Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life (A slightly ranty review)

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.

24 Replies to “Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life (A slightly ranty review)”

  1. I’ve not read their book but am an avid follower and I have to agree on your stance slightly on ignorance and privilege. After listening to their podcast, they’ve seem to mellow down a lot because the fan base has (from my POV) been less enthusiastic. Especially after their launch of Pakt.

    They were in sales after all and they knew how consumers work. The reason how they got to that level of wealth was based on sales.

    Then… they went the start up route. That usually gives anyone a rude awakening.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow ! I appreciate the honesty and transparency here. It’s hard to find that in a review. I do listen to the podcast occasionally but it’s not on my top five play list right now. I’m probably not going to check out the book at this time . However, this was thorough and convincing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the idea of minimalism too. I haven’t heard of this podcast or book, but I understand all the points your making, it all makes sense. It sucks when there is a good message to be spread, but it isn’t spread in the most positive way.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can appreciate where you are coming from. I think they have talked about this a little more in their more recent podcasts. I think as a whole the minimalism movement would benefit from more diverse voices from different backgrounds. Thank you for your honest review.


  5. I try and live as minimal as possible but because I have too, not because I want too. Its hard sometimes people take things for granted. Sometimes you have to cut out everything not needed to make ends meet or In my case, because of an accident ( we were hit by a drunk driver) we had no income for 15 months while I was/am healing from 3 out of 4 limbs being broken.


  6. I actually agree with you completely. I didn’t really like this documentary much at all for the very reason of it being based on privilege, but at the same time, I am a firm believer that possessions do not equate to happiness and we shouldn’t “need” to buy more and more things to fill a void.


  7. I haven’t read their book but I got that vibe from their documentary. I think the minimalist movement is very based in privileged and it’s a good conversation to have and be aware of.


  8. I was JUST having a convo like this the other day- it’s so much easier to say you’d rather live with nothing when you’ve lived with everything you’ve ever wanted, right? ike, ok, try living without heat if you’re so sure, rather than live with a couch- then you might get some perspective on how your theory to live without is how you really live.


  9. I haven’t read their book or any of their work, but from what you describe, it doesn’t sound like the best way to go about explaining the lifestyle to others. I try to live somewhat minimalistic, but I am not extreme. My husband and I both work for ourselves and from home while raising our two boys, but it isn’t easy. Some months are better than others.


  10. What an excellent and honest review! I love when people can admire someone and still be able to be honest about their flaws. I haven’t read the book but agree with you that people like them, obviously privileged, giving advice about “quitting jobs” and living the dream” really don’t know the first thing about living in the real world. Sure, I’d love to do that, but in the meantime, I have to pay the rent! Keep up the good work!


  11. I love this post! I saw their documentary and loved it, started following them on twitter but thats as far as our relationship got. I can totally understand the parts that frustrate you. I’ve seen (in other true minimalists) that same kinda judgmental tone and acting as if they are better. Great point about them being able to leave their jobs and pursue their passions, when they have lots of money in savings to do so. All things to consider before taking advice.


  12. Minimalism for me has always been an underrated word because practicing it is not easy. It is a habit that develops gradually and over the time. I have been struggling hard myself but hoping will be successful one day. Thanks for sharing with all the transparency.


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