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Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus help over 20 million people live meaningful lives with less through their website, books, podcast, and documentary. The Minimalists have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Forbes, TIME, ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, CBC, and NPR.

Inside the Prison Walls of Consumerism

There’s a shopping mall in San Diego that used to be a prison. Restored, repurposed, and redecorated, it’s hard to imagine this place once imprisoned hundreds of inmates.

One might argue, however, it’s a different kind of prison now: a voluntary incarceration, caged by the invisible walls of consumption.

This might sound hyperbolic, but it’s an apt analogy. After all, consumption isn’t the problem; compulsory consumption (consumerism) is the problem. We’ve trapped ourselves by thinking that consumerism will make us happy, that buying shit we don’t need will somehow make us whole.

We’ve gotten good at fooling ourselves, too: we’ve overdecorated the jailhouse walls—walls we’ve built around ourselves—and we’ve made our cells so comfortable we’re terrified to leave. But a prison cell with a view is still a prison cell.

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