Five years ago a 27-year-old Joshua Fields Millburn perched himself atop the corporate ladder with a six-figure salary. As the youngest director of his Cincinnati-based company in its 140-year history, Millburn acquired all of the trappings of success. He had the big house, the expensive car, the massive amounts of debt, the stress and discontent. Millburn really had it all.
"I was working 60, 70, sometimes even 80 hours in a week, and I got to a point in my life where I didn't really know what was important," Millburn says.
In October 2009 Millburn's mother died and his marriage ended -- to say his life changed is an understatement. But Millburn's perspective shifted when he discovered minimalism just a month after, and with it, he brought meaning back to his life.
Everything That Remains is the memoir written by Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who together comprise The Minimalists; the book chronicles their journey to becoming the happy, successful people they are now. And the two authors are coming to San Francisco's the Booksmith to share their experiences of living with less material items on Wednesday, April 2 at 7:30 p.m.
"It's not like we are trying to capitalize, or convert anyone to minimalism, I think that's kind of crazy," Millburn says. "What we are trying to do is share our recipe [and] we want people to take whatever ingredients they like, and apply those to make their own recipe to living more deliberately."
To borrow from minimalist writer Joshua Becker, "minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it." It is to scale back to only own what you truly need, what you actually use for everyday life. So how did Millburn and Nicodemus become to be known as minimalists?
Millburn says he and Nicodemus were childhood friends. Together they conquered the world and lived the "American Dream." In their 20s they climbed the ranks of corporate jobs at a competitive pace. They shared the ideals of success, and they also shared the misery that came with it.
In November 2009, Millburn put minimalism into practice. For eight months he removed everything that was unnecessary from his life. To start, he detached himself from one item a day for 30 days, a practice he says became easier after time.
"Ryan came up to me one day and said, 'Why the hell are you so happy lately?,' " Millburn says. "He realized the difference in me after I embraced minimalism. He realized that I was happier."
Nicodemus decided to join Millburn. Together they had a packing party, where they packed all of Nicodemus' belongings into boxes and for 21 days, he would take out only the items that he needed. Everything from clothes to toiletries to furniture was boxed and sealed. After the 21 days, 80 percent of Nicodemus' belongings remained untouched. He sold and donated those items.
The two went on to share their stories through the blog, TheMinimalists.com, which they started three years ago. After the first month they had 52 visitors. That quickly grew to the 2 million readers that visited their site last year.
Now, both at age 32, Millburn and Nicodemus have written two books and are in the process of documenting their 100-city book tour of Everything That Remains for a feature length film, Minimalism: A Documentary, which will include interviews with the Minimalists, as well as other experts in the field.
"We've reached a couple of million people via our blog and social media and that's great, but there are other ways to reach people," Millburn says." We want to share this message and the documentary is another vehicle that allows us to share this."
The main take away message that Millburn hopes gets across is a simple one, but it took him awhile to recognize how significant it is. "The thing that I've learned the most, is love people and use things. The opposite never works," Millburn says.