“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” — Hans Hofmann
Four years ago, my neighbor looked on as I pulled item after item out of my garage. Winter had ended in Vermont and our Saturday morning had been committed to spring cleaning around the house. I chose the garage. Unfortunately, minutes turned into hours. And hours turned into most of the morning and into the afternoon.
Fortunately, my neighbor noticed my frustration and introduced me to a brand new way of life when she asked quite simply, “Maybe you don’t need to own all this stuff?”
And a minimalist was born.
Starting immediately, and for the next months (and even years), my wife and I began systematically removing unnecessary possessions from our home. We sold, donated, or recycled items from nearly every aspect of our lives: clothes, toys, decorations, cookware, entertainment, sporting goods, furniture, storage—the list goes on. Eventually, even moving into a smaller house.
As a result, we have discovered some amazingly practical benefits to owning less. We have more money left in our pockets. We have more time available at our disposal. We have removed ourselves from the consumer-driven culture around us. We experience less stress on a daily basis. And we have discovered more freedom to pursue the things in life that we truly value.
Because we have chosen to live with less, we have found more opportunity to invest in relationships, grow spiritually, experience gratitude, express generosity, discover truth, and find contentment. With our newfound time, money, and energy, we are free to pursue our greatest passions.
An important realization quickly followed. Minimalism is less about the things you remove and more about the things you add. The joy of minimalism lies in what you choose to pursue with your life rather than material possessions. And in that way, minimalism is far more about addition than it is about subtraction.
I got a healthy dose of minimalism when we had decluttered our house and put stuff in storage to prep for putting it on the market. So easy to tidy! Why couldn’t we live like that ALL the time?! So when we did move into our new house it was sobering to know that we paid for 2 yrs of storage and additional U-Haul to bring that crap home. I didn’t let it come in the house. It stayed in the garage, the one we intended to park in. I can’t laugh yet. We are still going through it. Every time we do, more stuff hits donate. But I can park one car inside where donate stuff goes into. I don’t wanna buy storage solutuons, I want it GONE!
Thank you so much for sharing. We are at a point in our lives that we want to add to our lives by having less.
I so enjoy reading these articles. They really help to keep me focused on what’s important in life.
Nick Hall says
Thank you for this and all the articles you publish. About three years ago I looked at our debts, in total, and was shocked! I had read about minimalism and we decided to embrace it. The first thing we did was to stop buying and ridding ourselves of stuff that we did not need. The second was to list all our debts and plan how to get them paid. We devised a five year plan. Three years in and on track I was offered the “opportunity” to leave my job as a project manager as part of the UK Government cuts. Fortunately the terms they offered included the option to invest all the compensation in my pension, with an employer top up so that I could take my pension straight away at 53. I was able to use the pension lump sum to pay all remaining debts. The really good effect of living the last three years buying little and paying off debts is that we were living on about 50% of our income. Now with no debts or mortgage our disposable income has hardly changed. I can spend my time gardening for our elderly parents or pottering in my garden and playing with our Grandchildren. I buy only to replace and then if I can get it secondhand I will. We can still afford to holiday abroad, we are having a couple of weeks in beautiful Greece shortly. I have no desire to return to project management. We just want to live quietly, simply and slowly. We can do this because we embraced a simpler lifestyle three years ago, inspired by you and other bloggers. Thank you.
Johnny Ong says
Your articles will be shared into my wall, continuously – to mainly educate those in the dark. Thank you for the inspiration.
Good thoughts from the Tropical Paradise – Philippines.
Johnny Ong says
Thank you for all your insights. Keep it coming.
We need this as my country is vying into the hyper-consumerism. Most of the mid-class are buying or consuming things they don’t really need or understand. Sadly, even those in poverty line are making a treasure box of small-luxuries from China. Your a
Lizzie Hough says
One thing about living a minimalist, frugal life style… You become cautious about buying anything because, well, you are probably going to be stuck with it for a long time.
Case in point… I just, today, hung curtains on four small windows in the back room of our house. We closed in a porch because, quite frankly, our one bedroom house really was too little when our five grown children and our nine grandchildren come around. But I have lived without window coverings for years and finally got tired of looking at the small blanket hanging on one window and the heavy towel hanging on another, blocking the hot afternoon sun. Aesthetics are important. Granted, the curtains (more like shades) I hung were made from two inexpensive room darkening panels, but they at least match our “decor” on a budget. I hadn’t hung anything before because 1) Curtains are expensive 2) I wanted curtains that were pleasing to look at and 3) The towel and blanket DID block the sun. Still, this was just a reminder to consider what makes you happy as well as what saves you money.
We lived in our old house for over ten years and never did replace the linoleum in the kitchen…even though there was a bare spot where we had taken out a bar when we took out the old, very low cabinets and installed the new-to-us cabinets my aunt gave us when she totally revamped her whole kitchen. (They spent more updating their kitchen in 1996 than they spent building their three bedroom ranch w/basement) in 1959.) I just threw a rug over the bare spot. Still, part of me wanted new flooring but it was never one of those issues you die over. Plus, that old house still stands, is used as a guest house and my children love that kitchen…bare spot and all. It is all about priorities and the person you choose to be.
I love this post. And I am finding some of the things you mentioned at the end coming true in my own life. Minimalism is not just about stuff. It may start there, but it moves over into so many other areas of our lives.
Elaine Farrah says
A writer here mentioned Voluntary Simplicity . It changed my life too… Still a great book.