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The Minimalists The Minimalists
Emmy-nominated Netflix stars, podcasters, and New York Times–bestselling authors Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus help millions of people live meaningfully with less. The Minimalists have been featured in TIME, GQ, ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, NPR, and they have spoken at Harvard, Apple, Google.

Shopping or Finding Meaning

Forsake your brothers / give up on your lovers,
to get the things / you think you need.

—Jay Nash, “Sweet Talking Liar”


Unlike some men, I used to enjoy shopping. The act itself felt therapeutic—it took my mind off the vapid, empty life I was leading. I bought things to pacify the sadness and discontent within. Clothes, gadgets, and accessories were my holy trinity.

Shackled by the chains of consumerism, I ended up with things I didn’t need—things I didn’t even want much of the time. So I stored those excess things in my basement or my extra closets or in large storage containers stacked in various rooms throughout my oversized house. I didn’t use the stuff, but I held on to it just in case.

But I ended up with much more than just the stuff I bought. I ended up with debt from the stuff I financed or purchased with credit cards. And I ended with anxiety from that debt and anxiety from the space the stuff occupied.

Unbeknownst to me, I developed a sense of attachment to my stuff over time. I didn’t question this feeling, I simply accepted it, which made letting go very difficult. All this misguided angst led me to more shopping in an attempt to fill the void I’d created.

It was a vicious cycle.

Eventually, when I stumbled across minimalism, my eyes were forced open and I saw a scary new world. I began to realize that this never-ending cycle of consumerism would lead to perpetual discontent—unless I broke the cycle (and only I could do it, no one else could do it for me). I realized that while I needed some stuff, there was no meaning in my endless consumption loop.

I needed to close the loop.

Not only did I need to stop buying most of the stuff I was buying, but I had to start paring down and getting rid of the stuff I didn’t need.

I knew simply getting rid of my stuff wasn’t the complete answer. I knew I could get rid of all my stuff and sit in an empty room and be just as miserable as I was before. Rather, I needed to discover what was important in my life. I needed to replace the stuff in my life with meaningful pursuits.

So as I got rid of the excess stuff, I replaced it by focusing on the important aspects of my life: I radically improved my health. I focused on the relationships I had forsaken for so long. I pursued my passion for writing fiction. I found ways to improve daily and grow as an individual. And I began to contribute beyond myself. These are the things that allowed me to do something that shopping could never let me do—they allowed me to live a meaningful life.

Today, less than two years later, a shopping mall feels like an unwelcoming place of chaos, destruction, and anxiety. Today, I’d rather have a meaningful experience than negotiate the halls of a crowded shopping mall looking for that crack-cocaine high of yesteryear.