Despite advertising messages that assure us happiness is to be found in our next purchase, the opposite tends to be true as mountains of stuff, clutter and debt leave us stressed and unfulfilled.
Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn know first-hand what it is to try to buy your way to happiness—purchasing all the latest gadgets, new cars and fancy vacations, only to end up with poor health, anxiety, and a deepening discontent. By their early-twenties, the two made good money working corporate jobs and had all the right things, but they were increasingly dissatisfied with their lives.
So, Nicodemus and Millburn, who are now widely known as The Minimalists, made a radical change. They got rid of all the clutter in their lives and downsized their possessions to the essentials. Once they did, the two found they could focus on relationships, health, personal growth, contribution, and community.
As Nicodemus explains in the following TEDx talk, by getting rid of the clutter, they were able to refocus on those things that really matter.
“Imagine a life with less stuff, less clutter, less stress, less debt, fewer distractions,” he says. “Imagine a life with more time, more meaningful relationships, more meaningful contributions. What you’re imagining is an intentional life.”
In an effort to share their experience and to help others create lives focused on community and purpose, Nicodemus and Millburn started blogging. They now have a community of millions that visits their website site each month—people in varying stages of decluttering their possessions, simplifying their lives, creating intentionality in their relationships, and making meaningful contributions to their community.
As Millburn reminds the audience, there’s nothing inherently wrong with material stuff, but it should not be the focus of our lives.
“We all need some stuff,” he says. “We need to pay the bills. But when we put those things first, we tend to lose sight of our real priorities, lose sight of life’s purpose. Maybe getting some of the excess stuff out of the way, clearing the clutter from our lives, helps us focus on everything that remains.”