Matt Paxton cover image

What really happens when you commit to a minimalist lifestyle? Matt Paxton has a uniquely interesting minimalist lifestyle with his wife and 7 children. Matt uses his fantastic storytelling skills to talk about the effects of minimalism on a family, how to continue being minimalist, and the effects of minimalism on the rest of your life.

In This Episode:

  • Minimalism and parenting
  • Tiny living for a large family
  • When it's too difficult to part with things
  • How to try minimalism before committing
  • The psychology behind hoarding
  • How minimalism can affect relationships

Links and Resources:


Guest Bio:

Matt Paxton

Matt Paxton

Matt Paxton is one of the top downsizing and decluttering experts in the country. He is the host of the 2-time Emmy nominated series Legacy List with Matt Paxton on PBS and was a featured cleaner on the hit television show HOARDERS for 15 seasons. Matt is also the author of the best-selling book, Keep the Memories, Lose the Stuff. Paxton started cleaning out houses after his father, step-father and both grandfathers died in the same year and this is the reason Matt has been working with families struggling with hoarding and downsizing for 20 years. Matt appears regularly as a public speaker, television guest, and radio personality helping families and companies find the upside of downsizing. He lives in Atlanta, GA with his wife and 7 kids. Yes, 7 children.



This Week's Sponsor:

Tiny House Summit All Access Pass

Thank you so much to everyone who attended the 2022 Tiny House Summit! You can still catch the Summit content if you purchase the All Access Pass. You’ll get lifetime access to all 20 sessions, plus some exclusive bonus content. I’m offering $50 off of the All Access pass for podcast listeners. Go to and use the coupon code THLP at checkout to get $50 off the All Access Pass.


More Photos:

Coins from Legacy List, Matt's show on PBS

Minimalism with kids is a lot easier than you might think

Matt's book 

Matt Paxton 0:00

My wife was a minimalist. So when I started dating her, it was kind of the, you know, the gateway into her heart was you know, embracing that and then turns out, oh, that shit works. You know. And like, I mean, my kids are happy man because they're not spending all the time picking up all these toys.

Ethan Waldman 0:16

Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 240 with Matt Paxton. Today, I'm speaking with Matt Paxton, who is none other than a 15 season veteran of the show Hoarders and also the host of the two time Emmy nominated series Legacy List with Matt Paxton. Matt has a really interesting story. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and seven kids. Yes, seven kids. And they have a really interesting minimalist family lifestyle. And so on the show today, Matt is here really just to tell his stories. He's a great storyteller, but we get into the nitty gritty of what it's like to kind of maybe be dragged a little bit into minimalism. And, and you know, what happens when you commit and do it? How do you stay doing it? Like what what is required to kind of keep the weight off for a better better sense of word or like keep the stuff off? And it was just a really fun conversation. And I think, I think you'll really enjoy it. So stick around.

Thank you so much to everyone who attended the 2022 Tiny House Summit last week. The reviews and feedback are humbling, and really makes it all worthwhile for me. So if you attended, if you sent me an email, or left a comment on the Summit Hub, I want to personally thank you for doing that. I really enjoyed putting it together. If you want to catch that Summit content, you can still watch it. It's called the All Access Pass, gives you lifetime access to all 30 sessions. That's over 15 hours of tiny house knowledge and wisdom plus a bunch of bonuses. And for podcast listeners, I'm offering $50 off the cost of the all access pass using the coupon code THLP. So again, use the coupon code THLP to get $50 off the All Access Pass. If you want to learn more about the Tiny House Summit, you can go to There you'll find all of the speakers, their topics, their bios and even short preview videos of each of the sessions. And you'll also find links to the All Access Pass there. Again, head over to and click on the All Access Pass. Use the coupon code tTHLP for $50 off.

Right. I am here with Matt Paxton. Matt Paxton is one of the top downsizing and decluttering experts in the country. He is the host of the 2-time Emmy nominated series Legacy List with Matt Paxton on PBS and was a featured cleaner on the hit television show HOARDERS for 15 seasons. Matt is also the author of the best-selling book, Keep the Memories, Lose the Stuff. Paxton started cleaning out houses after his father, step-father and both grandfathers died in the same year and this is the reason Matt has been working with families struggling with hoarding and downsizing for 20 years. Matt appears regularly as a public speaker, television guest, and radio personality helping families and companies find the upside of downsizing. He lives in Atlanta, GA with his wife and 7 kids. Yes, 7 children. Matt Paxton, welcome to the show.

Matt Paxton 4:05

What's up, man? That's a quite an intro. I love it.

Ethan Waldman 4:08

Yeah, yeah, it is quite an intro. It's quite a bio. So I mean, let's start with the end there. You know, before we before we started chatting, you're like, you know, "I used to be on Hoarders and now I'm a minimalist." But with seven kids, you know, you do what you can and so what, what does, what does minimalism with seven kids look like?

Matt Paxton 4:26

So here's the, we'll start with the punchline, right? Like you said, the crazy thing about minimalism is that it exposes your parenting and the quality of your parenting. Because we utilize stuff so much to parent our kids and to keep our kids busy. And I'll take it further. We have well like one and a half kids on the spectrum. And so like, we've got one boy that is, I mean, he, he really needs to be taken care of a lot of the time and what minimalism does is it keeps all the distractions away. And that's why I was attracted to minimalism, honestly. It keeps them focused on things that matter. Less really is more. I mean, I'll tell you three years into this, like, my kids are happier. They have a better life. We don't do - so let's get to the meat of it.

You know, we are nine people. We have 10 plates, we have 10 cups. You know, we've, we've washed a lot of dishes. Yeah, we actually go out to dinner once a week on purpose. Like, I mean, we actually eat out two nights a week. And man, it's expensive, by the way, but what we're not wasting money on is like that, you know, a fifth set of Legos, you know, a bunch of books that they don't need. We can go to the library up the street and check them out. Like, we it's just the practical minimalist things, like, we we don't waste money like, on well, fast food. And it was because we didn't want all the junky extra toys. You know, put the age groups on them.

Ethan Waldman 5:53

Yeah, I was gonna ask.

Matt Paxton 5:54

The boys are, six boys under 14. So we go 9, 10, 11, 12, 14... There's one more.


Somwhere in there. He's 14.13, 14 and then a 16 year old girl. And so like with the 16 year old girl, no, it's not the time to push minimalist, like minutiae details. Like she, her trash can has probably got more trash in it than the rest of the family.

Ethan Waldman 6:22


Matt Paxton 6:22

That's all right. She's 16. She is learning that like, Thursday night is Family Night with the kids and we go out to dinner. And we we actually, people think we're crazy. We play Uno, and Left, Right, Center at the table. Kids are not on their cell phones. I mean, little things like that, that we're really intentional about. And I think the word intentional is what I never really understood when I, my wife was a minimalist. So when I when I met her, started dating her. It was kind of a, you know, a gateway into her heart was you know, embracing that.

Ethan Waldman 6:49


Matt Paxton 6:49

And, and turns out, oh, that shit works. You know, like, I mean, my kids are happy man, because they're not spending all the time picking up all these toys. I'm happy. I'm not spending all this time picking up all these toys. And when you have a reasonable amount of stuff, then the kids can actually learn some, some tasks that they can actually do when you say like, just go clean up your room randomly. You know, like, that's too big. It's too grandiose.

Ethan Waldman 7:15


Matt Paxton 7:16

But when you're like, "Hey, man, like, go go pick me out three, three books, I can donate." Like that, they can do that. And so it's really, it's been amazing. It's really helped my kids grow up and take responsibility, too.

Ethan Waldman 7:26

That's cool. Yeah, you would...

Matt Paxton 7:27

That's a very long answer, but I love it.

Ethan Waldman 7:28

No, I love the answer. And it's counterintuitive, because you would think especially with more children, you would need more stuff, you know, multiple iPads or like, multiple sets of things. So that when you know, when one or two kids have, have a need for your, both you and your wife's attention, that you can kind of give those kids stuff to occupy them.

Matt Paxton 7:53

And we yeah, and when, I did when I was a single dad, I totally did. Like, I mean, I was, so we're a blended family. She's got four, I've got three. In fact, I read her book, that's how I met her. She wrote a book called Minimalism for Families,

Ethan Waldman 8:05

Oh, wow.

Matt Paxton 8:07

And so like, I was on Hoarders, and I was this new single dad, I had my kids full time. And this, I went online on Facebook and just said, "Hey, I'm having this, my son struggling with clothes, he's got too many clothes. And I don't know what to do with it. Like he can't get dressed." He was getting really like it was affecting our life. Like every morning, it would be a fight, like it was affecting the quality of his happiness. And so I just kind of like threw my hands up, went online is that anybody know what to do with this? I clean up really messy houses. I can't get my son to get dressed. Right. And it's like at the peak of Hoarders, man. So like, I mean, I was actually kind of famous at that point. And it really worked out like three different people said, "Read this book, Minimalism for Familes." So I read it. And the theory in her book was and it's how to raise kids as minimalist just said, I mean, I picked the right person to marry. Right? She literally wrote the book about how to raise kids as minimalists. So she literally wrote the book. So it definitely helped me to, you know, have an insider there to give me tips.

Ethan Waldman 9:02


Matt Paxton 9:03

But like, it basically said, get rid of all get rid of all the choices just have five outfits for him. And I and I'm reading the book, I didn't know this woman at this point. She later be my wife, but I didn't know where I'm just reading this book. And I guess that's the I don't know. And I kind of was skeptical. I was like, ah, that seems almost too simple there, you know, and I started reading it. So I was like, I'll try it. And as I'm reading, I'm looking at my son's closet. And it's like, not only does he have all of his clothes, he has all of his brother's extra clothes. He has all of my winter clothes he had everybody. I mean, he had the biggest closet just by happenstance.

Ethan Waldman 9:33


Matt Paxton 9:34

And so the whole neighborhood, I was this poor single dad and everybody would throw clothes at me because they felt bad for me. So I had not only all of me and my boys extra clothes we had every hand-me-down in the neighborhood in this one closet.

Ethan Waldman 9:46

You were like hoarding winter clothes.

Matt Paxton 9:48

So I pulled it all out... Hoarding winter clothes! Literally, the guy from Hoarders is hoarding winter clothes. And I ended up donating it all and left him - I ended just going in, I was like I'm just gonna go all in I went to Target He bought five new pair of pants that fit him, buy a new pair of shorts that fit him style. See, like, and socks were always our downfall. And long story short, the next morning he gets up. He's like, "Dad, look!" He woke me up. Yeah, he's like, "Dad, look, I'm dressed." Like he was so proud and so happy. It's so proud. And I was like, Oh my God, it was my fault the whole time. You know? And it was like, Oh, my God, and like, it just clearly hit. And so like, Okay, how do we take this and take it to the rest of our life?

And we, you know, we go to the garage. And it's like, do we really need all this extra bikes. So we really need all this extra, you know, and I just started like running through the neighborhood of my of my sorry, the run through the house to get rid of everything. And man, it's worth, like the kids. And I will say that the real story is when when I moved here to Atlanta with my at that time fiance, we blended families. And it was I was like, can we just turn the TV on and let these kids watch TV like this is getting aggressive. It was in the middle of the pandemic. She goes no. And she just puts like, coloring pencils in a glass ball jar, you know, she's her little hippie recipe she brings out, puts them down on the table, puts a piece of paper in front of each kid and they're screaming and yelling, and I'm just begging to turn on the TV. She goes, just give it 10 minutes watch. And I'm like, I don't know, man, I'm and I'm just like, Did I make a mistake? I shouldn't have moved here like this is this is gonna be bad.

Ethan Waldman 11:15


Matt Paxton 11:15

And we go outside and come back 10 minutes later, and all the kids are drawing. All right. Like kids don't need as much as we think they do. Like, they just need to have their brain engaged. And now I am right. Every other week, kids all sit down and draw. I mean, we don't let them play video games during the week, but they draw and design video games. So like, fast forward two years later, my 14 year old son has a stack of books where he's drawn all these video games out with intricate characters and player levels and all the attributes. He is designing video games. Let's see super cool. And he's doing it on pet with pen and paper and whose brain is growing I'm telling you man minimalism is. It's addictive once you jump into it, you know? Like it really does make your life better and just easier. But yeah, I'm skipping over a lot of channels. You know, the first Christmas was a nightmare.

Ethan Waldman 12:06

Oh, yeah. Tell that story.

Matt Paxton 12:09

Oh, my God, first Christmas. It was like, I mean, I came from a my first marriage was to wealthy white families that it was like a competition to who could buy more gifts, you know, and I would stay up till

A mountain of presents.

four in the morning. Yeah, I would stay up to four in the morning wrapping all these gifts. And yeah, my wife is like, yeah, now we do like a gift.

Ethan Waldman 12:28


Matt Paxton 12:29

And then we go do something together as a family. And I'm like, well, that's not gonna fly with my boys. You know. And then, I mean, it's funny, three years later, like, even my ex in laws, they really like it. And like they now do, all the grandparents just do an experience that each kid gets with grandma. And on both sides, which is really cool. So it's, I mean, ironically, it's even made my ex wife's family have a happier holiday. Because now the kids, they spread out trips, or like my son got to go to the Serengeti this year. And he got to see the wildebeest migration. And, you know, his grandparents would have bought him a bunch of expensive Legos and a bunch of expensive shoes and a bunch of stuff that's nice, but not necessarily needed. And then in exchange, he got to go to Africa with his grandparents. And he got a two week trip with his grandparents at an age where they're still like, they're still really young, and they're still really active. And they got to like, he got to see the world. And like, he was amazing. He came back and I'm like, Man, this I looked at him. I was like, this minimalism thing is pretty cool. You know? Like, I mean, so even they are now everyone in our family. Next family members. We're all buying into it, because it's just we're seeing have more happiness and more joy, with less stuff.

Ethan Waldman 13:39

Yeah, that that emphasis on experiences over over possessions and things is probably a big driver for many people who are interested in in living tiny.

Matt Paxton 13:51

Yeah. I read it. Yeah, I read it 100 times, man, and didn't believe it until you really go through the challenge of it. And then you got to come back over the other side.

Ethan Waldman 14:01

Yeah, yeah.

Matt Paxton 14:01

Right. And then yeah, the tiny living is the other side of this. We moved from a 4000 square foot home with four people. We moved into a 2400 square foot home for nine people.

Ethan Waldman 14:14

Yeah, that's, that's 266 square feet each. So that's like, you're living in a tiny house.

Matt Paxton 14:21

In a tiny house. You know my wife designed the house for minimalist living and so it's, you know, there's no, all the doors or sliding doors and you know, she's she's really maximized every inch of it. But I have to say, I as the guy that has to like, take care of everything. I love it. I love minimal living now, we're not tiny. I mean, and I want to make sure that listeners I'm not trying to say I live in a 500 square foot home, you know, but yeah, I got about, oh, I got about 100 feet under square feet. That's mine. Yeah, yeah, the rest of it's all communal. And it is less to take care of a lover which means more time to do cool stuff.

Ethan Waldman 14:59

I want to go back to to what you mentioned about kind of getting rid of the choices and that recommendation of you know, have five outfits for each kid. Is that also the recommendation? You know, for for mom and dad? And is there like, when you use the word parody? Like, do you kind of or does does does minimalism for families kind of advise that, you know, if you're gonna have your your son only have five outfits then you should also kind of lead by example, and also have five outfits?

Matt Paxton 15:31

I think general parenting kind of just says that. I mean,

Ethan Waldman 15:34

Sure, sure.

Matt Paxton 15:35

I got a bunch of teenage boys, right. Like they noticed when things are not fair.

Ethan Waldman 15:39


Matt Paxton 15:40

They notice it. And they so like, here's where the challenge is the 16 year old girl. She is an active living, regular, normal, 16 year old girl. She hates and loves everything in the same 10 minutes.

Ethan Waldman 15:51


Matt Paxton 15:51


Ethan Waldman 15:52


Matt Paxton 15:52

And so no, we do not push it on her. She has the only closet in the house in her bedroom. There's no other closets. We don't do closets. Now, I'll say this. We I mean, she definitely has more clothes than all of us. And I'm okay with that. I don't do the limit on her. Everyone else is between five and 10. shirts. Most around like six. I mean, I do a lot of laundry and a lot of dishes.

Ethan Waldman 16:18

Yeah, yeah.

Matt Paxton 16:20

But you know, we do. Yeah, the kids are they don't wear jeans anymore. They weren't sweatpants. I don't get it. But that's just what they do. And so yeah, every kid's got like four to five sweatpants. And now we rotate out. So the winter clothes, get put away. And then and then the summer clothes. And we now we live in a part of the country that has very distinct winter and summer. Yeah, I mean, we're in Atlanta. So it's like summer, nine months out of the year. So like the shorts don't really go away. Like the kids are always wearing that. So basically they I mean, but yeah, it's five to five to like seven man, I think one of my boys has seven pair of pants just because he's awkwardly tall. And he's in that middle stage. But like, I mean, now even like my like my eight year old the other day is like Dad, I gotta go throught my T shirts like the drawers almost full. Like, we got to get rid of some of these. He's like, aren't you going to donate this weekend. And so like they've gotten in the habit of self culling now, because they don't like a lot of clutter.

And the hardest thing has been for me, I mean, I'm on TV and I work in, I've got like outfits for TV. I've got outfits for, you know, for speeches and stuff. And I have the sponsor shirt when someone pays me to, you know, representing outdoor shirt. And so like I have, I have a eight foot by eight foot tall, four foot wide call, you know, it's a built in wall mount unit. Basically. That's where my stuff sits. Now I'm a sneaker head. I love my Air Jordan sneakers. And people think how in the world can you be a minimalist and have a sneaker collection? Well, I don't have anything do like I got nothing. I got nothing. That's mine. I like my sneakers, I got a four foot area for them. And as my wife said, you can put whatever you want in that four foot area. But you ain't going out of there. You know, and so I've got a nice little sneaker collection. That's mine. And I like them. can I justify it financially? Yeah, I mean, space wise, I can't go around. And and so if I want, like, if I ever want another pair of shoes, I gotta get rid of a pair that I have. I've got to find either go sell them or, you know, whenever don't I would sell them.

But like, until it's funny, I'm to the point I was like, Well, I guess I'm full. Like I'm not getting any more because my closets full. I don't want to get rid of any. And so I won't buy anymore. And so it's basic in and out, you know, decluttering that we talked about and all my industries. But yeah, we keep it consistent. And the kids keep it consistent. I mean, they'll flat out call you out. If I try to put something in one of their closets. Well, I mean, oh my God, you're gonna forget it. They let you know, you know, they liked you know, they're still kids. And so I will say it has if you're ever on the fence, I mean, man just try it for like two weeks. Like just just my wife and I told us all time, like just jump in with like, I mean, you do it at the beach. Right? How do you go on vacation? And yeah, that's I tell people tell me.

Ethan Waldman 19:01

That's a good point. When you go on a trip, you kind of practice minimalism. Because you you take one small fraction.

Matt Paxton 19:08

Yeah. In that anytime on vacation, do you say oh, man, that beach was amazing. Like I love going horseback riding on the beach at sunset. But man, those closets were small, like you don't care about that stuff. You're out living life, and having a good life. And I'm gonna argue that's the best part about minimalism. I don't spend any time or money doing what I don't want to do. And so it leaves time and money to do the things I do want to do.

Ethan Waldman 19:32

Yeah. So it sounds like you know, the grass is greener on the other side and you are there on the other side, you know, living this kind of minimalist lifestyle. What were some of the challenges, you know, can you share some of the challenges that you faced like getting there? Because I know I know it can be painful. I'm like, I can say it personally. I mean, you see behind me I have like five instruments hanging on the wall right there.

Matt Paxton 19:57

You got a very nice - I was actually wanted to ask you about some those guitars.

Ethan Waldman 20:00

Yeah, yeah.

Matt Paxton 20:01

Right? So that's the stuff like, for me, my dad. So right behind me right now is my dad, some of my dad's art.

Ethan Waldman 20:06


Matt Paxton 20:07

My dad was an artist. My dad died when I was 24. I couldn't keep all of my dad's art. I couldn't keep all of my grandparents stuff. Like, I have made a career out of helping people tell their family stories. Like, yeah, you can say what you want about my career being on Hoarders, being on TV, my new show on PBS, Legacy List, but all of it had, there's really good stories attached to the stuff. And so I'm a big believer in telling the stories. That's great on TV. That's great in my books, but when you get to your own house, that's really hard.

Ethan Waldman 20:40


Matt Paxton 20:41

Like, getting rid of your dead father's art. Like, I mean, it got to a point where I almost didn't move, man. Like I called my wife and I was like, I don't I don't know if I can do this. Like, I mean, I was going through my attic. And I was like, my dad's furniture. I mean, I had like my dad's like, amazing Eames chair. And like, from like, a 59. Yeah, amazing.

Ethan Waldman 21:01

Yeah. A real Eames chair?

Matt Paxton 21:02

Yeah, a real Eames chair, like, so, yeah, you understand.

Ethan Waldman 21:06

Yeah, totally.

Matt Paxton 21:06

And I want to remind people, just because you're minimalist, doesn't mean you can't have nice stuff. I actually argue it means you're gonna have more nice stuff, because you're not wasting it. But I had to make some decisions on some nice things. It's easy when it's a box of, you know, things that don't matter. But when I mean, when it's people you love, so that got hard. And so I had to, like, record a lot of those stories. And I mean, not to ruin my book. But like, I, I got rid of a lot of stuff. I mean, I basically said, I was like, I don't know if I can do this like this is this is too hard. And she goes, Well, I hope you have fun in Virginia with all of your dead people's favorite things. She goes, I and your future. She goes, me and your future kids live in Georgia. And if you want to join us, let me know. And she hung up. And my wife's kind of a badass. And like, we didn't talk for like two days.

Ethan Waldman 21:51


Matt Paxton 21:52

I was like, did we just like break up?

Ethan Waldman 21:54


Matt Paxton 21:55

And I'm sitting here. This is the guy that gives advice to the world about letting go and stuff. And I was getting ready to bail on it. And so two things happened. One, I was in the middle of writing my book. And I had to call penguin Penguin Random House and tell us like, Well, turns out the book sucks, guys, because I can't even do that. I can't even do this. So we're gonna have to rewrite this book. And so then I spent the next week, like writing all the emotions I was going through, and obviously I moved here. And like last year, someone asked me like, Well, what did what were those items? Like, what were you upset about? And I was like, I'm assuming other than my dad's are, like, I don't remember. I don't even know what I was so upset about. But I almost didn't move because of it. I still have the chair. I have two pieces of the art I gave the rest of family. And it turns out family really liked it. Like family was excited. I I apparently had too many too much of my dad's art anyway, I didn't even know it. You know?

Ethan Waldman 22:47


Matt Paxton 22:47

And they and I had space for one piece of art in this house. We have no, we have very minimal space. And we have it's mostly windows. So like she told me she was like I had 40 pieces of art that I wanted to bring it she's like, I mean, we got one spot. Right? Like if you do you want to rotate it weekly, that's fine, but I don't know where you're gonna put the stuff.

Ethan Waldman 23:09

You gotta keep them in your in your four feet.

Matt Paxton 23:12

Well, yeah, and let's, let's talk math is a great part of minimalism to write the math makes a decision easier for you. Like just mathematically, you only have space for x, y, z. And I used to really be when I was a kid, I was into backpacking, right? And when you're talking about ounces, like you very quickly decide what you're taking with you. Right? Like when you're going like hiking for a month, like, you know, I sure would love a skillet, but I'm not bringing a skillet with me. That's, that's, you know, that's a pound and a half, like, you know, a sleeping bag would be better. So like, yeah, and so you just have to make choices. And I think math sometimes and minimalism really makes a decision for you. It just doesn't make financial sense. Any. But that the other side, I think is really what you got to you got to lean into, like, are you going to have a happier life with less stuff? And I will argue, yes, like, across the board, but I was walking to something a better life anyway. Right? I was not happy with stuff. And I thought I would be. And I'm 47, I'm gonna help a lot of people are but like, in my age group, we grew up in the 80s, the age of consumerism, our parents worked a lot. They bought a lot of stuff for us. And then we got married, had kids and we wanted to do better than our parents did. So we went out and bought a lot of stuff. And I most of it's pretty empty all like most people are not happy with all that stuff. And so and all everything you complain about, I will argue is around stuff or money. I mean, people people argue about sex money and stuff. Like that's what people argue about.

Ethan Waldman 24:46


Matt Paxton 24:46

And, and one of those is great. Find a way to get more of that. The rest of the rest of it. I mean, money doesn't make you happy and stuff doesn't really like it really doesn't. It's the it's the other thing to do inside. I just can tell you on the other side of it, man, like, try it. You already are trying when you go on vacation. Yeah, but like really try it because I promise you will find more happiness with less.

Ethan Waldman 25:10

What are what are some other ways that people can try minimalism?

Matt Paxton 25:14

Well, I think donation is the most powerful tool in the world.

Ethan Waldman 25:17


Matt Paxton 25:18

There's nothing better than giving away something for free. If you need the money, fine. That's where you are in life. You need to sell it. But you'll never be happy with the amount of money you receive for something. I mean, I'm an argue I'm looking at four very nice guitars behind you. Well, three, and they're probably really nice instruments.

Ethan Waldman 25:36

There's a mandolin, a ukulele, and three guitars.

Matt Paxton 25:39

Yeah, top left is a mandolin.And three guitars. All right. Those are obviously important tools of your life, right? Like that's more than just an instrument, right? It's more than just an item. It's something you're passionate about.

Ethan Waldman 25:49


Matt Paxton 25:49

Right? I could give you any price on those and it's not about selling it, right. It's not about. And so I'm going to argue you're not happy, no one's going to be happy with selling things. And so I really say one of the best tools is to donate because the more you donate, you find you find enough, and I'm gonna tell you to do this. But like for me, if I found an artist that like some of my dad's art, I actually donated a lot of my dad's frames, I donated a lot of my dad's tools, because there were there was an art school that my dad was connected to, he knew those people, it meant a lot more to those people than it even did to me. Because they had English with my father. So I was able to donate those items. And it brought a lot of happiness to other people. And so I really encourage people to find that, that tool of donation, find whatever works for you. I don't care where you donate it, but you need to be connected to it. If you if it if you dig it, you will dig you will give more and more and more and more. And I think it's just one of the most important tools of it. Because you can empty a house really quickly. By give by doing well, for others much better than trying to sell stuff.

Ethan Waldman 26:52

Yeah. That's, that's powerful advice. I'm definitely not getting rid of any of my guitars though.

Matt Paxton 26:59

So yeah, disclaimer, no.

Ethan Waldman 27:04

Those are lifetime purchases right there.

Matt Paxton 27:07

Yeah, I look, I still have a couple surfboards that I'm, that's a hard line for me. I really enjoy surfing. I do a lot of paddleboarding with my kids. And it's where we connect. And that's my hard line. Like, I'll get rid of other things.

Ethan Waldman 27:20


Matt Paxton 27:20

And, by the way, this little dance we're talking about here, like deciding what you're keeping and not keeping like, yeah, that only makes you love those things more.

Ethan Waldman 27:29

Right. Right.

Matt Paxton 27:31

Right. And we love those things, because the people attached to them, either past or present or future people. Yeah, but like, you don't love stuff, because it's made of plastic or wood. You love this stuff, because it brought you some happiness or joy. Somewhere in your life, either in the past or in the future. Or currently now, in my line of work, most people they hold on to their stuff because of past happiness or joy, or hopeful happiness or joy, but rarely current. Rarely are we actually using the stuff in our house, right? I mean, see, look, most of my life is helping seniors and hoarders. So I help people that have lived in a house for 50 years. And we clean out their house after 50 years in the House, or help a hoarder. And I can I mean, in those two situations people rarely are using or using 5% of the stuff in their houses. It's high. Usually it's like two to 2% of their house. And so I really encourage people to like, what do you actually use now, I think that's another part of minimalism, minimalism let you live in the now and less than the past of the future.

Ethan Waldman 28:29

Nice. So I want to actually wanted to ask about Hoarders a little bit, you know how like, yeah, I've read that, you know, there. Those diet shows, for example, like The Biggest Loser. And as diet shows, where people kind of go on a crash diet, they lose a ton of weight. And then what usually happens is they gain it all back.

Matt Paxton 28:48


Ethan Waldman 28:49

I'm curious if, is there a similar phenomenon in in hoarding and minimalism? Like, sure, when the TV crew and the camera crew and the experts come in and help you get rid of all this stuff, you do it. But then, and I'm sure this happens for not just people who are actual hoarders, but for just people who have too much stuff. You know, can you speak to that? And maybe some strategies or tips on how to avoid it?

Matt Paxton 29:11

Yeah, it's, it's the number one question of hoarding, right?

Ethan Waldman 29:15


Matt Paxton 29:15

How does it stick? What's the stickiness of it? Well, let's first start with hoarding is a mental disorder. Right? And it's caused by trauma, like some or you know, someone's died. You've gotten divorced.

Ethan Waldman 29:26


Matt Paxton 29:26

Abuse. There's, there's a lot of reason but something bad has happened to the person and they're looking for happiness and self worth and stuff. It behaves a lot like alcoholism or drug addiction. If you've got an uncle that's an alcoholic, and all you do is throw away his beer. Have you solved his problem? No, no, you've really just pissed him off. And right. Same thing with hoarding, okay. There's a reason they do it. There's trauma attached. If you don't address the trauma, the loss, the tragedy, that it absolutely will reoccur, right. So I have a really firm I mean, in my career, 20 years in now, I have a 60 60% success rate, the house stays clean. If they go to therapy, if they do not go to therapy, it is 100% failure.

Ethan Waldman 30:16


Matt Paxton 30:16

Every time it will return if you don't deal with that, and that now, no therapy has changed in this last 20 years when we started it was cognitive behavioral therapy, sit on your couch, talk to a therapist, tell them your feelings, right. And that that doesn't work for everybody anymore. And technology has changed a lot for people. Sometimes it's volunteering, sometimes it's going to church, sometimes it's exercising, sometimes it's donation, like it can be 100 different things. Honestly, I see volunteering, working as much as cognitive hypnotherapy for a lot of people because most hoarders actually don't, they don't. They're not hoarding for themselves, most of the stuff they're hoarding is to give away to other people, that happiness and that joy comes from the giving away, they just never get to it. And so they need to go to therapy for whatever the trauma was, and then they need to stay active.

Now, in Hoarders, we actually don't, I haven't done the show in two years, but they actually don't, we won't do that mean, we give them a year of therapy with the cleanup. If we didn't pay for that therapy, I don't know that it'd be an ethical show to do. I mean, because we know mathematically, it will not work if they don't go to therapy. And so then you can't say that and then turn around and not give them the opportunity to go to therapy. And so sometimes we'll get to a person, we're like, man, we'd love to have you on the show. But you gotta go to therapy first. And they've got to go, and they got to show up. And if they don't do that, then we won't participate in it, by the way, they get like, some of these cleanouts are like $100,000 or $200,000, cleanouts. Like, I mean,

Ethan Waldman 31:44


Matt Paxton 31:45

And I am like the best. I mean, not to brag, but I'm like the best guy in the country for cleaning the house out. And so you've got, we have a therapist on staff, you have the best cleanup crew, like all the stuff is there. But if you doesn't matter if you don't go to therapy, and so I just I mean, I think we can take that to the, to the smaller form to like the regular life. So the regular listener, what I would ask you is if you're just basically cleaning out a trunk of your car, that smart, small section of your garage, your why is what I really want you to focus on. Like, why are you doing this? This is not therapy. This is just being honest with yourself.

And I take this into my fitness, I've actually been working hard to lose weight again. I'll tell the story. I'm a storyteller, obviously, my son, right when I was writing this book, this is in the book, actually, because it was when I was writing the book, and my son came up to me said, Dad, are you going to die the same age that your dad did? So what would this is at night one that we're having a feeling stock one night? And I was like, What do you mean by that? And he goes, Well, you know, I was doing the math. And anytime my son says I was doing the math, something good is coming out.

Ethan Waldman 32:51


Matt Paxton 32:51

It's usually about candy, or excuse me about candy or money. But this night, it was really cool. He was like, hey, you know, Dad, you're 47 Your dad was 52. That's five years from now. And he goes like, I'll only be 17 If you die at the same time your dad did. And I go do you think about this? He goes, I think that all the time, dad.

Ethan Waldman 33:12


Matt Paxton 33:13

And I was like, oh, and he goes I think he's a dad I see now. He's more aware now because we have a new family. And he goes, Dad, I see you're working really hard to be a dad. And I think it's going to be hard. And I'm going to need your help. And he goes, I want to know that you're going to be here that you're going to be like you're going to be a grandpa. And I'm like it's you know, tugging on my heartstrings like Yeah, buddy, I'll be there.

Ethan Waldman 33:33


Matt Paxton 33:34

And he goes, Well, then why do you eat all that food that you know is bad for you? He goes, You know, it's bad and you still eat it every night. And it punched me in the face man. Like, it was just a random night and I was he's like, I was like, okay, buddy. And I was like, I gotta I went downstairs at night. I was like, Babe, I gotta, I gotta, I gotta really get a hold of my life here. Like, at the end of the day, I want to be a grandpa. Alright, that's my why. Okay, I don't know what your life, what's your why. And I'm talking to the audience here. Like whatever your why is. I don't care if it's fitness or health care stuff, or addiction, whatever you're challenged with. You got to focus on that one. So I actually have on my wall right here it says grandpa. So anytime something gets hard. I look at that. And it keeps me going. And this is deep for a guy about stuff. I know that but like, minimalism has really opened my heart and also give me time to think about this stuff. And at the end of the day for me, it's it is about the why and so like, when I'm looking at my garage, it's like, okay, well, what's my why? How does this get me to be the grandpa? Yeah, and it does kind of like, it kind of simplifies shit. And it's like, I don't need this like and I'm not trying to guilt anybody into having a why, whatever your why is, you know what it is in your head. Just be honest with yourself. What I'm saying is write it down, put it on a piece of paper and put it in front of your face so you can't avoid it. Because it's so easy to quit whatever you're doing, whether it's financial fitness or health fitness Is or die, whatever, it's so easy to quit because it's hard. And if you don't have it written down in front of you, it's really easy to quit. And I'm telling you, minimalism has really made me like focus on the why, because nothing else really matters. stuff really doesn't matter. And when you get like to that spiritual level of it, and I don't want to scare people, but like, when you do get to the spiritual organism, like, dude, it just none of that stuff matters. And then you start getting rid of people, right? And then you start getting rid of like things that really don't matter. And you start to get comfortable with it. And guess what? Life gets better?

Ethan Waldman 35:36

Nice. So I'm sure you get asked this all the time. But I've got to ask you. Because you kind of you married into you married a minimalist, who is an expert, minimalist. What advice do you have for for couples out there who, you know, maybe one person wants to be more of a minimalist than the other one person, you know, as we come into relationships, and we have different, different upbringings different backgrounds. And you know, what is worth keeping? What is worth not keeping?

Matt Paxton 36:11

Yeah, well, the partner is worth keeping.

Ethan Waldman 36:14


Matt Paxton 36:14

The stuff is not.

Ethan Waldman 36:16


Matt Paxton 36:17

If they're not, if they're not, you've already answered your question.

Ethan Waldman 36:20


Matt Paxton 36:21

If they're not, you've already answered the question. Yeah, but I had the best situation which was, I was in love with a beautiful woman who loved my children and me, she happened to be a minimalist. So like, I'll try. The minimal waste thing was gonna, that was harder for me. The zero waste was much of a bigger leap for me. I'm a Ziplock, I mean, my ideal sponsor at that point in my life was Ziplock. like, Wow, I love plastic. And, and but I also love her. So like, that was hard. I will say, when you're talking with your partner, like, you gotta try to make that leap together. If you're going to do it.

Ethan Waldman 36:57


Matt Paxton 36:58

It is not something I would do if you're not aligned on every everywhere else. Like, if you're not aligned on this topic, then it's only going to expose your other issues even more. Like minimalism. Here's the deal. Like, this is a deeper conversation here, but I'm gonna go out and say it. Like, we hear this all the time in hoarding. Hoarding was so loud, right, like, so loud that people can blame everything in the relationship on hoarding. And then we clean the house out. And the wife worked really hard at like going to therapy and fixing her life and doing her things and getting rid of stuff. Well, the husband's still an asshole. Right? Three months later.

Ethan Waldman 37:40


Matt Paxton 37:40

And he now has nothing to blame it on. Oh, no, it, it exposes... Look, stuff is an easy way to hide other unhappiness.

Ethan Waldman 37:49


Matt Paxton 37:50

And so I cannot stress and I don't mean to cuss that much, y'all, but like, that is the right word for that term. So many times we had men that they blamed their entire failures of their marriage on hoarding. And then when the hoarding got addressed, the marriage was still not great. And so minimalism, do the same thing. If you're not aligned. Don't even try get get aligned on the other stuff first, yeah. But beyond be brutally honest, and have that why have that goal. Like, what is your goal? Like, what do you got? Like, I mean, we did a whiteboard, and like, I have a dream board, in my house where I have my kids write down places they want to do go or things they want to do. And they get really silly, like, my son wanted to, you know, train whales, or he wanted to have, you know, like, they get really fun and crazy. But that's the point of dreaming. Dreaming.

Ethan Waldman 38:36


Matt Paxton 38:36

But then we found one, it was like, okay, like, Australia actually really want to go to Australia. Right? And so we started like, planning, how do we do that? Like, how do we actually go to Australia? Like, what does that look like? What do we do? And what does it look like as a family and we all had to get aligned, we're like, Okay, we're gonna save money here, here, here. How do we do that? Well, we stopped going out two nights a week, but down to one night a week, like, we all had to buy into the plan. And so I would really encourage couples, like what you know, you will, I mean, one of the things I didn't get about minimalism is your, your checking account expands significantly. Like people don't realize that you don't realize how much crap you waste your money on. And so like, be clear, like, what do you want to do with it? What's the adventure you want to go on? Or what's in it doesn't have to be expensive, but like, what's the adventure? What's the goal, and then just, you gotta align on that. And then that's your goal, and that's your target, and you put it on the wall, and you look at it, and every time it gets hard, because it will get hard.

And, you know, you got to be brutally brutally honest with yourself. Like, you know, if you're not pulling your weight. I mean, my wife and I, look, we got seven kids, so the house is not always clean. And I'm not acting like the kids are all aligned in it. I mean, sometimes they're not, and we give them space to, to figure it out, you know, but like, we do have to always come back to like, hey, if we're gonna if our goal is this, then that's what we got to do. And, and you got to be, I mean, look, my wife's a minimalist because she's, she'll tell you because she's messy. And there's just, she doesn't like clean. So if she doesn't have anything, there's a whole lot less to clean. Right? I do it more for the spiritual for the, you know, for me, it brings me like joy and happiness and positivity. And for her, it's just simple. It's just less for her to have to do. Hers is not as deep. And she just got she grew up in the military and got tired of moving stuff all the time. Just thought it was silly. And dumb inside just, I'll say you will fight you know, you've got to be I had to almost lose everything to get it. Right. I mean, like, literally, she was like figured out, man, if you want to compete with us, great. If not, you know, good luck. And I needed that tough love to get there. And now it's been really simple. But like I had to almost, you know, I basically, like flat out told, like, do you want happiness with the family? Or do you want your stuff. And so it was real simple. It wasn't a simple decision. But two years removed from it is the best decision ever made. But you guys guys, if you're with a couple of men, it will be a hard first six months. And so get aligned for that. And then I promise you like there's nothing better. I mean, it's just silly. I used to waste so much time and money on stuff that doesn't matter. And people, I'll keep saying it, there's people that don't matter. You hold on to them, and you spend a lot of time on them. And they're not really serving your life or even theirs. You know, and now I like we were at a bank couple weeks ago, and I was like, I met some person, they're like, Oh, I'd really love to connect with you. And I'm just thinking, This person is a mess. Like, I wouldn't give them an hour of my time. Because they're not ready for my time. They're not ready for like they gotta get, they're not ready for they got so I mean, it was so obvious to the whole circle of people. We mean, I could help her very much. But there was nothing in it for the world, you know, and I was just thinking, oh, man, this woman's got to get her life together for a helper. And I don't mean to be rude. But like minimalism is helped me get to that point where I'm very selfish with my time and my family. And I'm very protective of it in a positive way, not a negative way. But that's all come from the, you know, when you're not all wrapped up in stuff. And like, you know, we also don't, this isn't an unpopular part of this. We're not all on these likes uber competitive sports teams with my kids. I mean, there were not none of us are going to do one, none of us are going pro. And the kids were just like, in pandemic kind of helped us push us to that. And now we're just like, Yeah, let's just go for a hike this weekend. Right? Like, and we just do more family stuff. And we don't, we don't do this crazy competitive, like travel sports teams that a lot of people do. And I think that's helped us to find joy and less by just not being busy all the time. No, committee. Yeah. On time.

Ethan Waldman 42:39

Can you talk a little bit about zero waste living and how that kind of dovetails with minimalism?

Matt Paxton 42:48

Yeah, I suck at it, Man Zero Waste is, the goal is to have as minimal amount of waste as possible. So less cardboard, you know, more, we use a lot of glass. Yeah, I got a glass jar for everything. We trying to use less plastic. I mean, there are people that there's a lady I can't remember her name, my wife follows her. I mean, her entire year's waste is in a one quart jar of

Ethan Waldman 43:15


Matt Paxton 43:16

a Ball jar, entire year waste. Now, like we're a family of nine that that's not happening for us. But what it has made us do is we're conscious when we go to the store, we don't buy as much stuff we don't buy as much we really have minimized our plastics. And I when I really get into the environmental side of it, it turns people away, I will say this, there is an environmental side of it that's beneficial, the less plastic you use. I'm just because of my having so many kids, I tend to thrift more now, so I don't buy as many new clothes, we tend I do spend more time in thrifting. I also like some of the old vintage stuff better. But the really the key here is just try to try to buy less plastic and throw away less and reuse as much as possible. And in an Amazon world where it's all cardboard shipping. I mean, I do like some of the recyclable products that are coming out and shipping now. Yeah, but you still have to be in the city that the recycling actually gets recycled. You know, I'm a weird person that I've spent a lot of time at trash dumps. Like, I've spent 20 years helping people throw things away. And when I started 20 years ago, professionally cleaning houses, man, we throw away everything into the trash.

Ethan Waldman 44:30


Matt Paxton 44:31

Into the trash. It all went into the dump. It didn't matter if it was paint or chemicals or books like it. We just tossed everything in plastic bags and threw it away. And it's I mean to the point where it's just embarrassing how much we throw away. And now we try to recycle or upcycle or donate usually 75% to 80% of the house. It's more work. It's a lot more work. Yeah, thank you for saying that. It to truly recycle your home. It's an extensive amount of work and so you have to be dedicated to it. But I think it's worth it.

Ethan Waldman 45:03

Right, right.

Matt Paxton 45:05

And we do it all again, I'm biased, I do it more through donation, and upcycling than I do. I mean, the recycling side of it, I live in a part of the south where they're not as committed locally to recycling. And so I try to get it to people that need it, or their need more.

Ethan Waldman 45:21


Matt Paxton 45:21

So like, you know, kept me in West Coast, you can recycle better, but, but I really think it's important to I mean, we have people every day coming to our county, through our church that they have nothing they got here. Like yesterday, I got nothing, right. And I'm like, Oh, I got I got a I got a whole house of someone that just passed away. I'm cleaning out. Do you want it all?

Ethan Waldman 45:42


Matt Paxton 45:42

And they're like, yes, we do, you know, and so like, it's not as it is hard. It does take more work. But if you get that positive mindset of like, How can I help other people with this? It actually gets really easy. And then you'll start to find people just like you that want to help. They just want to help people have better life. And it gets donated much or upcycle much faster than recycling.

Ethan Waldman 46:04

Nice. Well, Matt Paxton. It's been really fantastic talking with you. I really appreciate it all the stories you've shared, and I can't wait to share this conversation with the with the podcast audience.

Matt Paxton 46:15

Well, dude, thanks for having me. And I hope everybody enjoyed the stories. And just keep doing what you're doing man. Less is more.

Ethan Waldman 46:23

Thank you so much to Matt Paxton for being a guest on the show today. You can find the show notes, including a complete transcript and links to all the books and things that we discussed with Matt over at Again, that's Well, that's all for this week. I am your host, Ethan Waldman, and I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.

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