The theme of 2014 for me has been to question everything and assume nothing. This theme led me to the book “Everything that Remains” by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, self-proclaimed minimalists. The book is about the journey of two men in their late 20s who decide to leave their corporate jobs and pursue simple living. Interestingly enough they both lived in Cincinnati (my current home) when they made this choice and had great paying jobs at Cincinnati Bell.
The question they posed in search for more meaningful lives was, “what do you really need to be fulfilled?” Do you need the large home in the suburbs, the luxury vehicle and all the material items that come with modern life? After Ryan’s broken marriage and mother’s passing, he decides to not only ponder this question, but actually takes dramatic action to determine what he truly needs to be healthy and happy. He sells his home, car and many other personal items and gets down to the essentials.
Before I read about what he actually kept from his collection of “things” I thought I was working toward minimalism in my own life, but comparatively I am hoarder. Not to the extreme, but I definitely have the tendency to do what Ryan shared he did in the past, organizing all “my things” in neat Rubbermaid containers, shoe boxes and closets. All packed away tightly for when I need them, yet not touching anything for years. I have given away a lot of stuff in the last few years, but the boxes still exist and the organized piles still grow.
I didn’t feel as though it was a big deal to keep all this stuff packed away, until some of the statements Ryan shared resonated with me deeply.
- Your stuff anchors you and ties you to the past, inhibiting growth into your future.
- Having lots of stuff starts to define you, rather than your character, defining you.
- Other people can benefit from the stuff you no longer value (if you haven’t used it for over 2 years—you don’t value it).
- Excess stuff gets in the way of finding clarity in your life.
- Collecting stuff falsely provides meaning in our lives and consumes funds that could be better used toward creating meaning.
These aren’t verbatim comments from his book, rather my insights. Honestly the book has so many wonderful messages I could never attempt to synthesize them into a few bullets—remember to add this book to your library rentals—no need to purchase:)
What this book is asking us to evaluate is what we are giving up for these materials goods and how much the accumulation, maintenance and storing process is costing. Perhaps for you it’s just an extra top or souvenir mug here and there. Regardless those things add up to be clutter and slowly drain your bank account at the expense of the freedom to pursue what you really want in life.
For Ryan, giving up possessions that did not regularly add value to his life and letting go of non-active entertainment resources like television and excessive internet browsing, enabled him to pay down all his debt, quit a job that was no longer fulfilling and pursue his passion of writing.
You may counter with “really, giving up purchasing this silly mug is going to allow me to follow my dreams?” My response is that maybe today it won’t (and especially not with that attitude, I kid). However, if each time before you purchase something you think about how it is truly adding value to your life, you will make a dent toward the benefit of having more options in your life to pursue a more fulfilling existence.
Our time is limited and what we choose to spend our energy and money on create the worlds we each respectively live in. If you are completely happy with your world, keep investing the same as you always have! If you are not, what can you get rid of to create more space for what you do want? What can you stop spending money on to eventually lead you to a life that is aligned with your most authentic vision of what you want?