Minimalism: a simple life where less equals more

Corporate high flyers and Silicon Valley millionaires are no longer prepared to let their happiness depend on something they might lose, and are banishing mass consumption in favour of minimalism.

To dispense with possessions takes a daring pour of detachment, and Joshua Millburn, the author and entrepreneur who co-runs the site with Ryan Nicodemus, gets points for dauntlessness.

"If my home was aflame, there's nothing I own that can't be replaced," he says. "All my photos are scanned. All my important files are backed up. And all my stuff has no real meaning. Similarly, I'm prepared to walk away from nearly anything – even my work – if need be."

Luggage-free lane

Millburn found himself at the top of the corporate ladder with a six-figure wage by the age of 27, managing 150 retail stores, with a home full of shiny things and a truckload of debt. Something was amiss and when his marriage fell apart he decided on radical change: ditching 90 per cent of his belongings.

He was surprised to find he needed far less than he thought, and the shedding enabled a calmer life. He encouraged his friend Nicodemus to try the experiment, and neither has looked back. Now indie publishers and public speakers based in Montana in the US, they are set to premiere their latest project: Minimalism – A Documentary About Important Things in May.

Of course I own books, but I don't collect them. I'm able to let go once I've gotten value from them.

Joshua Millburn

Shelf-help superheroes

Millburn and Nicodemus are just two motivators opting to streamline their lives. Marie Kondo may just be the neatest woman in the world, who champions a Japanese approach to domestic calm.

The cult of Kondo, named one of Time's most 100 Most Influential People in 2015, emerged with the success of her first book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which has sold 4.8 million copies in 21 countries.

Kondo, who is in her 30s, once worked in a Shinto shrine and her decluttering philosophy requires people to consider whether an object 'sparks joy' or plays a useful role in their life.

Perhaps her most revolutionary advice is her folding technique, complete with diagrams; she frowns on horizontal stacking, preferring vertical sorting of clothes to see tees archived like a cabinet drawer of manila files.


Tactics of relinquishment

The transition to being no longer tethered to things might start modestly. Nicodemus embarked on a packing party of all his belongings, retrieving only what he needed over three weeks, to find most of his stuff was still in boxes at the end. Millburn implemented a "Ramen Noodles Meal Plan" until his soaring debt had abated. He also sold his house.

Paper clutter is one thing; administering digital calm is no less daunting. Wading through thousands of spam emails or social media feeds can be quite an undertaking.

Millburn only goes online at one of his office spaces and has no television. If banning TV or Netflix is improbable, then watch the tube out of the bedroom.


Technology, that favourite timesaver, is making it harder to concentrate on what matters, now. When Millburn gets home these days he keeps his phone docked on its charging station until he leaves again. And often he'll keep the phone in the car when visiting friends or enjoying an experience without interruptions.

"We are bombarded by contemporaneous inputs, and thus it's more important than ever to find sanctuary in interstitial zones: waiting rooms, the [queue in the] grocery store, and especially the bedroom," Millburn says. "Find refuge in knowing that when your head hits the pillow, you'll be sleeping or intimate with someone else, but nothing else. There's comfort in single-tasking."

Stripped-back style

If a straining wardrobe is your bugbear, Sydney-based organisation consultant Sarah Cottman recommends setting clear goals before making space for an op shop donation pile. The director of website and contributor to Network Ten's The Living Room recommends envisaging what you really need in your wardrobe (or any room):

"Once you have decided what you want, like clean, fitting clothes that are in good repair and reflect your image appropriately for work, it's easier to eliminate what does not fit your ideal."

Squaring up dead weight

Cottman says many of her clients deliberately ignore an out of sight storage unit. A neglected lock-up may conceal emotional reasons that are barriers to the task, like belongings from a past relationship or family items.

"The goal should be to close that unit pronto. Again, before touching anything, start with your vision for the unit and your home. That way you can see a clear path to victory," she says.

As for those Star Wars figurines, The Minimalists have a post on their site entitled .

"Collecting material possessions is not unlike hoarding," Millburn explains. "I, too, used to be a hoarder – ahem, collector – of stuff. Collector just sounds nicer. No matter how hard we try to hide behind semantic trickery, though, the truth will always find us. Of course I own books, but I don't collect them. I'm always able to let go once I've gotten value from them, because the value is in the words, not in the physical artifact itself."

Start with small steps

Cottman stresses the importance of being realistic. "Ten years of becoming so cluttered you don't enjoy your home means it will take a while to restore order," says Cottman. "Start with the thing immediately in front of you. Don't decide later if it is going or staying, there is never enough time."

Kids of the '80s need not fret about the rejection of materialism or, more importantly, its costliness. An achievable aim might be finding your 'new' sofa on a community site like , or supporting independent makers of repurposed objects on Etsy when it's gift time. And no one is suggesting you can't buy your next favourite novel .

"There's nothing wrong with consumption, the problem is compulsory consumption," Says Nicodemus. "We're tired of acquiring things because that's what we're supposed to do."

is set to be released in Australia in September.