How to Balance Minimalism With Wanting More

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Balancing minimalism with wanting more can be a challenge. I share how I’ve come to balance the two and still be able to work towards long-term goals.

We were having dinner with some good friends recently, and the topic of minimalism came up over the course of the evening. They know I’ve left my former packrat ways in favor of a more simplistic, minimalistic life and had some questions as to how that was going and how we’re seeking balance.

Balance, especially when you’ve been on an extreme, can be a challenge to attain. You, or at least I, want to swing instantly to the other extreme and, as a result, overcorrect and end up in a situation you don’t want to be in. Such can be the case of a spender and packrat turning towards minimalism.

The newfound excitement of being free of a bunch of junk can lead you to think having a lot less is better and bringing something into your house is against some sort of creed, and you need to feel shame. Of course, that’s not the case though it doesn’t mean it’s easy to find balance between the two. Here’s what has stuck out in my mind as we seek to embrace minimalism.

It’s Not Bad to Want Something


It’s easy to pick this idea up in the personal finance space, especially from those with a frugal or minimalist bent. It’s easy to see spending on something that’s apparently frivolous as bad and saving it or getting rid of something is good. It is understandable why this is a prevailing ideal as you don’t want to spend foolishly.

Advertisers try to do anything they can to separate us from our money. They appeal to our felt need to have the latest and greatest or the sense to belong and get us to spend our hard earned money to achieve it. Taken to the extreme that behavior can lead to debt, less money to save or being overwhelmed by junk.

As someone who wants to live more simply, it’s easy to see why you want to avoid such circumstances. However, that doesn’t mean it’s bad to want something. That something is relative to your situation and means, but as long as it’s not leading you into debt, it’s not bad – especially if it brings you enjoyment. Of course, it’s not bad to want something and I have learned to accept that as we seek a life on our terms.

Don’t Be the Joneses


We hear all the time about the Joneses. They’re the first to have the latest toy and they drive the high-priced cars, but in reality, they’re poor because they spend all their money on things.

Just as we see the Joneses on the free spending end of the extreme, we also see them on the minimalistic side. We see it in the popularity of the tiny house movement. TV shows make living in a 300 square foot house seem so luxuriously simple that it’s bound to be something more people should pursue.

What’s often left out is that tiny house living isn’t terribly practical for many and brings with its own set of unique risks. This doesn’t mean we should shun it altogether, but tiny house living should be done mindfully – as with anything else important in life. It’s important to go after something you want because it makes sense for your life, not because it’s what “everyone else” is doing.

Balancing minimalism with wanting more can be a challenge. I share how I’ve come to balance the two and still be able to work towards long-term goals.

It Comes Down to Knowing What You Want in Life


As with many other financial issues, minimalism and finding balance comes down to knowing what you want in life. We talk a lot here about taking a long-term view of your life and finances. That’s incredibly important, from saving for retirement to paying off debt, you want to know where you’ll be 10, 20 and 30 years from now.

However, it’s also important to know what kind of life you want in the present. You need to have some sort of outlet, or activity you get enjoyment from now. Otherwise, life can get boring awfully quickly. That’s really the crux of the issue in my opinion – knowing how to achieve the kind of life you want now, without sacrificing your future.

For the minimalist, this may mean coming to the understanding that it’s ok to bring things into their house they enjoy knowing it’s not going to lead to becoming a hoarder.  For the packrat, this may mean determining what, if any, value items in their home add to their long-term future. It may not be the easiest exercise, but I find it makes it simpler to find a balance between minimalism and wanting more.


How do you balance minimalism and wanting more? Who are the Joneses you try to keep up with? How do you determine if it’s okay to spend on something if you question the long-term value?

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John is the founder of Frugal Rules, a dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry whose writing has been featured in Forbes, CNBC, Yahoo Finance and more.

Passionate about helping people learn from his mistakes, John shares financial tools and tips to help you enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. One of his favorite tools is Personal Capital , which he used to plan for retirement and keep track of his finances in less than 15 minutes each month.

Another one of John's passions is helping people save $80 per month by axing their expensive cable subscriptions and replacing them with more affordable ones, like Hulu with Live TV.

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  • Kathy says:

    I’m definitely not a hoarder but I’m far from being a minimalist. I see this discussion somewhat the same as the things vs. experiences arguments. What bothers me is too many articles I read definitely infers that if you are a minimalist, that somehow you are superior to those who like things. And likewise, those who like experiences are superior to people who like things. While I didn’t get this vibe from your post, it can become pretty easy to judge.

    • John Schmoll says:

      I’m glad you didn’t get that vibe Kathy as I wasn’t trying to give it…you just said it better than I did. 🙂 I would agree with you. We were never hoarders but did have too much stuff. I think the key is finding some semblance of balance that makes you happy and that just because you want things that doesn’t make you inherently worse. The same goes with experiences vs. things argument.

  • Kathryn @ Making Your Money Matter says:

    I’ve never thought before of the Joneses being anything other than “that” family that has it all-the huge house, fancy cars and all the new gadgets. It was eye-opening for me to think about how the Joneses in our lives are also the minimalists in your example that seem to have everything optimized and their entire lives figured out. I think there are lots of other Joneses in between those that have it all and those who choose not to have any of it intentionally.
    Really, I’m somewhere on the journey to minimalism, while keeping the things that add value in my life (a house that’s more than 500 square feet is certainly one of their things)! It’s about intentional living and also intentional spending.

    • John Schmoll says:

      I really hadn’t either Kathryn, but as I think about it more I think there are more out there than we realize – besides those that *seem* to have everything. That being said, completely agreed, it comes down to intentional living and spending – if you’re not doing that then you can go off course from what you want/need.

  • Financial Panther says:

    Really like how you talk about balancing the two points of view. In the PF community, there definitely is a bit of a superiority thing for people who spend less on stuff and pay for experiences. Ultimately, what matters is what you care about. I’m not a minimalist myself, but I also try my best not to accumulate to much stuff either. It’s a balance between the two.

    • John Schmoll says:

      That’s exactly it FP, you’re dead on. You need to have some semblance of balance and that’s going to look different for all of us.

  • Amanda @ centsiblyrich says:

    When we first started to really declutter about a decade ago, it felt wonderful. As we got rid of more and more “stuff” we weren’t using and freed up space, the house felt more clean and peaceful, which is a feeling I love. But, I still own plenty of “stuff”, live in a moderately sized home, and still keep some things “just in case”.

    You’re absolutely right about finding the balance, Jon. What works for one person isn’t necessarily what will work for another. For me, it’s finding that sweet spot of being comfortable and at peace in my home.

    • John Schmoll says:

      I think we’re in a very similar position Amanda. It feels great to get rid of a bunch of stuff we don’t need or use, but we still have the things we enjoy and live in a decent sized house. I guess part of that is learning not to pendulum swing in my older/hopefully wiser years. 🙂

  • DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    I’m not going to lie – I want stuff! I like having things so that when I need them they are there. But yes this mentality does conflict with minimalism.

    For me it’s the same sort of approach as you talked about in this post – knowing what you truly want. I prioritize what I want in life with the stuff that I purchase – or don’t purchase – as well as what I sell and get rid of.

    • John Schmoll says:

      Oh, I like having things as well, just being more mindful about what it is and not feeling bad because you want things. I think it’s easy to think it’s “bad” to buy things within our community, but it’s really not – especially if it isn’t causing you to go into debt.

  • Nicole says:

    I enjoy acquiring new stuff sometimes, but I try very hard to make sure it’s stuff I will actually derive joy from and use. If not, I will regard it as something I like, but do not want to own, and pass it by. On the few occasions where I’ve purchased something I never used I was so mad at myself for being wasteful. Spending money is ok in my book, whether it’s on things or experiences, so long as you feel it brought something positive into your life. Wasting money, on the other hand, is one thing that really gets to me and I try very hard to avoid it.

  • Millennial Money says:

    Thanks for sharing John. I believe that true financial happiness exists when you find your own balance between spending and saving. A lot of people either spend too much and save too little, or save too much and spend too little. Both of those will make you unhappy.

  • Suzie says:

    I have never really been a hoarder or collector. I tend toward clutter, paper variety (ie books, magazines, bills). Anyway, it has been interesting to notice how my perspective on things has changed over time; especially after experiencing life-changing events (death of parents, loss of jobs, serious illness of a spouse). I am only a few years from retirement and again my opinions are changing. I realize “things” are only important based on the value they bring to enhance my life, same with “experiences.”

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