The One Thought That Drives Minimalism


Minimalism in one sentence: Get rid of anything and everything that no longer contributes to the life you want to live.

I recently had a helpful online conversation with a person I’ve never met.

I had posted about minimalism on social media (as I tend to do) and she replied with a relatively common response, “I’m just afraid I’ll get rid of something I need later.”

There are, of course, no quick and easy replies to that fear—especially when we’ve never met. I don’t know where she lives, how much stuff she has, what she imagines her ideal life to look like, or even her propensity to throw away things that she’ll need later.

So, I offered my typical one-sentence reply to that question, “Aren’t you afraid of keeping more stuff than you need?”

Her reply went something like this: “No, that’s a dumb thing to be afraid of. Why would I ever be afraid of keeping more than I need?”

And in her reply, I was quickly reminded of the one belief that motivates all minimalist pursuits:

There is a danger in owning more physical possessions than I need.

The specifics of that motivation may look different from person to person.

For example, we may think to ourselves:

  • Owning too much keeps me from quality time with my family
  • Owning too much prevents me from achieving financial freedom.
  • Owning too much means I am unable to share with others.
  • Owning too much is a danger to the environment.
  • Owning too much means my priorities are in the wrong place.
  • Owning too much slows down my journey of faith.
  • Owning too much robs my opportunity to pursue greater passions.

The specific motivation may change, but the overarching understanding is still the same:

It’s not just that possessions won’t make me happy, it’s that they distract me from the things that do! And it’s not just happiness that excess possessions distract us from, but joy, meaning, purpose, fulfillment, and significance.

That is the lightbulb moment that motivates minimalism.

There is a danger in owning more than I need:

The danger of losing my life in pursuit of things that don’t matter.

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