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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.

Giving Is Living

Helping Hands

Contributing In a Meaningful Way

It’s funny how contributing to others makes us 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. It puts a smile on your face—a real smile.

Here are four examples of ways that we can contribute to others in a meaningful way:

Scenario One: Seeking Out and Giving

Try this: give $10 to the next guy you see standing on the street corner (yep, we’re talking about the panhandler holding a “out of work” sign).

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? What if he uses it to buy food to keep from starving?

Better yet, don’t give him the $10. Instead, use that $10 to 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. Sometimes giving changes everything.

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

Courtney Carver calls this kind of giving, Giving Freely.

Scenario Two: Donate What You Don’t Need

How many coats do you need? How many pairs of jeans to you need? What else do you have excess of in your life?

Why not donate that stuff to someone who needs it more than you?

You might recall that Joshua just donated the majority of his remaining clothes to the Goodwill recently:

Ryan donated a ton of stuff to the Salvation Army and Goodwill during our journey into minimalism.

You can find the charity that is right for you at Donation Town (many will even come to you to pick up your donation).

Plus you can write this stuff off at tax time. Joshua Becker wrote about the details you’ll need for a tax write-off here.

And Merlin Mann has an interesting concept for scheduling your donation day.

Scenario Three: Donate Your Time

Last Saturday, we spent our day donating our time. We helped rehab a house for a family in Dayton, Ohio. We did this with a great organization called Habitat for Humanity. Not only do you get to help a family who needs your help, but you get to pick up some practical skills as a bonus.

We also participate in other community events like soup kitchens, park clean-ups, volunteering at schools (tutoring, painting schools, school maintenance), and any other way we can give back to the people in our community.

The most valuable thing you can give someone is your time. How are you going to give your time to others?

Here’s a recommendation: schedule one day next month with some friends and/or family in which you give back to your community in some way. The easiest places to start are Habitat for Humanity or a local soup kitchen. And make sure you have fun with it, we’re certain you will.

Scenario Four: Listen To Your Inner Voice & Help People In The Moment

While Ryan was in the checkout line at the grocery store recently there was a young, early twenty-something couple with a newborn baby standing in front of him. He saw they were putting some things back they brought to the checkout line because they didn’t have enough money. The urge to contribute—that same hardwired desire to help we all have—kicked in and Ryan knew that he had to contribute to this couple. So he purchased the items that they couldn’t afford and gave those items to that young couple.

We’re not writing about these things because we want everyone to see how nice we are (although we are super nice guys, not to mention incredibly handsome and friendly and a supercool guys to hang out with). We’re writing about how we contribute because we want you to contribute too.

We want you to hear that voice inside you that tells you to do something kind or generous for someone else. We want you to take action. Sometimes that voice can be quiet and easy to ignore, so we’re just reminding you that it’s there.

When Ryan got that “you need to do something” feeling in the checkout line, he didn’t think, he just acted. You can do the same thing; you can condition yourself to just act.

Take Action and Contribute

If there is something in your life right now that you’ve 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. We 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.

More people must contribute.

Start today, start now. We’re certain you can make a difference.

Also, check out Joshua Becker’s 10 Simple Ways to Become a More Generous Person for some additional tips.