The Art of Letting Go | The Minimalists | TEDxFargo

The Art of Letting Go | The Minimalists | TEDxFargo

Translator: Morgane Quilfen
Reviewer: Helena Bedalli Joshua: My name is Joshua Fields Millburn
and this is Ryan Nicodemus. Together, we run a website
called and we promise the folks
we’d kick things off this afternoon with something inspirational, (Laughter) something to get you all excited. (Cheers) So, I’d like to talk about
something uplifting. (Cheers) (Laughter) Let’s talk about death! If any of you are uncomfortable
talking about death, now might be a good time for you to leave. (Laughter) I have a feeling we will be
seeing him again in a minute. Anyway, yeah, we could talk about death. Let’s see, seven years ago, I was 28 years old,
and up until that point in my life, I had achieved everything I ever wanted: The six-figure salary, the luxury cars,
the closets full of expensive clothes, the big suburban house
with more toilets than people, and all of this stuff to filled every corner
of my consumer-driven lifestyle. Man, I was living the American Dream! And then my mom died.
And my marriage ended. Both in the same month. And these two events
forced me to look around and start to question
what had become my life’s focus. You know what I realized? I realized I was so focused
on so-called “success” and “achievement,” and especially,
on the accumulation of stuff. Yeah, I was living the American Dream, but it wasn’t my dream. And it took getting everything
I thought I wanted, to realize that everything I ever wanted
wasn’t actually what I wanted at all. You see, just a year earlier,
mom, she moved from Ohio down to Florida, to finally retire. Because that’s what you do
when you live in the Midwest. And, well a few months
after she moved down there, she found out she had lung cancer. And a few months after that, she was gone. I spent a lot of time with her
down in Florida that year, as she went through
her chemo and radiation. And when she passed, I realized
I needed to make one last trip, this time it was to deal with her stuff. So, I flew from Dayton, Ohio,
down to St. Pete Beach, Florida, and when I arrived, I found about
three apartments’ worth of stuff crammed in a mom’s tiny
one-bedroom apartment. But don’t get me wrong,
it’s not like mom was a hoarder, she wasn’t. I mean, I didn’t find
any dead cats in her freezer. (Laughter) But she owned a lot of stuff. 65 years worth of accumulation. Did you all know that the average American household
has more than 300,000 items in it? 300,000! But of course, most of us
aren’t hoarders, right? No, we just hold onto a lot of stuff. We hold onto a lifetime
of collected memories. I know mom certainly did. So, I did what any good son would do — I think that’s me on a bad hair day — I called U-Haul. I called U-Haul and I asked
for the largest truck they had. In fact, I needed one so large, I had to wait an extra-day,
until the 26-foot truck was available. And as I waited for that U-Haul to arrive, I invited some of mom’s friends over
to help me deal with her stuff. I mean, there was just
too much stuff to go at it alone. Her living room was stuffed
with big antique furniture, and old paintings, and more doilies that I could count. She loved doilies. And her kitchen was stuffed
with hundreds of plates, and cups, and bowls, and ill-assorted utensils. And her bathroom was stuffed with enough hygiene products
to start a small beauty supply business. And her linen closet, well, it looked like someone was running
a hotel out of her linen closet, which was stuffed with mismatched
bath towels, and beach towels, and bed sheets, and blankets, and quilts. And don’t even get me started
on her bedroom. Why did mom have 14 winter coats
stuffed in her bedroom closet? 14! Now, come on, she lived
in St. Pete Beach, Florida! Suffice it to say
mom owned a lot of stuff, and I had no idea
what to do with any of it. So, I did what any good son would do;
I rented a storage locker. When I called, I asked for
the largest storage unit they had. You what they asked me? “Do you want one
that’s climate-controlled?” Climate-controlled, just so mom’s stuff
could be comfortable? No, I don’t want one
that’s climate-controlled, just give me a big box
with a padlock on it! You see, I couldn’t co-mingle
mom’s stuff with my stuff, I already had a big house,
and a full basement full of stuff. But a storage locker?
Oh, yeah! A storage locker would let me
hold on to everything! Just in case I needed it someday,
in some non-existent, hypothetical future. You know, just in case. Just. In. Case. [Just. In. Case.] The three most dangerous words
in the English language. Anyway, so there I was,
attempting to finish packing mom’s stuff, when all of a sudden,
I noticed these four boxes. These old printer-paper boxes. Kind of heavy. Sealed with excessive amounts
of packing tape. So, I pulled them out one by one. I noticed that each box was labelled with just a number, written on the side,
in thick, black marker. All I saw was: one, two, three, four. I stood there, looking down, wondering what could possibly
be in those boxes. It looks like we’re out of time folks.
Hope you enjoy the rest of the conference! (Laughter) No, it was my old
elementary school paperwork, grades one through four. You know, as I opened those boxes,
my curiosity ran wild, and I thought to myself, “Why was mom holding onto
all that stupid paperwork?” But then, all those memories
came rushing back, and I realized she had been
holding onto a piece of me, she was holding onto all those memories
in those boxes, right? Wait a minute! Those boxes had been sealed
for more than two decades, which made me realize something important
for the first time in my life: Our memories are not inside our things. [Memories} Our memories are inside us. See, mom didn’t need to hold on to
those boxes to hold on to a piece of me, I was never in those boxes. But then, I looked around
at her apartment, I looked around at all her stuff, and I realized I was getting ready
to do the same thing. Except instead of storing
her memories in a box in my home, I was getting ready to cram it all
into a big box with a padlock on it. So, I did what any good son would do, I called U-Haul
and I cancelled that truck. And then I called and I cancelled
the storage locker. And I spent the next 12 days
selling, or donating, almost everything. And I learned a bunch
of really important lessons along the way. Not only did I learn that our memories
aren’t in our things, they’re in us; but I also learned about
value, real value. You see, if I’m honest with myself, I was just going to selfishly
cling to mom’s stuff, but of course, I wasn’t going
to get any value from it, as it sat there,
locked away in perpetuity. But the truth is that by letting go,
I could add value to other people’s lives. So, I donated much of her stuff
to her friends, and local charities, giving the stuff a new home. And the things I was able to sell,
I was able to take that money and give it to the charities that helped her through
her chemo and radiation. And when I finally returned to Ohio, I returned with just a handful
of sentimental items: an old painting, a few photographs,
maybe even a doily or two. And the final lesson I learned,
well, it was a practical one. While it’s true that sometimes,
our memories are in our things, it’s also true that sometimes, the things that we have
can trigger the memories that are inside us. So, while I was still in Florida, I took photos of many
of mom’s possessions. When I went back to Ohio, I went back with just
a few boxes of photographs, which I was able to scan,
and store digitally. And those photos made it easier
for me to let go, because I realized I wasn’t letting go
of any of my memories. [Let go, move on] Ultimately, I had to let go
of what was weighing me down before I was able to move on, and to move on, well,
I had to look in the mirror, and take an inventory of my own life. It turns out I had an organized life, [Organized] but really, I was just
a well-organized hoarder. I mean, everything looked great, sure,
but it was just a facade, and I knew I needed to simplify things. That’s where this beautiful thing
called “minimalism” entered my life. For me, it all started with one question: How might your life be better with less? You see, by answering this question, I was able to understand
the purpose of minimalism, not just the how-to, but the why-to. I learned that if I simplified my life,
I’d have time for my health, for my relationships,
my finances, my passions, and I could contribute beyond myself
in a meaningful way. See, I was able to understand
the benefits of minimalism well before I ever cleaned out
a walk-in closet. And so, when it came time for me
to actually declutter my life, I started small, I asked myself
another question: What if you remove one material possession
from your life each day, for a month? Just one. What would happen? The end result: Well, I unloaded way more
than 30 items in the first 30 days, like way, way more. It became this kind of personal challenge,
discovering what I could get rid of, so I searched my rooms and closets,
cabinets and hallways, car and office, rumaging for items to part with, retaining only the things
that added value to my life, pondering each artifact in my home, I’d ask, “Does this thing
add value to my life?” The more I asked this question,
the more I gained momentum. And embracing minimalism
got easier by the day. I mean, the more you do it, the freer,
and happier, and lighter you feel, and the more you want to throw overboard. For me, a few shirts led to half a closet, a few DVDs led to deep-sixing
almost an entire library of discs. A few decorative items led to junk drawers
who shed their adjective; it’s a beautiful cycle. I mean, the more action you take,
the more you want to take action. Ultimately though,
the purpose of minimalism has to do with the benefits we experience once we’re on the other side
of decluttering. Hence, removing the clutter
is not the end result, it is merely the first step. I mean, it’s possible to go home, get rid of everything you own
and be absolutely miserable, to come home to an empty house and sulk,
after removing all your pacifiers. Because consumption is not the problem. Compulsory consumption is the problem. And we can change that by being more deliberate
with the decisions we make each day. Over the course of eight months,
I deliberately jettisoned more than 90 per cent
of my material possessions. Although, if you visited my home today,
you probably wouldn’t walk in and yell, “Oh my God! This guy is a minimalist!” No. You’d probably just say,
“Wow, he’s tidy.” You’d ask how I keep things so organized, and I’d simply grin and tell you
that I don’t own much, but everything I do own
adds real value to my life. Each of my belongings, my car, my clothes,
my kitchenware, my furniture, has a function. As a minimalist, every possession
serves a purpose or brings me joy, and everything else is out of the way. With the clutter cleared, I felt compelled
to start asking deeper questions, questions like: Why did I give
so much meaning to my stuff? What is truly important in my life? When did I become so discontented? Who is the person I want to become? And how am I going to define
my own success? These are tough questions,
with difficult answers, but they’ve proven to be
much more important than just trashing my excess stuff. And if we don’t answer these questions
carefully, rigorously, then the closet we just decluttered
will be brimming with new purchases in the not too distant future. So, as I let go, and as I started facing
life’s tougher questions, things got simpler, and the people around me noticed
something was different too. People at work started saying things like, “You seem less stressed!”
“You seem so much calmer!” “What is going on?
You seem so much nicer!” And then my best friend,
a guy named Ryan Nicodemus, whom I’ve known since
we were fat little fifth graders, he came to me one day,
and he said he noticed how happy I was. And that opened him up in time to the concepts of minimalism
and living a meaningful life with less. As he simplified his life, that made room
for these deeper conversations, conversations about
how our unchecked consumption wasn’t just affecting our lives,
it was infecting our entire society. Ryan: You see, the more we consume,
the more waste we produce. But then of course,
the opposite is also true. If we consume less stuff,
we produce less waste. As you all might know, if the entire world
consumed like the United States, we would need over four Earths
to maintain our unchecked consumption. How can we, as consumer-driven Americans,
keep consuming like this? It’s pretty simple;
we go deeper into debt! That’s how. [Debt] Did you know the average American
carries four credit cards in their wallet? And one in ten Americans
has ten or more active credit cards. And the average credit card debt
is over $16,000. The total consumer debt
of the United States is nearly 12 trillion dollars. 12 trillion dollars! Let me just put that
into perspective for a minute. If you went out and spent one dollar
every single second, it would take you more than 31,000 years
to spend a trillion dollars. In fact, if you went out
and spent a million dollars a day, ever since the birth of the Buddha, you still wouldn’t have spent
a trillion dollars by now. And we have nearly
12 trillion dollars in debt. And the only way out is to let go. When we let go, our actions,
it encourages others to let go, too. Six years ago, Josh and I,
we let go of our stuff, so we could start living a life
that aligned with our values. We started consuming less,
so we could start living more. And when our lives became our message, we started a blog, so we could share
that message with others. We called it “” Since then, we’ve written
books about simple living, we started a podcast about intentionality, and we released a documentary
called “Minimalism.” All in an effort to add value
to other people’s lives. And that’s really why we’re here today, we really, really hope that we can add value
to all of your lives. So, if you leave here
with just one message, we really hope it’s this: Love people and use things,
because the opposite never works. [Love people, use things] (Applause)

100 thoughts on “The Art of Letting Go | The Minimalists | TEDxFargo

  1. I'm 52 and grew up through the capitalist 80's which meant owning a BMW, Rolex and a big house meant success. Today's younger people have a different and fresh ideology of what success really means which I admire because as they say, money will never equate happiness which in my older age 110% agree.

  2. I've recently have been into minimalism as well as the vast amount of debt that we as a society have. I am glad that other people feel the same way! It honestly makes you feel so much happier to let go.

  3. My friends and I used to exchanged fairly expensive gifts that were hit and miss… and we were forever complaining that we didn’t see each other enough. I suggested that we stop exchanging gifts and their were in horror. Their birthdays are before mine and on their birthdays I didn’t give any gifts and said that I wanted to treat them to a special home cooked meal at my place for their birthdays… They loved it! Christmas is coming and guess what!? No gifts… with that said, we still buy meaningful gifts for each other but not on ‘occasions’, but just because… and we don’t feel like we have to.

  4. This would be why my house gets messy so fast. We just own so much STUFF.
    I'm moving at the end of this year / start of next year to go to university. I plan to just have a huge garage sale and get rid of everything that I won't take with me and won't need when I visit home.

  5. Outstanding talk… I live like this and it's a beautiful way to live… Yes it's a way to happiness… but it's a mental process too…

  6. Viewing this Minimalism youtube is righ on time. I had was in a car accident unable to manuver around all this stuff that I have thought was so needed until my life was interrupted. Near death experiences put a whole new spin on life. I am the "just in case" "You never know" and "someday" person." No more!

  7. Ever since I became a minimalist, my life is improve a lot, positively. I am less stressed due to not having to worry about what I need to consume next in order to make me feel like I am doing something right or achieving certain things. My goals and plans are clearer to accomplish and work on. Basically there is so many benefits so being a minimalist. It also saves you A LOT of money especially living in the U.S as a low income citizen. What the guy in the video says is true. Things are meant to be used, and people are meant to be loved but in modern society, it sadly is the opposite. We need to change this perspective of giving more values to things than people. We can also start with ourselves.

  8. Minimalists are people waiting to die. any old people who are in their 80s or 90s are getting rid of the stuff in their lives that gave them meaning because they know others have to clean up and toss out these things that only gives them meaning. so why are these young people doing this? suffering is an identity. if you get used to suffering, it's no longer suffering for the sake of suffering. it's an achievement. in that case, Minimalists is a means to an end. the moral identity is to sell a lifestyle of the opposite. I don't have a problem with that. I think it's as original as being a vegan. you don't want to eat meat for this or that reason but at the end of the day, you leave out a tasty part of life. For me Minimalists is just that.

  9. I am not a minimalist but when i want to buy something or when i clean my room, I say to myself, if i did not have a need for the thing or an item, in 2 or 3 months then i probably can manage without that thing, so i either give away or not buy. But i also make sure that i would not need to spend money or more money, to buy the same thing again in few months or weeks.

  10. I'm just starting my Maximalism journey. Just bought a bunch of cool stuff I'm going to use and enjoy while helping the economy and help employ others so they can feed their families and live well.

  11. I find starting minimalism is conflicting with my reduced waste lifestyle. I feel like I can't throw away some things because I could sell them or reuse them, but never do. I don't when it's okay to throw stuff away, even though I know I won't need to throw away much more once I'm done figureing out what I want to keep and what not.

  12. The only problem I'm facing is that I got rid of tons of stuff, but now I'm a "digital hoarder" of photographs!! Always a memory in each one even the most useless! Someone please help me and tell me what to do…. 🙈😂

  13. He looks to be 30 years old…hardly enough time to accumulate anything to burden your life, and the need to let go of. However, I know a decluttered room is the first step towards a decluttered mind!! As long as you know this simple rule, and practice it, your mind would be clearer, and your sense of self, more acute, in your later years.

  14. I'm working on my path to becoming a minimalist!……Truth is,
    The more things you have, The more things you WORRY about!

  15. Thank you so much. My mom just recently passed away. I was saving a lot of her stuff in my already cluttered house. I'm going to donate her stuff and just keep a few things. I'm also going to get rid of a lot of stuff that I don't need.

  16. what items can I throw while I have nothing, I'm minimalism since born, every stuff i have is valuable cuz that the only thing i have

  17. It took a brain tumor to put me on my minimalism journey. After I came home from the hospital from getting my tumor removed, I came home to whole houseful of antiques and collectibles from the last 20 years. I had to walk with a walker at that time and I realized I couldn’t get to the bathroom because there was too many things blocking my walkway. I told myself when I recover and gain strength, I would clear this place out. And that I did. I called an antique shop up the road and asked if they wanted to buy out my the contents of my entire home. They knew I had good stuff, so they were thrilled. They brought 3 trucks. It was all gone in one day. My home is now extremely simple and minimal. I love it. I donated all my extra clothes, purses, etc to the Goodwill. It is so freeing. I survived the brain tumor and I see life in a whole different way. My advice is: get attached to people and family, not material things. Thank you God for my new life ♥️ and thank you guys for the inspiration!!

  18. Years ago I shed the possessions that would fill a three bedroom house. Then lived in a minivan for a couple of years. Even then I felt I had too much stuff. Now I live in a rented room with all of those things and more. What I need is a good camera to photograph all of my family memorabilia and then give it to a relative that wants it.

    I want to live in a tiny RV trailer so that I can move at a moments notice if desired. There truly is a feeling of relief and freedom once the purge is done. The trepidation is about whether certain things should be shed. Some things I released were needed later on. Those were tools. At the time they were let go it was the right thing to do. Now that I know how it feels to let go of many things at once, I can tell you that it is good to let go of things that aren't being used regularly. You will feel better. Do it.

  19. My mom has a private Goodwill at her house in her basement she has more than 500 coats. I want see her house empty …out off the hundreds junks collections she has it means also an unhealthy life.

  20. These guys are hilarious! They talk about not having so much stuff, yet I have never seen a TED (or TEDx) Talk that had so much stuff and so many props on stage *lol

  21. I quit periscope for a year and did not go back it was addicting. I then stop going on social media which took my anxiety away. I do not watch TV at all and I go on You Tube once in a bit. I do not go on Facebook at all since 3 years. I have notice more people that quit social media started to not have depression and anxiety. I read the bible which has changed my life and I have learned that I can live without many things that I thought I needed. I also lost 45 lbs my life has changed for the better since I go online less.

    True at first it is painful like an ache but it goes away eventually. I now help people quit social media which now most of them started offline businesses.

  22. **What's important is ourselves, and the people we care for and love. when we die we can't take all of our money, big house, or all of our things. No matter how much they mean to us. Things are not, and will never be as important as ourselves or, even be on the same level as us, to even be able to go with us. There just things…a VIRTUAL ITEM, with no specific value, they seem to only have value because we grant them that value… without us there nothing. If we understand this simple truth, many things will instantly loose there value right before our eyes, and there emotional connect with us almost instantly . Therefore, making it easy for use to part away from materialistic items, and that's how we are able to just, let go. Out of sight out of mind. Materialism is a disease that destroys our inner happiness. We use materialistic things as a crutch to boost our confidence and comfort our inner insecurities.**

  23. As I broke person, I am happy and looking for stuffs I don’t need in my parents house, where I live. I am trying to convince my dad that we don’t need that old TV and old sofa, oh old furnitures in basement that we never use. I am still digging the stuffs that I can discard.

  24. Screw this BS, I'm glad I saved all my good stuff after a few decades I actually have a nice nets egg as I can sell off things here and there. Having absolutely nothing of value for emergence situations is not such a good idea, And no I'm not a hoarder

  25. I think this strategy is a good idea for your relationships too. Culling some of those frenemies that don't bring joy either!

  26. Minimalism seems like a new concept but its not. Its no secret, the bible has been saying this for centuries ''Keep your eye simple''.

  27. Great personal talk as you age and grow wiser. Most likely, those of us in our 50's and 60's have already experienced the experiences of those of you in your 30's and 40's. At least the major ones like career choices, falling in love, having a family, health issues, losing a family member, facing a life changing traumatic event, etc.

    George Carlin produced an "album " in the 70s called "Stuff" I believe. It was very funny at the time. You kids might want to set some time aside, once a month, and just sit quietly and listen, with full attention, to the older members of your family. Allow them to share their stories. Learn a thing or two that might help you to avoid a mistake they made. Because I didn't do that in my 30's and 40's and someone in their 50s made the same suggestion to me, but I ignored it. I was too SELF centered. Now, I regret it so much and the WORSE emotion to drag around with oneself is regret.

    By the way, I would kill for the luxury of watching a homemade video of myself at the age of 3 or 10 or 25, or look at photos of my life, throughout my life, that the "millenials" or the "minimalists" have today because your taking for granted that your memories will be clear and in tact when you reach your 50s and so on.

    By the way again, haven't you watched Antique Roadshow and valuable treasures found in ancestors attics?

    You're all gonna be fine.

  28. I began minimalism about 10 years ago. At first it was great to de-clutter and give things away. However, for me it became a part of a mental illness and suicide planning where I would give or throw away everything. At one point I had enough belongings that I could easily move in my car. It's difficult for me to buy things, and own very little. I have to be mindful as to why I'm throwing something out, or giving something away. Thus- use caution in the 30 day challenge. I agree with the concepts, however, it does have to be done in a healthy way, and it doesn't hurt to check in on people to identify their intentions and well being. Much love to you all. G 🙂

  29. How come no one is talking about how beautiful dude’s mom was but dude looks like something Steve Buscemi scraped off his teeth?

  30. I like the Minimalists, their message, and what they stand for, but jeez the first half of this was cringey. It was like a bad stand up comic joking about a dead person's belonging. Awkward

  31. Is it just me or is 'minimalism' just an invented 1st world problem?

    'Boohoo I have too much money and too much success and too much stuff I'm sad with all my possessions!"

    If people are woorrying about minimalism they don't have real problems.

    All I care is my bed ridden parents and where to get some small money for stuff to survive.

    Minimalism is something I can not imagine to care about because I live it not by choice.

  32. "Don't know what else to throw out of the house to make it clean to the max?
    Throw yourself out!
    People are also an eyesore for the house!

    Aaah, that's perfect!

  33. Yesterday, before watching this, i gave away a microwave and felt almost giddy with joy! Now i know why. Everything i get rid of makes me feel lighter somehow.

  34. i lived in an appartment that had a nice futon to sleep on, clothing, and kitchenware. oh, and a computer. the only things i really wanted that i didnt have was a desk and chair for the computer. when you have little, it can become amazing what you can do without.
    i wasnt a minimalist, i just didnt have much but then again i realized real fast that i didnt Need much either.
    all too often people confuse what they want with what they need.

  35. I would also rather just keep digital photos rather than the physical items, but now I have way too many photos and needed multiple drives and their backups, and it goes back to being a clutter again 🙁

  36. Very good….The West ,finally,has learned the lesson…not hoarding and accumulation make you happy….let it go…relinquishing-distributing-sharing will lift you up to your inner heaven…

  37. This make me more realize not to get attach to all things in this world including earth because this not are home

  38. When he said in actuality he was "a well organized hoarder". It all looked good. EXACTLY!!!! Less stuff equals less stress. MUCH less stress. ✌️❤️😊

  39. I started my minimalism journey 2 years ago. It’s now a habit. You get used to finding multiple uses for one object rather than purchase a new item for every single use.

  40. So be careful. Your enemies will try and make you let go of your wife , your property, even your life . Turn your practice against your interests . The buddha was clear . You let go of your problems , imagined futures imagined pasts , and enjoy the present

  41. When I'm going through stuff now the thing that's helped me the most is repeating "make a decision and make it now" because really that's all I'm doing is delaying making a decision.

  42. If your Mother's stuff made her happy while she was alive, too bad if you didn't like clearing it out. I will keep as much stuff in my house as I want, too: "Who cares if you disagree? You are not me. Who made you king of anything? So you dare tell me who to be. Who died and made you king of anything?"

  43. Not what I thought it was going to be. This is just about not collecting unnecessary junk with a moral at the end of the story.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *