I am a supporter of minimalism. I believe that having a lot of possessions isn’t the solution to live a happy life, but real and positive interactions and experiences are the most important aspects of your life. I strive to be a minimalist: it’s a long and hard journey, but I will get there. Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus are the forefront of the minimalism movement. They have their own documentary, podcast, and book talking about their beliefs and ideologies. I loved their documentary and am an advent listener to their podcast, but I can’t say I have the same fiery passion for their book. Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life talks about their journey to becoming minimalists and what got them there: detailing their journey from being part of the corporate world and achieving the happy, perfect lives they ever wanted. It all seems great, in theory. There is a nagging part of their journey and movement that bothers me. Their movement, in its core, is based on privilege and ignorance.
Let’s talk about what I liked about the book, first. I did like their overall takeaway message and the advice they gave throughout. The book, while condescending, gives sound advice on how you can improve your long-term physical and mental health. Focusing on five core tenets: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution, Joshua and Ryan give very sound advice on how to grow each tenet. Everyone is great at two or three tenets, but in order to live a meaningful life you have to try and grow all five simultaneously. This is great: in a very hectic and competitive society, we seem to have forgotten about self-care and the important people in our lives. All of this doesn’t matter when pitched with the rest of the book, which is a shame.
Ryan and Josh’s journey is based on the fact that they are able to quit their jobs and spend the rest of their lives travelling and spreading the word about their movement. It’s infuriating that, for two people who understand the struggle to make enough to support yourself, they don’t understand that it’s hard to support themselves, let alone supporting others. This is privilege at its finest. The only reason why they are able to quit is because they already made enough to get by without flexing an inch of muscle. They tell you to quit your job and pursue your passion(s) if your career isn’t fulfilling any of the five tenets. In reality, not a lot of people are able to afford their current lifestyle. They still need a source of income to pay rent and put food on their table.
It’s also frustrating to “listen” to their condescending tone over and over again. I’m sure they’re nice people, and I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt, but I can’t help and feel looked down upon. They seem to say that they’re better than everyone else because they live a minimalist lifestyle. This isn’t a good way to spread a lifestyle message. It’s also important to recognise different lifestyle choices and offer alternatives for those who don’t have the same resources as they do.
This book has so much potential to spread a good message to a large audience. Unfortunately, this message is lost in a maze of condescending words and privileged mindsets. I would love to see a book about minimalism that is doable in a 9-5 lifestyle, or even a shift-job lifestyle. I wish they, or someone, can take up that opportunity.