimalism occurred while clearing my office desk of clutter.
It was a busy season at work and if I recall correctly, I had worked 40 hours over the course of one weekend.
On Monday, while taking a slower day in my office hoping to catch my breath, I began digging out my desk. Like many people, I have a tendency to get messy and disheveled during busy seasons. Papers and files had piled up haphazardly on my desk. So I set out to clear them off.
I cleared two stacks of paper quickly. But as I picked up a third pile, a note from my father slowly fluttered down from the bottom of the stack to the desktop below.
It was a handwritten note. Not a long one, but it communicated love and appreciation, potential and opportunity—one of those powerful messages that ground you in the person you are, but compels you to become more.
I had saved it, specifically, because it reminded me of my potential and motivated me to live for meaningful pursuits.
And yet, there it was, buried on my desk under a pile of comparably meaningless paperwork.
Buried so long, in fact, I had entirely forgotten it existed. Out of sight, out of mind as the old saying goes. The trivial and urgent had covered up the most important.
This small, simple discovery became a watershed moment in my pursuit of minimalism. It was a visual representation of an important truth: The meaningless, collected in excess, will always cover and crowd out the meaningful.
This discovery even prompted one of my most well-known quotes, “Maybe the life you want is buried under everything you own.”
Too often, this story defines our lives, not in pieces of paper, but in joy, value, and meaning. Every thing we own requires our time, money, and focus, calling for our attention. And for too many of us, our physical possessions have distracted us from things that matter in the long run.
This is the very basis of minimalism.
In fact, once you realize there are pursuits in life that result in far longer-lasting personal satisfaction than collecting physical possessions, you understand 100% of minimalism.
When my desk was sorted and cleared, that note returned to prominence in my life, attitude, and outlook. And once we begin owning less, life’s more important pursuits do the same.