Minimalism: on letting go

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus asked their audience to “imagine a life with less: less stuff, less clutter, less stress and debt, and discontent, a life with fewer distractions.

“Now imagine a life with more: more time, more meaningful relationships, more growth, and contribution and contentment.”

Millburn and Nicodemus, better known as The Minimalists, deliver this message on their tour of several U.S. cities, connecting with people from all walks of life and sharing their ideology of Minimalism.

Upon first glance, minimalism may seem a bit far-fetched. Yet for many, the minimalist philosophy makes sense. Living as a minimalist is about ridding life of meaningless clutter to make room for deeper relationships and life experiences, rather than living for worldly possessions.

In a country with 52 “micro-seasons” of fashion per year, consumption trends manipulate consumers in the United States to purchase as many things as possible as quickly as they can.

In 1928, unconventional mastermind Edward Bernays revolutionized the ways companies appeal to consumers – with marketing strategies unlike anything the industry had seen before.

As a young entrepreneur and employee of the American Tobacco Company, Bernays realized that by appealing to people on an emotional and unconscious level, they could easily be manipulated to buy things – and it worked.

In a time when it was socially unacceptable for women to smoke, Bernays turned the tables and launched an advertising campaign where women weren’t smoking – they were lighting “torches of freedom,” appealing to feminist ideologies.

He spread the message that by smoking, women would be able to assert their independence and power. This false message of emancipation was very powerful at the time and is thought to be a direct contribution to the tobacco epidemic.

Today, these types of campaign tactics have spiraled out of control.

Bright yellow banners in the U.K. scream, “ARE YOU BEACH BODY READY?” featuring scantily clad women hawking protein powder. These advertisements are nothing new, and frankly, sexist.

The goal is to get women to question their value based on how their bodies look in order to sell a product.

Minimalism is about having the right things – not no things. As human beings, we are already enough without these products, which claim to solve all our problems for just five low installments of $19.99.

Based on the theory “less is more,” minimalism has allowed people to reclaim their freedom, be it financially, mentally, or both. Milburn lives his life based on the principle that every possession he owns serves a purpose or brings him joy. 

He analyzes his possessions by asking, “Does this add value to my life? And if not, I have to be willing to let go.”

Gone are the days of keeping up with the Joneses, and living based on what advertisers dictate we need to purchase to be happy and whole. The age-old saying, “Money can’t buy happiness,” is something many minimalists – including myself – have noticed is true as we let go of the clutter and noise that pollute our world.

Touching the hearts of their 2 million avid readers, The Minimalists sum up their philosophy by declaring, “Love people, and use things. Because the opposite never works.”