Is Minimalism the True Secret to Happiness?

A few years ago my family of four packed up our household and moved across the country. We made the drive in our car while our belongings were hauled in a moving truck. We arrived to our new house with little more than some clothes in our suitcases, the kids’ favorite toys, and whatever necessities (some dishes, our coffee maker) we could fit in the trunk. Soon we found out that our moving truck was running late. A few days turned into what was ultimately more than 4 weeks as our belongings toured the country in a bizarre series of missteps on the part of the moving company. You might think this sounds extremely inconvenient, and of course in many ways it was; however, as a family we quickly became accustomed to having less. Now, when I think back about that month without our things, I think of it fondly, almost longingly.

What Brings Joy?

Marie Kondo has built an empire out of minimalism—her primary rule is to only keep material things that “spark joy” in the owner. I can tell you that after a week or so in our near-empty new house, it was difficult to even remember what we’d packed in that truck. I sometimes felt a pang for a particular book or record but the moment would pass. And suddenly life was about noticing moments, something I never seemed to do in our house full of things. So many things! Did we really need any of it?

Kondo believes that material things produce a kind of noise in a space, that having too much clutter creates stress in our lives. I tend to agree. Like most American families, we used to buy something almost every day (from clothes to toys to small kitchen appliances). It seems that we sometimes bought things simply out of boredom or on impulse at the grocery store. I’d been aware of this for some time, but it wasn’t until we were without our possessions that I began to realize how much “noise” those things created in our day-to-day life.

A Month Without Stuff

Without our truck full of things, there was less clothing to put away, fewer dishes to wash, fewer toys to clean up. No television to watch, no computer to fight over. My sons immediately got creative. They pretended their soccer ball was a pet dog and they spent days and days using a few pieces of colored chalk to decorate our patio floor in an intricate mural. There was no couch to sit on, so we spent more time outside or built blanket forts together. I did very little housework and I didn’t get too worried about the kids breaking things (there was nothing to break!) or messing up the floors because cleaning up was so much simpler without clutter. We eventually bought a few folding chairs and a neighbor let us borrow a card table so we could eat dinner together. That was when I realized it: we were happier than we’d been in months. We were better off this way, with just the bare minimum.

I’m not saying everyone should live out of a suitcase in an empty house, but I believe there is a happy medium. Once your house is comfortably furnished with necessities, why keep adding to it? Why not only buy the things we really need or things that “spark joy”? Why not keep furniture and knick-knacks and toys to a minimum? Or see how long you can go without buying anything at all?

Don’t get me wrong, I was excited when I saw our moving truck pull up, but the lesson stayed with me. When I was unpacking, I left maybe 40% of the items in their boxes. I put those boxes on a shelf in the garage. After a few months of disuse, I donated the contents: mainly toys and games we didn’t play, books I had meant to read for years, clothes we didn’t need. My grandma used to say no matter how much you think you want some material thing, one day you’ll be begging somebody to take it off your hands. Minimalism, she insisted, is the key to a peaceful life. I never really understood what she meant until the moving truck incident, but now I think she had the right idea.

Pamela Bofferding is a native Texan who now lives with her husband and sons in New York City. She enjoys hiking, traveling, and playing with her dogs.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published August 6th, 2016
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  • ddearborn


    Many years ago as a young retail manager, I was required to attend seminars that essentially attempted to foist similar beliefs on our employee’s. Namely, that it really didn’t matter that your employees were getting worked to death for a couple of bucks an hour, the reward was in the job itself. Therefore they should rejoice in carrying out their daily routine, and just shut the f*ck up about there paycheck. It was a complete fraud then, and it remains a complete fraud today.

    Simplicity as a lifestyle choice by choice is all well and good if you the ability to change whenever the mood strikes you. However, for the other 7+ Billion people, “simplicity” isn’t a lifestyle choice, it is a survival mechanism. It isn’t pretty, it isn’t nice, it damn sure isn’t joyful, such deprivations paint a far different picture for the people forced to live under such conditions.

    I do agree with the author in the sense that minimalism can be a form of detox for many people. As such it offers many advantages in the short term. But it is a rare individual indeed that ends up living such a live style by choice.

    • Alan C

      Maybe your employer would have done better to have a spelling seminar for you. “employee’s” is not how English speakers form the plural of that word.

      • Steve LaFontaine

        fuck off asshole. nobody except pathetic know nothing grammar and spelling nazis like you give a shit. PUNK!

      • Alan C

        Thanks, you just proved that you are a documented mental deficient. LMAO retard!

      • Steve LaFontaine

        you’re a snot nosed punk! we have BEEN THERE DONE THAT! it’s lottsa fun while your young. but less so every day you age PUNK!

  • L Garou

    (aka) Simple living, high thinking.

  • Steve LaFontaine

    i have lived with NOTHING for years. now i have everything. try living comfortably when you really need something you dont have and cant get it. better to have something and not need it than need something and not have it. when you have everything you need you are free to quit buying stuff. funny how the author took her stuff back huh…. why didnt she just send the truck to the goodwill store ? because she needed her STUFF! big deal she gave away some stuff she didnt NEED anymore. so what ? who doesnt have a moving sale ? article is phony as a $3 bill.

    • Alan C


      • Steve LaFontaine

        we have BEEN THERE DONE THAT! it’s lottsa fun while your young. but less so every day you age PUNK!

  • Jay_Sherman

    While i don’t by into all the pseudo-spirituality and other philosophies often associated with minimalism, I do live a rather minimalistic life. Simply put, the more junk you have, the more time you spend using that junk; maintaining that junk; acquiring more junk; etc.

    i mean, you see people with all sorts of boats and jet-skis and ATvs and such, and really, having all these toys is just more work. Ditto appliances and electronics and gadgets -so many distractions, and always something that needs doing.

    Time is our most precious commodity- use it wisely and you will be rich, regardless of how little money you may have 9In fact, the prosperous and “rich” are often the poorest when it comes to time, and true quality of life, and often the most unhappy).

    Be free! Have time to sit on the porch and watch the clouds!; To be quiet and think and contemplate; to take a long walk with your dog; to not be in a hurry and stop and explore an interesting road!; To doodle! To write; To read the Bible and study out answers to your questions1 Just sit and listen to a symphony and let your mind wander!

    don’t waste your life living by a clock; always having to be somewhere (Sheesh! kids can’t even play freely anymore, they’re always being whisked off to structured adult-supervised activities!). Don’t waste your life pursuing credentials and working in a cubicle! Use your mind and your body!

    Live a simple life. don’t take on debt….EVER! Minimize taxes. Get plenty of sleep.

    Clearly materialism and technology are doing nothing to enhance people’s lives, as more people are miserable now than ever before. 100 years ago, people were happy with very little, because they concentrated on what mattered. My mother grew up during the Great Depression. She’s 91 and still reminisces about all of the great memories from her childhood! (Visiting a friend and being given a piece of cake; or a cousin coming over and taking her for a soda, was joyous! Today’s kids have $1000 video game systems and think their lives suck!)

  • Bradley

    Minimalists make a maximum out of a minimum. I prefer to have stuff,

  • Al Terego

    The idea of some retard using my stuff suddenly makes me want to keep it, now!

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