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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 2 million readers. As featured on: CBS, BBC, NPR, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

Our 21-Day Journey Into Minimalism

The Minimalists, photo by Adam Dressler

Happiness Is a Curious Thing

Happiness is an expansive concept, it goes without saying. At its fundament, the term happiness can be a mind-numbing thing to try to explain with words. But it was this abstract, complex idea—the thought of being truly happy—that led us to live simpler lives. It was happiness that led us to minimalism. Eventually.

But let’s rewind a moment.

Before we discovered minimalism, and before we understood the importance of simplifying our lives, we were successful young professionals from Dayton, Ohio. But we were only ostensibly successful.

You see, back then people saw two best friends in their large homes with more bedrooms than inhabitants and they were envious. They saw our six-figure jobs, our luxury cars, our new gadgets, and our lives of opulence, and they thought, These guys have it figured out. I want to be just like them. They saw all of those things—all of that superfluous stuff—and they just knew we were successful. After all, we were living the American Dream, weren’t we?

But the truth is we weren’t successful at all. Maybe we looked successful—displaying our status symbols like trophies on a shelf—but we weren’t truly successful. Because even with all our stuff, we weren’t satisfied with our lives—we weren’t happy. And we discovered that working 70 to 80 hours a week and buying even more stuff didn’t fill the void. In fact, it only brought us more debt and anxiety and fear and stress and loneliness and guilt and overwhelm and paranoia and depression. It was a solipsistic existence.

What’s worse, we discovered that we didn’t have control of our time and thus we didn’t have control of our own lives.

And then, as our lives were spiraling downward in ever-diminishing circles towards empty oblivion, we inadvertently discovered minimalism. It was a beacon in the night. We lingered curiously on the limbic portions of its perimeter, scouring feverishly through internet page after internet page looking for more information and guidance and enlightenment, watching and learning and attempting to understand what this whole “simple living” thing was all about. Through months of research we traveled further and further down the rabbit hole, and over time we discovered a group people without a lot of things but with myriad happiness and passion and freedom—things for which we yearned so desperately.

Eventually we embraced simple lives, we embraced minimalism as a way of life and discovered that we too could be happy, but it wasn’t through owning more stuff, it wasn’t through accumulation. We took back control of our lives so we could focus on what’s important, so we could focus on life’s deeper meaning, so we could focus on finding true and lasting happiness.

Happiness, as far as we’re concerned, is achieved through living a meaningful life, a life that is filled with passion and freedom, a life in which we grow as individuals and contribute beyond ourselves. Growth and contribution: those are the bedrocks of happiness. Not stuff.

This may not sound sexy or marketable or sellable, but it’s the cold truth. Without growth, and without a deliberate effort to help others, we are simply slaves to cultural expectations, ensnared by the trappings of money and power and status and perceived success.

Minimalism is a tool that allowed us to simplify our lives by stripping away the excess stuff so we could focus on what’s truly important.

We invite you to join us. Membership is free. And you deserve to be happy. You too deserve to live a meaningful life.

Background

So here’s a little background. Joshua discovered—and started applying to his life—some of the concepts of minimalism in early 2010. He hadn’t fully embraced minimalism as a whole, just some of its concepts like paring down his stuff and getting rid of his TV and living with enough and questioning what he owns. In the fall of 2009, soon after his mother died, Joshua stumbled across Colin Wright’s website. Colin said he was “a minimalist.” Joshua had no idea what this meant at the time, but the world he soon discovered showed him that he could be happy without trying to accumulate more stuff.

In other words, he realized that he couldn’t have it both ways. Joshua wanted his life to be one way, but it was the other way. He can’t have all the stuff that was weighing him down and also have the freedom, happiness, and fulfillment he so desperately wanted. Joshua approached Ryan with this pseudo-revelation and we decided to take action, become minimalists, document our journey, and ultimately help other people do the same thing.

The Planning

Once the decision was made, we drew up a plan.

Since Joshua had already simplified much of his life, we decided to start by focusing on Ryan’s life, so that we could both be on the same page. With Joshua’s help, Ryan wanted to turn his cluttered, consumer-driven life into minimalist freedom in 21 days. Thus: Minimalism In 21 Days.

Why 21 days? Well, there are a few reasons: First, it takes 21 days to form a habit, and we wanted to be habitually happy, habitually free, habitually minimalist. Second, we probably could have done it in 10 days, but we didn’t want to stress ourselves out during the process. We knew we could help each other become minimalists and we knew we could enjoy the journey if we took our time and did it over 21 days.

The Day by Day Schedule

Day 1: Deciding (Should vs. Must)

Day 2: Planning

Day 3: Packing Party

Day 4: The Essentials (Unpacking Part 1)

Day 5: The Things You Think You Need (Unpacking Part 2)

Day 6: It’s Only Fear (Unpacking Part 3)

Day 7: Friends and Family and Minimalism (Unpacking Part 4)

Day 8: Belief (Unpacking Part 5)

Day 9: Growth (Unpacking Part 6)

Day 10: Everything You Need (Unpacking Part 7)

Day 11: Take Out the Trash

Day 12: Contribution (Donate Your Stuff)

Day 13: Sell Your Stuff

Day 14: Digitize Your Stuff

Day 15: Reduce Your Expenses, Bills, Credit Cards, & Junk Mail

Day 16: Get Rid of Your TV & Extra Electronics

Day 17: Minimalist Car

Day 18: Sell Your House

Day 19: Minimalist Work

Day 20: Minimalist Health: Diet & Exercise

Day 21: Reclaiming Your Time (Reflect & Relax)