The Minimalists

On Saturday evening, I was lucky enough to be able to squeeze in (quite literally , it was standing room only!) to see The Minimalists on this book tour, in Romsey near Southampton.

The Minimalists are two American guys (I think if you’re an American male,  you have to be a ‘guy’, or maybe even a ‘dude’. But certainly not a ‘chap’. Only Brits can be chaps…), Joshua Fields Millburn, and Ryan Nicodemus, who started on the road to Minimalism a little bit by accident about 4 years ago.

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, aka The Minimalists Photo credit: The Minimalists

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, aka The Minimalists
Photo credit: The Minimalists

They started a blog, The Minimalists, and it now has millions of hits a year, and is obviously delivering a message that people seem to want to hear. So much so that they have written two books, and are touring the world spreading the word.

The message is less is more.
Or “how to live a meaningful life with less stuff”.

Josh and Ryan are very engaging, and very amusing, and they manage to make Minimalism seem achievable.
Minimalism, as they live it, isn’t about austerity and deprivation, it’s about making room for the things that matter.
It’s about stepping off the treadmill, the treadmill that is best summed up by this fabulous quote from Nigel Marsh:
Nigel Marsh quote

Nobody actually wants to live like that do they?
Nobody makes a conscious decision to live like that. Yet when we actually stop for a minute, that’s what we’ve kind of sleep-walked into.
In the ‘developed’ world, we seem to have been brainwashed into thinking that ‘things’ and ‘stuff’ can make us happy. And if we’re not happy, then buying x, y or z (or all three of them!) will make us happy.
Yet we all know that really, deep down it doesn’t.

So this is all about making  very conscious, deliberate decision to step away from that.
To de-clutter, and in doing say, make time, and money, for the things that matter.
If you figure out what it is that you truly need, the ‘things’ in your life that allow you to a) survive; b) live comfortably; and c) have joy, then you don’t need all the extra crap.
And once you realise that you don’t need the ‘stuff’, you don’t need as much money to buy ‘stuff’, so you can work less, or maybe afford to spend some money on doing fun things, with the people you love,  instead.

Maybe spending a year Buying Nothing New was always going to end in a quest for more through less. Buy up until now, it kind of hasn’t.
I think I am now much more conscious about what I am buying, much more deliberate. But actually, this only seems to extend to new things.
I’ve fallen into that trap of thinking that as long as it’s secondhand, it’s ok! Of course I don’t need another dress/jumper/book/other thing, but it’s ok, because it’s secondhand, and not fuelling the whole supply and demand thing, and not draining the world’s resources, AND it’s only£2!!
Which of course is rubbish.
I think that to a certain extent, the Make Do and Mend mentality is prone to spot of hoarding. Or at least, I think I am!
It’s hard to let go of something that looks like it ‘might be useful’, and not to hold on to the fabric stash, because it actually is pretty handy, and means that if you want to make a gift for someone, you probably have something vaguely suitable kicking around.
It’s hard not to covet all the gorgeous vintage nik naks and loveliness. And not to want my home to look like something out of Country Living.
But it doesn’t. And in all honesty, I don’t think it ever will.
My house is home to two small boys, and a hubby, and all the accumulated crap that goes with parenthood and years of pretty indiscriminate consumption.

I am however, starting to feel more than a little overwhelmed at all the crap.
My head is feeling as cluttered as my book shelves.
I feel like I need some space to breathe.
I feel like I need to strip it all back and start from the beginning.
And filling (or not filling!) my house with only things I/we need, or that bring us value and joy.

Sooooooo, aside from imploring you all to go and see The Minimalists as they continue their UK tour (tour dates are here, the events are FREE, and it’s a fab night out! Just don’t blame me when you get home and want to Freecycle the contents of your house…), I’m embarking on a mission. A mission on which you are cordially invited to join me on.
And a mission that I will tell you all about very soon….!

21 thoughts on “The Minimalists

  1. Brilliant post Jen. I am *so* with you on the clutter thing – or rather, the urge to DE-clutter. I’ll join you. I’ve just sorted out my son’s bedroom (you wouldn’t believe the stuff in there) and have large piles for charity / donate / bin and can’t wait to get his room sorted in a more streamlined way. It’s not quite minimalist but it’s a start, and it certainly helps to clear the head a little. Good luck on your journey, I’ll be reading with interest! Claire xxx

  2. When we moved to Heathfield in 2007, we were having a rough time and had to downsize. In the process I had to get rid of loads of stuff, including over 1000 books, which hurt the most. I haven’t missed them at all. We don’t have room now for me to accumulate books like I used to and I use the library and charity shops, taking them back or passing them on when I’ve read them.
    Ever since January, I have got rid of at least one thing every day and there is STILL lots of stuff to go. The more I get rid of though, the less I feel the need to get more stuff and the more strange I find the features in the Sunday press for the latest £800 ‘must have’ dress or something. What a strange phrase that is, ‘must have’

  3. I love that Nigel Marsh quote and his TED talk/book. He sums up the idea of the idiocy of trying to keep up with the Jones very nicely. I can understand how in this day and age of media and advertising people get sucked into trying to buy themselves the perfect life though.

  4. Ooh Jen this is just where I’m at as well. Have been flirting with minimalism for the past year (also recommend The Joyf Of Less by Francine Jay) and have recently embaked on Project 333 – the wardrobe side of minimalism where you pare your clothing down to just 33 items to wear for the next three months. Like you with small children I am amazed at the clutter that comes into our house. Have set myself a challenge to seriously declutter by Christmas (another season of stuff – would be interested to hear what your tactics are for this holiday!). Will read your future posts with much enthusiasm.

    • Kathryn, don’t know what Jen is planning, but personally I am thinking more and more along the lines of doing things with friends and family rather than buying things. I don’t want more stuff in my house, even stuff that has been lovingly chosen by someone else.
      Had to rein in my instincts to buy lots of lovely stuff for my 6yr old grand daughter, as I was just filling their house with stuff instead!
      So if I want to give a gift, and don’t want to/can’t afford to spend 100’s on a cooking course or something, I tend to give consumables, and I let it be known that’s what I like as well. A lovely bottle of olive oil, a beautiful cheese, some delicious balsamic vinegar, interesting mustards, artisan honey – basically I love anything foodie! I make picallilli, chutneys, jams, cakes, chocolates, vegan meals, biscuits, preserved lemons and oranges and, in season, I take them produce from the garden, and all sorts of other goodies for my friends
      And once I have the space to do it again, I will be asking friends and family round for jolly times around the table
      Will be interested to hear what others are planning for the orgy of stuff buying season

    • I keep looking at Project 333 Kathryn, and then think I’m not sure if I have 33 items in my wardrobe! I bet if I count there are actually more than I think though…

  5. Wow, great post Jen. I’ve looked at The minimalists blog before and it is very inspiring. I really want to declutter and make sure I’m off that treadmill of buying “stuff”. On the whole I’m pretty good with not buying too much, but I do forget sometimes and then we have an influx of things. We’ve got a decent sized 3 bed house but yet the OH is often to be heard exclaiming that we need a bigger house, bigger shed etc. Sometimes I get into “houseboat” mentality. I think what would I own if I lived on a houseboat and try to pare things back along those lines. It’s hardest with the boys though (now aged 9 and 7) they seem to have so much. What I’d love to do is declutter without increasing the amount I send to landfill and also to have ideas on what to do for the boys this Christmas. People keep asking me (already!) what they can get for the boys – what can I tell them? “Please don’t overload our house with more things.”??!!

    Lesley – I love your idea of consumable gifts. I’d like to receive (and eat!) any of those items you listed! I did make homemade gifts last year – chutneys, mince pies, chocolate truffles etc and I’m going to try and extend the range this year.

    I look forward to future posts!!

    • Heather, if you really, really don’t want a whole lot more ‘stuff’ this year for the boys. Is there maybe something that they would like to do that people could buy between them, sort of like birthday money. I’m thinking some kind of trip or experience, maybe together, maybe not. What enthuses them? Or maybe grandparents could make their gift a day out with them somewhere special, possibly one at a time. When my daughters became adult, that’s what they like the most, when we spend a whole day together.
      So a day out to an attraction, or an overnight stay somewhere they would find exciting, or camping overnight in the grandparents garden with a fire pit to cook sausages on. Or a trip to Lapland to see Father Christmas as a joint present from everyone, People could always wrap a small gift of some kind as well that won’t clutter up the house

  6. Hi Jen,
    Last summer I started cleaning out some rooms in the house. A blog I read said to tackle one room or closet at a time. That way you don’t get overwhelmed and give up.
    Well, I did run out of steam and did nothing this summer.
    I;m in a corporate job that requires dress shoes and suits once in a while. My shoes are way old, my suits no longer fit me (that’s what running does to you!) and one actually has a hole in it. I don’t want to buy a new suit because I hope to leave Corp America soon. I’m tired of wearing baggy suits though.
    I saw a program on al Jezeera about people who live in campers or vans. Some live on $100’s of dollars a month and travel all over the country. Some are there by choice, some are not. It gave me a new vision of early retirement.

  7. Jen, I went to see the Minimalists last night in Bristol!! After reading your post yesterday I clicked on the link to their book tour and saw they were at Waterstones! So husband came home from work early and I ran off to Bristol! Thank you so much for the tip off – they were brilliant (felt a little bit like a groupie). Have posted a brief review on my blog. Didn’t have time to buy their book though but may add it to the Christmas list (or should I buy more books?!)

    • Kathryn
      I’ve read the book now, and in the spirit of decluttering, I’d love to pass it on to you, on the condition that you pass it on when you’ve read it! Let me know if you’d like it 🙂

  8. Pingback: #MinsGame | My Make Do and Mend Year

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