I’ve often asked myself why we buy more than we need. I mean, when you really think about it, what would cause us to buy unnecessary things in the first place?
I think there are a number of reasons this is the case—some internally motived and some externally motivated. But one reason we should never overlook is our felt need for security.
Ask yourself, Am I buying too much stuff because deep down I think it will insulate me from the harms of a chancy world? And if so, what is that costing me?
In our society, too many of us believe security can be adequately found in the personal ownership of possessions. Of course there is a grain of truth in that belief. Certainly, food and water, clothing and shelter are essential for survival. But the list of possessions we truly need for life is quite short, and most of us already have these things.
The reality is, we have too quickly confused needs with wants and security with comfort. As a result, many of us collect large stockpiles of possessions in the name of security when we are actually accumulating comfort (or desired pleasure). We work long hours to purchase these things. And we construct bigger and bigger houses to store them.
We dream of a future that includes larger paychecks and sizable savings accounts. We plot and plan to acquire them because we think lasting security can be found there. If that costs us in other areas of life, such as our family and friendships, then that’s the way it goes. The cause of security seems so important that we can’t give up our pursuit of more.
One day I received an email that was gut wrenching to me. A woman wrote:
I’m a working mom of three young boys. I ran across your website while researching ways in which people have made a one-income household work for a family of five.
My husband and I have worked our tails off over the last fifteen years to advance in our careers. In doing so, we have accumulated a lot of material possessions. We didn’t start out materialistic, really. Over the years, though, we have engorged our lifestyle, including a large home and even a modest lake retreat.
Two weeks ago we overheard my eight-year-old son tell a friend, “Mommy and Daddy aren’t home a lot. We don’t see them very much.”
My husband and I stopped dead in our tracks. Our hearts broke. Is all of our stuff really worth it? Of course not.
We are trying to figure out the “how.” We are looking over our budget, trying to find a renter for our log cabin by the lake, and working to have my husband quit his job to be a stay-at-home dad. I am wondering if you have any pointers to help us along this path.
This woman and her husband felt that they needed to work. They felt that they needed more money and more things. They believed that their family wouldn’t be safe and secure and well provided for without the fruits of many long days on the job.
Until they realized that they were providing something very different from what their family really needed.
I can only get what i need because i have debt, so thats it for a while but before you feel sorry for me, my little flat is warm, cosy and clean and i have enough food, clothes and things, so if i learn this lesson well i be more than ok,
my mum never went without she always kept the home clean and it was more than ok, and yet she saved to give us a little money when she passed away,
i decided that she had the right idea and now chose wisely, spend wisely chose my time wisely, wisdom is a big thing
i have set boundaries in my life and thats how i want to continue on, we all do foolish things but its time for me to seriously wake up
love Jacqueline xxx
I don’t feel sorry for you Jacqueline. I don’t know how old you are, you sound wise to me.
If your flat is warm, you have food to eat & clothes to wear it seems like you’re sorted.
Sounds like your Mum was a wise woman too.
God bless you.
Ashley Logsdon says
Wow – this is so spot-on with what I coach families on. Asking if your life really reflects the needs of your family…and if you even know what your family desires.
Here is an excerpt from a blog post I wrote a while back that is so in line with this – and this story of the Mexican Fisherman is so, so powerful:
An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.
Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.
The Mexican replied, “only a little while. The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life.”
The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”
“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”
“Millions – then what?”
The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
What else is there to say? Are you busting your butt for MORE when you can thrive with little?
What do you dream of?
If you did have all the money you needed, what would you dream of doing? Does your work give you any purpose beyond a paycheck? What lights you up?
I’ll tell you what it is for me.
I dream of hikes and bike rides with my husband and our girls.
I long for adventure and seeing new places.
I desire time with my family to be present as we all grow together.
I want laughter and joy in our home where we live with intention and know what we’re moving toward.
And my passion is to encourage, inspire and guide other families to find their purpose for money. Not to be a financial planner. Not to help them with their debt. But to remember the purpose of it all as we move back to the priority in their home.
I want to ignite the flame of love, joy and desire in couples.
I want to ease the fears, tension and stress over the weight parents choose to carry when it comes to raising their children, running a household, and bringing in an income.
I want to shine a light on how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us.
My purpose for money is not to in accumulating financial wealth, but to find the riches all around me – through family, nature, and what I can offer others.
How much money do you truly need? What is that amount that will allow you to be like that Mexican fisherman, content in his beautiful world where he strolled with his wife and played guitar with his friends?
Don’t let your purpose for money be clouded by the quest for accumulation.
Thanks for yet another powerful post!
“I owe, I owe it’s off to work we go” A lot of people including myself work more than I would like because of bad choices such as accumulating debt. Debts that end up cluttering every inches of our home and consuming our time and our lives. Get out of debt, work less and spend more time on things that are fulfilling that you thoroughly enjoy! Enjoy the moment, we don’t know when our time is up! I just turned 55 years old, expecting to live maybe until 85, that only gives me 30 years to live if I’m lucky! One thing that keeps me grounded and keeps things in perspective is to realize our life is finite, there is an endpoint so what I do with my time now matters!
I usually buy things because of social motivation. Sometimes the advertisements are so effective that you can hardly ignore. But after purchasing, I too asked the same question as I hardly use those things.
Wonderful post as usual Joshua.
On a different subject, is the picture at the top of the article
St. Michaels Mount, Marazion?i thought it was, then wondered as perhaps you wouldn’t post a picture from so far away from where you live.
Hope you will tell us.
If it is St. michaels Mount, I have to tell you, it’s one of my favourite places.
For the last few years we have taken a holiday in that area. It’s really lovely, largely unspoilt, also for us only about an hour and a half drive away.
I`m thinking a lot about work/life balance today, because I`m a freelancer and often work late and my husband leaves home early, so we don`t see each other that much. But for me it`s (hopefully) not true that work gives us money to buy things. Over the last year I`ve invested a lot in myself – better food, trips, entertainment, new experiences. When I don`t have a lot in the end of the month I remind myself that the money was spent on our quality life, not on buying stuff. Thank you for focusing my attention on topics like that. I suppose we should track our expenditures all the time and reevaluate our expenses to focus on what makes us happier and better. Hope to learn more about this:)
I think it is nice to be able to have one parent home with children if possible, but parents needs to realize that things don’t always go according to plan – people divorce and die younger than expected. Simplifying and living within your means are important, but also being able to support a family in the event of tragedy is just as important.
As a single mom on welfare, working 3 days a week and studying from home I have a lot of anxiety about probably never being able to afford a home. I don’t even want a big home. The people I rent from would sell me this home if I could afford it. But I can’t. And probably never will. UNLESS I do go to work full time.
It’s great for couples that can share the financial responsibility and time with the kids but what about people like me?
I feel like I have to make a choice between working to get off welfare or my child.
Even if I went to full time at the job I have now I would probably still need assistance from the government to pay my basic bills because its a low income job. Hence why I decided to start studying.
Anyway, I guess you just see a lot of advice for families with two parents. But what about families with one.
No there isn’t much in the blogosphere for single families, but neither does one size fit all. Having a rewarding career & prioritising education are also valuable examples for your family.
As a single mom I have found minimising clothes, toys, decor etc have given me more time to be present. Likely you can access free financial advice for your situation from government or women’s organisations. Meanwhile, look at your leaks (phone, cable, take out?) & divert to savings to either debt or an emergency fund.
And, rather than lamenting or resenting the family time you don’t have, remember to savour the time you have…
Mel—you and your baby are so beautiful! It is very, very hard being a single mom, but hang in there…because life will truly get easier. Take all the love, support and assistance you can. If someone (who’s trusted) offers to babysit..let them. Accept the clothing that someone else’s baby has outgrown—etc. If you have faith—know that God is with you and your lil one. You are not in this alone…and that beautiful baby is His gift to you. Find a way to keep your cup filled as well so you can have the emotional and physical energy to care for your lil one with enthusiasm. Mel—just focus on the here and now and keep God entwined in every aspect of your life. One day when you least expect it— a miracle will happen. You will look back and know that the hardest struggle is behind you and life just got better! God bless you and your precious baby. Be well :)
Carol R Bowles says
I was a stay at home Mom until, my youngest was eleven. We did not have a lot of stuff. We did have family. No one life style can make you happy. You make you happy. Never things.
Regrets in my life,thinking I needed skills ,to be able to support my children. I returned to school and Graduated with my Nursing degree.
Grateful that my children are healthy,whole and not materialistic.Grandchildren that understand family is everything.
I love what this says and I want so much to have LESS STUFF! I am just having hard time sorting through all that I have and actually letting it go. Does anyone have any suggestions to help with this??
Daisy Chain says
I recommend Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Or the Joy of Less by Francine Jay.
But Marie Kondo’s book worked best for me.
Her idea is to hold each item and if it doesn’t ‘spark joy’, then you let it go. I kinda did it backwards, and held each item and said, if it makes me feel bad, let it go. For example, a pair of shoes that were expensive but I never wear. Doing it this way gets you over the fact that a lot of possessions are just neutral, e.g. pots and pans.
Do whatever works for you :)
What about heath care/ health insurance expenses? Or dental work? Car maintenance and insurance? Roof repair? Or rent? Retirement savings? Or just savings, in case you lose the job? How can one do this on one salary? I don’t buy new clothes, don’t do vacations, no cable TV, no fancy cell phone, no eating out–living really frugal, and I just make it from a month to another.
Mark Stucky says
I don’t know the details of your situation, but I think I have at least a small idea of how you feel.
In 2007 I was living in a tiny studio apartment and working as package handler at FedEx. Not my first choice of job, but it since it was so early in the morning it gave me flexibility in attending classes at the nearby community college.
Like you, I had no TV, no fancy cell phone, and my meals consisted of things like ramen noodles and bean burritos. Nonetheless, my income from FedEx barely covered my monthly expenses, and anything extra had to come out of my dwindling savings account. I worried that I would run out of money before finishing school, or that I would finish school and not be able to find a good job.
Thankfully, God unexpectedly provided a job for me in my field of study even before my classes were completed.
If you have opportunity to take classes to get a better-paying (and possibly more enjoyable?) job, I highly recommend it! For me at that time, I was studying engineering graphics and got a job as a drafting technician for an engineering firm.
I wish you the best.
So thankful for minimalism and the answers it has brought to me finally. After realizing enough is too much in my home, I’ve begun the journey to less is more and have been able to mindfully make changes. One simple one is to connect with a friend that is on a similar journey. That meant taking a day to just go visit and spend time at her home with her family. We came home thoroughly tired yet refreshed! Laughs, and seeing her world through eyes that are learning to see, oh it was such a blessing. If I hadn’t learned how important to have and be a friend also takes time, what I would have missed.
Mark Stucky says
Thought provoking article. I’ve found that this is true for me in terms of professional development and career advancement. It’s easy to look around and see all the tools and gadgets that some in my field have at their disposal, and then to begin thinking that I will “lose my competitive edge” if I don’t get all those same tools or resources. In some cases that could be true, but most of the time it’s just the allure of something new.
I had a “stop in my tracks” moment recently myself which started the ball rolling on cutting back my hours at work. My husband and I both worked full time and one day I overheard my 9 year old tell her friend “My mommy can’t. She works.”
I have no idea what this response was to – I didnt hear the question and was too crushed to even ask. There were very few scenarios I could come up with though that resulted in that response being a POSITIVE in her eyes. In the end, I was not around. I couldn’t because I wasn’t there. That’s all that statement boiled down to. She didn’t even feel the need to ask me, she just knew…
I asked to go part time shortly after that. Since we live in a high cost of living area to begin with, I couldn’t just walk away completely; we need at least a portion of my income for our NEEDS but we have easily cut out a lot of our WANTS. It was a long process of negotiating my time and pay but I’ve finally started my part time work and MY KIDS COULD NOT BE HAPPIER. That in and of itself is worth every penny pinched.
(And, surprisingly, even with the cut in income… I’m already seeing where we will INCREASE our savings – there really is something to be said about the “convenience” of dual incomes… and how much that “convenience” costs)
To be honest, I would not mind to hear my kids say that… unless it means ‘mommy never can’. There’s no need to be available to our kids ALL THE TIME. Mommy cannot, daddy cannot, we inevitably have more responsibilities/work than spending time with our kids alone. Maybe your daughter just knew ‘mommy can’t on Mondays’, for example. Nothing wrong about that…
There is a big difference between being available to our kids ALL THE TIME… and being AVAILABLE to our kids.
For a full time working parent AVAILABLE time is usually reduced to 3-4 hours nightly, if that. That’s a far cry from being available ALL THE TIME. Wouldn’t it be nice if it was that Mommy isn’t available on Mondays… but in reality many working parents know that its quite the opposite… Mommy/Daddy isn’t available MOST days…
In the end, I’d much rather my children know that my available time is based off of my NEEDING to work rather than my WANTING to work. Then when my daughter says “My mommy can’t” she really knows that mommy can’t.
I get your point. We shouldn’t be working all week just for more unneccessary stuff or because of society expectations. Yet the discussion here seems to praise staying home above work, but work can also be rewarding in other ways than money. Connection, using talents, contribution/service, just to name a few. I love my work (3days, husband 4days) and I wouldn’t want to communicate to my kids that work is nasty and just for money. I don’t think it should all be ‘either… or’… But in the Netherlands parttime jobs are more mainstream than in US, so I realise it’s not always about choice…
Its empowering to read this article as I rock my newborn to sleep. Her sister is sleeping in the other room and her brother will be home in about an hour. This is my first year as a stay at home mom. I left my teaching career after two years of figuring out a budget and paying off debts. I couldn’t be happier in my new role. There are some ups and downs navigating the expectations of being at home full time. I have babysat this year to bring in supplementary income. We are living a modest lifestyle and are making about half as much as we did in the past but we wouldn’t change it. Knowing that we are raising our children and seeing them more often has been a huge blessing. I hope that anyone who desires to stay at home with their children is able to. Staying home has been a huge blessing for our family.
Gregory Gagne says
My wife and I both work our tails off so that we can provide a nest-egg for our retirement via maximizing both of our 401k annual contribution limits and contributing as much as we can to our children’s 529 plans – we diverted all of the net savings by no longer having to pay for day care in to 529. We don’t spend lavishly on material items, other than my wife’s expensive (but quality) running apparel and my mountain bike equipment and apparel, which is still less than the ongoing expensive of 2 gym memberships that we don’t need given our hobbies; and we live in a modest 2800 square foot colonial home in a nice suburb.
My wife happens to be an excellent cook and prepares dinner almost every night for the entire family. Then we help our boys with their homework and then spend some quality time as a family before the kids go to bed. We cherish the time we have with our children and realize that day trips to the beach are just as much fun, if not more, then riding the jet skis at our in-laws lake house; and for that any many other reasons we would never buy a vacation home. Experiences are where it’s at – don’t waste money on possessions because you will only become slave to them!
Given our full-time work status for the both of us, my wife and I have chosen to out-source the cleaning and lawn mowing, which allows us to spend more quality time with our kids and dog.
I’m sure if you asked one of my boys if they see us enough, they would probably roll their eyes and say they see us too much!
My first piece of advice is that people need to do what works for them; but the family finances need to come first and then work from there. It goes without saying that material possessions are generally not good investments, but funding your retirement and kid’s college (if you have them) is the best path to a sound piece of mind. Strive to be the rich people that no one knows are wealthy. Pay yourself first and don’t sweat the small stuff. For example buying a new vs used car really doesn’t matter in the scheme of things depending how long you own the car, how much driving you do, etc. What matters most is that you’re spending a lot less than you are earning and investing the difference, preferably in index funds.
My advice is try not to be so extreme in your lifestyle changes and rather make a few “nip and tucks” as you go and over time you will see huge changes in your net worth and overall happiness.
Thanks for providing a “real world” perspective. Far too many of the Minimalist folks we read about speak in absolutes and talk about letting go of materialism, but never address the issues you raise about using your earnings to develop wealth to educate your kids or whatever else is important to you. That said, the trick is finding the tipping point where you are not consumed by money while realizing that simply saying “I will want less” is not by itself the solution.
Thank you for giving the breakdown of your financial plan. I appreciate it.
How do you deal with the peer pressure your children face in school, at age 12 or 13, when they don’t have certain brand name clothing/shoes, etc?
joshua becker says
You can’t outspend envy or peer pressure.
I agree 100% and I apologize for asking my question so poorly.
I was inquiring of the parents if this peer pressure has caused any of their young teens to rebel against the parents. If so, how did the parents deal with the family tensions?
An 8 year old may want the parent home and available, while a 13 year old wants to fit in with his/her peers. Most teens don’t realize what you and I have learned through life lessons; I.e., that you can’t outspend envy or peer pressure.
laura ann says
Fitting in w/peers: in late 50’s early 60’s it was the same, guys had to get leather “Fonz type” jackets, levi jeans, girls had to have matching sweater sets, certain style purses, so it goes. Those that didn’t were “squares” or not cool-cats.
My advice is to figure out the lessons you want your kids to learn so that they can become the adults you hope them to be. From there, decide on a few rules to act as guidelines and then enforce them.
My kids are now late high school/college age/grad school, and we have been through the peer pressure years and have survived just fine. It wasn’t always easy, but it was absolutely worth it.
When I was in late elementary and middle school in the 90’s, I remember everyone else always seemed to have cooler, more expensive clothes than I. I even remember one girl making fun of my Target brand jeans once. My parents were teachers, so we just did not have the money to buy expensive designer (read: Guess or Girbaud) jeans, which were all the rage among 13-year-old girls at the time. My mom gave me a set amount of money for school clothes, and if we wanted something more expensive, we could use our own money to make up the difference. I purchased a pair of red Guess jeans for $60 (remember this is probably 25 years ago), and I ended up returning them because I didn’t want to spend all that. Then I got to high school and things like labels didn’t seem to matter so much anymore. And I am SO glad my parents taught me this money lesson, and how your clothing brands DO NOT MATTER. It’s a hard lesson in middle school, but it will eventually sink in.
I love all your articles.
I was moved to tears with this one.
I am extremely grateful for minimalism.
We were mostly minimalists while in America.
When we moved back to India, it was difficult.
Family and friends were very very upset we were simple.
It was upsetting and shocking for me, though my husband took it well.
I suddenly had to make the house presentable so that they would come visit.
They measured our success by our possesions…i let that get to me.
But then i fell sick.
I was bedridden for a year. I resented coming back. The people and it was one of the reasons of my breakdown.
By age 30 I had both hips replaced, and still even while bedridden i worked as a virtual assistant.
I did odd jobs till last year. As a digital marketing manager, as a VA and took freelance projects.
My son said mom i like it when you dont work.
I thought iwas mostly home so it might be okay with him.
(Last year i was in a position to go into office 2 times a week)
I quit and have never looked back.
Then minimalism happened.
I found your article in my early days of minimalism search…
I immediately started decluttering and asking myself what i really value.
I connected with God, kids and husband more.
God kept his promise to me. While in the depths of despair i had a thought come to me…i will give you back the years the locusts have eaten.
I was not a christian.
I had never read that before.
Now 10 years later he has given us more than we can ever expect.
I feel minimalism is a true blessing and your blog as well.
I pray your health has improved.
I am a 70+ senior who grew up with a father who felt the only way he could show how much he loved his family was to take them places and buy them things. I would have given up all of the things to have had much more of my father in my life, but he was usually too busy at work. I never understood then, but I’m sad now for the missed opportunities. I tried that with my own children when they were younger (after marrying a man with much the same characteristics as my father) and have since gone away from “stuff” to memory making experiences. Recently moved from a 4 bedroom home to a small (900 square foot) apartment. And I continue to simplify.
So so true!
M. Smith says
In his closing remarks Josh writes “they” multiple times,
“they needed”, “they realized” , “they believed”.
You got this intimate information from a email josh ?? or are you pontificating your ideology? the internet is a funny thing, i guess now it emits emotions.
What a lovely winter day here on the east coast of Canada. Truly feels more like spring. Just finishing my morning tea and enjoying reading this article and especially all of the interesting comments. It is heartwarming to see that each of us places attention to the present moment focusing on family, friends and community. And less importance on the accumulation of material items that aren’t necessity. Very nice to feel a connection to such a like minded group of people. Blessings on your day.
Roxanne Henke says
I had, what most people would consider a “privileged” upbringing. If my parents had allowed it, I could have had most anything I wanted. (I’m talking small-town North Dakota…not New York Rockefeller’s).
The difference was two-fold: My parents grew up in the Depression and came from dirt-poor families. They knew what it took to “earn” our privilege. They taught me that there is responsibility that goes along with “having-much”…it is: giving much. Both in time and money.
And, my dad was diagnosed with cancer at age 44. So, most of my growing-up years were spent the the specter of death looming. (He died at 54. I was 17.) I learned at a very young age, that life is short so you’d better live it well. My Dad taught me to do that. Money can make life easier…but it can’t buy happiness, or true friends, or love, or life.
I find the most joy and fulfillment in my family and friends. In sharing what I have…time, a listening ear, hospitality. And, in my faith. Luke 12:48 Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!
joshua becker says
Welcome North Dakota! I went to Middle School and High School in Wahpeton.
Michelle Spencer says
When my daughter was little, I HAD to work ( I was a single mother). When my son was born, I had the privilege of staying @ home. We never “measured up” to my husband’s families expectations. Things have never been important to me but he struggles with it. I can live without “stuff”, he likes bigger better cars and things. In fact, he owns WAY more clothes and shoes than I do. LOL
laura ann says
Michelle: Just about everyone I know incl me, has people in their lives they cannot measure up to, siblings, neighbors, even friends because people are always comparing which is useless and can drive people away from others because of criticism, remarks, etc. Older generations viewed the younger as wasteful, careless about spending, etc. Now, decades later, I view younger generations likewise. As long as we meet our debt and have what we want and do what we enjoy, we can weed most people who judge others out of our lives, yes, incl. siblings and former friends who are climbing the social econ. ladder. Let ’em keep climbing and be stressed.
Jane Broman says
When I read your article – I guessed your #1 reason – security. It is definitely a comfort issue — but also a hedge against possible future economic collapse. It is a carryover from the Great Depression when people lost everything in a moment. Our grandparents were savers and our parents were careful — now we continue in that tradition. The ‘I might need this someday’ worry, keeps my basement full. I have a mixer, a bread maker and a sump pump for the time when my current ones break.
A second reason is – status. It is internally uncomfortable to wear clothes that are not of the latest fashion or have people over when your furnishings are old. No one wants to look dowdy. And although I buy all my clothes second hand — I am often wearing something that has seen better days or is not quite my size. But I accept that.
The third reason is – sentimental. This is the hardest category for me to minimize. I have boxes upon boxes of letters, pictures and papers that I keep close to me. They are like a hug from the past. When I even consider the amount of energy it would take to reread all this plus run it past my husband, I am paralyzed. We have room for the boxes….but it still nags at me.
Thank you for your inspiration . I would never have gotten as far as I have without your encouragement.
Agree about the sentimental. Still have a lot of that to tackle.
I agree with #1 and #3, especially. I tease my 89-year-old mother about her “Depression-baby-syndrome”; in truth, she is the granddaughter of a man who lost everything in ‘29. Those scars are deep and I confess to inheriting some of her tendencies.
And sentimental stuff—I continue to work on that too.
Susan Vogt says
About 35 years ago my husband and I had a related experience to the woman who wondered about her husband quitting his job and living on one income. We were in our late 20’s and were already committed to a modest lifestyle (somewhat determined by our working for the Church). Since I already had the steadier job, we decided that he would become the “stay at home Dad” for the near future. (He was the only male in our community baby-sitting co-op.)
It worked well. We had 2 children at the time but since we had not already accumulated a lot of stuff, it wasn’t difficult to continue on this path. As our family grew to 4 children and their “wants” increased, it became a little harder to hold the line on what we bought. But now in hindsight with them all sprung around the USA and the world we have regular internet conference calls during which we sometimes talk about how how they were raised. They say that although they sometimes griped that they didn’t have the lastest stuff their peers had, they are glad we provided them with a lifestyle of presence. Contact me if you want to know more about how we did it.
Daniel @ OneFawnPug says
I often think people may accumulate possessions as an outlet for boredom or frustration. With disposable income (or easy credit) available, and time or mindspace to fill combined with a lack of hobbies or non-career interests, it is much too easy to simply visit the mall and pick up some new clothes, etc. This habit with a lack of awareness of how much we already own (overflowing closets, stuffed garages) leads to more stress, clutter and ironically, frustration.
I agree, a lot of shopping is due to boredom and lack of fulfillment in our lives.
laura ann says
Daniel: totally agree. And these are same folks who can’t fit car in garage, many rent off site storage units full of useless junk, and closets crammed, cluttered garage, etc.
Gina Bisaillon says
A few years ago I was in the market for a house. I visited a lot of homes. I had no idea how many people are hoarders. Sometimes you couldn’t get in the front door because of stuff blocking it. In one messy place the couple refused to let me see their bedroom. In another, the small children’s bunk beds were covered with stuff so I asked them where they slept. They took me by the hand and showed me a spot in the dining-room where there were two blankets on the floor. That scene has haunted me ever since.
my Partner recently quit his job as he could see the toil on me looking after our 8 wk baby. I feel so appreciative having the load shared and sleep.
I knew this was the best thing for our family when our 5yr old daughter asked ‘daddy do you have to work tonight’, ‘no’ he said and she replied ‘yay, I get to spend more time with you’ now that’s a response no salary could give.
He’s toying with how to earn some money whilst not impacting on the family again. (Pointers welcome too).
Yes, there may not be as much money coming in (I’m on maternity pay) but we have everything we need and a happy family…and not because of any material item.
We moved from a metropolitan city to an old farmhouse, with a barn and small acreage, in what our city friends call “the boonies”. We sold, thrown and even gave away everything we had and brought just whatever fits my husband’s Tundra, my Highlander and a small trailer full of my husband’s power tools. Both myself (an IT consultant) and my husband (a custom home renovator) was working full time and hardly see each other but now we have more time with a smaller mortgage and our goal to grow most our own food. I am still working full time but my husband now works fixing the farmhouse, so he is always at home. We may not be earning as much as we used to but then again we realize now that we don’t really need that much in the first place. It has been two years now, a big change for everyone but we never looked back.
Patricia Tomlin says
This is one of the most exciting paths I have been on. It is so freeing, I can’t believe it. My house is cleaner and neater than it has been in years and is easy to keep it this way. I know where things are when I need them. Every day I walk through my house and look around for something I really don’t need and give it away. It’s a daily process and it is fun.
Then there is the benefit of not buying stuff. When I’m in the store and think of “shopping” for something I might need, I stop and realize that I’d just be adding stuff. If it’s not on a list, don’t buy it.
I have also picked 3 things that I will not let myself buy in 2018. It has already saved me money. Wish I had discovered this simple lifestyle years ago.
Jane Broman says
What are the 3 things? Just curious.
I’m curious, too.
My dad would always say if we could just quit eating we’d be rich! :-)
laura ann says
For women, it’s probably shoes, purses and more makeup?
Becky Livingston says
Yes, I agree with so much of what you’ve written. It IS fun to find things to give away. And that feeling I get when I’m with a friend who’s shopping, and for me there’s no indecision. The only decision I need to make is not to buy. There’s nothing I need. I really like what I have – in my kitchen, in my wardrobe, in my small apartment.
I love the idea of looking around and finding one thing a day to remove from your house, I’m going to try it!
I feel my road to minimalism has been a work in progress that I truly enjoy! My husband and I lived in a spacious 4 bedroom, 2 car garage home on 15 acres in 2008. We loved this home because we designed it and did a lot of the work ourselves. Our last child of five lived with us and was getting ready to graduate high school. One day as I sat on the porch, I looked around and began to realize how big the house was. It was like seeing it for the first time. Ever since that moment my life began to change. We sold our home, moved out of state, and bought a small 750 Sq ft house on 1/2 acre. We are so happy and content! We have learned to want less and appreciate simplicity in our lives. Such a freeing experience, don’t knock it till you try it! :)
Ann Florian says
I was a stay at home mom to three boys. They are grown now and fathers themselves. Their wives are staying home to raise my grandchildren with some part time work. Having no regrets at this later stage in life is so worth all the long days I put in as a mom in little boy messiness. The family is the what we need to cherish and keeping together takes time and choice. Who is cooking dinner and sorting the laundry. It’s all important.
Gregory Gagne says
I know plenty of women who stayed home and now want a career to apply their hard-earned degree to; but being out of the work force for 15 years has presented a real challenge to getting a job. I think the decision to “stay home” is a bit of an antiquated argument and I think the discussion should revolve more around what’s important to each spouse from a personal standpoint, what’s important in terms of rearing children (assuming they want children), and then how can they work together as a team to accomplish all of the above. There’s plenty of woman that don’t want to have kids or can’t have kids; and there’s plenty of men who would be great at caring for kids full time. Let’s put this old discuss to bed as it really comes down to what works overall for the family!
Absolutely! It comes down to each individual and their lives. Only the family themselves can make that decision and know it is what is best for them.
Tony W says
I really believe many people buy so many things they don’t need to impress and be accepted by others. They enjoy the security of acceptance and may be neglecting the most important people in their lives along the way.
I totally agree with this. Much of the “big home” buyers I think are buying because of the status and need to feel like they have “arrived.” So glad I found out about minimalism as I was on the same path before.
Christopher Howes says
… Bankruptcy is a first positive step toward Minimalism …no $$$… no Credit card…no boat…no trailer or tow bar. Start all over again. Life is always tough, so get used to it.
laura ann says
I just don’t see why houses keep getting bigger and families smaller, yet people keep buying bigger houses they don’t need. Few can get cars inside garage, left in driveway. Storage units rented for more junk stored. People so busy with their stuff, no time for family activities like in years past when parents did things as a family. Moms say they must work to keep up with their house payments, and to buy more stuff. Kids stay in their rooms playing video games and online with phones, social media. Total dysfunction as I see it.
It’s such a shame for their kids but at least they figured it out. Better late than never, & hopefully still enough time to change the thought process in their kids minds that gets hard-wired in on how they’re meant to live their lives. Lead by example.
Marilyn Arias says
I lived in South East Asia here in the Philippines, Most of your article helps me a lot. My minimalism lifestyle still work in progress. My own less and live more journey started during pandemic back in 2020 when I started to work at home. My goal is to help our next generation here in our country about financial education and how to save money by owning less but live a fulfilled life.