I picked up this book the day after Christmas when both my wife and I were overwhelmed with the sheer quantity of gifts that we and this kids had been given for Christmas. I spent the early part of that day reading the free PDF version of the book, and then finishing the majority of it in the bath with a glass of wine in the evening. The rest of the day, in between playing with the kids with their new toys, was dedicated to a huge toy cull and reorganisation minimalisation. We just didn’t have the space for anything to put the new things, and we were both completely overwhelmed.

So onto the book…

At first I thought Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life was going to be all about how best to get rid of stuff, which was what I was desperately needing at that point in time. But the more I got into the book the more puzzled I became. It didn’t seem to be about minimalism at all. It was more like a Tony Robbins self help book, with section after section on ways to improve various aspects of your life.

After the initial introduction and the story about how the authors came to adopt minimalism after leading miserable, corporate lives, the book goes on to discuss what the minimalists believe are the 5 Values that allow them to live a meaningful life:

After much cerebration, deliberation, discussion, research, and experimentation, we discovered Five Values that allow us to live a meaningful life:

  1. Health
  2. Relationships
  3. Passions
  4. Growth
  5. Contribution

As I progressed through each of the five value chapters I wondered what in the world any of this had anything to do with minimalism. This wasn’t what I was looking for. I need some guidance, advice, on how to live with less stuff!

Luckily in the chapter Confluence, Josh and Ryan bring it all together in such a fantastic way.

“Recall our definition from the first chapter: Minimalism is a tool to eliminate life’s excess and focus on the essentials.Therefore, this book is about minimalism, because this book is about focusing on the five essential areas of life. By embracing minimalism in other aspects of life (your possessions, your work, etc.), you can focus on the most important things in life (the Five Values”

I personally live quite a minimal life anyway. And I’ve had some influence over my wife and kids. We’re by no means where I would like us to be and there’s a long way to go to get there. But I guess in my quest to minimise and live with less, I’ve never had a clear picture as to why.

“To us, living a meaningful life and minimalism go hand in hand. Minimalism acts as a tool, helping you focus on what’s important much more easily; it clears away the clutter so you can focus on living more deliberately”

But hearing these words made it as clear as it has ever been why I find it better to live with less stuff. And that’s because having less to deal with, sort through, organise etc. allows me to spend more times on things I enjoy most. Keeping fit, eating healthy, writing, programming, spending time with my family and friends. Removing excess ‘stuff’ from my life frees me up, little by little. And by ‘stuff’ I don’t just mean physical items. I also mean tasks, processes, day-to-day things that suck valuable minutes out of my days, weeks, months and years out of my life.