Joshua Fields Millburn, now 32, thought he had it all - six-figure income working as director of operations for a telecommunications company and a wife.
But the Dayton, Ohio, native also amassed a heavy debt load from acquiring a lot of material possessions. Things he would come to realize he really didn’t want or need but was working 70 to 80 hours a week to pay for.
In the fall of 2009, jarred by the loss of his mother and his marriage in the same month, Millburn, then in his late 20s, paused from going through the motions of his life to more closely examine - and question - it. By chance online, he discovered another way of life - a movement known as minimalism.
“I looked around at everything I’d accumulated,” Millburn says, “but I also had debt and stress, was overwhelmed and anxious.”
Exploring it further, he was inspired by other minimalists’ stories he found online.
“I found … people who had rid themselves of the excess in their lives and instead began focusing on their passions,” he says. “They were wealthy in the traditional sense but were rich in a different way.”
Millburn chose to take that route, paying off the crushing debt he’d amassed, ridding himself of most of his possessions, and leaving his high-paying career.
He and his best friend and co-author, Ryan Nicodemus, will share their story of their move to minimalist lifestyles at a presentation and signing of their latest book, Everything That Remains: A Memoir by the Minimalists, at 7 p.m. Sunday at WordsWorth Books in the Heights in Little Rock. The event is free and open to the public.
The pair launched a 100-city tour last month and will visit 82 cities worldwide.
Millburn believes there is a wider movement toward minimalism occurring and that it crosses across all ages and social and cultural boundaries, ranging from 11-year-olds to 83-yearolds, and from Occupy Wall Street protesters to retired corporate chief executive officers.
“I think it’s a reaction to our earlier compulsory consumption,” he says. “It has to do with having a change of perspective and awareness. I wasn’t aware what [was] going on inside of me; I was supposed to be happy because I was successful and was making a good amount of money. But I was also spending a good amount of money. And I didn’t have control of my own time.”
Millburn adds that his relationships suffered; all of his time was spent networking with acquaintances while the people he loved and was supposed to be putting first came last. And while he always had a passion for writing fiction, he no longer had time to write.
“I spent the next eight months getting rid of about 90 percent of my possessions,” he says. “Before then, I was kind of a hoarder if a well-organized one. I had all these bins in the basements and crates and shelves. But then I started questioning each item, asking, ‘Does this thing add value to my life?’ and I slowly began to pare it down.”
When Nicodemus, his best friend since the fifth grade, asked Millburn about the change in his life and why he now seemed to be so dramatically happier, Millburn explained his new minimalist lifestyle.
Nicodemus wanted to give it a try. So as an experiment, the pair spent nine hours one weekend boxing up all of the possessions that the single Nicodemus had filled his three-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot condo with. The rule? During the next three weeks, Nicodemus was to unpack items only as he needed them. At the end of the time period, about 80 percent of his possessions were still stored. And much of what was in the boxes he couldn’t even recall. So the things that remained unpacked were sold or donated to charity.
They share their tale of their new way of life in Everything That Remains, released last month by their publishing company, Asymmetrical. It’s described not as a how to book (that was detailed in their first book, Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life) but a why-to book on the advantages of letting go and living more purposefully.
Millburn says, “Now, everything that’s in my life either has a purpose or brings me joy.”
Intentionally and deliberately are two words that are often used by Millburn in describing his new way of life. These days, Millburn works as an author, speaker, writing instructor and entrepreneur. He and Nicodemus live in Missoula, Mont., where they established the publishing business.
Their website, TheMinimalists.com, first launched three years ago with about 50 visitors, has grown to the point it had 2 million hits last year.
And, yes, since becoming a minimalist, Millburn finally found time to write and publish his first novel, As a Decade Fades.
WordsWorth Books & Co., 5920 R St., Little Rock, (501) 663-9198
Weekend, Pages 35 on 02/20/2014
Print Headline: Conspicuous consumer learns to simplify his life