Is Minimalism the Key to Happiness?

Dee Williams tiny House. Image courtesy of www.thislittlelife.com

Dee Williams tiny House. Image courtesy of www.thislittlelife.com

Take a quick look around your kitchen.  How many items do you have?  If you do much cooking at all, you likely have many pots, pans, skillets, muffin tins, and baking sheets.  How many pieces of silverware do you have?  How many kitchen pieces do you have that you never use?

Walk into your master closet.  How many pairs of shoes do you have?  How many pieces of clothing?  Do you have clothing hanging in your closet that still has the tags on?

We live in an era of big houses and large walk-in closets.  We have garages that we can’t park in because they’re filled with “stuff.”  We rent out storage units to keep our stuff that doesn’t fit in our house.

We have plenty, probably too much, but are we happier?

Getting Off the Accumulation Roller Coaster

Sometimes we need a significant mental shift to get off the accumulation roller coaster.

The New York Times recently featured the story of Dee Williams who had a heart attack 10 years ago when she was just 40.  She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and told she had one to five years to live.

Suddenly, paying a mortgage on her 3 bedroom house didn’t make much sense.  She sold her home and most of her possessions.  She built a tiny, 84 square foot home, and now has just 305 possessions.  That includes pieces like her mattress and quilt.

Is Reducing Your Possessions the Key to Happiness?

Most of us wouldn’t go to such extremes, but taking a good look at what makes us happy and how much we need can certainly improve our financial situation.

Consider if you sold half of your current possessions.  How would you feel?  Would you be lacking, or would you still have more than enough “stuff” to meet your needs?




Think of having 50% less possessions.  Would you need that large walk-in closet?  Would you need a storage unit?  Would you even need the same size house, or could you comfortably fit in a smaller house without so much “stuff.”

If you could live in a smaller house, your utility expenses would likely be lower.  You’d have a smaller mortgage.  Your house would be easier to clean.  You’d buy less and have fewer financial responsibilities, so more of the money you earn would be yours to keep.

Many of us are in a vicious cycle.  We work hard so we can afford to buy stuff.  Then we want more, so we have to work harder.  Because we’re working so hard, we’re tired and feel we deserve a treat, so we buy more.  On and on we go.

Not all of us will experience a life changing event like Dee Williams did.  Even those of us who do likely won’t go to the extremes that Williams did.  However, truly evaluating what we need and getting rid of the extras we don’t really want or need can revolutionize our lives for the better and lead to more self-satisfaction.

Do you have too much “stuff”, or are you a minimalist at heart?

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9 Comments

  1. dojo says:

    I think balance is the way to happiness. Sometimes we tend to hoard and it’s clearly a bad idea. Still, getting rid of everything to be ‘minimal’ is in my opinion a bad call. Just keep what you need and makes you happy 🙂

  2. I’m more a fan of experiences, than accumulating stuff. I figure the less stuff I have, the less stuff I have to clean, organize and pack up if I ever move.

    Minimalism just seems simpler and cleaner. 🙂

  3. Miel says:

    I’m in agreement with keeping things to a minimum, but most important is if something brings utility or joy. We can all certainly agree that more stuff doesn’t necessarily make you happier.

  4. I can say that I’m a minimalist because I only own a few pairs of sandals, shoes and clothes. I don’t buy new things that I still have. But sometimes I splurge on some other things too. 🙂

  5. Mike Goodman says:

    Living within your means is the golden rule. Remember that most of the things you buy have its own additional expense when it comes to your budget. Planning well, taking into consideration how much you will spend or save in the future and identifying what you really need vs what you just want.

  6. Food for thought, that’s for sure. I recently watched the Sean Penn film “Into the Wild” about the true story of Christopher McCandless and his journey into the Alaskan wilderness, and have been inspired ever since to lead a more minimalist lifestyle. Great film – highly recommended if you haven’t seen it.

  7. Interesting perspective. I think contentment is the key to happiness.

  8. waala says:

    i am having (opposite) haha less and less stuff
    still get a dunlop boot here (n. atlantic) and/or an o’neill jacket there, the rest 2nd hand and a good natural laundry soap will do it, in regards furniture only the essential, and no dust-collectors (little useless objects people call decoration) and few portraits with us… i love space and my mind too, so cramping or hoarding my home with ”stuff” is not me… loved if they built seats protruding from concrete walls and low height panoramic glass windows behind it… everything plain and smooth, ergonomic tables and seats and like i have a huge king size mattress in the floor and queens around other bedrooms for my sons… space and less stuff haha i will be there…

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