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The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff for 3 million readers. As featured on: ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, TODAY Show, NPR, Forbes, The Atlantic, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and National Post. They live in Missoula, Montana.

Home Is Where the Red Phone Is

Chair and Phone, Photo by JFM

I don’t enjoy traveling as much as some people.

And thus, unless I’m touring, which I’m doing right now and which I enjoy because the people are amazing, I tend to avoid exorbitant travel, opting instead to stay home in my community most of the time.

All my clothes would likely fit in a single suitcase, but I don’t enjoy living out of a suitcase. I find value in traversing the globe, in discovering new cultures, in learning more about myself in the process, but I truly enjoy living in a home, a place I can call my own.

The problem with homes, however, is that once we establish a long-term dwelling, it’s easy to accumulate a bunch of junk we don’t need.

I built my first house when I was twenty-two, a feat that seems ridiculous now, but its size was even more ridiculous: it contained three bedrooms, even though only my former spouse and I lived there; it had a huge basement, which was a great place to hide away last month’s discarded new possessions (toys I no longer played with); it featured not only a gigantic livingroom but also an ‘entertainment room,’ which I think is pretty much just a fancy way to say ‘room with a too-large TV and expensive surround-sound system.’

We think we have to fill all our space, every corner nook and hidden cranny crammed with supposed adornments. We believe that if a room is nearly empty, then it is underutilized. So we buy stuff—silly stock paintings and decorative thingys and IKEA furniture—to fill the void. Ultimately, what we’re doing is attempting to establish the place in which we live as our home, an extension of ourselves. And so the logic goes: the more I buy, the more this place is my home.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it’s circuitous and never-ending. Your home is your home for one reason: you call it your home. The stuff doesn’t make it your home—you do.

If you need a reminder, though, you can do what I do: find one thing, something unique, and display it somewhere prominent. For me, it’s a red phone, a relic from my 12 years in the telecom industry. It’s a simple, beautiful design that stands out (the same phone is in the MoMA), and whenever I see it, I know I’m home. For you, your red phone could be a one-of-a-kind painting, a photograph, a child’s framed drawing. When you have a single reminder of home, everything else begins to look superfluous, even silly.

What is your red phone?