Minimalism in Suburbia

written by: Susan Lacke       photo by: Adam Finkle

When Jerry and Heather Dillon built a new 4,000-square-foot home in Daybreak, they swelled with pride. Their pristine home in the burgeoning South Jordan neighborhood was the embodiment of the American Dream, with its tree-lined streets and immaculately landscaped lawns.

But Daybreak, like so many suburban neighborhoods, is afflicted with “Keeping-Up-With-The-Joneses” Syndrome. Young families try to outdo one another with big houses, big cars and big pools. At first, the Dillons bought into it. But when their son, Connor, entered the “I Want” phase of toddlerhood, demanding everything from brightly colored cereal on the shelf to fancy toys in TV commercials, they reconsidered. “Kids ask for things when they see their parents constantly consuming, and that was not something we wanted to teach Connor,” recalls Heather. “He was three years old, which we felt was a really crucial age to start setting a better example.”

In the case of the Dillons, Jerry spotted a 30-day minimalism challenge on social media: “The idea is to get rid of one item on day 1, two items on day 2 and so on. When we first started decluttering, we were looking to bring more peace into our home and lives. We had no idea we would identify our values and priorities along the way and truly change our lives in the process.”

The Dillions were shocked at how much stuff they had—stuff they no longer needed, but other people might. They made donations to charitable organizations. They were also surprised at how much time and energy they had dedicated to maintaining status symbols, and started focusing on values and priorities. Even Connor found joy in giving instead of receiving.

“Connor has really taken to our lifestyle change. He picked things out on his own to donate. He gave his best friend his tricycle when he wasn’t using it anymore. One time, he also tried to give someone the jacket off his back,” Heather laughs. “I had to explain how sweet it was, but that it was still adding value to his life by keeping him warm and dry.”

It’s more work living a minimalist lifestyle with a child, and extended family members sometimes find it hard to understand (especially on major holidays, when the Dillions really mean it when they say they don’t want gifts). The family remains in Daybreak, where they acknowledge their lifestyle is an anomaly. And yet, there’s a sense of peace.

“Living more meaningful, intentional lives and spending less money on things that don’t truly add value to our lives should be the norm,” says Heather. “If we are holding back from living intentional lives, we need to ask ourselves why this is the case?”

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