Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, better known as The Minimalists, have made a career of living with a "less is more" mindset. The duo has been gaining popularity in recent years with a 2016 documentary on Netflix, a successful podcast, and features on shows like Good Morning America.
The Minimalists stopped in Houston last month on their Love People Use Things Tour to share their ideas on living with intention. The pair defies any preconceived notions of minimalism, telling Houstonia that it’s much more than just home design or living with a simplistic chair and a few books in your home.
Millburn makes the distinction that minimalism isn’t necessarily about living with less, but “living more fully and intentionally."
For him, one of the biggest lessons to come from the minimalist lifestyle was learning exactly what enough looks like. Constantly bombarded with consumer culture, we buy for temporary satisfaction, but we're left craving more. "We're taught that all growth is good growth—exponential growth, GDP, more stuff, more money, more status, more wealth, more prestige, more achievements, more and more and more, but we never stop to consider less. I think the reason we never stop to consider less is that we don't know what enough is," Millburn explains.
"Quite often, the reason we're so discontented is that we have too much. It's too much in terms of obligations, too much on our calendar, too many so-called friends. We actually lose sight of what's truly important to us."
Millburn’s journey to minimalism serves as an antithesis to the American Dream he was once living. Working in Corporate America, earning a six-figure salary and the proverbial white picket fence, everything seemed perfect on the outside. However, Millburn was dissatisfied with the way things were going in his life. Upon the passing of his mother and the end of his marriage in the same month, a time he describes as feeling "punched in the gut and then punched in the face," he decided to take a deeper look at what had become his life’s focus.
"Early on in this minimalist journey, one of the things that I focused on was getting rid of the toxic relationships in my life, relationships that weren't serving me," Millburn says.
For the average person, ditching things (and people) cold turkey isn’t the easiest task. The Minimalists tell us that there are three keys you need to begin your journey to a more fulfilling lifestyle: asking yourself 'how might my life be better with less stuff?,' setting boundaries with things you need, and applying rules from their new book, Love People, Use Things: Because The Opposite Never Works.
Like their rule of spontaneous combustion. It goes that if you pick up any item in your home, hold it up and say, 'if this spontaneously combusted right now, would I replace it, or would I feel relieved?' If the answer is 'yes, I would feel relieved,' that's probably a sign to let it go.
With help from their new book, the two show us how to disconnect from our material things and reconnect to our truest selves.
"As a minimalist, everything I own serves a purpose or brings me joy," Millburn shares. "The average American household has 300,000 items in it, and we get these things to make us happy, but then we find out that they actually don’t make us happy. Getting rid of those things clears the space and gets the clutter out of the way so that we can make room for what’s really important: my health, relationships, passions, creativity, finances, and my ability to contribute beyond myself in a meaningful way."
Listen to The Minimalist’s Podcast on streaming platforms.