On some level, we all know that having more possessions doesn’t necessarily make us happier. It might seem like buying that shiny new whatever will boost our spirits – and it often does, for the first few minutes – but when the novelty wears off, we’re no more contented with life than we were before. We see this happening over and over, and yet most of us continue to accumulate more and more stuff…. At some point, the accumulation becomes more burden than boon.
Your stuff starts dictating your decisions…about how big your home should be, about how you spend your time (possessions don’t clean, organize or put themselves away!), about what your surroundings will look like, and in some cases, how you spend your money. Those decisions may or may not be in alignment with your own personal priorities and needs. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that for most people, the things you wind up doing to support your stuff will conflict with, or at least distract you from your most deeply held values. Result? Major disconnection, and a nagging sense that you’re wasting time and energy on things you shouldn’t be.
Joshua Becker has written an engaging book about how and why to get rid of our stuff. The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own tells his own personal journey of realizing how much the things he owned actually owned him. It also shares some staggering statistics: 50 years ago, Americans consumed half as many material goods as we do today, and the average home was one-third the size. Today, the average house contains approximately 300,000 items, and one in 10 Americans still has to rent off-site storage! Things have pretty clearly gotten out of hand.
Becker’s book preaches the benefits of minimalism: more time and energy, more money, more generosity, more freedom, less stress, less distraction, less toxic comparison to others, less environmental impact, higher-quality belongings, a better example for our children, and less work for our surviving friends/family when we die.
Even more importantly for our purposes, minimalism nurtures greater connection – and by extension, greater well-being and satisfaction with life. Simplicity generally is a huge facilitator of connection. Look at Becker’s list of benefits and consider for a moment how powerfully these effects of minimalism can enhance your ability to live a connected life.
More time and energy to tune in to our needs and values, and take action in alignment with them – spending time with loved ones and pursuing our passions instead of wrangling our stuff. More money, to use in furtherance of our true priorities. More generosity, to open your heart and spread goodwill. More freedom to play, explore and create. Less stress, distraction, and toxic comparisons to weigh us down and cloud our minds. Reducing our environmental footprint, setting a better parenting example and being thoughtful towards those who survive you are values that very likely show up somewhere on your list of what matters, so advancing these goals simultaneously brings your life better into alignment with your highest, best self. This realization inspired me to get rid of our household’s second car, acknowledge how much mental energy and space off-site storage facilities were consuming, and trade in home ownership for a lighter, brighter and freer life as a renter.
Becker’s book offers excellent advice for getting started on a life of greater simplicity and purity, as well as troubleshooting tips to keep your (and your family’s) head in the game and maintain a more minimalist lifestyle long-term. His blog, Becoming Minimalist, offers additional advice, inspiration, and how-tos to maintain a minimalist lifestyle. Becker has literally lived through this process, and has wise words of encouragement to share – particularly on the difficult topic of figuring out whether you can or should let go of certain cherished possessions. While a smattering of Biblical references may jar some readers, the book’s primary message is not based on spirituality and should appeal to a broader audience.
“Don’t get so busy chasing the wrong things that you miss enjoying the right things,” writes Becker. “Own less to live more.” With less, we truly have more.