The Minimalists

How much stuff do you really need? When it really comes down to it, how many T-shirts, old books, shot glasses, or old shoes do you really use? As you think about it, the question is harder to answer than you would initially imagine. Every piece of clothing has a memory, every shoe ran a mile or a race that was special, and every book you might want to read again someday… A few weeks a go, my friend Conor and I went to an event held at the Apple Store here in Chicago. Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists were giving a talk about their lifestyle and thought methodology on the concept of “minimalism”. The tenets of minimalism are in its simplest form:

“Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution. There are many flavors of minimalism: a 20-year-old single guy’s minimalist lifestyle looks different from a 45-year-old mother’s minimalist life. Even though everyone embraces minimalism differently, each path leads to the same place: a life with more time, more money, and more freedom to live a more meaningful life.

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Getting started is as simple as asking yourself one question: How might your life be better if you owned fewer material possessions?”

Minimalism endures on the doctrine of Deliberate Consumption—Intentional Living. When every choice you make leads to an end as opposed to frivolity, life takes a more purposeful turn. Instead of things happening to you, you make things happen. It’s thinking 5 steps ahead whilst simultaneously being in the moment. If I decided to buy a new material item, what value will it bring me in this moment and, consequently, what value will it bring in a day, month, year from now?

Having less physical objects and mental obligations in your life allows you to pursue what you are passionate about. And that’s the key. Everyone’s minimalism will have it’s own spin.

As I write this, I am looking at my collection of baseball hats organized in a shelf on my room. Do I need twenty hats? No. (Well, possibly, if it completes an ensemble and matches the shoes I have on...) But these hats each mean something to me. I’ve narrowed them down and only kept the ones that are special, but they are a keepsake of places I’ve lived, events I’ve been to, or unique times with people who I care about.

But what if Minimalism keeps me from missing out on a new experience? That is not the point. Minimalism isn’t saying “I’ve never been snowboarding and I don’t know that it will bring me value, so it’s better that I don’t go at all”. In my instance, Minimalism would say “I’ve never been snowboarding and I don’t know if I’ll like it, but adventure is something that makes me incredibly happy, as does spending time with friends, so I think I’ll go!”

There are 5 main areas of minimalism:

  1. Health—Emotional and physical
  2. Relationships—You can’t change another person, but you can change the people around you
  3. Passions—Cultivating a passion and mission
  4. Growth—Doing what scares the shit out of you
  5. Contribution—Adding value to your life and the lives of others and establishing deeper connections with people

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Image Credit: @DavesInk

I’ve just moved (again) to a new apartment in Chicago. Over the past 4 years, my travels have progressed as follows:

  • Moving from Cincinnati to Tampa: Full SUV + Moving Truck full of stuff
  • Moving from Tampa to San Diego: Full SUV + Mailed boxes of stuff
  • Moving from San Diego to Chicago: Full SUV + Full rooftop carrier
  • Moving apartments in Chicago: Half SUV full

Loaded up

So what have I gotten rid of? Not enough. But I have gotten rid of many items that just don’t add any value to my life. All my race shirts and awards are no longer in my closet and on my walls, but instead in boxes at my parent’s house (my Mom has promised to make me a quilt out of the shirts… someday.) The awards I’d like to hang on a wall someday when I have a house, but I don’t need them now. I’ve gotten rid of tons of clothes and need to get rid of even more. And I still have way too many shoes, but that it’s one of those items that I really do find some value in so I can have the perfect shoe to complete a look. That might be something that another person would find ridiculous, but I enjoy it.

I’m also in the process of my “packing party”. In the move I put everything in boxes. Everything that I haven’t unboxed within a month of moving into the apartment, I plan to donate, trash, or give away. Right now, I have a feeling that I’m not going to be using the 10 or so drawstring-backpacks that every triathlon gives away…

My next goal is to streamline my wardrobe. I want to find a bunch of shirts that fit me really well and buy a bunch in different styles. Can anyone recommend a shirt brand that actually makes a quality, (truly) slim-fitting shirt?

But those are physical objects. What am I doing to cultivate passion and better connect with people? That’s always harder (in fact it scares the shit out of me… and what scares me even more is not being able to cultivate those connections.) I approached my moved to both San Diego and Chicago with a mindset of being more open to experience and getting more involved in things I wasn’t comfortable with. But the more I pursued these different avenues, the more I realize that sticking with what makes me the most happy is more important than checking the most boxes that says “I’m involved with this”.

Rather, instead of attending every “MeetUp” event that I’ve signed up for online, I’ve narrowed my focus to just a few things: Improv/comedy/acting, exercise/triathlon, and personal betterment and my career. This allows me the flexibility to go randomly listen to the founder of Redbox give a talk on a Wednesday night or to go see a comedy show on a Tuesday night with a bunch of friends in addition to my regular class on Thursdays.

Life is meant to be lived with intent. When we spread ourselves too thin and amass too much junk, we let that get in the way of what makes us the most happy and spending time with those who mean the most to us.

I encourage you to try one of these. What is one thing you can get rid of this week that will allow you to bring more joy and value into