The Heart Impact of Choosing Less

A guest post by Joshua Becker, author of the Becoming Minimalist blog, and on a journey towards rational minimalism with his family in Arizona. He is also the author of two books on simple living: Simplify and Simplicity Inside Out.

“Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.” – Democritus

Four years ago, we decided to begin living with fewer possessions.

The decision was based entirely on outward emotions. I was tired of the never-ending cleaning and organizing that my possessions required. I was tired of living paycheck-to-paycheck. And I was getting frustrated that I couldn’t find enough time and energy to be with my family and the people that mattered most. Somehow, I had been unable to notice that my desire to own possessions was the cause of this discontent in my life. Luckily, my neighbor pointed it out with a simple statement, “Maybe you don’t need to own all this stuff.”

My life forever changed. Owning less has allowed me to spend less time and money chasing (and caring for) possessions. It has provided me far more opportunity to redirect my time, energy, and money towards the things that I most value. Ultimately, it brought great resolution to the emotions listed above.

But it has also provided me with even greater opportunity to change than I had ever imagined. The outward change of behavior has brought along with it the opportunity for inward change as well. It has allowed my very heart to change and adopt values that I have always admired in others.

For example, consider how the intentional decision to live with fewer possessions allows our hearts to embrace the following desirable qualities…

1) Contentment: being mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are. So much of the discontent in our lives revolves around physical possessions and comparing our things to others. An intentional decision to live with less allows that discontent to slowly fade away.

2) Generosity: willingness and liberality in giving away one’s money, time, etc. When the selfish, hoarder-based mentality is removed from our thinking, we are free to use our resources for other purposes. We are allowed (and have more opportunity) to redirect our energy, time, and money elsewhere.

3) Gratitude: a feeling of thankfulness or appreciation. One of the most important steps that we can take towards experiencing gratitude is to think less about the things we don’t possess and more time focusing on the things we already do. Intentionally living with less (minimalism) provides that opportunity.

4) Self-Control: the ability to exercise restraint or control over one’s feelings, emotions, reactions, etc. Many people go through life having no clear sense of their true values. Instead, their desires are molded by the culture and the advertisements that bombard upon them each day. As a result, they find no consistency in life. No self-control. The decision to live your own life apart from an ever-shifting culture provides opportunity for self-control to emerge.

5) Honesty: honorable in principles, intentions, and actions; upright and fair. Many – not all, but many – of the lies and mistruths that are told in our society are based in a desire to get ahead and possess more. Finding contentment with your lot in life eliminates the need to be dishonest for financial gain.

6) Appreciation: the act of estimating the qualities of things and giving them their proper value.As the desires of our life stop focusing on others and what they have that we don’t, we are more able to appreciate their accomplishment, their success, and the beauty that they bring to the world. We are able to fully appreciate others without being jealous of them (or worse, hoping for their downfall).

Now, please don’t misread me. I am not contending that minimalists are necessarily more content, generous, grateful, or honest than others. I know many incredibly generous people who would not describe themselves as minimalist. I’m sure there are some self-defined minimalists who would chart obnoxiously high on the selfishness meter. And I would never self-confess to have arrived fully in any of the categories listed above.

But I do believe with all my heart that the intentional rejection of possessions does allow greater opportunity for these positive heart habits to emerge. What you do with that opportunity is up to you.

Photo by 55Laney69, via Flickr

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