Thirteen years ago, I was introduced to minimalism during a short conversation with my neighbor.
The realization that excess possessions were distracting us from greater pursuits immediately changed how we viewed our home and the items inside it.
Within nine months, we had removed 60-70% of the things from our home and have never regretted discovering the freedom we found because of it.
But minimalism impacted more areas of life than our physical possessions.
Here are ten areas of life that were unexpectedly impacted by our decision to own fewer possessions:
1. Bank Account
For our entire married lives, my wife and I had “just gotten by’ financially. We hadn’t taken on considerable amounts of consumer debt, but we certainly weren’t getting ahead financially—despite several pay increases.
The more we made, the more we spent.
But minimalism changed that. We put some money in our pocket during the decluttering phase, but more significantly, we stopped wasting our money on unnecessary purchases. It was surprising how quickly our finances were positively affected by the decision to intentionally own less.
2. Physical Fitness
The change may seem like a coincidence, but I am convinced it was not.
In May, after being introduced to minimalism, we began the process of removing unneeded possessions. Seven months later, in December, I celebrated by birthday.
Not wanting to buy a physical item, I requested a gym membership at the local Planet Fitness that had just opened in my town. And thus began, for the first time in my life, a regular practice of physical exercise.
Minimalism unexpectedly affected my physical health.
In my mid-thirties at the time, I had a pretty unhealthy diet. Lots of eating out, snack foods, fried foods, and not nearly enough good stuff.
Well, it doesn’t take too many weeks of visiting the gym to begin wondering why you are drinking soda and eating potato chips every evening. And thus, I began researching healthier foods to eat before/after working out. And my entire diet began to change.
*I am reminded often of Courtney Carver’s story of finding minimalism. For her, intentionality in her diet brought about greater intentionality in her possessions (minimalism). For me, it was the other way around.
A new lifestyle was emerging. I had begun changing my habits: spending, fitness, diet. Other habits began to change in my life as well.
Minimalism became about more than physical possessions. Minimalism is about identifying what is most important in life and working hard to remove the distractions that keep us from it—including unhealthy habits.
Randy Alcorn says it this way, “Every increased possession adds increased anxiety onto our lives.”
The less I owned, the less stress I felt in my life.
Just think of all the ways physical possessions burden us with stress.
They require our constant care and attention: cleaning, organizing, maintaining, managing, repairing, replacing… And that’s not even to speak of how much stress we feel trying to keep up with the Joneses or the anxiety that surrounds our desire to make more money just so we can buy more stuff.
Minimalism meant not only did I have fewer possessions taking up physical space in my home and mental space in my mind, but it also meant I could remove myself from the trappings of comparison and consumerism.
It is difficult to understand the mental burden of excess physical possessions until we begin to remove them.
Minimalism impacted my faith in ways I never dreamt.
I go more in-depth into my Christian faith in my book, The More of Less, than I typically do on this blog. But I have to mention that minimalism both freed up my life to focus more on faith and even changed my understanding of it in many regards.
My personal faith has much to say about money and possessions and where to find true abundance. Minimalism helped me see that much more clearly than ever before.
7. Social Media
I use social media every day to spread the message of minimalism, but I can also see how quickly it becomes just another distraction from things that matter when it is not used intentionally.
I don’t get it right every day, but embracing the benefit of fewer possessions has also helped me see the benefit of less time on social media.
When we first discovered minimalism, we were regularly hosting three different small groups of people in our home—almost every week.
Showing hospitality was important to us then, and it is important to us today. Some may confuse a minimalist home with being cold and lifeless, but we found the opposite to be true. We find it easier to entertain and host drop-by guests now that there is less clutter to shove into closets before they arrive.
I should also mention that freeing up time and money and focus because of minimalism has also allowed us to be more present and available in our relationships than ever before.
In our society, work has become the thing that we do 9-5, Monday through Friday, in order to earn the paycheck so that we can buy the stuff, take the vacation, or retire early. But minimalism forced me to rethink work.
If I’m not going to work so that I just spend more money on stuff, why am I going to work? I began seeing it as something different altogether.
As I have written previously, work is the thing we do with our lives to improve society and life for others. It’s our way of using our talents and education and experience to serve others. In this way, it brings new meaning and fulfillment each day—and becomes far more enjoyable than merely slogging through another day until pay day.
Not everyone sees work this way, unfortunately. And I didn’t either—before minimalism. But I am grateful how my views have changed. Work is just another unexpected area of my life impacted by minimalism.
We all want to be intentional parents raising good kids who contribute positively to society. And many succeed in that effort without discovering minimalism.
But for me, personally, I found minimalism impacted my worldview in so many positive ways, it can’t help but come out in how I parent. I don’t force my children to embrace a minimalist lifestyle (they will make their own decisions when they are out of the house), but I do model for them a life lived for more important pursuits than material possessions.
And minimalism freed up time at home to accomplish that.
Minimalism was introduced to me in one short conversation. And what began as simply a journey to own less stuff has begun positively influencing almost every area of my life. You’ll find it has the same impact on yours.