Ryan Nicodemus, along with childhood friend Joshua Millburn, are known by followers as The Minimalists (TheMinimalists.com). In their new book, Everything That Remains, the two writer/bloggers write about their journey from suit & tie corporate guys with big houses and shiny new cars to a life adhering to minimalism. Nicodemus and Millburn will be passing through Salt Lake City on their 100-city worldwide book tour to discuss how to de-clutter your life and make room for what really matters. The free presentation, Q&A and book signing will be at Weller Book Works (607 Trolley Square) on Tuesday, April 15, at 7 p.m. Nicodemus (left) shared with City Weekly how he found greater happiness after a radical breakaway from the material world. Read the full interview at CityWeekly.net.
How did having possessions make you unhappy?
Well, it's not the possessions themselves that made me unhappy. It's really about where my energy was, my focus in life. That is what I found brought me unhappiness. If you were to tell my 18-year-old self what my 28-year-old self was going to have, I would have been the most excited 18-year-old. I would have thought, "Wow, I'm going to be the happiest guy ever." Once I got everything I wanted, instead of happiness it brought me stress, it brought me discontent, it brought me anxiety, it brought me debt, heaps of debt. I was miserable.
I got to this point where I didn't know what was important anymore. Here I was with a nice 2,000-square-foot condo—three bedrooms, two bathrooms, two living rooms ... I have no idea why a single guy needs two living rooms, but I had it. And I bought a shiny new car every couple years. I was living this thing called the American dream. And I wasn't happy and it was really confusing for me. I didn't know what was wrong with me. I felt ungrateful, I thought maybe I just didn't appreciate what I had. But really, what I found was I just didn't know what was important anymore.
How did you get started in minimalism?
When I found out about minimalism, I thought, "OK, great, I'm in. I'll be a minimalist! Now what?" I didn't really know how to approach it. So Josh and I came up with this idea called a packing party where I packed all my belongings as if I were moving and unpacked things as I needed over the next few weeks. We literally pretended I was moving. After nine hours and a couple of pizza deliveries, everything was packed. And that was kind of my first revelation moment. What are all these boxes stacked on top of boxes, stacked on top of boxes? Just looking at all this stuff and thinking, "Wow, this is what I've spent the last decade of my life accumulating—these are the things that are supposed to make me happy."
I unpacked for 21 days, just the things that brought me joy or added value to my life. And after three weeks, I had 80 percent of my stuff still packed in boxes. That was kind of my second light-bulb moment. Here are all these things, all these possessions I have acquired to make me happy, and 80 percent of them weren't doing their job. So I donated or sold everything and I really started to change my focus on how I was living my life.
Will I be happier if I get rid of my possessions?
Josh and I have two very different stories, two very different recipes, and we're not out proselytizing or trying to convert anyone to minimalism. I don't think you can convert anyone to minimalism. It's just us saying here's what we did, here's how we were able to re-prioritize our lives, here's how we were able to really find meaning. People come out to hear our story, and they come out to just kind of take different ingredients from our recipe.