Stuff. So much of our lives are spent wanting it, buying it, trying to keep it. We work 60-hour workweeks so we can fill our drawers and purses and closets and storage units and attics with stuff. We take pictures of our stuff to post on Instagram, spend weekends picking out more stuff to buy, talk about our stuff at cocktail parties.
Sure, we need some stuff. We need to eat stuff, use stuff, and wear stuff (in polite society, anyway). But how much stuff do we really need? And how much of our stuff actually brings value to our lives? That's the question Ohioans Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus began asking themselves when, in their late 20s, they realized they were outwardly successful but inwardly miserable.
The duo, who call themselves the Minimalists, recently penned a memoir titled Everything That Remains. Their book tour includes a stop at the Bookstore in the Grove next Monday, so we spoke with Millburn and gleaned some serious wisdom about living a happier life.
Minimalism, by the way, is described by the guys on their website as "a tool used to rid yourself of life's excess in favor of focusing on what's important so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom."
Priorities, priorities. Here are a few more tasty tidbits we learned from our chat with Millburn.
5. Tragedies can often be the impetus for life change.
When Millburn began to embrace minimalism, he'd lost his mother and his marriage in the same month. It was this tough time that got him asking, What's important to me?
"I got to a point in my life where I didn't even know what was important. That's why it was so difficult to start asking these questions. I think we get stuck in this default setting, we just get set on repeat and we don't question it. We lose our awareness of where we are in life," he explains. Minimalism has brought him that awareness.
"Sometimes it takes that tragedy to sort of step back and realize that things can be different."
4. Create something.
There's a lot more satisfaction to be derived from creating than consuming. For Millburn, writing was always his passion, but he put it aside as he climbed the corporate ladder. When minimalism found him, he turned his attention to what really mattered.
3. Of everything you own, ask the question: Does this bring value to my life?
If it doesn't, ditch it. It's as simple as that. This also applies to new relationships, new endeavors, new tools, new activities. Anything, really, Millburn says.
"My previous life wasn't in line with my values and beliefs," Millburn explains. By continually asking this question, he came to realize what was important. "It's about constantly moving in a direction toward your most ideal self."
Basically, this involves competing with friends or loved ones to see who can get rid of the most stuff in one month. Day 1, you both ditch one thing. Day 2, two things. And so on. If you both ditch the appropriate number of things per day by the end of the month, it's a win-win situation.
"It starts getting difficult around Day 15," he laughs. "By the end of the month, you get rid of about 500 items."
1. More money doesn't mean more security.
In his former incarnation as corporate drone, Millburn was making nearly $200,000 a year but living outside his means and saddled with major debt.
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"After I walked away, I made less money than when I was 18. The year after I walked away, I made $27,000, but I was more financially secure than when I was making $200,000," he says.
Making better decisions changed everything, he says.
If you want to move away from the materialistic Miami lifestyle, Millburn and Nicodemus' book reading might be a good first step. They'll be at the Bookstore in the Grove at 7 p.m. Monday, January 27. The event is free, and you don't have to buy any stuff to attend. (I do recommend their book. Luckily, you can score it via Kindle. One less thing to clutter your bookshelf.)