A few years back, during our first tour of the Mapleleaf North, we stood amid alphabetical rows of endless bookshelves, basking in a Calgary bookstore’s fluorescent glow, answering questions at the end of our talk in front of a few hundred smiling Canadians.
It happens in almost every city. Someone projects their fears, expectations, and insecurities onto us: You guys aren’t real minimalists because…
You drive a car.
You own a smartphone.
You sell books.
You … whatever.
It happens so frequently that we’re now inoculated to the criticism. Whenever you do something meaningful, people will judge you. So what? Let them. Judgment is but a mirror reflecting the insecurities of the person who’s doing the judging.
But this time—in this Albertan bookshop—was different.
Toward the back of the crowd, a man in his mid-forties raised his hand and, in an aggressive tone, said, “I don’t have a question—I have comment.”
The crowd hushed, waited.
“I had to get rid of my bed because of you two,” the heckler said.
“Excuse me?” Ryan said.
“Because of this whole minimalism thing, my wife and I had to get rid of our bed,” he said, louder this time, furrowing his brow and gesturing toward the woman at his right.
“Why?” Joshua asked. “We’ve never told anyone to get rid of their bed. I own a bed. Ryan owns a bed. I wouldn’t—”
“I don’t think you understand me!” he interrupted, his arms gesticulating wildly, a manic look on his features. “My wife found your website earlier this year, and we had to get rid of our bed!”
“But why would—”
“Our marriage was ending,” he cut in again. “After two decades, we had become roommates, not a married couple. We were staying together just for the kids.”
The entire crowd was rubbernecking now, staring at the couple.
“Then my wife found your website, and she started simplifying without telling me. She was letting go of everything that didn’t add value to our lives!”
“Uh-oh,” Ryan muttered.
“Hmm,” Joshua pondered aloud.
“In just a few months, I noticed something was different. Our house was cleaner, tidier, less cluttered. But, more important, something was different with my wife. She seemed happier, calmer, less stressed. And she was being nicer to me, which forced me to notice how … umm … not nice I was being to her. And to our kids. And to everyone in my life. But then I realized I could be nice, too. My wife had changed, so that meant I could change—it was my decision.”
We both nodded and continued listening. Maybe this wasn’t a heckler after all.
“For the first time in years, with much of our excess junk out of the way, my wife and I started talking again. We were actually communicating with each other. We started having discussions we hadn’t had in years: Dreams. Goals. Priorities. Everything was on the table.”
A huge smile broke across the man’s glowing face.
“Then something amazing happened: we started having sex again. Lots of sex. Crazy sex. Great sex! So much sex that our teenage kids complained that our bed was too loud,” he clapped his hands to mimic their headboard banging against a wall: “Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!”
Laughter overcame the crowd.
“So we got rid of our bed, too. And with less stuff, we found ourselves—we found the couple who had been buried under decades of clutter.”
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