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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.

A Question About Conspicuous Consumption

This week we announced the Indiegogo campaign for the minimalist travel bag from our Minimalism documentary: the Pakt One.

Bringing our first and only physical good to market has been a delicate balancing act, and it has, of course, raised some questions about our intentions, often from seagulls, but also from honest admirers of our work.

For example, Frank, a Patreon supporter, recently asked this thoughtful question on one of our private posts:

I believe that owning only a few well-made things is a giant step toward social and environmental sustainability. I’m a materialist in the true sense of the word—and this sentence always helps me with my purchase decisions. But I do worry that your Pakt project walks a thin line between your core message and the problem you are trying to expose. Do you have any concerns about this?

Yes, that’s a big concern. We don’t want to be part of the problem we fight so vehemently against—consumerism. And we don’t want to create anything—be it our writings, podcasts, films, or this bag—that doesn’t firmly align with our beliefs.

As conscious consumers, we want our creations to add value to other people’s lives without compromising our own values. So when we decided to help create this bag, we worked with Malcolm Fontier (pictured above), who is himself a minimalist and serious environmentalist, to produce a beautiful, logo-free travel bag made only with modern, durable materials that are animal-friendly and have the lowest environmental impact. It was also important to make the bag affordable while ensuring it is manufactured in worker-friendly conditions—no sweatshops, no child labor, no exploitation.

And, equally as important, we’re actively discouraging people from purchasing this bag. We don’t think it’s a good idea for anyone to buy the Pakt One, or any bag, unless they need a new one. Yes, it’s a great travel bag, and it has added more value to our lives than nearly any other item (right up there with our smartphones, computers, and beds), but it’s just a bag—purchasing it won’t make you a more complete person.

True, asking our audience to not purchase something is a terrible business plan, but profit is not our primary motive here. Sure, we hope to earn some income with this project—we’re not allergic to money—but, first and foremost, we want to make a useful, high-quality travel bag.

And, yes, we realize it seems ironic that The Minimalists are recommending a physical good. We get it—when you call yourself a “minimalist,” everything you do is instantly enveloped by a carapace irony. Oh, you own underwear? You’re not a real minimalist! You have a hairdryer? You’re such fraud! And now you’re promoting a travel bag? What a bunch of sellouts!

When you get past the irony, however, the truth is that there was a need that wasn’t being met by traditional bags—there wasn’t a simple duffle that functions like a suitcase—and it made sense for us to be part of the solution since we’ve been traveling with the original version of this bag for years.

As minimalists, we’re not against consumption—we all need some stuff. Instead, we’re fighting against compulsory consumption, and it is our hope that anyone who purchases the Pakt One does so with intention—not impulse.

No, this isn’t some sort of involuted consumerist’s reverse psychology. As with any new thing you bring into your life, we hope you think before you consume. And if you’ve thought it through, and you decide to purchase our bag because it will add value to your life, then that’s great. But if you decide it’s unnecessary, that’s great, too. Either way, you’ve made a deliberate decision, and that’s the best outcome.

For other questions about the Pakt One, visit the FAQs page.