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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.

Essentials, Nonessentials, and Junk

Everything we own can be placed in three piles.

Essentials. Few possessions should fall into this pile. These are the necessities we can’t live without: food, shelter, clothes. While the specifics change for each person, most of our needs are universal.

Nonessentials. In an ideal world, most of the things we own would fit in this pile. These are the objects we want in our lives because they add value. Strictly speaking, I don’t need a couch, a bookshelf, or a dining table in my livingroom, but these items enhance, amplify, or augment my experience of life.

Junk. Sadly, most of our things belong in this pile. These are the artifacts we like—or, more accurately, think we like—but they don’t serve a purpose or bring us joy. The average American home contains more than 300,000 items, and most of it is junk. While this junk often masquerades as indispensable, it actually gets in the way of a more meaningful life.

Of course, the personal effects in these piles are different for everyone. The widgets that add value to my life might be junk to you, and vice versa. The key, then, is to continue to question the things we bring into our lives, and to question the things we hold onto, because the stuff that adds value today might be tomorrow’s junk.