Book review: “Everything That Remains” by The Minimalists

Everything That Remains A Memoir by The Minimalists book coverI recently wrote a post about the film Minimalism, about two guys named Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, a.ka. The Minimalists. I recently rewatched their film and then discovered their TED Talks, which led me to their books. This is the first one by them that I’ve read. I’ve also begun listening to their podcasts.

I found this book impactful in ways I didn’t expect. I expected it to be a story leading up to the film (this was published in 2014, the film released in 2016). Or a detailed version of their minimalism journey. And while it was both of those, it was so much more.

The book covered the mindset of minimalism almost poetically at times, and I found myself quoting their words and ideas frequently. The book isn’t just about Minimalism in regards to physical possessions. It’s about living your life with the understanding that relationships are more valuable than material possessions. And making sure the possessions you do have add value to your life. Minimalism can make your life easier, less stressful, and more fulfilling.

Here are a few of the quotes/ideas which spoke most strongly to me:

“The American dream really just seems to imply that we are fat and in debt, discontented and empty, every man an island, leaving a void we attempt to fill with more stuff.”

I know before my husband and I got married, we knew we didn’t want to buy a huge house or buy fancy cars. We wanted no debt and we strive for financial freedom. While we’re not there yet, we’ve moved closer to those goals. We want to find contentment in other ways.

“Most organizing is nothing more than well-planned hoarding.”

I spent years organizing, thinking, and believing that it was the answer. Now I know that you don’t need to spend much time organizing if you don’t have too many items to cram into a closet or into a drawer. And less time “organizing” means more time with my family. I’m looking forward to the hours I’ll add back to my life once I’m not “organizing” and cleaning all my stuff.

“As children we asked ‘what if?’ with optimism. As adults, we ask ‘what if?’ out of fear.”

Child running through meadow. Photo by Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho on Unsplash.
Photo by Rodolfo Sanches Carvalho on Unsplash.

I personally know this to be true because I have observed my young son who creatively asks me “What if?” out of optimism all the time. Admittedly, when I ask that question, it’s out of worry. That’s something that I hope to change.

“No one gets to the end of their life and wishes they had bought more stuff. Most people wish they had had more time with loved ones.”

This is obvious but true as well! Sometimes we need the obvious stated to make us think. And that’s what this book does – it makes you think about all aspects of our lifestyles.

Millburn and Nicodemus pose questions, like how many clothes do you really wear? Do you really need a giant house that is full of furnishings and has more than TVs than people living there? Why do we work at a job or career for years and decades to buy stuff we don’t really need? All to stave off doing the things we really want to do until retirement.

Do you know that retirement age is 70 now?

My favorite thing in the book is a rule, that the Minimalists use, in regards to each possession. They ask, “Does this item add value to my life?”

I really think asking this question makes you focus on each item and think about whether or not you need it. My husband likes that the question is frank and easy to remember.

While all of those ideas seem simple, few of us in American culture are raised to practice them in our daily lives. Instead, we are raised to get more stuff, faster cars, and bigger houses. I want my family to have a happy life. Not a frenzied, busy, cluttered life. Maybe it’s time we rethink all of this. I know I am. Thanks for reading.

Plant in vase. Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash.
Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash.
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