"What adds value to your life?" That's the question posited by authors Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. The two friends founded TheMinimalists.com, a website all about their quest to simplify their lives in 2010, and since starting the site, they've become internet sensations. Now, with the release of their second book, Everything That Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists, the two are on a 100-city tour with a stop in Charleston at Blue Bicycle Books on May 18.
But back to the question. What adds value to your life? Is it your car? Your closet filled with designer shoes? Your electronic gadgets — the latest iPad or Samsung Galaxy Gear watch? For Millburn and Nicodemus, they hit age 31 and realized it was none of those things.
"I had a great job, a nice car, was making $50,000 a year, but I wasn't satisfied," says Millburn. For Nicodemus, he discovered he was living as a single man in a multi-bedroom condo with two living rooms, each one filled with more stuff than he could possibly use. And, they were both exhausted. "We discovered that working 70 to 80 hours a week and buying even more stuff didn't fill the void," they wrote on their site. The epiphany prompted a dramatic change. Together, the two friends, who have known each other since they were "fat fifth graders," decided to give it all up and began what they call their "journey into minimalism." Keeping a daily blog about the experience, the two drastically downgraded, from giving away business suits and televisions, to attempting to use only one bowl and one glass every day. The men even quit their jobs.
Incidentally, they felt better.
"The more I got rid of the more I wanted to jettison," says Millburn. "Those material possessions were physical, emotional, and mental clutter. I removed the excess from my life, and I felt clearer inside."
In addition, the more they shared on the site, the greater the feedback. Before long Millburn and Nicodemus were being featured on CBS, BBC, and NPR. Inevitably a book deal was struck, and the two published Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life in 2011.
But how easy is it really to follow their lead? Some could argue that the only people who could do such a thing are those already living comfortably. Millburn disagrees.
"I grew up poor, our family was on food stamps, and yet we were still discontent. I thought we were discontent because we didn't have money," he says. "We were discontent because of repeated bad decisions."
For Millburn, minimalism isn't just about rejecting mass consumption; it's about being deliberate with the resources he has. That includes relationships. He even admits that his previous consumer-driven, workaholic lifestyle ended his marriage. "Now my relationships are much stronger because I dedicate time to my closest relationships," he says.
And that's what Nicodemus and Millburn's latest book is all about, featuring sections on five life-defining questions you should ask yourself to the things that make use feel insecure. Beyond getting rid of stuff — "the average American has over 300,000 things in their home," Millburn says — Everything That Remains is the duos' attempt to prove that putting energy into passions and relationships can lead to a well-curated life.