I Tried Minimalism—and I Saved $150,000 in the Last 10 and a Half Years

A minimalist lifestyle has more benefits than organized closets. Here's how one man embraced the idea of living with less and ultimately saved $150,000.

Stuff doesn’t make you happy

Joshua Becker headshot

Joshua Becker has long been a proponent of the benefits of minimalism. The choice to live a life with less focus on “stuff” and more on the things which really matter inspired Becker to create BecomingMinimalist.com and write five books on the topic, including his most recent The Minimalist Home. Here, in his own words, he shares his journey.

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My life changed while I was cleaning out my garage one Memorial Day Weekend. I had intended to spend the weekend with my family… once I finished up a little spring cleaning of my garage. Every 15 minutes or so, my five-year-old son kept asking me to play and I kept pushing him off while one thing led to another.

My neighbor stopped by and I complained to her about how much time had gone into my one chore. She changed my life with one sentence when she replied, “That’s why my daughter is a minimalist. She keeps telling me I don’t need to own all this stuff.”

Plus: Check out the 30 things in your home you should get rid of by age 30.

As she made that comment, I looked at my driveway containing the pile of dirty, dusty things I’d spent all morning cleaning and organizing. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my five-year-old son alone on the swing set in the backyard—the same backyard he had played alone in all morning long…wanting nothing more than his dad to come out and play catch.

At that moment, I realized something very significant: everything I owned was not making me happy. But even more, I realized that everything I owned was taking me away from the very things that did bring me happiness in life. That ten-second conversation changed my life for good.

Start with easy spaces

When we first began to minimize the possession in our home, we started with the easy-to-complete, lived-in areas of our home. The more challenging spaces like the garage, basement, and attic, and difficult, sentimental collections were left until the end.

Over the course of nine months, we made a sweep through the home looking for items that could easily be removed, like clothes that didn’t fit, games we didn’t play, outdated electronics, and old worn-out things that should have been trashed or recycled years ago. Then we began working room-by-room, the living room, the bedroom, the bathroom, the closets, the kitchen, the home office, etc. We ended up hosting a big garage sale and donated everything that didn’t sell.” When you’re ready to declutter your own home, you can start gradually by avoiding these items.

Be prepared for minimizing your belongings to bring up emotions

We knew getting rid of sentimental things from our past wouldn’t be easy, but we were more focused on the benefits of owning less that we were beginning to experience. We could see that having boxes and boxes of sentimental objects piled up in the basement was not the best way to live life. We fully believed that minimizing possessions and owning less would free us up to become better parents, better spouses, and more focused on the things we wanted and kept looking forward.

Plus: Learn what you need to know about Swedish death cleaning here.

Little changes pay off big

Eventually, we pared down about 50 percent of our books, decorations, and various kitchen gear, including plates, mugs, and gadgets. We cut down on bed linens to one set per bed and kept two to three towels per person. We removed unnecessary furniture including an armoire, nightstand, three TVs, and a piano. In my wardrobe alone, I removed about 75 percent of my clothing and went from 120+ items down to 33. All these changes meant that our family was able to downsize from a 2,300 square foot home to a 1,600 square foot one, which was significantly less expensive. You can feel good about getting rid of these items in your closet.

We are able to save a lot of money

Joshua Becker familyCourtesy Joshua Becker

While moving into a smaller home was the biggest financial saver of them all—around $13,000 each year in mortgage costs, insurance, utility bills, and upkeep—it wasn’t our only one. We are also buying less of everything…less clothing, furniture, toys, electronics, games, kitchenware, linens, etc. On their birthdays, our kids get one gift, at the holidays they each receive three: one thing they want, one thing they need, and one experience to share with the family. Total, our minimalist lifestyle saves us around $14,375 annually.

Minimalism is about so much more than owning less

It is freeing to own less; owning fewer possessions frees up money, time, energy, and focus. Not only did we spend less, but it’s less stressful and easier to clean a smaller, less cluttered household. In addition, we are consuming less, which is better for the environment.

It helps you achieve your goals

In 2015, my wife and I founded The Hope Effect, a nonprofit organization focused on the care and wellbeing of orphans around the world. Kim, my wife, was adopted and orphan care has always been a passion of ours. Once we moved into a smaller, less expensive home and began refraining from purchasing things we do not need, there was and is more money available for causes such as this. Ready to minimalize your home?

Next, check out: 35 Brilliant Ways to Save Money Around Your Home.

Originally Published on Reader's Digest

Michelle L. Black
Michelle Black is a credit expert with over 16 years of experience in the industry and a freelance writer. She specializes in credit reporting, credit scoring, financing (mortgages, credit cards, loans), debt eradication, budgeting, saving, and identity theft. Michelle is also the founder of CreditWriter.com and HerCreditMatters.com—a blog aimed at helping women support each other as they take charge of credit, money, family, and parenting issues in a safe, judgment-free space. She holds a Bachelor's of Arts in Spanish and French from Winthrop University. When she isn't writing about credit and money, Michelle enjoys traveling with her family and taking Tae Kwon Do classes with her two young children. She and her son currently hold first-degree black belts and her daughter is scheduled to join them, earning her black belt as well within the year.