Updated: Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists commented on this article. Please read through and look at his response. Thanks Joshua!
Buying Too Much Crap
I self-identify as, “A failing minimalist.” Look on my walls, search through my drawers, and peer onto my countertops, there’s plenty here. I’m failing to follow my own philosophical desire for minimalism in an increasingly consumptive world. I’m not perfect, and sometimes I fail at minimizing the importance of stuff. Amidst my purchases and missteps, I look to role models that help shape my sinuous path to simple living. They offer support, inspiration, and guidance when I need it most.
My Role Models
Some of the strongest writers and websites on minimalism are Zen Habits, Becoming Minimalist, and The Minimalists. The latter site is my favorite for regular inspiration and deep thoughts regarding a life filled with more meaning and less clutter. Ryan and Joshua catalogue their journey leaving the rate race, selling away extra stuff, and clearing the clutter that also fills the mind. Ryan and Joshua smartly exited the working world and created a business out of minimalism. Now, they travel around North America, explaining what it is and how you can become a minimalist, too. But that doesn’t necessarily pay the bills.
One of their main income streams includes published books. After writing short posts and collections of thoughts to the site, they condense the details into a perfectly thematic string of stories and inspiration. These for purchase offerings have broadened their audience, too.
How Minimalism Can Create Consumption
A newer offering entitled, “Simplicity: Essays,” is another anthology of stories. The beautifully written words and simple hopes delight the budding minimalist in me:
These essays were written to encourage readers to think critically about the excess in their lives and, ultimately, to take action towards living more intentionally. This collection is short enough to be read in a few sittings, or it can be digested slowly, reading one essay a day for six weeks, applying its principals each day to your own life.
Unfortunately, the two are at fault for recommending something that may only enhance and encourage consumption. At one point, they recommend selling or ridding your tower of DVDs. I completely agree, as they’re only taking up space. The duo mentions that once you see a movie, going back to it is an effort to live in the past. As their minimalist journey has encouraged a focus on the present, they see these forms of entertainment in a finite way. This is where I differ. Going back to something you’ve already watched or read is exceptionally frugal, and even though it may occupy space, it doesn’t need to be counter to minimalistic mores. In fact, I often return to classics for new inspiration, experiences, and reflections. The movie Fight Club is a perfect example. I’ve seen it about 6 times. I rewatch it, not for the past or nostalgic relief, but as a reminder to the errs of consumerism, materialism, and nihilism amidst a culture of consumption. I always gain something new, and it’s definitely present focused. Minimalism shouldn’t create consumption. It’s a tragic irony if it does. In my opinion, minimalism must balance the desire for less focus on stuff, with the need for some basics. If you have a favorite that you continually learn from, keep it.
Christy King says
I agree completely. Stuff itself isn’t the enemy – it’s stuff that you don’t use or value that is the problem. The catch is differentiating between stuff you really use/value and stuff you only THINK you use/value. I find that each time I go through a room I find things that a month or two ago I thought I needed to keep, that I now realize I really don’t care about. We still have more “stuff” than I like, but I don’t have any deadlines at this point and by going slowly, I can make sure I use up (rather than get rid of) what I can, and make good choices about what to give away instead of rushing through.
You’re right on the money. That’s exactly the problem. Our brains often tell us that we NEED something or CAN’T do without. The reality is far simpler: Simplify. We don’t usually need much.
That’s a smart tactic, to slowly reduce the superfluous. That conscious reduction is a healthy reaction, as well. Unfortunately, many people cannot slowly reduce – it takes drastic measures. That’s where advice by The Minimalists or Zen Habits comes handy.
Thanks for encouraging a great dialogue and following with the site. Your words and visits are much appreciated, Christy.
All the best,
JoshuaFieldsMillburn (@JFM) says
Howdy, Sam. Thanks for your kind words. I appreciate you.
W/r/t to the whole DVD thingy: that and physical books seem to be large points of contingency for a lot of folks, but I think you and I agree more than you might think, because as you know, I’m certainly a proponent of owning things that add value to our lives, and I know, based on first-hand empirical experience, that the majority of DVDs festooning our shelves aren’t exactly value-adding possessions (i.e., when we look in the proverbial mirror and’re completely honest with ourselves), and in fact these unwatched/unread DVDs/books oft-extract value/joy from our lives (viz. in the emotional forms of angst, overwhelm, discontent, etc.), but, that said, some movies/DVDs/books actually do add value, and so I’m all for those items, a well-curated collection of things that bring joy to our lives, while jettisoning the superfluous in the process.
Thank you for commenting on this article! Having your input and feedback is incredibly inspiring to the work I’m doing.
Well-curated collection of things is an apt way of putting it. I completely agree; at least, that’s the goal I’m shooting for. Yes, the DVD towers (of which, I do not have and do not argue for) tend to just take up space. Most go years between screenings. These are things to do without and avoid purchasing – absolutely.
Cheers to minimalism! 😉