The Minimalists, Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn.
by By Deborah Mock
What if you could take one step that would free up more time for your family and ultimately simplify your life? Would you take it?
Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn were on the fast track. Successful jobs, busy, fashionable - living the life, you could say. But, they say, they were also unhealthy, wasteful and, to their own surprise and horror, deeply unhappy.
“We discovered that working 70-80 hours a week and buying even more stuff didn’t fill the void. In fact, it only brought us more debt and fear and anxiety and loneliness and guilt and paranoia and depression,” says Millburn.
So they decided to embrace minimalism. They quit their jobs and threw out or donated the majority of their material possessions. Then they started to write about it at www.theminimalists.com. Now the website is read by over one-hundred thousand visitors each month who are also hoping to release themselves of the drag of a fast-paced, materialistic lifestyle and bring more meaning into their days.
Now, most people would scoff and say, “Well that’s fine for them, but we have a mortgage, kids, and commitments. We can’t just get rid of everything.”
The thing is, families don’t have to walk away from everything to benefit from the principles of minimalism, say Nicodemus and Millburn.
The Minimalists, as they are known on their website, will be hosting a meet-up event at the Bovine Metropolis Theatre in Denver on Wednesday, March 6 to meet Colorado readers and talk about their latest book, Live a Meaningful Life.
Nicodemus and Millburn took some time out to tell us how anyone, even busy families, can incorporate minimalism and live a more meaningful life:
People tend to think of minimalism as an extreme lifestyle mostly practiced by monks and hermits, how do you define a minimalistic lifestyle?
Ryan Nicodemus: Some people meet me and when we talk about minimalism they think we live a radical lifestyle. They say things like, "I could never be a minimalist." The truth is, this lifestyle is not radical. We're not radical people. If you spend time with us, you'd realize that the minimalist lifestyle isn't much different from yours.
by By Deborah Mock
Joshua Fields Millburn: I don't count my stuff, but I have hundreds of things, even after I got rid of 90% of my stuff. I own a car. I own pots and pans and kitchen utensils. I own a queen-size bed. I own a smartphone. I own a laptop computer. I own a desk. I own a guitar. I own some furniture. I own some books. I own a clothes dresser. I own a washer and dryer. I own more than a few days worth of clothes. But there are three key distinctions:
- I don't own excess stuff. I have only the things I use frequently, things that add value to my life; but I don't have extra stuff, I don't have "just-in-case" items. If I wanted to change my lifestyle, then my definition of "excess" would change as well. For example, if I wanted to become a peripatetic writer, traveling the world like my friend Colin, then I would need to drastically reduce my possessions. But, at this point in my life, I'm happy with where I live, and I don't desire to travel extensively. If that changes, then I will change.
- I constantly question my possessions. Do I still need this? When is the last time I used this? What would happen if I got rid of this? Could someone use this more than me? These are questions I consistently ask myself. Because I constantly question my possessions, I am in a perpetual state of paring down, which feels good. There is no endgame; I will never arrive. I will continue the journey the rest of my life.
- I don't give meaning to my possessions. Most importantly, I understand that my possessions can be replaced. Someone recently asked me what I would grab if my apartment caught fire. "Nothing," I responded. "Everything I own is replaceable."
What about for families? Kids come with a lot of extrasˆ toys, bouncy seats, sporting equipment, toys, backpacks, toys — is it really possible for a family to live a minimalist lifestyle?
Yes. One of the guys who introduced us to the concepts of minimalism, Leo Babauta, has a wife and six kids. He's a minimalist – very minimal, in fact.
What benefits do you think families can realize from living with less stuff?
One of the biggest benefits is time. Once we jettisoned the excess stuff in our lives that stuff that took so much time to accumulate, we were able to spend quality time with the people closest to us and less time taking care of our stuff. Think about what you'd do if you had less stuff but more time.
by By Deborah Mock
As adults it may be easier to see the benefits of minimalism, any tips for getting kids on board?
Show the benefits, not the actions. Humans, especially children, are motivated by the end result much more than the process. Show them what they can do with their extra time - their extra freedom - and then show them how simplifying will help them realize those benefits.
What advice do you have when one member of the family is holding out against going minimalist?
The answer is easier than you might think: start with yourself. You must first set the example for the people around you. We both embraced simpler lives a few years ago and before we knew it, many of the same people who thought we were crazy at first started asking us how they could de-clutter and donate and live a more meaningful life.
Actually the thought of becoming a minimalist can seem kind of overwhelming: going through boxes and closets, finding places that will take stuff, setting guidelines for the new lifestyle, etc. Can you recommend one step that any family could take toward minimalism right now, today?
Start small with one thing a day.
What if you removed one material possession - just one - from your life each day for the next month? What would happen? Would you have 30 fewer things a month from now? Probably not. You'd likely jettison far more than 30 items.
You see, once you gain momentum, once you strengthen your simplicity muscle, once you feel the benefits, embracing minimalism becomes easy. The more you do it, the freer and happier and lighter you feel, and thus the more you want to throw overboard. The more action you take, the more you want to take action.
To embrace the simple life, you needn't rent a dumpster and dispose of all your stuff. You need only to start somewhere. You can start small with one room or one thing each day. You can start with yourself. Once your friends and family notice the benefits you're experiencing, they'll hop on board in their own ways.