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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 12: Contribution


Contribution (Donate Your Stuff)

Today Ryan is rummaging through his packed boxes to decide what he should sell and what he should donate.

It’s funny how donating to others makes one feel. It’s a feeling that’s hard to explain. There is a sense of fulfillment that you can’t get from buying things. It makes you happy. And yet it’s not just happiness, but it sure puts a smile on your face.

If you’re reading this you probably know what I’m talking about. If you don’t know—or if you’ve forgotten the feeling—then give $10 to the next guy you see standing on the corner of the next highway exit (usually holding a “out of work” sign) and then you will know.

But what if I don’t have an extra $10? You do. Even if you’re broke you have $10 you can give up.

But what if he just uses my money to buy alcohol? He might. But what if you’re wrong? But what if he uses it to buy food to keep from starving?

Better yet, take that guy out to eat. Have a conversation with him. It might change his life. Or the feeling you get from it might change yours.

Something was built into us—hardwired at birth—that makes us feel great when we are kind, when we are giving, when we contribute to others.


While I was in the checkout line at the grocery store yesterday there was a young, early twenty-something couple with a newborn baby standing in front of me. I saw they were putting some things back they had brought to the checkout line with them because they didn’t have enough money. That “something” I was talking about in the last sentence above kicked in and I had to contribute to this couple.

I’m not writing about this because I want everyone to see how nice I am (although I am super nice and not to mention incredibly handsome and friendly and a supercool guy to hang out with), I’m writing about this because people need not ignore that voice inside them that asks them to do something kind or generous for someone else, especially because that voice sometimes can be quiet and easy to ignore. When I got that “you need to do something here” feeling in the checkout line, I didn’t think, I just acted.

If there is something in your life right now you have been wavering on, a decision of should I or shouldn’t I, just act on what you know is right. Act on that built-in voice. I guarantee you’ll feel great. The other great thing about doing what’s right isn’t just the feeling you get, it’s also the payback you’ll get when you least expect it, when YOU need it. Colin Wright calls this paying it forward. And it works.

In this economy—with the down-and-to-the-right trend we’re seeing in this country (no matter how much better the news and government is telling you things are better)—more people have to contribute.

Start today, start now.

Go back to day 11 of your journey

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