Back in November 2017, I went to an inspiring, live show in Tampa, FL featuring the Minimalists. Who are the Minimalists? Just two, laid-back guys named Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus who think “just in case” are the three most dangerous words.
Joshua and Ryan grew up together, and now they share their stories in living more fulfilling lives with less clutter and less stuff.
That word “stuff” is one of their keywords they use in almost every talk and every Minimalists podcast episode. They live with less mess, less material things, making room for more time and important people in their lives.
I stumbled upon their page three years ago in my search for how to start a blog. After reading their tips, I finally jump-started my blog, and then went back to their website to read about the Minimalists game.
I was hooked on their concept of keeping items that bring us joy and tossing items that don’t add value to our lives.
Once I discovered the Minimalists were coming to Florida, within driving distance, I embarked on the trip to listen their talk in person.
Sights and bites before the show
I grabbed dinner with my longtime college friend Audrey just before the show since she lives in Tampa. We met at the salon where she gets her hair cut and styled. It turns out the salon shares the building with a photography studio and some vintage decor!
Audrey and I went to a local restaurant called Daily Eats thanks to her recommendation. We chowed down on some meat and veggie bowls, and then we split a milkshake at the end (YUM).
The Minimalists: Live in Tampa, FL
After dinner, I headed out on my own to Tampa’s Straz Center for the Performing Arts, which turned out to be an adorable and quaint theater where any seat is a good seat.
I prepped myself for the show by watching “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things” on Netflix, and catching up on their podcast.
In true, minimal spirit, a Tampa-based indie-rock band named Brother Cephus opened up the show with a few songs. We all sat in anticipation as we stared at just two little chairs in the middle of the stage.
15 minutes after 7 p.m., we were greeted with a soft guitar and some familiar lyrics. “Every little thing that you think that you need…” These lyrics from The Minimalists podcast theme song played in Tampa’s Straz Center as the audience clapped and cheered.
Joshua and Ryan walked on stage, wearing their signature, yet simple black tees and denim jeans.
Ryan started out the talk by asking us to “Imagine a life with less…less stuff, less clutter, less stress, a life with fewer distractions.”
He then asked us to “Imagine a life with more. More time, more meaningful relationships. A life of passion.” The audience cheered again.
Then Joshua took the stage, and took us through the years of how he became a minimalist, and why he lives the way he does.
Meet Joshua Fields Millburn
As one half of the Minimalists group, Joshua walked out with his pompadour and a big smile, speaking about living an intentional life. He mentioned that it’s not an easy life, but it’s a simple life.
“Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things,” he said.
Raised by an alcoholic single mom, Joshua thought they weren’t happy because they didn’t have enough money. By age 28, he climbed the corporate ladder and earned the six-figure salary he’d always dreamed of. He thought he’d finally earned the happiness he longed for as a kid.
Joshua bought designer clothes, luxury cars, and a house too big for his own good. “I guess you could say I was living the American dream,” he joked.
Money isn’t everything.
Then, his mom died of lung cancer – she died nearby in St. Petersburg, Tampa – and his marriage ended in the same month, causing him to reflect on his life’s focus. “I was so focused on the accumulation of stuff,” Joshua said.
When his mom died, he went home to clean out her clutter. She left behind years and years of memories, in the form of boxes and papers and other items. “We hold onto a lifetime of collective memories,” he said.
Joshua originally rented a truck to move everything, and he was going to purchase a storage unit to hold onto his mom’s belongings…but then he realized that wasn’t the right thing to do.
As I sat in the audience, just listening to this story made me nervous. It was a reality check of what could happen if we save and save and save, never letting go of things around us.
So instead of renting the truck and the storage unit, he decided to go through his mom’s boxes. He found old photos and even old school papers from when he was a child. Then, he got rid of her clutter, and let go of all the boxes that were weighing down on his mind and her old house.
“Mom held onto me. But I was never inside those boxes.”
Sometimes we think that by keeping physical items, we are keeping memories. But throwing these things away doesn’t erase those memories.
As Joshua discarded his mom’s unnecessary belongings, he felt inspired to shed his own physical and mental baggage. He became happier by being selective with what he buys and how he spends his time.
“Everything I own adds value to my life… Or brings me joy,” Joshua said.
Meet Ryan Nicodemus
The other half of the Minimalists, Ryan Nicodemus, is known for his long, skater-like hair and casual, California voice.
Ryan’s parents divorced at a young age. Just as Joshua did, Ryan also climbed the corporate ladder, thinking this status would make him happier. But he struggled with drug addiction and unhappiness throughout his life.
“I was spending money faster than I was earning it,” Ryan said. “I was attempting to buy my way to happiness.” Life on the outside looked good, but he was stuck on the inside.
Joshua and Ryan grew up together, so one day, Ryan noticed Joshua’s mood was much more positive than before. He questioned this.
Ryan even asked Joshua, “Why are you so happy?” Joshua explained his minimalist lifestyle, and Ryan wanted to hop on board with this.
Joshua introduced Ryan to a few families living a minimalist life. From that point on, Ryan aspired to live a meaningful, passionate, minimal life. He wanted to get rid of his own clutter to make room for more time and more important people in his life.
Throwing a Packing Party
To commemorate their minimizing spree, Joshua and Ryan threw a “packing party.” They spent 9 hours boxing up everything Ryan owned. Clothes, sneakers, cat toys, notebooks, you name it.
All of Ryan’s personal belongings were in boxes, as if he was moving. The rule was he had three weeks to unpack everything he NEEDED. Anything that remained packed in a box would be tossed.
By boxing up all his belongings, Ryan realized just how few things he needed to live a happy life. He was happy with the results, and slowly recovered from his previous hardships.
Asking the Audience
The Minimalists spent the second half of the evening answering audience questions. I walked up and got in line to ask a question – I knew this segment was coming thanks to listening to the podcast.
One of the audience members asked about becoming a minimalist while people around her didn’t support her decision. Another member asked about getting out of debt, and another asked about becoming a minimalist when a member of your family loves collecting (toys, books, etc.).
This mini-therapy session allowed Joshua and Ryan to listen to audience members and their struggles, and then offer advice to them.
Unfortunately I didn’t walk up to the microphone quick enough. I was -unknowingly- sitting on the opposite side of the room from where the audience Q&A microphone stood.
As I stood in line, I wound up being third in line when we ran out of time. I planned on asking how to stay consistent in minimizing, and how to let go of things from college. I was slightly disappointed I didn’t walk up quicker, but I still enjoyed listening to other people’s stories.
P.S. I somehow managed to forget to take pictures while I was a hundred feet away from Joshua and Ryan on stage. So we’ll just have to work with the small, blurry photos I took in my seat.
Less is Now
Before Ryan and Joshua exited the stage, they said they wanted to thank one more person: “That person is you. You gave up your most precious resource…your attention.”
Ryan and Joshua offered “free hugs” after the show, signing merchandise, and even offered to buy a book for people who couldn’t afford one. They encouraged the audience to minimize the book when they’re done reading it (smart).
They left with, “Love people, and use things. Because the opposite never works.”