What Is a Minimalist Lifestyle? Dos & Don’ts

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "Minimalism" by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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Want a simpler lifestyle? A minimalist lifestyle may be for you. But exactly what is a minimalist lifestyle? How far should you go in simplifying your life? Learn how to start a minimalist lifestyle here.

While working on getting rid of their anchors, Joshua and Ryan started searching for others who had experienced the same process.

Through several people’s blogs, they discovered the concept of minimalism, which is a philosophy and practice of freeing yourself from the things that weigh you down, so you can live a meaningful life.

Minimalism is a simple concept, yet it can be misunderstood.

What a Minimalism Lifestyle Is

  • Minimalism is a tool to help you get rid of excess and focus on the essentials in your life.
  • It is a lifestyle choice that means different things to different people.
  • Minimalists search for happiness through life experiences, not through possessions. 
  • Minimalism helps you get past the material things cluttering your life, so you can focus on the most important things — which aren’t things, but rather values.
  • It’s liberating: Minimalism frees you from feeling overwhelmed, and from depression, emptiness, and exhaustion.

What a Minimalist Lifestyle Isn’t

  • Contrary to many people’s impressions, minimalism doesn’t demand a lifestyle of sacrifice and deprivation. A minimalist can still own a car and a house, and have children and a career. It’s about what you need.
  • It isn’t “one size fits all:” Minimalism looks different for each individual because it’s about finding and focusing on what is essential to you.
  • It isn’t rules-based: There are no rules. Minimalism is about eliminating the unnecessary things in your life, which will vary from person to person.

How Minimalism Helped

For Joshua and Ryan, getting rid of excess stuff allowed them to:

  • Reclaim time that had been spent maintaining their stuff.
  • Reduce stress and enjoy life more.
  • Live in the moment.
  • Pursue their passions and discover a mission.
  • Discover meaning and happiness

For the authors, minimalism got them started on the path toward a more meaningful life.  

Joshua and Ryan had already realized that possessions and success don’t make you happy. They embraced minimalism and simplicity as a way of freeing themselves to focus on living meaningfully rather than trying to find happiness in possessions.

When you live deliberately, focusing on the important things, happiness is a byproduct.

They created a website (TheMinimalists.com) to share their experiences and insights, and ultimately left their corporate jobs to focus full time on writing essays and books, and continuing to research and experiment with minimalism.

What Is a Minimalist Lifestyle? Dos & Don’ts

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  • What Minimalism is, in complete detail
  • How to simplify your life and get rid of things you don't need
  • What's holding you back from your ideal career passion
  • How to take care of your body and health, the simple way

Allen Cheng

Allen Cheng is the founder of Shortform. He has a passion for non-fiction books (having read 200+ and counting) and is on a mission to make the world's best ideas more accessible to everyone. He reads broadly, covering a wide range of subjects including finance, management, health, and society. Allen graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude and attended medical training at the MD/PhD program at Harvard and MIT. Before Shortform, he co-founded PrepScholar, an online education company.

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