Everything That Remains

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ETR_20001-500x800Authors: Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus
Title: Everything That Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists
Published: Jan 1, 2014

In Everything That Remains, which the authors Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus are calling a memoir, Joshua presents a timeline of his transition from a cushy office job with a high-paying salary into a minimalist lifestyle where he gets rid of many of his material possessions and ultimately starts to pursue the life he really wants to live. Starting as a twenty-something with a half dozen maxed out credit cards and a mountain of material crap, Joshua stumbles upon minimalism from a brief conversation with a neighbor. After a saddening event where he loses his mother, he begins to move toward a minimalist lifestyle, following the path of several others like Leo Babauta in the process. Along the way, Joshua convinces his best friend Ryan to join the lifestyle as well and proceeds to help him rid his apartment of all the items he doesn’t need. The two eventually fully adopt the lifestyle, start TheMinimalists.com, and travel the country speaking to crowds from New York to California. Rather than simply throwing away all of your crap, their challenge is to live the life you want to live, not the one you think you should live due to mass media and advertising. Having quit their high-paying salary jobs, both Joshua and Ryan now pursue their passions living in Missoula, MT at the end of the book (a town I very much want to visit).

As for the content itself, the book covered most topics you would expect a book on minimalism to cover. Without reading it, you can probably assume the theme centers around decreasing your material possessions, watching less mindless television, reading more, creating more, contributing more, and enjoying more. If you’ve read anything about minimalism, you likely have the basics covered. My one criticism of the book (and really of the popularity of minimalism in general) is that it tends to get repetitive. Seemingly everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and preaching the same material. If you’re looking to read a story about how to become a minimalist, I wouldn’t say this book is for you. They have plenty of free information on their site that guides you towards a minimalist lifestyle. However, it’s apparent from the beginning this wasn’t their intention with writing the book. Their goal was to provide a transformative story on shifting towards the minimalist lifestyle and the many benefits it can have, which they nailed.

Reading Notes

When it’s done well, literary texts are the only creations that impart an exchange of consciousness between author and audience, conveying raw emotion and internal feeling far better than Hollywood movies or trendy apps or even great music. p. 61

TV and Internet and Facebook and everything else passive are fine in small doses. But there is no long-term reward for passive pliancy, just a beer gut and an empty existence, as I’m starting to learn while peering at my twenties in the reflection of the blueish rectangle glowing in my living room. p. 64

I’ve always claimed that my priorities are randly important activities like spending time with family or exercising or carving out enough alone time to write. But they’re not. Until I actually put these pursuits first, until I make these undertakings part of my everyday routine, they are not my actual priorities. p. 65

This is going to change. Starting today. My priorities are what I do each day, the small tasks that move forward the second and minute hands on the clock. These circadian endeavors are my musts. Everything else is simply a should. p. 65

The real value was in the words – in the act of reading – not in the physical books themselves. There’s no value in having a room full of books you don’t need – especially when other people can get value from those books. p. 91

“Living to work, instead of working to earn enough money to live.” p. 102

Real security, however, is found inside us, in consistent personal growth, not in a reliance on growing external factors. p. 115

You may’ve heard the old “burn your boat” parable before, the one in which the warriors arrive on an enemy island and burn their ships as soon as they arrive, which means they are forced to stay and fight; they have no alternative. There’s no turning back. They must fight and win or die trying. p. 131

If we are constantly consuming, we are not creating. p. 138

Even with the seemingly mundane tasks like folding laundry or cleaning the house, I either find a way to enjoy it (folding laundry is actually meditative for me), or if I absolutely dislike it, I’ll hire someone to do it for me, while I move on to something new. Life is too short to do shit you dislike. p. 149

When you stop paying attention to everything that’s important, when you lose sight of the happiness that’s right in front of your face, when you search for it through supposed accomplishments and accolades and recognition, it’s not appreciably different from searching for happiness through material things. p. 156

The truth is, you can skip the pursuit of happiness altogether and just be happy. p. 156

“Here’s the thing about balance: it creates separation between work and the rest of your life. But, work isn’t separate from life, it’s part of it. So rather than trying to measure and weigh and compare parts of your life that defy comparison, why not ask yourself whether you’re feeling the harmony in how it all adds up. Like, am I happy? Am I healthy? Is what I’m doing meaningful to me? Do I love my life?” p. 193

Without growth, people atrophy; we waste away, and in a meaningful way we die inside. p. 196

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