Real Life Minimalists: Joel

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.

This week, Joel tells us how impending fatherhood sparked his interest in minimalism. He writes about how to simplify, organize, and be money wise on his blog, Value of Simple.

Joel writes:


It all started with, “Honey… I’m pregnant!”

That’s what my wife Melinda told me that wonderful day in April 2010, and that’s when my minimalist journey really began. By the time Grant – my first son – was born in November 2010, I was a fundamentally different person.

Initially, I had a passing interest in minimalism. I dabbled in reading Joshua Becker’s Becoming Minimalist website. I clicked on a couple of website links related to this “simplicity/minimalism” thingamajig. But I wasn’t serious about it until I learned I was going to be a papa soon.

It was at this transformative moment that I forced myself to make a giant decision: will I choose an intentional life or will I continue floating from one arbitrary point to another?

Fortunately, I choose the path of enrichment and experimentation. The quest for a personal renaissance was ignited and the light of a meaningful and rewarding legacy was lit. Not just for me, but for everyone around me.

I selected minimalism as a tool to grant me (no pun intended) the self-awareness that I had always hoped would be magically awarded. Yet unlike most people’s minimalist journeys that start with words like “decluttering” or phrases like “cleaning up the place,” mine was an inside-out quest.

I had always kept an orderly home, a clean work environment, and prized my control over physical chaos. But inside my head? There was a swirling vortex of confusion and a lack of purpose.

Minimalism made up for the absence of emotional, mental, and spiritual clarity. This tool and mindset proved itself over-and-over as I:

  • Finally defeated my video game addiction of twenty years. My new philosophy allowed me to see this as a destructive force and realize how video games would make being a responsible papa impossible.
  • Purposefully ended old relationships – without hard feelings or guilt – that weren’t benefiting anyone. More importantly, integrating minimalism revived my passion for cultivating new relationships.
  • Completely changed my relationship with food. What I consumed was now viewed through the lens of internal health for my mind and body… not how delicious that sweet treat was or how smooth that beverage went down the hatch.
  • Emphatically quit my six-figure corporate job to help people the way I know best: simplifying, organizing, and being money wise.

Consume less, create more became my battle cry. I constructed proud projects like the Continuous Creation Challenge or the Value of Simple Declaration, which signaled that my life was far removed from the feeling of needing more, more, more.

It’s amazing now to think I was just aimlessly drifting down the river, searching for calm water that would let me continue my (far too) comfortable existence. I’m so fortunate someone (Grant) and something (minimalism) came by to jolt me awake.

Even if those consumption-obsessed days are behind me, I still have my struggles and I’m certainly far from perfect. But just about everyone agrees that my minimalism fueled personal renaissance is a gift for me and for them.

Well, everyone except the advertisers trying to convince me to buy crap I don’t need or want.

{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.}

18 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Joel

  • Your personal story and transformation is inspiring Joel. It is amazing how much one receives when one lets go of so very much. Enjoy your new life, beautiful family and fulfilling work.

    • I seem to enjoy my life, wife, kids, and community more and more each day, Ahsha. Sometimes I wake up thinking there must be something weird going on to have a slow and steady building amount of gratitude… uninterrupted for about four years. I hope the weirdness continues!

      I’m curious though. What kind of experiences have you had that made you write about how much we receive when we let go?

  • Ah, Joel, I love the fact that you address internal clutter and how that can be as destructive as external clutter/hording. In particular, saying goodbye to those people in your life (or not sending as much time with them) that don’t support your new-found vision and seeking out those who do.

    While I focus on transforming the relationship with money, the concepts are so similar and keeping people in your life who fuel your attraction to spending rather than saving can have an equally detrimental effect.

    Here’s to a fulfilling and joyful life…

    • Cheers indeed, Ree. I love discussing how to have a healthy relationship with money and I’d enjoy hearing about your resources related to that. Anything that helps us have less stress from the #1 generator of it (money) is an awesome thing!

      Your words also remind me of one of my favorite quotes from the author Gail Sheehy. She said that, “The prizes of our society are reserved for outer, not inner, achievements. Scant are the trophies given for reconciling all the forces that compete to direct our development.” If only people would give us a trophy from time-to-time when we assist people with their internal chaos, huh?

  • LD

    This is one of my favorites. I’ve never really had much need for material items, so minimalism in that sense is fairly easy for me. What has intrigued me the most is minimalism in other areas of life. We’re constantly being told that more is better with pretty much everything, including people. Yet it’s all time & energy-consuming. I’d rather have less of everything, but what’s truly important-happiness, love, optimal health, (real) fun, meaningful relationships, etc. I love hearing that a man has figured it out & due to a very good cause-becoming a parent. Off to enjoy your websites…

    • Hi LD,

      Would you mind expanding on the part about a man figuring it out when it comes to minimalism? I’ve never really thought about it, but I think you’re right in that the appeal and implementation of minimalism is greater for women. But since you seem to have some good thoughts about men vs. women when it comes to simplicity, I’d like to hear more about them.

  • Hey Joel! I’m so thankful that minimalism “jolted me awake” too. I wish I’d discovered it sooner, but alas the student doesn’t find the teacher until they’re ready – or however that jazz goes. I drop by your blog every now and again – I’m a secret lurker. I too enjoy a good spreadsheet and have struggled with sugar love (still working on that). I’m rooting for you Joel! I think you’re “good people.” :)

    • Hey, Sandra! Thanks for coming out of the shadows to say, “hey!” :)

      I totally agree that we’re only receptive to a message or mission until the time is right. I would have scoffed at all the origin stories of how people got into minimalism or simplicity a few years ago, but now I love them. I’m glad I’ve translated the simplicity in spreadsheets to most other areas of my life. I guess I was ahead of my time in that regard, right?

      By the way, I’m 3+ month sugar sober with the help of and a commitment contract. I could see people using commitment contracts powerfully in all aspects of their life, including the need to “minimize.” I’m rooting for you too, Sandra! Let me know if I can help in some small way as you fight your sugar issues too.

  • Thanks for sharing your story! I think it is amazing how each person changes their life, and in your case, how just knowing you were going to be a father helped you make serious life changes. I really admire that! I have never played video games (I thank my mom for instilling a weekly library trip instead of game system) but definitely struggle with the sugar. I will check out your blog.

    • Sugar is so much harder for me to kick than video games were. I’ll thank your mom as well for taking you to the library while I was at home playing Nintendo. :)

      I hope you enjoyed your trip to Value of Simple and plan to come hang out with the community over there from time-to-time.

  • Hi again Joel. I am a Recycled Mom-a grandmother raising a grandchild. I had to let go of my daughter to receive the unconditional love and the experience of caring for her son. That bitter experience gave me so very much in return that I am still raking in the harvest. It is miraculous in fact.
    Letting go of people and things that came with such a painful high cost was something I never thought I could do. When it was forced on me, I eventually realized it was a blessing. We can never change others, only ourselves.
    Thank you Joel for helping me to reaffirm my commitments again.

  • Hello Joel

    Whilst I have read a little bit of your work before, I learned some new and interesting things about you.

    I understand your video game addiction, although mine was not as long lasting, or probably not as strong, as yours. Congrats on giving that up.

    I totally agree about getting rid of poor relationships. I love how positive and happy I feel after removing that negativity.

    I too totally changed my relationship with food, and I accidentally lost 20kg (about 45 pounds) in doing so. More importantly, I feel great!

    It is amazing what inspires our changes. Congrats on the changes you are making, and I hope that you continue your awesome internal changes and keep spreading your energetic words around the web.


    • Hi Mark. I’ve seen your name a few times as well and it’s great to see it pop up here too. Unlike you, I look like the same guy now compared to the person people saw before my personal renaissance. The difference is all internal… and that’s where it counts (for me). Congrats on your internal *and* external changes though! Accidentally losing all that weight while minimizing other things is quite the achievement.

  • Tina

    I am finding minimalism stories I missed on my first trip through this site. Seeing hoards gets me cleaning every time. We fill a bag for Goodwill every week. This week my husband passed on some shoes. I gave more books away to the library.

  • Tina

    I got rid of some craft materials and some DVD’s. I gave away some books and took a book out of the library. I continue to recycle and declutter every day. Yet there is still more to be rid of. I wanted to empty 1 bookcase, now my goal is 2 empty bookcases. As we get older and travel with less and need less, we are looking at empty space as soothing to the eyes.

  • Tina

    I have more dishes to give away and when I visit my brother in a few weeks, I will clean out his linen closet and sort through a bunch of shoes. He knows how much I enjoy decluttering. Last time I visited him I found 10 garbage bags full of clothes to give away.

  • Tina

    I just visited my sister and went through a stack of magazines going back to 1997. I kept only parts a library or school could use. I left her only 2016 and 2017. My BIL asked me to sort them. I helped my nephew declutter his room by asking him which caused less stress– sorting clothes or papers. He filled some bags for recycling and Sal. Army right away. I never buy new gift wrap. Either it is from the thrift store, used, or the paper from filling packing boxes. I have also put dollar coins in Altoid boxes a friend gives me. Kids like those for gifts, too.

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