I was fortunate to interview Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus for SheKnows. Separately, they’re cool dudes—guys you’d want to have beers with on a beach somewhere. Together, they’re known as “The Minimalists.” Sound kinda like super heroes? They are.
When both in their waning twenties, they dropped everything, well-paid jobs included, and embraced the philosophy of minimalism: less is more. They truly realized, in Fight Club fashion, the things you own end up owning you.
The less belongings they had, the better they felt. The less junk in their lives, the more room for good stuff. What’s the good stuff? Health, relationships, contribution, growth, PASSION.
Their first book, Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life was a how-to. Their second collaboration, Everything that Remains, is a why-to. I’m going to warn you right now: this book feels like a steel-toe kick to the gut. In a good way.
Josh wrote the majority of the book with excellent footnotes by Ryan. Josh didn’t focus on his writing career until his upper twenties, although he’d always been interested in the craft. Apparently, he learns fast, because his prose is stellar. At one point, he makes a three-page sentence work. Flawlessly. Almost makes you want to smack him.
“I’m approaching Times Square, swimming vigorously against the stream of people and the spill of electric light. Everything seems caffeinated. I am here beneath the howl of the world, the pulse of a city dead inside, and yet all this noise is unable to wake the dead. Heads tilt downward, faces lost in glowing screens, technology turning people into zombies.”
Arggggg, this makes me clutch my stomach, it’s so good.
Everything that Remains is not lacking in literary quality. It’s not lacking in substance either. The road to minimalism is wrought with many personal potholes for both Josh and Ryan as they turn their lives inside out and upside-down. They learn a lot, and so do you.
The book evoked several emotions in me. First, there was excitement, because the prospect of getting rid of my crap is tempting. There was also guilt. Josh called me out on a lot of my grasping—grasping at things, at bad relationships, at … Well, Tyler Durden said it best: “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”
By the end, I felt hopeful, because again (paraphrasing Mr. Durden), once we’ve lost everything, we’re free to do anything. That’s where the title comes from. Once you get rid of your baggage, you’re free to enjoy everything that remains. And everything that remains is way better than a closet full of expensive shoes or a collection of comic book action figures.
One more excerpt:
“Too often we attempt to hold tightly the life that has already left us, but when we get rid of life’s excess, we discover that we’re already perfect, right now, beautiful down to our bone marrow.”