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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.

We Can’t Fix the Problem with the Problem


Wouldn’t our economy crash if everyone became a minimalist? This is a common question people ask us. And its answer is a little more abstruse than a simple yes or no.

Suffice it to say, our economy is already broken. This isn’t hard to see when we step out from among the pines and peer at the forest from a distance.

The problem is that we’re attempting to fix the problem with the problem. We’re attempting to “stimulate” an economy that is already overstimulated, which is tantamount to giving a bottle of Jack Daniels to a man with a hangover.

The economy is not what needs fixed. And capitalism is not broken. Neither “problem” is the real problem. Rather, we are the problem. We have turned ravenous and self-indulgent, and, as a result, we are less happy than ever. Suicide rates are at an all-time high. Personal debt is at an all-time high. Stress, anxiety, discontent, all at an all-time high.

Collectively, over many years, we told ourselves (with conviction) we could buy happiness, so we manufactured a false economy based on rapacious over-spending and accumulating stuff we didn’t need. And now it’s the morning after the party and we’re staring at ourselves in the mirror, unsure of how to make this pounding headache GO AWAY!

That bottle of Jack won’t fix the problem; it will only make it worse. Stimulating the economy won’t help either. Changing how we live—how we think about consuming, how we make decisions—will slowly fix the problem. It will take time and action, but if enough of us live more deliberately, then we can fix this mess by fixing ourselves.

No, not everyone is going to become a minimalist; not everyone is going to live intentionally. But if we base our lives on the average person’s life, then we’re almost guaranteed to be unhappy—because the average person is unhappy.

We needn’t, however, settle for someone else’s discontent. We needn’t constrict ourselves for the sake of social normalization. Rather, we can live purposefully and be remarkable in myriad ways.

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