This is a preview of the Shortform book summary of

Minimalism by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.
Read Full Summary

1-Page Summary1-Page Book Summary of Minimalism

Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life, by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, recounts how the authors found happiness and a meaningful life after rejecting the “American dream” of wealth and success, and instead embracing minimalism.

Based on their experiences, they offer a formula for living a meaningful life by eliminating extraneous possessions and entanglements, and instead focusing on living by a specific set of personal values.

Minimalism is a tool to eliminate clutter in your life and focus on essentials.

The Authors’ Path to Minimalism

Both men, who were boyhood friends, achieved success by conventional standards in their twenties — they worked 70-hour weeks and were star salesmen for their company, winning praise, awards, and promotions. But they didn’t feel fulfilled and so, following the dictates of consumer culture, they sought happiness by buying things — big houses, fancy cars, clothes, furniture, and the latest electronics. This left them feeling just as empty and depressed as before, with the added burden of a mountain of debt.

They knew something had to change, and undertook an intense re-examination of their lives. They systematically examined their lives to figure out why they were unhappy, and what needed to change.

First, they identified dozens of “anchors” — things or situations that made them feel stuck. Next, they prioritized by categorizing their anchors as major or minor. Major...

Want to learn the rest of Minimalism in 21 minutes?

Unlock the full book summary of Minimalism by signing up for Shortform .

Shortform summaries help you learn 10x faster by:

  • Being 100% comprehensive: you learn the most important points in the book
  • Cutting out the fluff: you don't spend your time wondering what the author's point is.
  • Interactive exercises: apply the book's ideas to your own life with our educators' guidance.

READ FULL SUMMARY OF MINIMALISM

Here's a preview of the rest of Shortform's Minimalism summary:

Minimalism Summary Introduction

Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus offers a formula for how to live a meaningful life, based on their personal journey.

The coauthors achieved success by conventional standards in their twenties — corporate success, money, and possessions. They expected this to make them happy but it didn’t.

They realized that they and many others pursuing the so-called American dream were deeply unhappy. They were exhausted from overwork and heavily in debt. Their lives felt empty and unfulfilled. This book and a website, TheMinimalists.com, grew out of their determination to understand why they were unhappy, what it would take to be happy, and how to...

Try Shortform for free

Read full summary of Minimalism

Sign up for free

Minimalism Summary Chapter 1: Striving (Unsuccessfully) for Happiness

Society tells us that working hard, climbing the corporate ladder, acquiring material things like a big house and fancy car, and taking expensive vacations is the American dream, and will make you happy.

Co-authors Joshua and Ryan achieved those things. In 2009, they both worked for a telecommunications corporation and attained the career successes and lavish lifestyle that many aspire to.

But they weren’t happy, fulfilled, or content — in fact, they felt empty and depressed. Together they examined their lives (they were longtime friends) to determine what was missing and how to achieve happiness and meaning.

Seeds of Discontent

Their problems didn’t develop overnight but started with unhappy childhoods.

Joshua and Ryan, who knew each other as kids, both grew up in dysfunctional households. Their parents divorced, and their mothers suffered substance abuse issues.

At age 12, they were both overweight, unhappy misfits. They tried unsuccessfully to escape through the instant gratification of overeating but it made things worse.

As they talked and compared their lives to others’, they concluded that poverty was the reason for their unhappiness — therefore they’d be...

What Our Readers Say

This is the best summary of How to Win Friends and Influence People I've ever read. I learned all the main points in just 20 minutes.
Learn more about our summaries →

Shortform Exercise: Anchors Away

Your anchors are things or conditions that make you feel stuck or trapped, and stand in the way of your happiness and freedom. They may include debts, problem relationships, a job you dislike, negative habits, or things that waste too much of your time.


What are two or three major anchors in your life? (These are things that make you feel the most stressed, unhappy, and stuck.)

Try Shortform for free

Read full summary of Minimalism

Sign up for free

Minimalism Summary Chapter 2: Health

Health is the first of the Five Values because living a healthy lifestyle puts you in the best position to enjoy and improve your life.

Few people have perfect health. Health is a continuum, and each of us falls in a different place. It’s not constructive to compare our health with others’. To be happy, we must be as healthy as we can be, given our circumstances.

For example, Joshua broke his back while playing basketball in school. The injury limits his flexibility, but he still strives to be as healthy as he can be given his constraints. There are many examples of people living meaningful lives with diseases, disabilities, and other problems — because they live as healthfully as they can based on their individual situations.

When we talk about health we’re not talking about competing with others, building impressive muscles, or bragging about our stats. Those are destinations. But health isn’t a destination, it’s a vehicle to take us where we want to go.

To enjoy life, we need to take care of the vehicle we have, which may include getting rid of harmful habits, getting regular exercise and check-ups, maintaining a good diet, getting adequate sleep, and reducing...

Why people love using Shortform

"I LOVE Shortform as these are the BEST summaries I’ve ever seen...and I’ve looked at lots of similar sites. The 1-page summary and then the longer, complete version are so useful. I read Shortform nearly every day."
Jerry McPhee
Sign up for free

Shortform Exercise: A Step Toward Health

Striving to be as healthy as you can be given your unique circumstances puts you in the best position to enjoy life. Yet many people neglect their health.


Create your own must list — what must you do to lead a better, healthier life?

Try Shortform for free

Read full summary of Minimalism

Sign up for free

Minimalism Summary Chapter 3: Relationships

Relationships are the second of the Five Values because without successful relationships (someone to share your life with), you can’t live a meaningful life.

Your relationships are the people around you with whom you have frequent contact: spouses, lovers, friends, roommates, coworkers, acquaintances, and anyone else you interact with regularly.

Extroverts need the love and attention of many relationships, while introverts seek fewer relationships. People have different needs and preferences but we all need at least some personal relationships. And we have to tend them or they won’t thrive.

There are three ways to have stronger relationships:

  1. Seek out valuable new relationships
  2. Improve your current relationships
  3. Change yourself

Examining your personal relationships, past and present, is the first step.

Past Relationships

You can learn from past relationships, good or bad, and apply the lessons to improve current and future relationships.

Often we obsess over past relationships, particularly those that went wrong. However this doesn’t get you anywhere. Living in the past is like trying to use your rearview mirror to drive — you won’t see...

What Our Readers Say

This is the best summary of How to Win Friends and Influence People I've ever read. I learned all the main points in just 20 minutes.
Learn more about our summaries →

Shortform Exercise: Building Relationships

You need successful relationships in order to have a meaningful life. Your primary or most important relationships should get most of your attention — you need to nourish them so they grow. But people often spend less time on these relationships than on peripheral relationships such as coworkers, neighbors, community members, and acquaintances.


What are the two most important relationships in your life? How much time do you devote to them per week, compared to your peripheral relationships?

Try Shortform for free

Read full summary of Minimalism

Sign up for free

Minimalism Summary Chapter 4: Passions

You won’t feel fulfilled if your life lacks passion. This is often the root cause of the empty feeling many people experience. But there are things that get in the way of discovering and pursuing your passions — starting with your work.

Work vs. Passions

How do you characterize your work? Typically people call it a job, career, or mission. A job is a daily grind, while a mission is something you feel passionate about. A career can be either or both.

Work that’s a daily grind impedes your happiness and ability to live a meaningful life.

If you’re like most people, you have a job you aren’t passionate about. We’re taught from an early age that that’s the nature of work; it’s about simply making a living, which we have a responsibility to do.

We’re taught to work hard in high school and college, doing stuff we don’t care about, so we’ll find a “good job” with reliable pay and benefits, so we can go into debt purchasing a house, car, consumer goods, etc. This process is touted as the American dream.

We’re to keep our nose to the grindstone, so one day we can retire and enjoy our lives for a few years before dying (the average lifespan of a retiree is often only...

Want to read the rest of this

Book Summary?

With Shortform, you can:

Access 1000+ non-fiction book summaries.

Highlight what
you want to remember.

Access 1000+ premium article summaries.

Take notes on your
favorite ideas.

Read on the go with our iOS and Android App.

Download PDF Summaries.

Sign up for free

Shortform Exercise: You May Not Be Your Career

Many people invest themselves in their careers to the point of assuming an identity and social status based on their job title. When their career ends, they lack a sense of purpose.


How do you define yourself, or what is your identity?

Try Shortform for free

Read full summary of Minimalism

Sign up for free

Shortform Exercise: Pursuing Your Passion

You won’t feel fulfilled if your life lacks passion. However, many things can keep you from discovering and pursuing your passions, including work and other daily priorities.


What passion do you have that you have regrets about not pursuing?

What Our Readers Say

This is the best summary of How to Win Friends and Influence People I've ever read. I learned all the main points in just 20 minutes.
Learn more about our summaries →

Shortform Exercise: Gaining Financial Freedom

Money problems can strain relationships, tie you to a job that you dislike, and keep you from pursuing your passions. But money concerns can be eliminated by taking five steps: creating a written monthly budget, eliminating debt, investing in your future, minimizing possessions, and contributing to others.


What is the biggest money concern impacting your life, and what would you do differently if you didn’t have this worry?

Try Shortform for free

Read full summary of Minimalism

Sign up for free

Minimalism Summary Chapter 5: Growth

The last two of the five values — growth and contributing to others — work hand in hand to create the meaning in our lives: We need to grow as individuals and to contribute to improve others’ lives.

Growth is an ongoing process. You’re not finished after you make a change in your life. You have to keep making changes in order to grow.

The way to make changes is either by taking a leap, or taking baby steps.

Some changes are huge and immediate: ending a relationship, quitting your job on the spot, moving to a new city, buying a home or a car. There’s only one way to make them: Take the leap.

However the most important changes are baby steps that allow you to eventually take the leaps.

How to Change

1) Make small changes daily

You can make small, gradual changes in your daily life that add up to huge changes over time.

Most changes build on past changes propelling you forward every day. It’s like exercising — you build your strength and fitness little by little by exercising consistently over time.

Each change improves on the previous change.

Most of the changes Joshua and Ryan made — in health, jobs, relationships — started as...

What Our Readers Say

This is the best summary of How to Win Friends and Influence People I've ever read. I learned all the main points in just 20 minutes.
Learn more about our summaries →

Minimalism Summary Chapter 6: Contributing to Others

Personal growth feels great but reaching outward to contribute to others also is necessary for a balanced life.

Humans have a built-in need to contribute beyond themselves. Moreover, the more you help others grow, the more you grow in turn.

People often decide to write a check to charity because they don’t have time to volunteer for an activity. But the personal contact and satisfaction you receive from doing a hands-on task are more rewarding than writing a check.

There are unlimited ways to contribute. Whatever way you choose to contribute is fine — all contributions have value.

Joshua and Ryan contribute locally through hands-on projects with Habitat for Humanity, soup kitchens, and charitable organizations. They’ve also used their website to raise money for development...

Try Shortform for free

Read full summary of Minimalism

Sign up for free

Minimalism Summary Chapter 7: Tying It All Together

While contributing to others in whatever way you choose is a positive experience overall, all positive experiences aren’t the same. There are two types:

  • Positive experiences you enjoy. For some this may include playing a sport, spending time with a friend, helping a child ride a bike, opening a door for someone, etc. They are the most effortless and rewarding experiences.
  • Positive experiences you dislike. They include things that are good for you but take more effort — for instance, exercising daily, eating vegetables, or taking on new challenges.

Often the reason people don’t participate in a charitable activity is that they identify it as something they dislike or that requires effort, even though it’s positive.

You have to fight the tendency to avoid these experiences if you are committed to finding lasting satisfaction.

The Key to Living Meaningfully

Positive experiences you dislike are the key to living a meaningful life. You need to find ways to transform the positive experiences you dislike into positive experiences you enjoy in order to change your life long term.

This strategy can be applied to every area of your life....

What Our Readers Say

This is the best summary of How to Win Friends and Influence People I've ever read. I learned all the main points in just 20 minutes.
Learn more about our summaries →

Table of Contents

  • 1-Page Summary
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1: Striving (Unsuccessfully) for Happiness
  • Exercise: Anchors Away
  • Chapter 2: Health
  • Exercise: A Step Toward Health
  • Chapter 3: Relationships
  • Exercise: Building Relationships
  • Chapter 4: Passions
  • Exercise: You May Not Be Your Career
  • Exercise: Pursuing Your Passion
  • Exercise: Gaining Financial Freedom
  • Chapter 5: Growth
  • Chapter 6: Contributing to Others
  • Chapter 7: Tying It All Together