From Rags To Stuff To Intentional Simplicity: My Continuing Journey

I grew up poor. My family had little money. My dad was the pastor of a small-town church. My mom was a stay-home mom. We didn’t go hungry, but we didn’t have an abundance either. I remember wearing hand-me-down rags and relying on government food.

Photo by Deccio Creative

A Life That Started In Rags

Later, as a young adult, I worked in fast food and retail. I lived in trailers and studio apartments. I walked and rode bike as my primary modes of transportation. I dressed in little more than rags. Although, my life wasn’t bad, I thought I was missing something. There had to be more.

So at the age of 30, I went back to school and earned a few degrees. I started making more money. I started moving from rags to stuff. Life was good. A 2000-square-foot house and three cars in the driveway was living proof. So I thought.

Why Did I Think Life Would Be Easier With More?

Sometimes the dream is an illusion. The American Dream is no different. The more stuff we buy, the more tied down we become. With more purchases comes more responsibility. A big house, three cars, and expensive furnishings come with a price tag. That price is more than money. The price tag includes your time, your energy, even your heart and soul. Maybe rags wasn’t so bad.

The bigger my paycheck, the deeper my debt became. The deeper the debt, the more time I had to spend working. That meant less time for my loved ones, my friends, and my hobbies.

After a few years of upward mobility, I started rethinking things. Why did I want more? What good did I gain from an abundance of material things. And I noticed something. Half of the stuff I owned went unused. 

I found myself beginning to long for the simplicity I’d had in my 20s. And then I got a job 2000 miles away. I had to move from Indiana to Washington State. That’s when I made the conscious decision to start living as simply as possible. I purged two-thirds of everything I owned. I wouldn’t go back to rags, I’d live an intentionally simple life.

Why I Choose To Live With Less

You’ve heard the old saying, “less is more.” It’s true. Let’s count a few of the ways that less is really more:

  1. Less house is more money: A smaller home can save you $1000s per month.
  2. Less furniture is more space: A spacious feeling in the home creates a more relaxing atmosphere.  
  3. Less fuel is more savings: Not only can you save money, you can get more exercise, too.
  4. Less clothing is more simplicity: Owning a few sets of the same clothes makes life easier to navigate. It’s one less decision each day.
  5. Less work is more fun: You’ll have more time to do the things you really want to do with the ones you really love.

Check out my post: 21 Ways That Less Is Really More

The Point Is Simple: Simple Living Is Better Living

When I think back on different times in my life, I have the most vivid and warm memories from the days when I lived with less stuff. In fact, I’d argue that it’s rarely our stuff that leads to memories.

I remember making music with friends. I don’t recall exactly which instrument I was playing. I remember taking road trips as a family, not the car we drove. No, it’s not the stuff. It’s the experiences. It’s the things we do. The friends we make. The love we we share. It doesn’t matter if we’re dressed in rags as long as we have love.

I’m not saying I’d rather be dirt poor. I am saying I’d rather live simply and stick to the basic necessities so that the rest of life can be lived more completely. 

See All Posts


James Ewen
Articles: 362