At age 27, Joshua Fields Millburn became the youngest director of operations at Cincinnati Bell, a major telecom company in the Midwest. Through his hard work, he attained a six-figure salary and a large house, something that most millennials would love to accomplish in this day and age. However, with the culmination of the death of his mother and divorce happening in the same month, followed by going $100,000 in debt from overspending, Joshua was forced to reevaluate his life.
He then discovered minimalism, a lifestyle that focuses on only buying the things that are truly important to you while disregarding the typical material possessions our society has fallen in love with. After about eight months, Joshua ended up giving away most of his stuff, selling his house, and downsizing a one-bedroom apartment in Dayton, Ohio. He also quit his job to pursue his deepest passion- writing.
Since then, he hasn’t been happier. Not only did he pay off all his debt and lose 80 pounds, but he also pulled his longtime friend and coworker Ryan Nicodemus into the lifestyle. Together, they started TheMinimalists.com, a website where they write about “living a meaningful life with less stuff.” They also recently published a book called “Everything That Remains,” their memoir on their minimalist lifestyle.
No matter the drastic measures he’s taken to fit into minimalism, Joshua insists that becoming a minimalist doesn’t necessarily have to involve going through the extent of his own experience. He still has a phone and uses electricity (he’s not Amish for Christ sakes!) In an interview with Business Insider, Joshua gave three tips on how to get started:
1. Ask yourself how your life might be better if you owned fewer material possessions. “A lot of people might want to declutter their closets,” says Millburn, “but without understanding the purpose behind it, they will just get cluttered again.”
2. Get rid of one thing each day for a month. “This will help you build momentum,” he says. At the end of the 30 days, you’ll likely end up tossing a lot more than 30 items since you’ve devoted that time to really looking.
3. Recruit a friend to help. “The act of decluttering is fairly boring,” Millburn says. “If you can have an accountability buddy that’s helping you, it can make it fun.” Plus, if you motivate each other, ultimately you both win.
Recently, we had the pleasure of catching up with Joshua over email. In this rather minimalist interview, we discuss the luxuries he misses pre-minimalism and going more in-depth into his lifestyle.
Tell us the most expensive item you guys own right now.
“Minimalism allowed me to recapture a priceless asset: my own time.”
You guys talk a lot about living a life that is more “meaningful.” What is meaningful to you right now?
“My health and my relationships are the most meaningful areas of my life.”
Are their any luxuries about the “non-minimalist” life that you miss?
Say you guys got filthy rich from your books and speaking engagements. What would you guys do with all that money?
“Invest in people instead of accumulating material possessions. Our success thus far has allowed us to invest our time in millions of readers, as well as several part and full-time employees.”
What is it about money that you think younger generations often get wrong?
“Thinking that there is a direct link between money and happiness. Truth be told, money doesn’t buy happiness. Neither does poverty. Happiness is a result of aligning your actions with your beliefs. Ergo, money can only accentuate your bad or good decisions.”
If we’re not suppose to be chasing the money, what should we be chasing?
“We needn’t chase anything. Life’s easier to enjoy when we slow down, look at everything around us with an intentional eye.”
How can we learn to value the more meaningful things in a society that constantly pushes for success and financial security?
“By constantly asking ourselves this important question: Does this thing add value to my life?”
What’s the greatest lesson that minimalism has taught you?
“Everything I own adds real value to my life. Each of my belongings—my kitchenware, my furniture, my clothes, my car—has a function. As a minimalist, every possession serves a purpose or brings me joy. With three decades of clutter receding farther into my rearview each day, I think it’s safe to say that I’m no longer possessed by my possessions.”