Faith, Leadership, Life

Less stuff. More joy.

I like stuff. A lot.

In fact I’ve spent most of my life trying to accumulate more of it.

I’ve got hobbies that require stuff. Kayaks (different ones for different situations), paddles, spray skirts, helmets, glove like things, bikes, climbing gear, camping gear, hunting gear, climbing gear, camping gear. Hell, I’ve got a shed full of gear of different kinds. But the truth is I only use a fraction of it on a yearly basis. The same is true for the stuff in my garage, and the stuff in my kitchen, and certainly the stuff in my closet, and my junk drawer. It turns out that I don’t use 80% of the stuff I own.

But, having stuff is the point right? Stuff brings happiness. Doesn’t it?

I remember as a young boy lusting after some new toy. If I could just have a set of walkie talkies then I’d be happy. As a man the objects of my affection just became more expensive . . . if I could just have an iPad, that new watch with GPS, the list goes on and on.

But stuff has baggage. If you’re not patient, and I wasn’t, stuff brings with it debt. I’ve realized that for most of my adult life a large part of our monthly budget has been used to make payments to credit cards that were used to buy stuff. Tens of thousands of dollars of stuff, most of which I don’t even remember buying. Sure, some of the debt we’ve accumulated over the decades was emergencies like groceries and house payments, but if I didn’t have so much stuff I could probably have afforded to pay cash for those necessities.

I’ve been addicted to stuff. I’ve got my self worth from stuff. I’ve thought of success as having stuff. But it’s all a farce.

Too much stuff just gets in the way. It’s clutter. It’s a distraction. And it certainly doesn’t bring happiness.

I’m sick and tired of being ruled by stuff. A wise man once wrote, “where you’re treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Whatever you treasure, is what your heart desires. I don’t want to treasure stuff above people. I don’t want to treasure stuff above experiences. I’m sick and tired of being ruled by stuff and having my budget ruled by my payments for it.

It turns out that the less stuff I have the less distracted I am. I gave away half my clothes. My closet looks cleaner. I feel relaxed there now. And I can find the clothes I actually want. I’ve sold a bunch of my gear and now I can actually find what I need when I need it. We cleared bags and bags of stuff out of our kids rooms and the same is true. Less mess, more joy.

The same thing is true of my calendar. When I look at my calendar and it’s not full I’m able to relax. When I have back to back appointments I feel the tension of busyness.

I want to find a way for our family to live simply. To not be ruled by stuff and the desire for more. To love each other and the experiences that we have together.

I think we’re just beginning this journey. The journey to contentment. A long time ago a guy named Timothy said, “True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.” It seems to me that godliness with contentment is the opposite of the American Way. We’re ungodly and never content. I want to be content. I want to be satisfied with what I have for today. It’s not that I don’t want to achieve or have goals. But I don’t want to have them at the expense of living in the present. I want to be present with my wife, kids, friends and coworkers. I want to be engaged with them in their worlds and invite them into mine. I want our family to share adventure together. To share passions. To love life together rather than always be longing for something we don’t have yet.

I want less stuff and more joy.

[HT Joshua Becker]


16 thoughts on “Less stuff. More joy.

  1. Erik G says:

    Hey Jon, I’m happy to see that you are active again on your blog. I found you while investigating Seth’s Six Month MBA and was pleasantly surprised to find that you and I share some of the same values.

    Like you I have become disenfranchised with what the message of American materialism promises.

    Two years ago I walked away from a very lucrative job which provided for any desire I might have. Our family sold our house and embarked on a two year period of travel. We were able to fit all of our worldly possessions into a 7’x14′ cargo trailer and kept only the bare essentials with us. The short story is that it was a very liberating experience. The inverse relationship between the number of my possessions and my level of joy and contentment proved true.

    I look forward to seeing what you have to share in the future. People like me want to hear about what is truly worth pursuing with our limited time.


  2. I love this Jon. Michael and I are having discussions around this very same topic. Thanks for adding to the conversation. Miss you. Hope our paths cross sometime soon. My best to Amy.

  3. Welcome back (from blogging exile).

    Yes, stuff. When we moved every 2-3 years the stuff didn’t collect or we were more disciplined about purging. Now we simply add the stuff to the stuff pile and head back to stuff mart.

  4. Mike Steele says:

    Hi Jon, Great post. I love your reflections on life and how society and culture impacts it. At some point in all our lives we recognize these things but rarely can someone “break free” of the powerful pull to live outside of the “norm” and find contentment. Change is always difficult. On the other side though, we find life and joy. Congrats.
    P.S. The calendar comment is really important.

  5. Welcome to the revolution! The clutter of our calendar is also a huge issue. Margin totally rocks.
    And welcome back to the blogosphere – missed you. Looking forward to your thoughts on life and love.

  6. Doug Edmunds says:

    It’s been a while since we chatted around a campfire at bear trap! This is a spot on word in season for me Jon, a well crafted holy nudge 🙂
    Thanks for writing, your words are distilled, condensed, and powerful, like a good whiskey! I want to say keep it up, but I don’t mean frequency, if it’s four years til the next blog then I’d happily wait!

  7. Chet Skwarcan says:

    Well said. I buy a lot of books, way too many, but your comments remind me of Essentialism by Greg McKeown. As soon as I finish reading it, I’m giving it to GoodWill. And while I’m there, I’ll probably buy a few things that are just too good to pass up…

  8. JD what is so funny to me is that a week ago you send out an email that says “please unsubscribe” and after 4 years of dormant writing….people jump out of their chairs to write you comments on your post. I’m a big fan of you and ….I think you have cool gear. Good call on less is more. Goodwill is my reconciliation for what to do with my “stuff” that is occupying space that causes me to feel slow and heavy vs. light and fast (in life). Keep going bro. You’re onto the gold.

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