The Minimalists Are in Houston to Help You Strip Down to What You Really Need

Want to simplify your life? You can get advice from The Minimalists, two friends who blog and write about simplicity, when they appear at Brazos Bookstore on Tuesday to promote their new memoir, Everything That Remains.

The Minimalists are Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, childhood buddies who, in 2010, founded The site now gets around 2 million visitors a year, and offers lessons on things like solitude, volunteerism, the importance of community and other aspects of a more meaningful life.

But before the site began there was just Joshua Millburn, who was undergoing a quarter-life crisis. About five years ago, at the age of 27, he was the youngest director at his telecommunications company, making six figures. Then, in the span of a month, his mother died and his marriage ended.

"I started to realize that 'everything I ever wanted' wasn't everything I ever wanted," he said. "It's not that I wasn't focused on what was important in my life. It's that I didn't know what was important."

Milburn decided it was time for a major purge.

"I was working 70, 80 hours a week and I had all this STUFF to show for it, but I was overwhelmed," he said. "Most of the stuff I purchased wasn't adding any value to my life." Millburn adds that he was also in significant debt from the accumulation of all this "stuff." So he decided to get rid of one item a day for 30 days. After that first month, he just kept downsizing, and by the end of the first year he'd gotten rid of 90 percent of his possessions, he said.

"Now, everything I own serves a purpose or gives me joy," he said.

While this was going on, Nicodemus, Millburn's childhood friend, began to notice a change in Millburn's demeanor. (The two worked together at the same company.) Millburn shared his downsizing story with Nicodemus, who wanted to do the same. So the two came up with the idea of throwing a "packing party".

"We spent an entire day packing up all his stuff as if he were moving," Millburn said. "Over the next 21 days, he unpacked only what he needed. At the end of three weeks, about 80 percent of his stuff was still in boxes, and he decided to sell or donate all of it. He said he couldn't even remember what was in half those boxes."

After their transformations, the men decided other people might learn from their experiments. So they started the now massively-popular blog, and are currently on a 100-city international tour to promote their book.

Millburn said people indulge in consumerism for a lot of reasons, and one of the first steps to becoming a minimalist is recognizing why you AREN'T a minimalist.

"I grew up really poor," he said. "By the time I turned 18 I thought the reason we were discontented was because we didn't have money. But the reason we were poor wasn't because we didn't have any money, but because we made bad decisions. And I continued to make bad decisions even when I did have money.

"Minimalism doesn't have anything to do with how much money you make," he said. "It has to do with making deliberate decisions. One of our mantras is 'intentionality.'"

To that end, also frequently addresses the subject of mindfulness. One of Millburn's favorite tools is something he calls 20 Minutes of Awesome. The idea is to spend 20 minutes doing absolutely nothing -- no TV, no music, no distractions -- just you, alone with your thoughts.

"I find it really helps me when I'm stressed out or distracted," he said.

But what The Minimalists really want to do is help people discover their own methods toward a more meaningful life.

"I'm against following someone else's pattern," Millburn said. That's why he thinks 'follow your passion' is in his words, "shitty advice."

"It sounds really cool, but it presupposes that we all have some sort of predestined passion," he said. "What you should do is find something you are genuinely interested in and cultivate that. It takes a lot of hard work and drudgery to find something meaningful."

The Minimalists appear at Brazos Bookstore at 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 4. Tickets are free and available on their website.