Loosely familiar with the story and works of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, known to their readers as “The Minimalists“, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from the Toronto stop on their 100 day book tour for their latest tome “Everything That Remains”. Ryan introduced it, not as a how-to book, which is the format for their earlier work, “The Minimalists – Living a Meaningful Life”, but as a more profound why-to book, a collection of stories rather than to do lists.
As the mother of a household with two kids and three pets and all their paraphernalia, I look back on my pre-family life with a sentimental nostalgia for the simplicity I remember it had but somehow at times failed to appreciate. I had time to learn and play the guitar. It was easy to find time to socialize with friends – some of whom fit in the ‘friendship due to proximity’ category Ryan talked about, which somehow seemed a diminished class of relationships. (I pondered that – wouldn’t family contain the most happenstance relationships, yet they are often portrayed as the most important?) I learned to cook, something I don’t make much time for anymore. I played tennis, went to the gym and ate well.
I first shared a house with three others, and then lived on my own in a 600 square foot, third floor, un-air-conditioned apartment overlooking High Park, a glorious oasis of mature maples, oaks and cherry trees in the west end of Toronto. I had a dog and I loved having my own place. I remember being happy other than for the profound fact my father was terribly ill. My spaces never felt overwhelming or filled with too much. Everything fit and stayed in place. I didn’t have an urge for minimalism, but I did have the urge to travel which presented its own form of less is more.
I got a leave from my job, sold my car, packed up all my possessions (and stored them in the basement of a gracious friend) and fit everything I needed for the next year in a backpack. I travelled for the next 11 months straight, living simply and experiencing much. By far it was my most minimal period yet contains some of my richest memories. I get the correlation or lack thereof between possessions and joy.
I wondered how two men in their twenties without kids could have stumbled upon such a need for minimalism. I learned they has both been married and got caught in the whirlwind of career advancement with an income that partially funded expenses including homes with two living rooms, cars, clothing, gadgets and stimulation of various sorts which created a need for more income. Somewhere self-care, fulfillment and putting relationships first fell off the priority list, likely out of habit and conformity.
Full of possessions but empty of heart, both Joshua and Ryan dramatically changed their lives. Joshua was the first to simplify his life. Inspired by Joshua’s new found happiness, Ryan agree to a “Packing Party” – the ultimate in de-cluttering. They packed all his belongings into boxes and over the next three weeks Ryan unpacked only what he needed. Not surprisingly given how often this ratio comes up, the Pareto principle applied and 80% was left packed and ultimately disposed of. Ryan and Joshua now travel to spread their learnings. The Minimalists challenge you to take a closer look at your life and imagine it five years from now with less stuff and less stress, and more joy and fulfillment. They inspire a life of intention – a deliberate and purposeful existence.
You can check their website to see if they’re coming to your town. If you do, hang around afterwards. The hugs are worth it.