Embracing the Minimalist Way of Life

Imagine a life with less stuff, but instead of focusing on having less, rather focus on making room for more: more time, more passion, more experience, more growth, more contribution, more contentment, and more freedom. That’s how the minimalists do it.

Before Americans Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus discovered minimalism and understood the importance of simplifying their lives, they were successful young professionals from Dayton, Ohio. But their success was only an outer image, deep inside they felt discontent, stressed and miserable. They tried to fill this void with more things, but the true happiness they really craved for always seemed to be somewhere around the corner. Is that familiar to you? Today, after founding an online platform called theminimalists, they write about living a meaningful life with less stuff, for 4 million readers, and inspire others whose life lacks meaning and passion.

"Growth and contribution: those are the bedrocks of happiness. Not stuff", say Joshua and Ryan. Photo and quotes from www.theminimalists.com

“Growth and contribution: those are the bedrocks of happiness. Not stuff”, say Joshua and Ryan. Photo and quotes from www.theminimalists.com

How It All Kicked Off

When Joshua and Ryan were approaching their thirties, they had achieved everything that was supposed to make them happy: well-paying jobs, luxury cars, oversized houses, and all the stuff to clutter them up with. And yet with all that stuff, they weren’t satisfied with their lives. To put it simply: they just weren’t happy. There was a gaping void. They weren’t truly successful because, even with all their possessions, they weren’t satisfied with their consumer-driven lifestyle. They discovered that working 70 to 80 hours a week to buy more stuff didn’t fill the void, it only widened it. The endless pursuit of more things only brought more debt, anxiety, fear, stress, loneliness, guilt, paranoia and depression. They discovered they didn’t have control over their time, and thus they didn’t control their own lives. Their big illusion that “once I get THERE, I am finally happy” was shattered into a thousand pieces.

With downsizing, they took back control of their lives so they could focus on what’s more important, life’s deeper meaning. So, the thought of being truly happy led them eventually to minimalism, and inspired by a dozen minimalism websites, the exciting journey began. “Making the decision to do it was the hardest part for me. And not just do it half-assed, but really do it – really become a minimalist.” says Ryan. “Taking action – especially your first few steps – is usually the hardest part. Culturally, we are taught that information is power or knowledge is power, but true power is in action.” adds Joshua.

Recognising the Feeling of Satisfaction

Several studies have shown that material security increases happiness, and beyond a certain level of income the correlation between our income and happiness drops significantly*. One reason for this is that a major ingredient of happiness is a sense of sufficiency. Satisfaction is the felt sense of having enough. In a society trained to constantly consume and be led by emotions, many of us have lost the ability to recognise the deeper feeling of satisfaction. When we carry on acquiring for the sake of having more and more and more, we lose access to the inner feeling of “enough”. Being in tune, it’s about feeling the fullness and satisfaction that comes with the sense of sufficiency. Thus, what we really crave is not more stuff, but the inner experience of abundance. When we pursue it greedily, we end up chasing an ever-receding destination. Our addiction to relate constant receiving with the feeling of happiness is very common. But nothing stable can be established on such a ground, because receiving expects to receive and it cannot end. Unfortunately, the whole of modern consumption is built on this, and that also leads to more waste created.

Image: We Heart It

Image: We Heart It

The Point of Minimalism

At first glance, people might think the point of minimalism is only to get rid of material possessions – eliminating, extracting, detaching, paring down, letting go, etc. But that’s incorrect. It’s about figuring out and making room in your life for what is really important. It’s a lifestyle that helps people question what kind of things actually add value to their lives. And 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. When you become a minimalist you will own fewer things and become more careful in how you consume. That doesn’t make you anti-consumption, but rather leads you to think very carefully about how you spend your time, money and energy.

There are many shades of minimalism: a 25-year-old single guy’s minimalist lifestyle looks different from a 45-year-old mother’s minimalist lifestyle. Everyone embraces minimalism differently, as there are no certain rules, but each path leads to the same place and benefits: a life with more time and money, better health, improved relationships, deeper awareness, individual growth, and eventually more freedom. It’s a rich and intentional life, which has nothing to do with material wealth.

If you got inspired and want to dig deeper, simply ask yourself one question: how might your life be better if you owned fewer material things? You can also look up theminimalists online platform, where Ryan and Joshua share inspirational essays, podcasts, books, organise events and meetups to give tips and answer questions about stuff, money, consumerism, career, health, and relationships from the minimalist point of view.




Diener, E. (2010). Wealth and happiness across the world: Material prosperity predicts life evaluation, whereas psychosocial prosperity predicts positive feeling. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99.

Kahneman, D. and Deaton, A. (2010). High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107, 2010, http://www.pnas.org/content/107/38/16489.full.



By Kerttu Sarapuu, Let’s Do It! Newsletter team