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The Minimalists
The Minimalists are Emmy-nominated Netflix stars and New York Times–bestselling authors Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Alongside their podcast cohost, T.K. Coleman, this simple-living trio helps millions of people eliminate clutter and live meaningfully with less. Learn More.

The Rats in the Tunnel

There is a light at the end of the tunnel: we all know this. Even when it’s hard to find, we know it’s there, just beyond the bend.

Finding the light isn’t the hardest part of life’s journey: it’s dealing with what’s hiding in the tunnel. What lurks in the darkness keeps us from focusing on the light.

Anytime we visit New York City, we might see oversized rats scurrying down the blackened train tracks below the subway platform. If we jump down and walk those tracks, we will find the light at the end of the subway tunnel—eventually.

Finding the light isn’t what worries us: what worries us are the rats in the tunnel. We must contend with whatever stalks the darkness, what waits to trip us up and keep us from the light.

The rats are no different from the plethora of obstacles getting in our way every day—the mundane tasks, the banal distractions, the vapid, harmful ways we pacify ourselves.

Minimalism allows us to remove those obstacles and focus on the light; it allows us to shoo the rats from the tunnel and find the light more quickly. Minimalism allows us to swiftly exit the tunnel and avoid the malevolent, filthy creatures lurking in the darkness.

And the light is so much brighter when you get out of the tunnel.

What are your rats? What keeps you in the tunnel, hidden from the light? Shopping? Television? Internet? Debt? Clothes? Gadgets and consumer electronics? Overeating? Something else?

What can you get rid of to focus on the light? What can you remove from your life to make it more meaningful?

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