The minimalists

Minimalism is a way of life. And just like any other form, it’s not suitable for everyone. Some embrace it fully, some are reluctant to try it, and some think it’s nothing but a stupid idea. I personally think that in order to express an opinion on something, you have to try it. But us humans are judgmental creatures, so we always jump to conclusions and rarely embrace change.

Switching to a minimalist lifestyle is not an easy task, that is why Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus came up with a brilliant plan – embrace the lifestyle and write about it, in order to help others improve their lives.It all started when they realized that even though they had a high-paying job, a large condo, expensive cars/clothes/gadgets, they were not happy. This in a society that tells us the more stuff we have, the happier we are. They tried to fill the void by buying more stuff, working extra long hours, and getting immersed in debt. Until several (but pretty brutal) signs woke them up to reality – gaining weight, increased debt, huge stress on relationships, failing health. Time for a wake up call!

So Joshua quit his job, Ryan was unexpectedly laid off his job, and the process began. They learned to let go of all the unnecessary things (clothes, books, household items, etc) and improve their lives by focusing on what was important – building relationships and pursue their passions, thus growing as a person. To come full circle, by growing and evolving, they also give back to the community – by donating their time to charity (soup kitchen, etc), to giving speeches, to coaching people and writing essays on minimalism.

I’ve read their ebook Minimalism: Essential Essays and while I don’t claim that it completely changed my life, I can honestly say it provided the tools to do it. The book is divided in 7 parts, all interconnected and presented as baby steps to achieving a clutter-free life.

There are some simple rules and guidelines, that if followed, will bring change to your life:

  • add value, and not things, to your life
  • options are great, but having to many options is counterproductive
  • you don’t need material things with sentimental values to remember someone
  • turn a SHOULD into a MUST to get results
  • get rid of things that bring unhappiness and pursue your passion
  • donate your clothes/books you don’t wear/read – somebody might use them
  • donate your time
  • stop procrastinating (this is a really difficult one for me)
  • taking the first step is the hardest, but it’s worth it

Of course the list could go on, and I highly recommend this book for you.

And because I don’t want this to be just a post on praising minimalism, I’ll give you a few personal examples:

- I looked through my music, safely stored on my external hard drive, and thought to do a “spring cleaning”, meaning, deleting songs I haven’t been listening to for 6 months; it was pretty drastic, but by the end of this process, I’ve deleted 11 GB worth of music; do I regret it? absolutely not…I’m left with about 400 songs I know I will listen to at any given moment, and if I remember another one, not on my list, there’s always youtube

- for several years I’ve been on this on – and – off path to staying fit…exercise, healthy food, the work. But always, along the way, I lost my enthusiasm. Then the excuses came: I don’t have time, I’m too tired, I’m not in the mood, you name it. And it shows. I gained weight. Not so much to alarm me, but it’s enough when I see my belly in the mirror. And no matter how much people try to comfort me that at this age it’s good to have  a small belly (next thing they will say is that going bald is a sign of masculinity – not that I have anything with bald people), I don’t feel good in my skin. So I turned a should into a must. Set up a frequency of workouts, and no more excuses. Got up at 6 (you have no idea how difficult it was, knowing that I could sleep a little bit more). But change requires sacrifices, and if I want to see results, I will continue working out, eating healthy (trying to like fruit) and stay motivated.

One thing that bugged me while reading this book is the repetition of certain info, but I guess this was done to accentuate the idea, for it to sink in. Well it worked!

So I take my hat off to Joshua and Ryan, Colin Wright, Leo Babauta and Julien Smith (especially for his awesome essay – The complete guide to not giving a fuck) for showing us that minimalism doesn’t mean a restricted living, rather than the path to achieve freedom.

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