Does your life feel a little cluttered? These guys can help.
In 2010, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus left their six-figure corporate jobs. As they approached their 30th birthdays, they had everything anyone could ever ask for: big houses, luxury cars, all the new gadgets. But they weren't happy, and decided to make a change.
The best friends in high school in Dayton, Ohio, moved to a cabin in Montana. On the way, they discovered the minimalist lifestyle — the purposeful reduction of useless stuff that can clog up our lives.
Now out of the rat race, they are spreading the minimalist message. They have written several books and countless essays, they offer an online writing class and personal mentoring sessions. Additionally, they have more than 2 million readers on their blog, theminimalists.com.
Millburn and Nicodemus' new lifestyle isn't entirely extreme. They both still have their iPhones, dress shoes and social lives. For them, the most important part of minimalism is focus. They talk about making fewer promises but making sure that they are 100 percent present for each of those commitments. If something is not adding value to their lives or the lives of people they care about, they drop it.
In January, they began their 100-city tour across the United States, Ireland, Australia and the United Kingdom. At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28th, they will appear at The Ivy Bookshop (6080 Falls Road Baltimore) to talk about their journey, read an excerpt from their book "Everything that Remains" and sign copies. They took some time recently to answer a few questions:
A lot of the time people will talk about simplifying their lives but never actually take action. How would you encourage people to take the first step?
JFM: Getting started is as simple as asking yourself one question: How might your life be better if you owned fewer material possessions?
And because decluttering can be boring, we found a way to make it more fun with a little friendly competition. We can it the Minimalism Game, and it is how thousands of our readers have started removing the excess from their lives. Here's how it works:
Find a friend or family member. Someone who's willing to get rid of some of their excess stuff. Starting at the beginning of the month, each of you must get rid of one thing on the first day of the month. On the second, two things. Three items on the third. So forth, and so on. Anything can go! Clothes, furniture, electronics, tools, decorations, etc. Donate, sell, or trash. Whatever you do, each material possession must be out of your house — and out of your life — by midnight each day.
It's an easy game at first. However, it starts getting challenging by week two, when you're both jettisoning more than a dozen items each day. Whoever can keep it going the longest wins.
Social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter can produce the fear of missing out, or FOMO. Obviously you are active on both your blog and on Twitter [Millburn is @JFM and Nicodemus is @RyanNicodemus], how do you avoid FOMO?
RN: Technology isn't inherently good or bad. It is a tool, and what's important is how we use that tool. We should treat technology the same way we try treat our possessions: We must ask whether it's adding value to our lives or contributing to others in a meaningful way. Before I send a tweet or begin using another social media platform, I ask myself, "Will this add value to my life or lives of others?" If it won't, then I stop.
Explain why "find your passion" is bad advice.
JFM: We hear it all the time: bloggers and motivational gurus broadcasting the idea that you should "follow your passion." You should do what you're "meant to do with your life." You must "embrace your true calling."
I call shenanigans, though. Nobody is born with a preexisting mission. You were not meant to do any one thing for the rest of your life. Truth be told, there are dozens — even hundreds — of things that all of us can do with our lives, work we can be happy with and passionate about.
Do you think that there is a difference between being a minimalist man versus being a minimalist woman? How do gender roles and expectations play into the minimalist movement?
RN: Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps both men and woman question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life's path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.
Does that look different for different people? Sure. There are many flavors of minimalism: A 20-year-old single guy's minimalist lifestyle looks different from a 45-year-old mother's minimalist life. Even though everyone embraces minimalism differently, each path leads to the same place: a life with more time, more money, and more freedom to live a more meaningful life.
Your tour covers 10 months and three continents. How do you stay minimalist on the road?
JFM: Three things: Pack light (one duffle each), exercise six minutes a day and most important, avoid busywork. Opt instead for focus.
It was Henry David Thoreau who famously said, "It is not enough to be busy. The question is: what are we busy about?" And if I were to append his quandary, I'd say, "It is not enough to be busy. The question is: what are we focused on?"
Ryan and I don't commit to a lot of things, but the tasks and people we do commit to receive our full attention. Which means we have to say no to many things — so we can say yes to that which is most meaningful.