Book review: “Everything That Remains” by The Minimalists

Last updated January 28, 2024.

"All you need is less" in white scrabble-like tiles on a lime green background.
Photo by Edward Howell on Unsplash.

I recently wrote an article about the film Minimalism, about Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, also known as The Minimalists. I recently rewatched their film and then discovered their TED Talks, which led me to their books. I’ve read several of their books and enjoyed them all. I also enjoy listening to their podcasts.

Everything That Remains A Memoir by The Minimalists book cover

This book, Everything That Remains, was impactful in ways I didn’t expect. I expected it to be a story leading up to the film (this book was published in 2014, and the film was 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 thinking about their ideas frequently. The book isn’t just about minimalism concerning physical possessions. It’s about living life with the understanding that relationships are more valuable than material possessions. And making sure the possessions you do own 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.”

Before my husband and I got married, we established that we didn’t want to buy a huge house or fancy cars. We wanted no debt and we strived for financial freedom. While we’re not there yet, we’ve moved closer to those goals. We find contentment in other ways, like spending time together, getting outdoors, new experiences, and traveling.

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

I spent years organizing. I believed that organizing 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 a drawer. And less time “organizing” means more time with my family or working on hobbies. I’m looking forward to the hours I’ll add back to my life once I’m not “organizing” and cleaning all my stuff.

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

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

I know this quote 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 reflect. 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 actually wear? Do you need a giant house that is full of furnishings and has more 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 67 now?

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

I think asking this question makes you focus on each item and think about whether or not you need it. 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.

Book Review: One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of The Gambia

Last updated on December 23, 2022.

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay book cover

There are inspirational and motivated women all over the world. Women who amaze us, withstand the negativity and overcome the obstacles she faces.

I discovered One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, by Miranda Paul, at my local library. Upon reading this book to my son, I was really impressed with this story. Check to see if your local library offers it!

After reading the book I wanted more information about Isatou Ceesay.

I felt that she is so inspirational that I should dedicate a whole post to her. She has been committed to upcycling plastic bags and reducing waste in The Gambia since the 1990s. The waste problem in The Gambia really bothered her. Plastic and trash were everywhere. The landscape was littered. People used plastic to make fires burn faster, but the toxins released in the fumes from burning plastic are unimaginable. She decided she would find a way to recycle or upcycle some of the plastic waste.

More than just recycling

But her story is not just about recycling and plastic. It’s also about empowering women and improving the standard of living! The book tells the story at a children’s level about how she had to work in secret in the beginning because it was illegal for women to work at the time, and people ridiculed her. But she began making recycled plastic bag purses. Isatou hired a few women to help and hired more as time went on, even establishing a women’s cooperative to craft and sell the items for income. The business kept growing and it helped the environment, the people, and the economy.

Isatou also helped co-found The Women’s Initiative Gambia whose mission is: “Women’s Initiative Gambia helps financially poor women in The Gambia to improve their skills and income so as to raise the standard of living of their families and their communities.” Today they have many projects beyond plastic bag recycling, including briquette making as a fuel source, gardening, tie-dye and batik, recycled paper bead making, food preservation, and many other projects.

Here’s a quick video highlighting Isatou Ceesay’s accomplishments:

“I think that when you abuse your environment, you abuse yourself.” -Isatou Ceesay

DIY Opportunity

And if you have too many plastic bags yourself and want to make a plastic bag crocheted purse? She’s got a how-to video! I’ll update this post if I try it. And if any of you try this, please message me or leave a comment below! I can’t wait to see what you’ve done!

“People thought I was too young and that women couldn’t be leaders. I took these things as challenges; they gave me more power. I didn’t call out the problems – I called out solutions.” -Isatou Ceesay

Well said. I think we should all have that attitude. Let’s be the change together!