Joshua Becker is the founder and editor of Becoming Minimalist, a website that inspires people to find more life by owning less stuff. Currently, he lives in sunny Peoria, AZ with his wife and two young kids.
Owning Less. Living More.
For most of my life, I lived a typical middle-class American lifestyle. I chased job promotions, increased responsibility, and higher salaries. When I achieved them, we did what most American families choose to do with their discretionary income: we bought more stuff.We moved from a two-bedroom apartment to a three-bedroom house and eventually into a four-bedroom split-level home in the beautiful state of Vermont. As our home size increased, so did our possessions: closets got fuller, drawers got harder to close, and parking cars in our garage became more and more difficult.We were chasing the American Dream just like everyone else around us.But things weren’t quite right. Despite having more televisions in my home than people, discontent swirled inside me. Despite significant pay increases over the years, we were never able to get ahead financially. And I longed for the financial margin to live out the generous lifestyle I desperately desired.
There was also a growing discontent that the focus of my life’s energy was being spent on the wrong things.
But on Memorial Day weekend, six years ago, my life changed forever.
I’ve relived the scene a thousand times. I woke up with a simple job to complete: clean out the garage. It was not a project out of the ordinary. In fact, I cleaned my garage every spring. But on this particular Saturday, for the first time, I would be introduced to the truth that I didn’t have to.
Our lives were typical: work hard, make money, spend it on the mortgage, fashionable clothes, nicer cars, cooler technology, and more toys for the kids. But when everything from my garage was piled high in the driveway while my son sat alone in the backyard, it was a conversation with my 80-year old neighbor that opened my mind to a new way of thinking. She said it like this, “Maybe you don’t need to own all this stuff?”
And that is the last statement my old-self remembers hearing.
A minimalist was born. Her simple question prompted a life-changing realization: Everything I owned had not brought meaning, purpose, fulfillment, or lasting joy into my life. In fact, not only were my possessions not bringing me joy, they were actually distracting me from the very things that did bring happiness, purpose, and fulfillment into my life.
We immediately began pursuing a more minimalist lifestyle by removing the unnecessary possessions from our home and lives.
We started easy. We donated unworn clothes, unloved decorations, and unused kitchen gadgets. We eventually moved through our home room-by-room, closet-by-closet, and drawer-by-drawer. Nothing was left untouched. If it was in our home, it was evaluated.
Our mantra became, “Intentionally promote the things we most value and remove anything that is distracting us from it.”
The life-giving benefits were felt almost immediately. We had less to clean, organize, manage, and maintain. We suddenly had more money available. We experienced more space, freedom, and calm. Stress and anxiety began to fade. We found more opportunity to spend time together as a family. Our lifestyle became more friendly to the environment around us. Intentionality was born. Gratitude and contentment began to fill our hearts. And our capacity for generosity began to grow—as did our desire to embrace it.
I am beginning to realize we need to dream bigger dreams with our lives and our money. The American Dream calls us to live as consumers pursuing the products they place on department store shelves. But our souls were created for something greater.
We were created to live for impact and significance. We were created to live free from the weight of worldly pursuits.
Our excess physical possessions build on top of us gradually. We don’t even fully recognize how much they are holding us back, keeping us from living out our lives fullest potential. That is, until, we make the life-changing decision to remove them.