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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 4 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY, NPR, TIME, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

Day 11: Trash


Take Out The Trash

Taking out the trash seemed to be an appropriate synecdoche for perhaps this entire journey, since minimalism is fundamentally about getting rid of excess stuff.

And the reason you want to get rid of that stuff—that unnecessary stuff—is because you want to focus on what’s important in life, and you want to live a meaningful life, one that is filled with happiness and freedom.

You want a free life, one in which your are really free. Free to contribute to other people in a meaningful way, free to grow as a person, free to pursue your passions.

In a more literal sense, Ryan actually is taking out the trash today. That is to say, he is literally taking dozens (yes, dozens) of large bags of junk to the curb for the trash man (or woman) to collect.

And that’s after separating everything that’s left after seven days of unpacking into three piles:

  1. Trash
  2. Donate
  3. Sell

Pretty simple. Take everything you haven’t unpacked (i.e., everything that is still packed) and determine if you can sell it or donate it or pitch it. You have to pick one.

And if you do stumble across something that you think you need, ask yourself three questions: “When is the last time I used this?” and “Do I really need this?” and “Is this something I can replace?” Chances are the answers are: you haven’t used it in a while, you don’t really need it, and yes it could be replaced if you ever did need to replace it (which you probably won’t).

So throw caution to the wind and get rid of the stuff. There might be one or two things you find that you need (e.g., Ryan found his spare car keys today day, which he asked me to hold onto for him in case of emergency), but everything else needs to go.

Take the trash out today. We’ll deal with donating and selling over the next two days.

A few words about sentimental items

We all have sentimental items like pictures of loved ones, that plate your mom gave you for a special occasion, those little knickknacks that grandma gave us as kids, etc.

This might come as a shock to you, but throw them away.

Think about it. They don’t really have any value or meaning other than the meaning you give those items.

Hold on to your pictures for now, we’ll ask you to scan them and then throw them away in a few days.

But everything else can go. The past does not equal the future. The sentimental items are a reminder of the past and you don’t want to live there.

You want to live in the now.

You want to be on the mountain.

This might sound shocking to you, and you might be terribly afraid to throw out that box of trinkets that you never use, because they have sentimental value. But you are starting a new life, and you don’t need constant reminders of the past to have your new life. It’s counter-intuitive.

Click here to read an essay I wrote about getting rid of my mom’s sentimental items after her death.

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Go to the main page: Our Journey Into Minimalism: 21 Days That Changed Our Lives