Simple Living: The Earlier the Better.

by Tammy Strobel on August 15, 2012

{Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Joshua Becker. He blogs at Becoming Minimalist where he encourages others to find more life by owning less. His new book, Living With Less: An Unexpected Key to Happiness, is written to expose teenagers and young adults to the life-giving message of simplicity.}

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Most of my life was wasted chasing the wrong things. I spent the first 33 years of my life chasing material possessions thinking my life would improve as I acquired them. It was supposed to be the “American Dream.” But it was all wrong.

While my household possessions were not extravagant, they had still been accumulating over the years – especially as we would move from a smaller house to a larger home. The move would result in more rooms to furnish and more storage areas to fill. Fashions changed and thus, we bought new clothes. New technology would emerge and we would purchase the new gadgets. Kids entered our family and with them came gifts, hand-me-downs, and purchases “necessary” to raise them correctly.

Eventually, our possessions were beginning to control our lives. We were spending countless hours cleaning, sorting, organizing, repairing, replacing, removing, and maintaining our physical possessions… not to mention all the time we spent on the front end earning the money just to make the initial purchase in the first place. Our pursuit of material possessions was draining our checkbook and our energy.

But then, everything changed. When I was 33 years old, I began giving away all the possessions in my life that were not absolutely essential. Eventually, my wife and I removed over 60% of our earthly possessions. And we couldn’t be happier. We found more time, money, and energy to pursue the things in life that were most valuable to us: faith, family, and friends. We discovered far greater fulfillment in life pursuing our passions than we had ever discovered pursuing possessions.

My only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner. If I could do it over, I would have embraced a minimalist life earlier. As a result, I would have experienced:

  • Less debt.
  • Less clutter to remove.
  • Less financial obligation to get out from under.
  • More savings.
  • More intentionality.
  • More presence with others in my life.
  • Less need to get ahead at others’ expense.
  • More passion.
  • More contentment.

The great life-giving invitation to simplicity holds benefit for every generation. It’s never too late to start. But my life would attest to the fact that it’s also never too early to start.

1 MicheleStitches August 15, 2012

Amen! My hubby and I have been discovering these exact same truths in our mid-forties. We are currently in the process of letting go of most our “stuff” and looking forward to the freedom which lies ahead. I also wish I had known then what I know now. I only hope our children will not make the same life-wasting mistakes.

2 Joshua Becker August 15, 2012

No doubt your example will go a long way in making sure they don’t make those mistakes.

3 Steven August 15, 2012

If there’s one lesson to learn from this, I think it’s this one: “We discovered far greater fulfillment in life pursuing our passions than we had ever discovered pursuing possessions.” If only the rest of the world could be so lucky! Searching for and trying to fill a void with material possessions is impossible, yet so many of us think it’s the solution to the feeling of hollowness in our lives. Thanks, Joshua, for the reminder and good luck with the book!

4 Joshua Becker August 15, 2012

Thanks Steven. We’re just trying to change the world one person at a time.

5 Cherie August 15, 2012

My husband and I are 60 y/o and are now downsizing and simplifying. I wish we had started earlier, but I don’t believe it is ever too late! I embrace this philosophy and am striving to be better at it!

6 Joshua Becker August 15, 2012

Good for you Cherle! Certainly never too late. I commend you for being open to change.

7 Renee August 15, 2012

An acquaintance (in her 50’s) recently said to me “We seem to spend the first half of our lives accumulating stuff, and the 2nd half of our lives getting rid of it”. That statement struck me as utterly true. I am entering the 2nd phase, trying to declutter and realizing it’s not the “stuff” that makes one happy. It takes time and energy to corral and organize all that stuff we accumulate. I would prefer to spend time with loved ones, or reading a good book, than trying to put away the excess clutter in my spare moments. I enjoy reading minimalist blogs that give me ideas and motivation to accomplish this idea of the paring down of “stuff”.

8 Joshua Becker August 15, 2012

Renee, I have never heard that quote before or ever thought of life in quite that way. So true. I hope you don’t mind me recycling that thought sometime soon in my conversation and/or writing.

9 Rose Byrd August 15, 2012

For me, life rapidly became simpler and much less cluttered as soon as I returned to the values of my childhood, returned to my own identity, abandoned the ill-fitting, wrongly-adopted values of much of society around me.

10 Samantha August 17, 2012

I too wish I had discovered minimalism sooner. Although at times it has made me cry and feel heartbroken, it has helped me in my life so much. I realise I am not mourning the items but facing the unsolved emotional issues I had hidden beneath them for far to many years. Like you I never realised how much I had until I started to de-clutter. It has been life-changing in so many ways
I do hope my children learn from my past mistakes instead of repeating them, at the very least I have shown them there is another way to live your life.

11 Zen Presence August 17, 2012

My current income is 1/3 of what it was four years ago. I have embraced a life of mindful simplicity and my Quality of Life has soared.

12 Ronald Pratt August 18, 2012

Hi Joshua and Tammy. I’ve enjoyed reading both of your blogs. I just wanted to add one piece of feedback to Joshua’s post. I disagree with the first sentence of this blog post. “Most of my life was wasted chasing the wrong things.” I don’t believe your life was wasted. It is quite possible that only through those experiences were you able to see clearly the value of living life the way you do today. I whole-heartily believe that all of our experiences are of value and none of them are a waste. Each of these experiences offers lessons, sometimes we learn from them and sometimes we have to experience them again because we didn’t quite get the lesson. That said, none of them are wasted. They are part of the journey and they are part of our curriculum for life, the journey necessary for us to manifest our Dao and bring our gifts to the world. Many of us will have life lessons we have to learn, it’s part of the cycle of life. We learn, we grow, we share.

I’ve enjoyed learning from you both and I wish you both all the best,

Ronald

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