Shine: Having Enough By Having Less, By The Minimalists

When I started the Shine section of the blog, my intention was to introduce you to people who are changing their lives or their community by taking a different approach. In fact, in the very first Shine post Abby Quillen wrote about her family living car free. (Congratulations on your new baby, Abby!)  Today’s post takes that one step further. Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus are The Minimalists. Minimalism is a lifestyle that’s catching on in response to consumerism.

What is minimalism, exactly? Joshua and Ryan define it this way: Minimalism is a tool get rid of superfluous excess in favor of focusing on what’s important in life so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.

If you’ve ever felt like your stuff was taking over your life, this Shine post is for you!

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By: Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus

To be a minimalist you must live with less than 100 things, and you can’t own a car or a home or a TV, and you can’t have a career, and you have to be able to live in exotic places all over the world, and you have to write a blog, and you can’t have any children, and you have to be a young white male from a privileged background.

OK, we’re joking. Obviously.

But people who often dismiss minimalism as some sort of fad or trend usually mention some of the above mentioned “restrictions” as to why they could “never be a minimalist.”

The truth is that minimalism isn’t about any of those things, but it can help you accomplish all of that stuff if you’d like to (well, except if you’re not a young white male, minimalism can’t really help you become one. But who gives a shit what color your skin is anyway?). If you desire to live with less than 100 things or not own a car or to travel all over the world without fear, minimalism can help. But that’s not the point.

The point is that minimalism is a tool to help you achieve freedom. Freedom from fear, freedom from worry, freedom from overwhelm, freedom from guilt, freedom from depression, freedom from enslavement. Freedom.

It is, however, OK to own a car or own a house or have children or have a career. If these things are necessary to you, then that’s OK. There are tons of successful minimalists who do some or all of these things. Leo Babauta has a family and six children and writes at one of the most impactful websites in the world, and Joshua Becker has a career he enjoys and a family he loves and a house and a car in Vermont. Conversely, Colin Wright owns 51 things and travels all over the world, Everett Bogue writes a blog and lives in San Francisco (and a dozen other cities) without a job, and Tammy Strobel is completely car-free. All of these people are minimalists even though they are vastly different. So how can they all be so different and yet still be minimalists?  That brings us back to our original question: what is minimalism?

Minimalism is a tool to achieve fulfillment in life. It is a tool to achieve happiness, which is (let’s face it) what we are all looking for. We all want to be happy. Minimalism can help. There are no rules in minimalism. Rather, minimalism is simply about stripping away the unnecessary things in your life so you can focus on what’s important. We believe that there are four important areas in everyone’s lives: your health, your relationships, your mission, and your passions. Typically these things overlap, and we realize what’s important to us may not be important to you.

Minimalism has helped us in several ways, including:

  • Reclaiming our time
  • Ridding ourselves of excess stuff
  • Enjoying our lives
  • Discovering meaning in our lives
  • Living in the moment
  • Focusing on what’s important
  • Pursuing our passions
  • Finding happiness
  • Doing anything we want to do
  • Finding our missions
  • Experiencing freedom
  • Creating more, consuming less

How has minimalism helped us with these things? Well, minimalism is a lifestyle choice. Minimalists chose to get rid of the unnecessary in favor of what’s important. But the level of specificity is up to you. Minimalists search for happiness not through things, but through life itself. Thus, it’s up to you to determine what is necessary and what is superfluous in your life. Through this blog we intend to give you some ideas of how to determine these things and how to achieve a minimalist lifestyle without having to succumb to some sort of strict code or set of rules.

A word of warning though: it isn’t easy to take the first few steps, but the journey gets much easier and more rewarding the further you go; the first steps into minimalism often take some radical changes in mindset, actions, and habits (as you will see in our documented journey).

So, if we had to sum it up in one sentence, we would say, Minimalism is a tool get rid of superfluous excess in favor of focusing on what’s important in life so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.

This is just our take on minimalism. Some other minimalists have their different take on it too:

Leo Babauta’s description of minimalism

Joshua Becker’s Benefits of Minimalism

Colin Wright’s Minimalism Explained

Read about why Joshua and Ryan decided start down the path of minimalism here.

Have you heard of minimalism? Have you ever felt your “stuff” was keeping you from doing the things you wanted to do? Please share your thoughts. 

Coming up next on SHINE: Patience Delgado practices “guerilla goodness” taking people by surprise with small acts of kindness in her community. 

If you or anyone you know should be featured in SHINE, please let me know: contact  {at}   jacquelincangro  DOT   com.

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25 comments

  1. Wow, great post, Jackie. Thanks so much for bringing these folks to our attention. I’ve checked out their blogs and subscribed to a few that interested me most. Now I need to go give away some stuff. LOL!
    Living in the Phoenix valley I get to see mad consumerism up close pretty much everyday. Scottsdale is the Mecca for consumers. The hubs & I live a simpler lifestyle, and look forward to making it even simpler as we go.
    Thanks again. 🙂

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    1. When I lived in Atlanta, I felt the same way with big malls and shopping centers around every corner. But now that I live in NYC I realize there is one great cure for buying too much stuff – living in an apartment the size of a postage stamp. LOL!
      I hope you enjoy some of these blogs. I’m already a fan of The Minimalists and Zen Habits (Leo Babauta).

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  2. This has been such a fascinating concept for me since I first heard about it. Although rght now I’m not ready to make the choice to be a true minimalist, I definitely am working toward focusing on what’s more important in life than “stuff.” Great post & great to be introduced to these thoughtful people.

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    1. Great point, Julia! When I want something I’ve been trying to do what Leo Babauta suggests which is to wait 24 hours before buying it (or longer for big purchases). I find that once the time passes I often don’t want it as much as I thought I did.

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  3. Interesting! I cannot imagine the passion one must have for this lifestyle to leave a six figure job. While I am a minimalist in some ways, often not by choice, but in a lot of ways it is, I’ve gotta say it’s a good way to live. It’s definitely a Gen X and Y mentality (I am also at the tail end of the X gen).

    Great post!

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    1. Me, too! Living in a small apartment in NYC makes me a minimalist by default. Before I buy anything I have to ask myself: where in the world am I going to put this? If I can’t tuck it away somewhere, I don’t get it. This has saved me from a lot of unnecessary kitchen gadget purchases! 🙂

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  4. My wife and I have a lot less ‘stuff’ than most people are age seem to (I’m with TSLOACMW – in some ways by choice, in other ways not). I certainly am not a fan of clutter, although I tend to hoard ‘stuff’ for art projects, etc.
    So, if anyone is looking to minimize by getting rid of art/photo materials/equipment I might be willing to take it off their hands… I do what I can to help out, you know. 😉

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    1. So true, Tori. Sometimes I catch myself saying that I *need* those HD vision polarizing sunglasses I saw on the infomercial at 3 am. Um, not really!

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  5. Great post, thanks Jackie. I think the different approaches to minimalism are interesting. I spent a lot of my 20s not having much ‘stuff’ at all, sometimes to my detriment such as shivering my way through my first Melbourne winter cos I didn’t have warm clothes or a heater. I think I’ve reached a point where I’m happy to have stuff but I like to know where it’s come from (impact), that I’m going to use it (not become clutter) and that it’s good quality so it will last. Better stuff, but a lot less of it!

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    1. I couldn’t have said it better myself! Quality over quantity is a good consideration to have before buying more stuff. That is something that I realized only after I was well into my 30s.

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  6. After my divorce, I had to downsize drastically. I thought it would be devastating, but it was liberating. I realized all those things were just stuff that weighed me down. I’m much more discriminating about what I acquire now.
    Great post!

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    1. I imagine the thought of having to part with so many things must have been very scary, but I love your point that it’s actually freeing not to be burdened by so much stuff. I think that’s exactly what The Minimalists are trying to get across.

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  7. You know what’s funny, Jacqueline – someone’s view of a minimalist lifestyle may differ greatly to another one’s view. Those guys made that point, too.
    Compared to many, my husband and I lead a minimalist lifestyle. As SIG and Country Wife said – some of the lifestyle is not by choice.
    I want to further embrace the minimalist lifestyle by ridding myself of the papers, pictures, etc. As the boys bring home various creations from school – I see piles increasing – not decreasing.
    And I agree with Pearls and Prose – letting go of things is liberating!

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    1. What I’ve enjoyed about reading Joshua and Ryan’s blog is that they’re not setting up some rules that I have to follow. (Who needs that?) They give me a lot to think about. It’s amazed me how much I let my stuff define me.
      Though things with sentimental value, like your boys’ artwork, is a much tougher conversation to have with yourself.

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    1. I think George Carlin did a great sketch about stuff a long time ago. He said that your house is just a place to keep your stuff. And when you leave your house – say, to go on vacation – you need to have stuff to carry your stuff. And don’t even get him started on places to store your stuff when you have too much stuff. 🙂

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  8. Thanks for sharing this post and these interesting links – I too have subscribed to a couple of their blogs.

    I’m slowly minimising… But it’s not easy. When we moved apartments in Paris it was insane to see how much more stuff we had after just a year there… We just seem to accumulate so much crap! My being so organised can be a downer as I always manage to find a more efficient way of stocking all this stuff, no matter how small our living space!

    Anyway, this was really inspiring. I’m ready to take yet another look at all my stuff.

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    1. Isn’t moving is one of the best ways to entice yourself to get rid of things you no longer need/use/want? It just feels like the things mysteriously multiply in your closets and drawers.
      Good luck paring down before your big move back to Perth!

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  9. Love this philosophy! I’m not there yet, but I have dreams. It’s one of the things that’s so freeing about backpacking – you have everything you need and you can carry it with you. But I also have a home full of stuff. I have been on a bit of a purge lately, though! Thanks for this post! 🙂

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    1. I’d never thought about backpacking that way. It must be so liberating to have all that you need and need all that you have tight there with you. Makes you realize that we really require much less than we think we do.

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