The Minimalists Video

July 09, 2014 AT 11:24 AM
We write about living a meaningful life with less stuff, says Joshua Fields Millburn, one half, with his long-time best friend Ryan Nicodemus, of the Minimalists. A few years ago, both men began to try living with less, eventually giving up not only the greater part of their worldly possessions but also their existing careers in favor of writing and mentoring others keen to do the same. As they describe it, they both had cushy corporate gigs, great six-figure jobs, nice cars, big houses with more bedrooms than inhabitants, pointless masses of toys, and scads of superfluous stuff, but they still felt there was a gaping void and that working 70-80 hours a week for a corporation and buying even more stuff didnt fill the void. As Ryan describes it, minimalism really started for me with this thing called a packing party, where Josh and I decided to pack all my belongings as if I were moving. I had like a 2,000 square foot condo, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, it even had two living rooms -- I have no idea why a single guy would ever need two living rooms -- and I had all this stuff to fill it. And we packed everything up, like I was moving, and then I unpacked things as I needed them, day by day, to really figure out what I was using. So you can imagine, like that first day I unpacked my toothbrush, I unpacked my bed and bed sheets, some clothes for work and so on and so forth. And I did this for 21 days, and at the end of those three weeks I had 80% of my stuff still in boxes. And that was really my light bulb moment, like Wow. Here are all these things that I have brought into my life to make me feel happy, to make me feel good about myself, and theyre not doing their job. So I donated and I sold all of it. They found that getting rid of the stuff helped to clarify what was actually valuable in life: enriching their connections with other people, doing meaningful work and changing how they spent their time. Its unfortunate that we have this mindset -- at least, I had this mindset, says Ryan, that maybe one day if I work really hard, I can retire at 65, or maybe if I work really, really hard I can retire at 50, and then I can do what I want with my time. And after that packing party, I really started to realize that if I simplify my life, if I require less, I can reprioritize my time now, do what I want now and not wait until I retire. With a best-selling book and relentless touring schedule, its clear that the Minimalists have struck some kind of chord. And while not everyone will take their minimalism as far as Josh and Ryan have -- at one point, Joshua owned as few as 288 things -- its clear that there might be something to this idea of taking stock of your relationship with your stuff. Everything I own has a function, whether its my furniture, couch or a bed or a nightstand, so I recently asked this one question, over and over: Does this thing add value to my life? Josh explains. "And its different for all of us, but as I asked that question -- I asked it first as I was getting rid of the stuff, paring down my life and asking, Am I really getting any value from this thing? and I realized that most of the things I own were adding no value to my life at all. I think minimalism is good for helping people to figure out what is important to them, helping them to be happy with who they are, Ryan explains. Because its hard for someone who doesnt love themself, drop a million dollars or two million dollars in their lap, theyre still not going to be happy. You have to be happy with yourself before youre happy with any amount of money that you can make. And thats what minimalism really helped us do.