Ten years ago I set out on a path to living a simpler, more purposeful life.
With two toddlers, a third on the way, and nowhere near anyone we knew, I craved a slower pace of life that focused on our little growing family.
Living in a too posh loft in a too expensive city, we were working to live. I wanted to enjoy my family and slow down. Everything was moving at warped speed and with a huge price tag.
Success in America generally means buying more, doing more and having more.
A bigger house, fancier car and posh trips mean you have made it. I’ve been there, I believed it and I turned the other way and dumped it all in the trash.
Over the years of downsizing, living on less, getting out of debt, and being with each other more, my definition of success completely took a 180.
I’ve seen both sides and true success doesn’t cause you to toss and turn at night thinking of the mounting bills.
Success means freedom. Freedom to be with those I love most, when I want and how I want. It’s not seeing them on the weekends while we get chores done.
It’s not parking the cars outside because the garage is so full of stuff and there’s no place to park them. And it’s definitely not sitting in rush hour traffic, after being out of the house before sunrise.
Luckily, I’ve broken free of those societal chains of success, and created my own, much more fulfilling version.
I call it my decluttered life, and I can’t imagine living any other way.
I love quotes. They provide a concise insight into a deep part of life that reminds us, we can go off the beaten track and find peaceful happiness.
These are the 10 quotes that changed everything I thought about success and remind me often why I decluttered my life.
If you are wanting a change in the rhythm of your everyday life, I hope these words will inspire you too.
10 Inspirational Quotes That Remind Me Why I Decluttered My Life
1. “Love people, use things. The opposite almost never works.” -The Minimalists
When you have children, things will break in the house.
It happens to everyone. A porcelain dinner plate that is part of a discontinued set, now sits on the kitchen floor in a million little pieces. It happens.
When your daughter reaches for her doll that somehow ended up on your dresser and knocks the Tiffany frame displaying your wedding day. It happens.
That ceramic bowl you bought in the tiny pueblo on your honeymoon ends chipped and scratched at the bottom of the toy chest. It happens.
This quote, under 10 words, sums up what all those things are really worth..nothing. People over possessions every day of the week.
2. “The first step in crafting the life you want is to get rid of everything you don’t.” – Joshua Becker
This is totally counter-intuitive to American consumer lifestyle where buying more things is marketed as the key to happiness and fulfillment.
When I would complain that I wanted more time with my family, my choices were not alignment with my sentiment. I complained about being busy and yet took on more commitments and volunteering. I said yes to helping with my kid’s school events, leaving me less time to be with my actual kids.
It didn’t make sense.
My values and my actions were not in agreement. The first step towards slowing down, was to say no to everything that was speeding me up. Each kid was given one and only one extracurricular. I stopped saying yes at work to managing more projects, even if it meant more money.
Money and time are often at odds. If I took more projects at work, yes I’m making more money, but I’m also giving them more time. Time that I wanted to spend with my family.
We make choices everyday about how we want our life to look and feel. It’s hard to get to the core, when it’s surrounded by burning trees. Clear the forest.
3. “You have succeeded in life when all you really want, is all you really need.” -Vernon Howard
Our needs are little, our wants are infinite.
Chasing our wants, when we have everything we need in front of us is a one-way ticket to disappointment. I used to be the retail therapy poster child. Got a bad grade in college, buy some shoes. Didn’t get the job I wanted, buy a sweater. Got in a fight with a friend, the ice cream shop better be open, double scoop sundae with peanuts, whipped cream and a cherry on top.
That last want still helps some, but the rest has been a saver on my pocketbook. Most times now, I’ll take 24 hours to decide if I really want to make that add to cart a reality or not.
9 times out of 10, I don’t get past the shopping cart purchase and it feels great. Health for myself and family is the one need that I will always want.
4. “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” -Will Rogers
Over 10 years ago when I began this journey to a simpler, minimalistic life, I didn’t even know there was a whole lifestyle associated with it. I just knew the way we were living in Boston; in a too expensive apartment with a fancy zip code and a stroller that cost more than most people’s rent, was by far, a lifestyle I was living for someone else.
It was not me, or the life I wanted my children to grow up emulating.
Having debt is no fun. It’s a stream of restless nights and stress filled bickering with your spouse. It’s deciding between a week of home-cooked food or one night at a Michelin restaurant.
Once we made the decision to downsize, let go and save up, the cloud of despair lifted from our fancy loft apartment.
Forget keeping up appearances. The ones who care about it, will be the first ones to walk out when you don’t. A whole lot of my friendships changed after I started passing on the hotel dinners and designer shopping sprees.
To them, I wasn’t as fun anymore.
To me, I never felt more alive.
5. “The simplest things are often the truest.” -Richard Bach
If someone asked you right now, what matters to you. What is important? What makes you light up?
I can almost bet you won’t say, “The car I just leased,” or “The video game I bought my kid.” What matters in life is never bought, sold or bartered. They say if you don’t learn a lesson it keeps coming back to you over and over.
I lost my father very young, way before I was married or had children of my own. Losing him hurt, but not learning the lesson 20 years later hurt even more. It took falling into huge debt to realize what matters most is not things, not big homes, not fancy vacations and posh living.
It’s people. They are the only commodity we cannot replace once gone. There’s a famous phrase, “Keep it super simple.” (It’s actually said another way, but I like to keep things positive here.)
Buy a new car? Renovate your home? Overhaul your backyard?
Keep it super simple.
6. “More was never the answer. The answer, it turned out, was always less.” -Cait Flanders
The biggest con of man is believing we need to keep buying more to be successful, happy and worthy. Your worth is not tied up in material things. It’s not in what you can pay for. It’s not in what you can show on Facebook or Instagram.
Think of your favorite picture, it probably has some special people in it. Remove every object from that picture. Remove the toy they’re holding, the candles they’re blowing, the ring shining, and what’s left is exactly all that matters. You don’t love the picture less because of the items that are taken away, you love the picture more because of who it is.
That is the way I look around my home now. If a plate broke, the glass fell off the table, someone stepped on my watch, it’s just a thing. Some are more expensive than others, but they are all replaceable.Even if it’s no longer in production. It’s a thing, material items that come and go.
What doesn’t come and go? Parents, children, spouses, friends, community. Take away the cars they drive, the jewelry they flash, and the vacations they experience. You love them for just them, and the biggest truth, they love you for the same reason also.
7. “The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” -Socrates
They knew something we didn’t.
Simplicity, minimalism, decluttering, whatever you call it in this present time, existed long before we were. From Socrates to Aristotle and even Einstein, there is a common thread of focusing on less, not more, for a fulfilling life.
I feel I’m in good company, when I read quotes, and passages from wise scholars all lamenting the same message, that true purpose and contentment can never be found in things. Remove all of it and what remains are the people, experiences and moments in between.
It may be called ‘less’ but I think it’s actually the more, and getting rid of all the other stuff was the less.
8. “Clutter smothers. Simplicity breathes.” -Terry Guillemets
There is a heavy mental weight of having immense physical stuff. If you have ever shuddered, sighed, or shook seeing all the stuff in your house, there’s too much. The clutter is weighing you down and bringing you down. It starts to feel like it’s all closing in on you.
That was me when I finally had my breaking point. It was another day of picking up all the kid’s stuff, only to wonder what would happen if I just threw it all away. Would the kids even notice? “Free time” was spent cleaning up and organizing, putting things away in pretty baskets and bins.
Having an empty shelf is far more aesthetically pleasing than one full of wicker baskets. It’s easy on the eye and on the heart.
9. “It’s the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” -Laura Ingalls Wilder
If you were ever a Little House on the Prairie fan, you most likely cherish the simpler things in life. That show was my first introduction to life in simpler form.
Having grown up in Chicago and Los Angeles, I was fascinated with Laura Ingalls. I was captivated watching a little girl my age live a life in the country with her siblings in a tiny log cabin. I’m sure those formative years watching life on simpler terms influenced me to eventually want to replicate it myself.
The simple things are indeed the sweetest.
10. “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” -Annie Dillard
The daily habits, the everyday routines, the color-coded charts all add up to how we are living our life.
Picking up stuff everywhere and re-organizing a shelf for the third time is not how I want to spend my days. That should be the background part of life, the part that is blurred in a portrait picture.
It’s not the Disney vacation, or family parties that happen once a year or less that create a life. It’s the days at home, the days in private, the days that don’t make Instagram. Those are the days that make up a life.
Decluttering your life, from physical and mental weight does not happen overnight, but it’s worth the effort and time. It is the fastest way to a more intentional and purposeful life.
If you strip away all the material and noise that surrounds us in our homes and in our world, the only thing we would want to remain are the people we love.
It’s as simple as that.