I remember the day I began my journey to minimalism: Memorial Day 2008. I was busy cleaning out my garage when a neighbor casually said, “You know, you don’t need to own all that stuff.” In that moment, as I looked at the pile of stuff in my driveway and noticed my five-year-old son playing alone in the backyard, I realized: Not only are my possessions not bringing happiness into my life, they are actually distracting me from the things that do! On that day, my wife and I began a journey of simplified living that brings us greater joy than we even expected.
Now, if you’re like many people, the word minimalism may conjure up images of bare white walls or of someone sitting on the floor because he doesn’t have any furniture. It might seem to you like an exercise in self-deprivation simply for the sake of self-deprivation. Let me tell you ... this is far from the truth! To me, minimalism is exactly the opposite. It speaks of freedom, of peace, and of joy.
It’s about space that has been opened up to make room for new possibilities. It’s “good riddance” because it clears away obstacles to the lives that we want to live and that God wants us to live. In fact, I’m not so much interested in minimalism, per se, as I am in helping people get to the level of possessions that will enable them to live the lives they’re meant to live.
For those of us living in the more developed nations of the world, about 98 percent of the time this means reducing our possessions, not increasing them. With that as a background, here is my definition: Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them. The beauty of minimalism isn’t in what it takes away. The beauty and the full potential of minimalism lie in what it gives. The payoff isn’t just a clean house—it’s a more meaningful life. In what practical ways might your life improve if you owned fewer possessions?