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Ryan Nicodemus of Netflix’s ‘The Minimalists: Less is Now’ on decluttering our lives

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Ryan Nicodemus of Netflix’s ‘The Minimalists: Less is Now’ on decluttering our lives (Image courtesy of Netflix)

They imagined fewer possessions then made it happen. I wonder if I can?

We all have a lot of stuff, most of it we never use. We’re consumers, that’s what we do. What happens when the things we buy because we think they’ll make us happy stop doing their job?

That’s a question asked and answered in the Netflix documentary “The Minimalists: Less is Now” from Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus. The duo has reached millions of listeners, readers and viewers through their podcast, website, books and films.

There are things we don’t want to live without, like a toothbrush, a coffee pot, or the truck sitting in your driveway. But what about the things we thought we needed at the time that have been sitting untouched for years on a shelf, in boxes in the basement or in a storage unit we’re paying for each month?

Best friends since fifth grade, Milburn and Nicodemus overcame the challenges of their respective childhoods to each land a well-paying corporate job. The 80-hour workweeks provided the income to fill their lives with every possession they thought they needed to be happy, but instead they were weighted with a feeling of emptiness trying to keep up with it all.

When Milburn’s mother died of cancer, he put all of her belongings in a storage unit but realized he could better honor his mother’s memory by giving her possessions to others, then he began looking inward to find out was truly important to him. Over several months, he decluttered his life and inspired Nicodemus to do the same.

Prior to watching “The Minimalists: Less is Now,” all I knew about minimalism came from Kramer on “Seinfeld” during a season three episode when he decided to clear his apartment of belongings. After watching Milburn and Nicodemus’s film, I’m not quite ready to follow Kramer’s lead, but I probably could benefit from getting rid of things I don’t regularly use or even enjoy.

In the following interview, Nicodemus explains how and why he decided to apply his friend Joshua’s minimalism to his own life.

The Maine Edge: How did you and Joshua end up becoming the spokesmen for minimalism?

Ryan Nicodemus: I found myself living an overwhelming situation. I had overloaded my life with stuff, with debt, with obligations, distractions, toxic relationships, stress - a lot of burdens. I didn’t know what to do but I did notice my best friend of twentysomething years, Josh, was looking happier and a bit more free. His mother had recently passed away and his marriage ended, both in the same month. He shouldn’t have been happy. I asked him ‘What’s going on, man? Something’s changed.’ He said ‘Let me tell you about this thing called minimalism,’ and that’s where the idea was introduced to me.

As he explained it, I saw it as common-sense philosophy, and I said I wanted to become a minimalist but I didn’t know where to start. That’s when we came up with the crazy idea of having a packing party. We packed up all of my belongings as if I were moving, then I would unpack only the items I needed over the next three weeks. He helped me box up everything I owned, my clothes, my kitchenware, my towels, my electronics, everything.

I stated unpacking things as I needed them, like my toothbrush, bedding, and my clothes for work. After three weeks of doing this each day, I was faced with about 80 percent of my stuff still sitting in boxes. That’s when I had this kind of light bulb moment. These things I had brought into my life to make me happy weren’t doing their job, so I decided to donate, sell, and recycle all of it.

The Maine Edge: Where should someone start if they want to scale back the clutter in their lives? Should they try getting rid of one item per day? That was one of the ideas suggested in the film.

Ryan Nicodemus: Before a person starts to declutter, they should ask themselves, ‘How might my life be better with less?’ That’s really important. We all know how to get rid of things but if we don’t know why we’re doing it, that closet we just decluttered will soon be filled again with stuff. The average American household contains about 300,000 items, and a lot of it is stuff we never use.

In the documentary, we talk about the less is now challenge. We decided to make decluttering fun with a little friendly competition. Find another person who wants to declutter their lives – a spouse, family member, coworker – and start this game on the first day of any month. On the first day, you agree to get rid of one thing. On the second day, you agree to get rid of two things, and so on. On day 20, you might go ‘Oh no, I need to get rid of 20 things today,’ but the idea is whomever lasts the longest wins, and if you both make it to the end of the month, you’ll have gotten rid of about 500 items apiece. You can make a small bet to make it fun, like the loser has to prepare a home-cooked meal for the winner. This is a great way for people to get started, to get momentum and really be successful at simplifying their lives.

Last modified on Wednesday, 10 February 2021 13:04

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