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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.

Minimalism Scares the Shit Out of Me

Scared Ryan, photo by Adam Dressler

Let’s be honest: minimalism scares the shit out of you, doesn’t it? You’re worried you’ll get rid of stuff you might need later. You’re worried what your friends/family/co-workers/neighbors will think about you? You’re worried you’ll lose your identity, your status, and everything you’ve giving meaning to in your life. Right?

Me too.

I started my journey into minimalism last year, and guess what: I still have my job, still own a condo 3x bigger than what I need (and can’t find a buyer for), still have over 100 things, still find it hard to throw away magazines, still find it difficult to turn down free chachkies, etc., etc.

To be blunt: minimalism still scares the shit out of me.

I know there are many people just like me who are just as scared and I wanted to speak to you, to tell you its OK. That’s why I write here, and I hope that sharing my experiences and my point of view helps you.

I have always been the type of person who puts his whole heart into his beliefs. When I take on a particular ideal or way of life I make the most of it. I do this to a fault. I have such high expectations of myself that I often expect perfection. This is probably why I stress out easier than most, why I have more anxiety than most, and why my chest sometimes feels tighter than a small glove on O.J. Simpson’s hand.

On top of the expectations, a lot of people around me love to point out every “non-minimal” thing I have in my life. They love to talk about how I still own a condo (one that I’m having trouble selling), wear Allen Edmonds shoes (which I’ve owned for 5 years), have a nice haircut (yes someone actually brought up my haircut), and the list goes on and on. But these people are just jealous of my new way of life, of my new lifestyle. They feel like I’m judging them because I don’t live the way they do anymore.

You might be thinking, “Ryan, why do you care what people think?” Well, it’s not about my caring, as much as them affirming things I already think about to myself (with the exception of my haircut, which I’m quite fond of, thank you very much). I’m aware there are many things in my life I still need to minimize. I constantly have to remind myself that I don’t need to explain myself.

The beautiful thing about minimalism is there is no right or wrong, there is no pace at which you have to live your life, and there is nothing that says “this is how you have to live your life.” Minimalism is a journey, and it is different for everyone.

Yes, it scares me to think about throwing away different things I didn’t get rid of during my packing party last year—things I know I can live without but kept because I spent hundreds of dollars on them. It scares me to think I might fail. But I will keep experimenting. It scares me to continue this radical change in my life, but I have this far. I have made so much progress. My life is so different. And I’m not going to stop now.