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Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life Paperback – December 8, 2011
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"This is the minimalism book everyone's been waiting for."
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About the Author
Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus are bestselling authors and international speakers who share their message about living a meaningful life with less stuff. Their story has been featured on the TODAY show and in TIME, PEOPLE, Forbes, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Seattle Times, Toronto Star, Globe & Mail, Vancouver Sun, Village Voice, LA Weekly, and many other outlets. Visit the authors online at TheMinimalists.com.
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What I got instead was what the subtitle says "live a meaningful life", with chapters entitled: health, relationships, passion, growth, contribution. Which are the areas the authors found to be key apparently AFTER they had minimized the "stuff" of their lives. The title seems contradictory to the contents. Who would want minimal health, relationships, passion, growth, or contribution? On page 117 of 121 there is a section titled "the role of minimalism". The first sentence is "so we finally get back to minimalism".
So they finally get to the main title of their book in the last 4 pages. And even then the most you get is a link to a getting started page on their website. I agree the 5 areas are key in life but each has been written about in countless volumes by other authors for many years. Many of whom have made it their life's passion to explore deeply just one of these 5. Because of how radically these 2 minimized their lives I was looking for ways to better live a "less is more" lifestyle and downsize the tangibles of life. Instead almost the entire focus of this book was on intangibles. I did find a few valuable nuggets but overall it was very disappointing.
That's what they do in their blog. That's not what I found in this book. Apart from the occasional sentence mentioning that minimalism helps you focus on the important things, the rest of the book contains:
- Details on the authors' story of how they became minimalist and left their jobs. Only a small amount of added information compared to their blog, but I did enjoy that part.
- A chapter on the importance of eating unprocessed foods and doing exercise. No information that was new to me.
- A chapter on the importance of prioritizing the more important relationships in your life and working to eliminate relationships with negative impact. No real concrete directions other than to create a list of all the people in your life and catalog how close they are to you and whether their impact on your life is positive, negative, or neutral, then prioritize your use of time accordingly. Several pages about things like love and trust being important in relationships.
- A chapter on the importance of finding your passion, having a mission in life rather than just doing a job. One really good paragraph about the idea that if you don't know what your passions are then you still have anchors, things that are dragging you down (like stress from debt for example).
- Chapters on the importance of growing as a person and contributing, but again no real advice other than to get doing that stuff.
The problem I have with all this is that I already know these things, and I would imagine most people do. The biggest gain I have had from reading the authors' blog is how to attack the clutter that gets in the way of me executing on these, and unfortunately this is not what this book was about. The authors do make attempts to talk about how to get the emotional energy to achieve the important things, for example they talk a little bit in this book about how you need to go from an attitude of "should" to an attitude of "must", but that totally leaves unaddressed the fact that the stuff that's cluttering up our time and resources somehow got itself into the "must" category when it shouldn't have, and now what? How to actually wade through it to reverse this take-over? (Again, please note that I think their blog does speak to that).
If you have the same problem as me, namely clutter (whether it be stuff, commitments, whatever), and want ways to help untangle yourself from it to actually make space for the "real stuff" you want to do, and already know that real stuff to be important, then I wouldn't read this book. Instead I have found the following very helpful.
- The blog by these authors.
- Leo Babauta's "The Power of Less", especially the sections where he goes through his ideas on forcing prioritizing to happen by limiting time spent on an activity, and how to start small on a change of habit.
What I haven't mentioned is that I was living at home at the time I decided to radically change my way of consumption (I was an RN right out of college, preparing to move out). At first, my parents didn't get it. I think they even laughed one time and called it 'spring cleaning'. But as I got rid of more and more they became concerned. They didn't get it. And it was hard for me to explain to them why exactly I was doing it. Why it felt so freeing.
Things became more troublesome when I did move out. Here was this nice open apartment, 'a space that would look great decorated' per my mother. If you don't see the problem yet, I'll spell it out. I didn't want more stuff. Let alone her decorating expertise (Ahh! I hope you never read this mom).
Life went on as always, and while we were still the same family, it was hard to talk to them about the important things because we no longer saw eye-to-eye.
That's where this book came in.
We have a family get together at least once a year and this year we decided that New Hampshire was the place to be. It was a long drive, and so after we lost all of the recognizable home radio stations, the car went silent. Mom was bored and dad was driving, so I took out this book and began reading it out loud. Most of the stuff, as many have mentioned below, is old news to those who read the blog religiously. My parents on the other hand, two people completely new to this 'strange minimalism thing', had such strong reactions. I found so much joy in being able to read something to them that explained why I was doing what I was doing. It started conversations, and on the trip home my parents actually encouraged me to finish the book aloud for them.
I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is looking to made a radical change in their life for the better.
It's not for everyone, but I love it and now so does my family.