Real Life Minimalists: Jason Billows

Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.

Today, I’m pleased to share this contribution from Jason Billows, blogger at Stop & Breathe. Jason tells us how he “accidentally” became a minimalist and how it has made him and his family happier.

Jason writes:

An Accidental Minimalist

Jason Billows

Jason Billows

I used to have lots of stuff. I had work stuff, personal stuff, sport stuff, household stuff, workshop stuff, school stuff – there was an endless amount of stuff. Of course I had to have somewhere to put all of my stuff, so I had a big house.

Over time my stuff started to get heavy, and not just in physical terms. It weighed on my spirit, my conscience, my happiness. The stuff became clutter. It was in the way. Some of my stuff had gone unused for years. I started to feel irresponsible and wasteful. I also started to question my choice of home. One day when cleaning, I realized I was standing in a bedroom that I hadn’t been in for over three months. The sole purpose for the room was to hold stuff I didn’t need. It was excessive.

My stuff and my big home were making me unhappy. I had spent too much time, money and effort trying to keep up with the Jones’ and making choices based on what other people expected of me. It was time for a change.

Three years ago I moved from my big suburban home to a condo apartment in downtown, Ottawa. It was a shock. My condo seemed small and had no room for my stuff, so I started to unload the excess. I donated clothes and furniture to good will, gave sporting goods to friends, sold items online, and recycled those items for which I couldn’t find a home.

It wasn’t easy. I was attached to my stuff. I tried to convince myself that every item had a story, a use, or reason to keep it. But the reality was that most of my stuff had gone unused for months or years. I stuck to my plan and continued to purge.

In time, it not only became easier to let my stuff go, it became cathartic. I felt as if a weight was being lifted off my shoulders. My small condo suddenly seemed spacious and I felt good knowing that my stuff was now with people who needed it and would use it.

Two years ago, I met the woman of my dreams and she moved into the condo with me. We had to let go of even more stuff to make room, but it felt good. And now, with our first child due to arrive in one month’s time, we’re making room by getting rid of even more stuff.

It has certainly been challenging at times, but overall we love our “less is more” approach to life. We’re happier living a life driven by our needs and not by what we can afford. Simply put, living in a smaller space with less stuff is not restrictive, we have actually found it liberating.

Last year a friend commented, “You’re quite the minimalist.” I had never heard the term and had to look it up. Am I a minimalist? Not on purpose. Perhaps I’m an accidental minimalist. I did make changes to my life that could be considered minimalist in nature, but I don’t aspire to be labeled a minimalist. I have simply found more happiness with less.

If you would like to learn more about me, visit my blog at Stop & Breathe, which provides insights, tools and information to help us savor life one breath at a time.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or subscribing to my RSS feed.}

27 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Jason Billows

  • Very inspiring story from someone in my hometown!
    It is a small cyberworld…

    The coincidences don’t stop there. I’m about to start to get in shape, as soon as I get rid of my bronchitis. I’ve never been athletic (Wow, you’re training for your third Ironman!) and need to motivate myself. Sadly, all my life I’ve associated exercise with pain and boredom.

    I will be reading your blog for information and inspiration. I hope it will help me unravel the mystery of how/why some people enjoy exercise and develop strategies to join them. ;o)

    • I think you’ve got it figured out… do something you enjoy to make fitness enjoyable. If you don’t enjoy it, exercise will be pain and boredom as you say.

      I’ll look forward to sharing more with you at Stop & Breathe. I hope you’ll participate in some of the comments and share your experiences.

  • Chantale

    That’s my friend Jason! We’ve had a few conversations about this and when we spoke this just made sense. Now my husband and I are in the long process of paring down and it feels great Jason is an inspiration – not only for paring down, but just in general. We were at his first Ironman to cheer him on! Thanks Jason for sharing. His blog is very inspirational – check it out.

  • That’s very interesting… I also feel that I’ve become a minimalist a bit by accident. Though I am aware that I’ve liked the minimalist ‘look’ for a long time (I like tidiness and order and have always felt uncomfortable in cluttered environments), it is only recently that I have discovered than there are many other aspects of my philosophy of life that fit with minimalism (mainly through reading blogs like this one) and it make so much sense to me that I’ve decided to embrace it to the full.
    Oh, and I’ve started a blog as well, but I’m not 100% sure where I’m going with that yet..!

    • I think that minimalism is something we’re all drawn to in one way or another and it’s only when we’re honest with what we truly want (not what we think others want of us) that we learn to embrace it. I’m glad you’re on that path.

  • Great to ‘meet’ you Jason! I’ll head over to your blog to read more about you!

  • Gil

    Beautiful Story, Jason.

  • Hi Jason,

    Nice to run into you here. I can really relate to your standing in a room you haven’t been in for three months! The feeling of lightness that is acquired by lessening our load of material goods really has such a huge payoff in many ways.

    I write occasionally about living simply (and do have Francine’s and your links on my page), and mostly about celebrating peace through the arts. If I wasn’t living as simply as I am, I don’t think I would be thinking very clearly about the bigger picture!

    Keep up the great blog!


    • Hi Debi. Thanks so much for your comment. It’s nice to run into you here. I appreciate the support and all the support you’ve shown me at Stop & Breathe. I hope others will check out One Heart and everything you have to offer there.

  • Kim

    Nice story, Jason. I look forward to checking out your blog.

    I hate to be a downer, but if there is a child in your future – prepare to buy another big house to store all your stuff. You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

    • Hi Kim. I chuckled when I read your comment about needing a bigger place with a baby on the way.

      Our son Caelan is now 5 weeks old and I’m happy to say that we’re still embracing a minimalist lifestlye. Sure we need more stuff for the baby, but not nearly as much as most parents seem to think they need. It’s amazing what the marketing machines can convince people as being “necessary” for raising a kid. I’ll be writing a lot more about our minimalist baby adventures at Stop & Breathe if you’re interested. All to say that there’s no plans for a bigger home anytime in the near future. :-)

      Take care.

  • Diane

    Thanks for sharing your story…very inspirational! My husband and I have talked non-stop the past 6 months about downsizing our home and the responsibilities that go with it. Your story gives me more courage in doing so! I’m ready to go to the next level of keeping it simple…

  • Brenda

    I am not a parent, so I cannot speak as to what things are needed for a new child, but there are many comments and postings on this blog by parents who have been able to maintain a minimalist lifestyle even with children.

  • You can totally live a minimalist, simple life with a child. You just have to want to. It means more time and money to spend doing fun things, it means a more peaceful and serene home. It means teaching your child values. It means closeness, physical as well as emotional.

  • It is so much easier to take on this outlook for life now, while a little younger and before you have a family. Once you have your family and have accumulated stuff, it makes it much more difficult to make that change. That is where I am right now. I have 30 years of marriage, 30 years of stuff and we want to downsize, but there is just SO much!
    Good for you Jason! Coming over to visit your blog!
    Have you outgrown your pot?

    • I agree that the more you have the harder it can be. But I also believe that the more you have the more you have to gain by embracing a minimalist approach. Just start out small and tackle your change one step at a time.

      I’ll look forward to having you visit Stop & Breathe.

  • Fawn

    Jason, you are so right that the marketers try to convince us that we need all sorts of stuff for our children that we don’t. Stuff is a burden to our kids too. I have four kids. I blog about minimalist and single-parenting at

    Welcome to parenthood. It is a wild ride. It will take you to places you never thought to go, and I don’t mean Disney World.

  • Kim

    It’s a great story. I love how you inheritantly realized over time that having so much stuff (and room to store the stuff) was excessive. You followed your gut and your gut brought you to a smaller space! Me and my husband and two dogs live in a very small house. I love it! We have only what we need. When something comes in the door my rule is to carry something out of the door by donating or selling it. Stuff doesn’t make you happy. It’s so fun to read about people who’ve come to that realization.

    • Thanks, Kim! And may I add that I love your blog. :-) I haven’t been RTW, but I’ve seen a lot of it and our minimalist lifestyle is allowing us the means to continue traveling. Our little boy has now spent 40% of his life traveling (he’s 5 weeks, lol) and we’re planning to spend two months in Costa Rica this Fall. Enjoy your RTW trip. Wherever your travels take you, have fun and be safe.

  • Tina

    I look for older posts I haven’t seen. I keep getting rid of things every week. Books, T-shirts, hobby materials and equipment, costume jewelry. My goal is to get rid of some of the furniture we have -bookcases and a few cupboards.

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