Who wrote it: Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (aka The Minimalists)
What it’s all about:
Everything That Remains — which is mainly written by JFM, with Ryan giving his thoughts and ideas in the endnote section — is about a journey into minimalism. Specifically, it talks about how JFM started as a successful but unhappy director of operations in a telecommunications company and ended up becoming a happy and fulfilled self-employed minimalist who‘s now living a more meaningful life. The book takes the readers through the ups and downs of JFM’s life (such as his divorce, his mom’s death, and his surprise discovery of minimalism) and illustrates how he used these experiences to become a better person who doesn’t rely on pacifiers and who has learned to live intentionally.
Why I like it:
I liked the book even before I read it — mainly because it was written by The Minimalists. I love their website, and I was sure I would like their books. And I wasn’t wrong: Everything That Remains is one of the best books I’ve ever read.
One of the things I like the book is that it gives readers an in-depth look into JFM’s life. Some people think this is selfish on his part; in fact, I read one review in Amazon stating that the book was “a long, wordy story about the author’s dysfunctional (sic) childhood, followed by his corporate success. He then shares that he downsized his life, but there are far more pages of mere rambling than there are of interesting dialogue (sic) about his simplicity journey.”
I can understand where the reviewer is coming from but, personally, I liked reading JFM’s account from his childhood and to his adulthood because 1) it helped me understand him more, and 2) it helped me understand myself more. As Gretchen Rubin points out, “We’re more like other people than we suppose” and we “often learn more from one person’s highly idiosyncratic experiences than we do from sources that detail universal practices or cite up-to-date studies”. So, JFM’s life may be different from my own, but I can definitely relate to his experiences. And, because I now know his background, I‘m able to understand why he has OCD tendencies and why he was driven to become successful to the point that he neglected to focus on the things that matter in life.
I’d also like to point out that Everything That Remains is a memoir. (It says so on the front cover, although JFM and Ryan tell us that we’re “free to call it something else”.) By description, a memoir is an account of a person’s life, and JFM more than delivers in this aspect since his narrative inspires us to transform our own lives and create our own flavour of minimalism. Those who are looking for specific tips on how to become a minimalist can read Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life.
I actually have LOTS of favourite quotes from this book (my copy is striped with yellow highlighter and looks like a neon zebra). I’d like to share a couple of them:
“What happens when I accumulate all the stuff and make it past a particular finish line? Unsatisfied, I always immediately start looking for the next finish line.”
I’m sure all of us have felt this at some point. You start saving for a pair of designer shoes and, when you buy the shoes you want, you start planning to purchase a designer bag. Then a pair of designer jeans. Then a designer head-to-toe outfit. Or maybe clothes aren’t your trigger; maybe it’s about collecting a certain book series or completing your collection of action figures or even filling your garage with luxury cars. The point is, you probably won’t stop at buying just a single thing: you always want more.
And technically there’s nothing wrong with that since the act of buying things isn’t bad. It’s the act of assigning a higher value than normal to your things that’s bad. Once you push yourself to earn more money to buy more stuff, and once you start worrying that your collection is lacking and that you need to add more to it, that’s when you lose your mind, body, and time to consumerism and become its slave.
And that’s something you don’t want to become.
“I’ve always claimed that my priorities are grandly important activities like spending time with family or exercising or carving out enough alone time to write. But they’re not. Until I actually put these pursuits first, until I make these undertakings part of my everyday routine, they are not my actual priorities.”
I actually got stricken with guilt when I read these three sentences because I can freaking relate. I studied nursing in college, so I know how important it is to eat nutritious food and exercise regularly and get enough sleep — yet I wasn’t doing any of these! Instead of finishing my work early so I could get 8 hours of sleep, I dawdle and spend most of my time browsing through BuzzFeed and end up getting only 5 to 6 hours of shut-eye. Instead of eating healthily, I buy junk food and gobble them down like it’s the end of the world. I know what my priorities should be — but I’m not actually prioritising them.
Maybe you can relate. If you can, I encourage you to start changing your priorities and actually doing the things that are important to you, not just making lip service. If you need a gentle push, you can read Everything That Remains and get inspiration from JFM and Ryan’s experiences.