Everything That Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists, co-written by authors Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus share their experiences going from corporate success, albeit with a lack of contentment, to a minimalist lifestyle that provided much needed fulfillment and value from life. What is minimalism? Per their blog, The Minimalists, they define minimalism as “a tool used to rid yourself of life’s excess in favour of focusing on what’s important so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”
I first discovered Millburn and Nicodemus via their TED Talk where they described the physical aspect of minimalism, where Nicodemus held a Packing Party, getting rid of hundreds (possibly over a thousand!) items in his home. I could absolutely relate to this. I often feel closed in by the clutter, by the things I don’t need, will never use, but feel like it would be too hard to part with.
And so, I began to declutter, to remove things from my own life. It’s a SLOW process, and I will never get to the point where I have as little in my home as Millburn and Nicodemus, but that’s okay. I can already feel some levity and calm in the back of my mind. The clutter isn’t weighing me down as much. I suppose I’d better move this philosophy onto my office! And my home office…
I picked up Everything That Remains in response to my positive experience. I will say, it’s not everything that I expected, but it’s a book that has made me ask myself a number of provocative questions, for which I’m extremely grateful. So… let’s just get the bad stuff out of the way first.
My Beef with The Authors
I’m well aware that this could cause some slight outrage from Minimalists fans, but there were sections of the book that made me cringe. At times I found the writing a bit pompous, but I think that’s fair when writing a memoir. Heck, if you read back to previous blog posts of mine, I’m sure the ‘me, me, me’ that comes across either in a blog or in a memoir is unavoidable. It wasn’t a breaking point for me.
The part of the book that really soured it for me was the detailed description of a small-town bar in Montana. It’s written from Millburn’s point of view, though as I understand it Nicodemus helped edit the memoir. Millburn describes the locals with such disdain that it made him truly unlikeable for me. He talks about the fear of ugly people, the fear of bald people, and how his personal hell was in a bar like this. He imagines things he wishes he or Nicodemus could say, but obviously don’t. That said, he wasn’t above writing about what he thought. He even admits that Nicodemus discouraged him from writing about this particular scene in the book – if only he’d heeded such advice.
It was extremely disappointing for me. I don’t expect people to be perfect, far from it, but it was an unnecessary scene that put a firm stop to my desire to meet the pair in public (they had an event in Calgary, that I’d been looking forward to). I’ll give Millburn credit, it’s a brave thing to knowingly write about yourself in an unflattering light, and it was obviously done with purpose.
At the end of the day, the questions that this memoir made me ask myself was enough to get my through, but, again, this one particular scene soured the overall effect.
Where I got real value from the memoir was in going along on the journey with the authors. As they shared their experiences and the questions they asked themselves, I found myself thinking about my own answers, or in some cases lack thereof.
- What things add value to my life?
- Where are my sources of clutter (not just the physical here) and what can I do to reasonably remove the clutter? How can I make room for more creativity?
- Do I surround myself with toxic people? If so, is it okay to release them from my life?
- What kind of lifestyle would make me happy and is my current one fulfilling those expectations?
- Do I have pacifiers in my life? Are there things such as Internet, TV and others that I use to soothe myself?
- What if? There was a section where the authors spoke of our childhood “what ifs?” being so positive and ambitious, and our adult “what ifs?” being false barriers. What are my what ifs?
- Am I spending the kind of time on my relationships to add the value to people from whom I expect to receive value?
This is a truncated list of the many questions I asked myself as a result of this memoir. I am truly grateful that this book came into my life, as it was time for some much-needed introspection. I’m also a huge fan of the essays on The Minimalists’ website, finding regular sources of advice and reflection. It’s a shame that one scene had the power to lessen my experience of the memoir, but such is life.
All in all, I’d say that Everything That Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists
is still a great read and for anyone who is looking for a little introspection in life, it’s worth your time.
Had you heard of minimalism before? Do you practice it? What adds value to your life?
Please note that this article includes an Amazon Affiliate link. Should you choose to purchase a copy of What Remains through this link, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.