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The #1 Thing I’ve Learned as a Minimalist

Updated: Nov 19, 2022

Today, I'm going to tell you about the most important lesson I've learned as a minimalist.

I never intended to become a minimalist. I sort of bumped into it on my way to something else.

I was unhappy with the demands of life and work. I craved a simpler life. A less complicated life.

So I quit my job, found a part-time job teaching, and became a writer. On the happiness scale, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made.

I wanted a different life, a better life. And I created one.

Minimalism Changed How I Live My Life (In a Good Way)

When I left my job, the first thing I had to do was cut my spending. And that was a painful decision.

Shopping was my hobby and had been for years.

But I simply didn't have the money.

And so it happened, that right around this time, as I was pondering my new life with less money and a dream of living a simpler life, I watched the documentary Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.

I found minimalism and it inspired me to change my spending habits and my values.

I started questioning whether I needed all the stuff I had accumulated over so many years of spending so much money. And I settled into a sort of peace with myself about spending less money.

What I couldn’t see myself doing was giving up most of what I owned. That just wasn't me.

But I was drawn to the idea of having less stuff. The idea of owning less felt very freeing.

And that's when I started thinking about getting rid of a few things and learning more about minimalism.

Starting to Think Like a Minimalist

Making the decision to get rid of what I didn't need, want, or use led to a shift in my thinking. I adopted a minimalist mindset about material things and what they brought to my life.

This mindset shift changed my entire way of thinking about what I needed to live a happy and fulfilling life.

I cleared out the clutter that was taking up space in my life but not improving it.

I cleared out the clutter that was taking up space in my life but not improving it.

The first thing I cleaned out was my closet. Shoes, clothes, purses, and scarves.

If I didn’t wear it or didn’t like it or it didn’t fit, I donated it.

I cleaned out the bathroom closets. I got rid of towels, wash clothes, and shower curtains I wasn’t using and had no plans to use in the future. I donated all of it.

I cleaned out the kitchen cabinets. This was a big job because I like to cook, and I like to buy things related to cooking and eating. I donated all of that stuff too.

I cleaned out all of the duplicate items I want or use. Serving pieces, glasses, mugs, utensils, cookware, and bakeware. Donated.

Re-Evaluating My Relationship with Material Goods

As time went on, I began re-evaluating my relationship with material goods and my reasons for buying so much stuff.

One day, while dragging bag after bag of unwanted stuff to my car, it occurred to me that much of what I bought was filler stuff for my life. I bought stuff because I shopped for reasons other than need. I shopped to fill holes in my life.

If I was bored, I shopped.

If I wanted a distraction from other things, I shopped.

If I was stressed, I shopped.

Shopping filled a need that was unrelated to what I bought. Over time, shopping filled my home with stuff, more stuff than I needed or used.

In the grand scheme of things, owning a lot of stuff doesn’t really change life your life all that much.

Putting all that stuff in huge black bags and dragging bag after bag to my car helped me realize that, in the grand scheme of things, owning a lot of stuff doesn’t really change life your life all that much.

And that's when I realized just how much my values had changed because of minimalism.

Owning all that stuff gave me a fleeting feeling of happiness, but it didn’t solve my problems. In fact, I realized it would never solve my problems.

I needed to change how I lived my life rather than bury unhappiness under a pile of stuff.

Minimalism Helped Changed My Values

Before becoming a minimalist, I spent a lot of time and money buying stuff that I thought would make my life more comfortable instead of prioritizing life experiences that would make my life more meaningful.

We find meaning in life through what we do, not what we own.

Today, I believe that we find meaning in life through what we do, not what we own.

This one belief influences nearly everything I do today. It influences my short-term plans (how I'll spend my day today) and my long-term plans (how I see my life 10 years from now).

There's something else too. Think about this idea for a moment:

If we could buy our way to happiness, the rich would be outrageously happy and the poor would be inconsolably sad.

But that’s not the case. I know sad people who are rich and poor people who are happy. You probably do too.

What I've come to realize is that the things we own bring a certain amount of comfort to our lives, but true happiness and long-term meaning are found elsewhere.

What convinced me of that?

Well, I can tell you more about the experiences I’ve had over the last few decades of my life than the things I’ve bought.

To me, that says a lot about what truly matters in life.

The Most Important Thing I’ve Learned as a Minimalist

So here's the most important lesson I've learned on this journey:

My life is more meaningful because I value people and experiences more than material goods.

Memories are sticky. They stay with us over time and have a lasting impact on our life.

Material goods are slippery. Once we let them go, they don't matter anymore. In fact, they never mattered that much to begin with.


Today, I’m happy and completely at peace with owning less. After purging the excess stuff out of my life, I'm more appreciative and grateful for what's left.

There’s not a single thing that I regret giving away. In fact, I can’t imagine why I would need or want to own more than what I have right now.

What are your thoughts on choosing experiences over stuff? Email me at anita (@)

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