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The Minimalists

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.

A Quiet Place

My mind often cries for serenity.

When I moved to a mountainside cabin in Montana for four months, my intention was to tap into a pseudo–Walden Pond experience, one in which I was closer to nature, closer to myself—my interior self—than ever before.

It worked. During those months, I committed myself to a great deal of self-exploration, a great deal of writing (I wrote a ton of short stories, including “Echo Lake“), and a plethora of activities that forced me to better examine my interior life: tending to a fire for warmth, dealing with the loneliness of remote living, living more intentionally out of necessity.

One of my recent experiences—living with two single guys in Missoula, Montana’s University District—more closely mimics Thoreau’s experience than the remote cabin.

Hard to believe, right? The reason is simpler than one might guess: amid the talking, the visitors, the socializing, the work, the meetings, the stuff-30-year-old-single-guys-do, I found a serene place, a place all my own, a place to which I could retreat when I needed absolute peace.

That place was my bedroom.

Back in the cabin, peace and quiet became the norm: I was surrounded by deafening silence. But at the Asym House, I was forced to seek quiet when I was in need. Thus, I established my bedroom as my quiet place. Much like Thoreau’s lakeside plot, my room contained only a few necessary items: a bed for sleeping, a desk for writing, a chair for sitting, and a lamp for reading. Occasionally, I burned a candle so my olfactory sense—our strongest sense—knew I was in my quiet place.

That’s it—there was nothing else. I left the walls blank, the wood floor bare. I didn’t want anything else in my quiet place. It needed to be not only quiet auditorily, but quiet visually.

I’m not opposed to artwork adorning my walls nor decorations festooning my shelves. Aesthetics are important: art and decorations often add a personal touch to a living space. But I can hang artwork and other personal embellishments anywhere in the home. My room, however, is intentionally void of these things: no clock, no paintings, no photos, no bookshelf, no nightstand, no noise. It’s completely quiet and distraction-free, and thus it’s anxiety- and stress-free, too.

How about you? Where is your quiet place?

Read this essay and 150 others in our new book, Essential.