Imagine what our lives would be like if we worked less, bought less, and lived more.
What if we could get rid of everything that weighs us down and causes us to run around frantically? What if we stopped trying desperately to keep up with our lifestyle, and we instead chose our lifestyles to suit our needs?
These are some of the issues that Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus discussed at their launch of Everything That Remains at McNally Robinson on July 22nd, 2014.
Outwardly, Millburn and Nicodemus seemed to have it all: high-paid jobs, expensive homes, and access to everything that money could buy. Ryan Nicodemus lived in a house that was so big that it even had two living rooms.
What they also had, however, were rising debts and high-pressure lifestyles that kept them constantly struggling to work harder so that they could buy more.
Then one day, Joshua Millburn decided to make a change. His personal life had suffered two major blows within a month, and his boss had asked him to cut forty-one staff members from the stores that he managed. Instead, Millburn decided to make it forty-two, with his own name at the top of the list. That was the beginning of his exploration of minimalism, a journey that his friend, Ryan Nicodemus, soon joined.
Minimalism is beginning to take hold in North America and other parts of the world. As the name suggests, minimalism is about getting back to the basics – reducing personal possessions to a minimum as a way to reduce the stress and strain of always having to work more to buy more.
There are no set rules for minimalism, as the two speakers noted. Some minimalists might choose to reduce their belongings to whatever can fit into a backpack. Others, especially those with families to consider, might keep their houses and cars.
Rather, minimalism is about making conscious choices about the distinction between needs and wants. Instead of working harder and harder to buy bigger homes and cars or working long hours to pay for a retirement that might never happen, minimalists try to make deliberate choices about their lifestyles and what they consume. For Joshua Millburn, possessions fall into two categories: things that he needs, such as toothbrushes or soap, and things that give him joy, such as objects of sentimental value. Everything else can go.
For Millburn and Nicodemus, minimalism is a journey that involves getting rid of everything that holds them back from living fully. Living a minimalist lifestyle is not necessarily easy, as they have discovered. The freedom that comes from not pursuing ever-increasing wealth sometimes means making hard choices. Family and friends might not understand the decision, and the minimalists themselves are likely to experience times of self-doubt and loneliness, as well as periods of real need.
The minimalist lifestyle requires flexibility and creativity as people learn to share with others and to make decisions every day about how they want to live. However, it can also be a very good life, with personal rewards that far exceed the losses.
In our consumer-driven, materialistic society, the idea of voluntarily giving up the American (or Canadian) Dream might seem odd and even a bit radical. Reducing one’s possessions to a minimum and buying only what is necessary goes against almost everything we have been taught about what constitutes the good life. However, a small but growing group of people is discovering what Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus already know, that less can sometimes be more.