Joshua Fields Millburn (@JFM) is best known as one half of The Minimalists, where he and Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff. Their latest book is Love People, Use Things: Because the Opposite Never Works.
What We Discuss with Joshua Fields Millburn:
- How Joshua found that having more stuff — including more money — really isn’t the key to success or happiness.
- The average American throws away 81 pounds of clothing every year when 95% of that can be reused or recycled. How can embracing minimalism help solve this problem?
- ‘Tis the season — to ask yourself if you’re overdoing it on consumption and indulging in a little too much when just a little might go a long way.
- Why being a minimalist involves more than just waking up one day and getting rid of a bunch of things you don’t need — it’s a process of constant evaluation.
- How can you allow yourself to let go of things that have sentimental value?
- And much more…
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Imagine a life with less: less stuff, less clutter, less stress, and debt and discontent ― a life with fewer distractions. Now, imagine a life with more: more time, more meaningful relationships, more growth, and contribution and contentment―a life of passion, unencumbered by the trappings of the chaotic world around you. What you’re imagining is an intentional life. And to get there, you’ll have to let go of some clutter that’s in the way.
In Love People, Use Things: Because the Opposite Never Works, Joshua Fields Millburn (today’s guest) and Ryan Nicodemus move past simple decluttering to show how minimalism makes room to reevaluate and heal the seven essential relationships in our lives: stuff, truth, self, money, values, creativity, and people. They use their own experiences ― and those of the people they have met along the minimalist journey ― to provide a template for how to live a fuller, more meaningful life.
Because once you have less, you can make room for the right kind of more. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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Missed our conversation with Daniel Pink in which we discussed the psychology, biology, and economics behind scheduling for optimal effect (including sleep) — and why your ideal time to get something done may widely differ from someone else’s? Catch up with episode 63: Daniel Pink | When Is the Best Time to Get Things Done?
Thanks, Joshua Fields Millburn!
If you enjoyed this session with Joshua Fields Millburn, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Love People, Use Things: Because the Opposite Never Works by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus | Amazon
- The Minimalists
- Joshua Fields Millburn | Website
- Joshua Fields Millburn | Twitter
- Joshua Fields Millburn | Instagram
- Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things | Vimeo
- Essential: Essays by The Minimalists by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus | Amazon
- Everything That Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus | Amazon
- Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus | Amazon
594: Joshua Fields Millburn | Love People, Use Things
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Special thanks to our sponsor Glenfiddich single malt scotch whisky. You've heard me talking about Glenfiddich. We've got their stag icon right there on the show art. Glenfiddich got a new body of work that aims to challenge the notion of what it means to be wealthy and live a life of riches. Glenfiddich believes that beyond the material, a life of wealth and riches is about family, community, values, and fulfilling work. These are the values that led Glenfiddich to become the world's leading single malt scotch whisky. This week's guest Joshua Fields Millburn exemplifies these values and you'll find out why later on in the episode. More from our partners at Glenfiddich later in the show.
[00:00:31] Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:34] Joshua Fields Millburn: You mentioned freedom, focus, energy, our skills, these are all other resources that we have. And they're much more limited, especially our time, right? You can get a refund for the thing that you purchase if you're discontented with it tomorrow, but there is no refund for misspent time.
[00:00:55] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts, entrepreneurs, spies, and psychologists, even the occasional music mogul, arms trafficker, or underworld figure. And each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:01:21] If you're new to the show, or you want to tell your friends about it, we've got these episode starter packs. This is a great place to start. These are favorite episodes organized by topic. That'll help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on the show. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start to get started or to help somebody else get started. And of course, I always appreciate it when you do that.
[00:01:41] Today, a friend of mine and friend of the show, Joshua Fields Millburn, otherwise known as the minimalist or half of the minimalist. These guys are everywhere. They've written a bunch of books. They've been on Netflix. You've probably seen them there. Those documentaries really took off online. As you hear on the show, he had a corporate job. He really earned all of the money he could possibly want. He grew up poor, finally made it, and realized he was still miserable. Maybe even more than before. So we're going to get into the details of that journey and how having more stuff, including more money, really isn't the key to success or happiness.
[00:02:11] And now I know this is not a major surprise to any of you, right? We've talked about this before to some extent, but I know this conversation takes things in a bit of a different direction. There's some practicals on minimalism that I think are actually not intuitive and pretty interesting and useful. Plus I thought now was a good time of year to have a conversation about fulfillment and minimalism, especially during this season where we tend to overdo it on consumption of pretty much every size and flavor and indulge our family and children in the same. Always a fun conversation with Joshua. I hope you enjoy it and take value from it as well.
[00:02:41] If you're wondering how I managed to book all these great creators, authors, thinkers every single week, because of my network, I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. People in relationships, one of the things that you probably shouldn't be minimalist about. And by the way, most of the guests on our show subscribe to the course and contribute to the course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[00:03:03] Now, here's Joshua Fields, Millburn. You know what the thing is? People have a love, hate relationship with all the stuff they have. I'm sure you've thought about this. It's probably one of the core tenets of what you think about all the time, but people really do have a love-hate relationship with all of the items in their house. And I recently moved into this new house, like in the last year we had a storage unit for some of this stuff. And I will tell you, I thought of you guys when I was unpacking that storage unit, because when we unpacked it. I went, "Hey, what's in this box?" And my wife said, "I don't know, it says plates." And I said, "But we have plates. Do you feel like we're short on plates?" And she's like, "No." So we looked in there and sure enough, it was like, "Ooh, these are like all different colors." And like, some of them are kind of like chipped, you know? And it's just, it was one box after another of like weights. "But don't we have weights." "Yeah. These are different weights." "But they're the same amount of weight on the weight, right?" "Yes." You know, it was just that.
[00:03:57] Joshua Fields Millburn: We want a metaphor to all the weight that we have that are weighing us down, right?
[00:04:03] Jordan Harbinger: Right, right slash getting me billed per month, like in California, you know, $400 for like a garage size storage unit that has a baby bouncer. That's the same as the baby bouncer we have in the garage, but different colors or like sort of ripped, "But it could be taped," you know? "Like why would you tape it? Just get another one." "Oh, wait, we already have one."
[00:04:25] I'd love to start from the beginning with you because you and Ryan who you do your projects with, your business partner, your hetero life partner. I don't know what you guys call it.
[00:04:36] Joshua Fields Millburn: Well, you know, we've been best friends since we were fat little fifth graders. So I just call him my best friend.
[00:04:41] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. That's fine. It's not as funny, but it's fine.
[00:04:44] Joshua Fields Millburn: We work on some projects together, The Minimalist, sort of the broader project, whether that's our podcast or the Netflix films or the books that we put out. We've known each other for 30 years now.
[00:04:56] Jordan Harbinger: That's a long time to still like someone, let alone work with them, right?
[00:05:02] Joshua Fields Millburn: You're assuming a lot.
[00:05:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That's true. That's true. It could be that you are here alone. I noticed that. Yeah, that's a good point. There could be more to the story. Tell me about how you got interested in this because you didn't, you grew up in a way that would probably not signal minimalism, at least not willing, minimalism.
[00:05:18] Joshua Fields Millburn: Right, that's a good point. I grew up really poor, so did Ryan, sort of literally on opposite sides of the railroad tracks, but it was just the two different poor sides of the railroad tracks. I was on food stamps and government assistance, and we were pretty discontented when I was growing up. There's a lot of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, physical abuse in the house that we grew up in as well, the two different homes that we grew up in. And I thought the reason we were so unhappy growing up, you just don't know any better, well, we didn't have any money, right?
[00:05:44] And so when I turned 18, I sort of went out and I got that entry-level corporate job, but I spent the next decade climbing the corporate ladder. By my late 20s, I had to sort of achieve everything I ever wanted, the six-figure salary, the luxury cars, the closets full of designer clothes. I even had like the big suburban house with more toilets than people. I sort of had all the trappings of consumer society, of consumer culture. I was living the American dream, but it turns out that wasn't my dream.
[00:06:17] And in a way it took getting everything I thought I wanted to realize that maybe everything I ever wanted wasn't actually what I wanted at all. The fancy term for that is mimetic desire. And it just basically means that all the things that we want are actually things that other people tell us we want, whether that's corporations or marketers or peer groups or religions, or just society at large, they tell us that we want certain things. That's what produces consumerism, right?
[00:06:46] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:06:46] Joshua Fields Millburn: Consumerism is just the ideology that if I buy things, it's going to make me happy or more complete. But as you and I know that the opposite is often true. Our things incomplete us in more ways than one.
[00:07:00] Jordan Harbinger: That's interesting. And it does make sense that's why when you declutter, you have this feeling, people say, "I have a feeling of peace," and when you watch it, you roll your eyes and then you try and do it yourself. And you're like, "Oh yeah, it does feel—" I will tell you, like going to Goodwill or Salvation Army and dropping the trunk and backseat full, and then going back to your house, loading it up and doing it again is one of the most satisfying kind of gratifying experiences that I've had in years. And it's like if giving away stuff that I paid money for feels this good, there's a big problem in getting that stuff in the first place. Like why does it feel better to get rid of it than it did to get it in the first place? That's the question, right? That opens up so much.
[00:07:43] Joshua Fields Millburn: Well, so many things happen too, right? So like we buy things to make us happy that doesn't work. So it's like, well, I need more of the things to make me happy, right?
[00:07:50] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:07:51] Joshua Fields Millburn: Back in my 20s, I bought my first Lexus and that didn't do it for me. So I needed a second Lexus. And then of course the bigger house didn't do it for me, the walk-in closets full of Brooks Brothers suits and ties and dress shirts. And by the way, there's nothing inherently wrong with these things, Jordan.
[00:08:08] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:08:08] Joshua Fields Millburn: The problem is thinking they're going to make me happy. It's that whole pursuit of happiness thing, happiness can't be pursued. It can merely be uncovered. And so when I was buying all these things, it was like, "Oh, well, that's not making me happy. I guess more will make me happy. And if that doesn't do it, then maybe more, even more will make me happy." And then the other side of that though, and we have to be careful with this because letting go doesn't bring you everlasting bliss either. It simply makes room to figure out what is important. So quite often people will come to us or they'll call into The Minimalist podcast and they'll say, "Hey, you know, I started decluttering and I felt like good at first, but how come I got rid of all my excess stuff and I'm not just happy all the time now?"
[00:08:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:08:50] Joshua Fields Millburn: Well, isn't that the same thing? That's a different kind of consumerism. It's the constant letting go. There's even a clinical term for this it's Spartanism
[00:08:58] Jordan Harbinger: Really? Is it the opposite of materialism? Is that what that is?
[00:09:02] Joshua Fields Millburn: It's the opposite of hoarding really. Yeah. And so there are five stages of hoarding. I'm sure we could talk about that, but we all know what the hoarders are that we see on our TVs. Those are stage four, stage five hoarders. They have, you know, just entire houses full of stuff, but most of us in Western, in the Western world, or at least stage one hoarders, we have problems letting go of our excess stuff. We have problems letting go of the things that aren't adding value to our lives. We still cling to those things. But the other side of that is there are Spartan-ist who can't hold on to anything.
[00:09:34] And it starts with the stuff in there and they barely own anything. They're unable to hold on to things, but then it materializes in their relationships and their careers. You find it's like a lot of people who are addicted to self-sabotage, they have this sort of Spartan-ist side of things. They're both OCD in terms of the OCD spectrum, obsessive compulsive disorders. Some people can't let go. Some people can't hold on. And really minimalism allows us to identify what are the things that are appropriate to let go of and what is appropriate for me to hold on to.
[00:10:04] Because minimalism isn't about depriving myself. You know, we're not the deprivation-ist. People often think, you know, maybe you're a monk or you're an ascetic if you're a minimalist, but that's not really it at all. If you come to my house, it's not like I own nothing. Everything I own serves a purpose or brings me joy and the excess stuff is out of the way.
[00:10:22] Jordan Harbinger: Does your living room look like the Apple Store? Is that what that means. I think a lot of people really think it means, minimalist means like you just have white surfaces and brushed aluminum all over your house. I'm like nothing is sitting out.
[00:10:34] Joshua Fields Millburn: If that's what you're into. I think that's great. You know, I've got a wife and a daughter. And so what was appropriate for my life when I first started minimalism is actually different now. And that's one of the things. I wish, Jordan, there was this list I could give you, here are the hundred items. If you own them, then you're a minimalist. If you have a kid, you add 50 items. If you have a spouse, you add another hundred items and here they are and you'll live in perfect harmony with the world. But of course the things that add value to my life may not add value to yours and vice versa. And so the things that are excess to me may be perfectly appropriate for you and your family. But the key here is the things that were appropriate for me a decade ago may not be appropriate today. So it's a constant sort of questioning these things that we bring into our life. Do I still need this? Do I still get value from it? And if not, giving myself permission to let it go.
[00:11:25] Jordan Harbinger: I cleaned out my mom's and dad's basement when I went back to Michigan a few weeks ago, and this also made me think of you guys, because my mom was like, "Hey, you got a lot of stuff down there." And I walked down there and it was like old clothes that I thought were really cool. I mean, there was stuff that I didn't even wear that much because I wanted to keep it in good condition for later. And it's like 20 years later, I go, "Oh, here's this like mock turtleneck with a swoosh on it," that I thought was so damn cool that I wore it sparingly to keep it looking fresh and clean. And now it's like stinky and smells like dust in basement. And my mom had kept all of my school — you'll relate to this — had kept all of my schoolwork from like kindergarten to probably seventh grade or sixth grade or something like that. So I opened this box and all these pieces of tissue paper fly out and little like bits of, it just smells like crayons when you open it because it's hundreds of pages of scribbles and drawings that say like mom on it or something. And it was cute but why keep it, right? Because it is hard to let that stuff go because there's sentimental value there, but the material item is not doing anything. And so I didn't quite know how to handle it. So what I did is I took photos of everything and then I threw it away. So digital clutter now.
[00:12:42] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yeah, you did exactly what I often recommend. It's the same thing I did. When my mom died, that's how I stumbled into minimalism because I had to go down to Florida to start dealing with all of her stuff. And I realized very early on, there was no dealing with it. I actually had to do something with these things, right? And as you mentioned, everything sort of had, was imbued with sentimental value.
[00:13:03] Now, nothing's inherently sentimental, right? And the things that are sentimental to you, I'm going to look at those and say, "I don't want those at all." So why is something sentimental? It's because we tell ourselves that our memories are in our things. Your mom held on to all of those drawings and paperwork, because she was holding onto the memories they represented, right? She was holding onto a piece of you, but of course, you were never inside those boxes, right?
[00:13:26] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:13:27] Joshua Fields Millburn: So you can keep those boxes for years or decades. There's no memories inside those boxes. Our memories aren't in our things. Our memories are inside us. Now, of course, sometimes our things, as you just mentioned, our things can trigger the memories inside us. So instead of just holding on to all the things, you can take photos of any of those things that you want to let go of. And, you know, by not selfishly clinging to the excess stuff, a lot of people can still get value from it. Maybe not your seventh grade math homework.
[00:13:56] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:13:57] Joshua Fields Millburn: But there are a lot of things that we own. You know the average American household has 300,000 items in it.
[00:14:02] Jordan Harbinger: Oh God, who had it — who did that research? That's a horrible project. Can you imagine?
[00:14:07] Joshua Fields Millburn: Just going around counting people's stuff, right?
[00:14:09] Jordan Harbinger: Terrible.
[00:14:09] Joshua Fields Millburn: Now, wouldn't it be wonderful if all of those things are bringing us happiness, contentment, joy, tranquility, bliss? But they're doing the opposite. They're causing death, stress, anxiety, overwhelm, and they're getting in the way of the things that are actually important.
[00:14:24] Here's a weird paradox of minimalism as a minimalist. I own far fewer things obviously, but I actually get much more value from my things then before I was a minimalist. And all of my things were watered down with a bunch of useless trinkets that were just getting in the way.
[00:14:39] Jordan Harbinger: A lot of times, you know, on your podcast and in your documentaries and things like that. You mentioned in your books, you mentioned that having stuff causes anxiety. And I think everyone kind of knows that, but also why is this? Because it doesn't really make sense that me having a lot of stuff, why wouldn't I just feel prepared for any particular occasion or occurrence? If I have a lot of stuff, why does it — because it does make me feel weird having it. It's almost like it's not the natural state of things for humans to have so much crap. And so there's some sort of evolved desire to not, I feel like it's taking up psychological space, but I don't quite understand why. Have you looked into this at all?
[00:15:15] Joshua Fields Millburn: Absolutely. So our material possessions are a physical manifestation of what's going on inside us. So we started dealing with that external clutter, if there is external clutter, it's because there's also a lot of internal clutter, mental clutter, emotional clutter, spiritual clutter, relational clutter, career clutter, calendar clutter, all of these other areas in our lives. And what do we try to do? We try to pacify ourselves with the things. It's not even the things that are making us anxious. It's our expectations. Our happiness, your happiness, my happiness is moderated by my expectations. And so we expect the things to do something for us. But of course, the thing we want is never the thing we want.
[00:15:57] It's not about acquiring the physical object, the material possession. It's about that feeling we think it's going to give us. And here's the pernicious part about it, it actually does give us that feeling upfront and we prize that feeling. We value that feeling that burst of pleasure, but we mistake that pleasure for wellbeing. And then we discount all of the other negative feelings it gives us in the aftermath. We don't really think about the cost of our things. Like if you go to the store and the thing you want to buy is a hundred dollars, you say, "Oh, the price of the things is a hundred dollars," right? But there's all these additional costs, like storing the thing, as you mentioned, having a storage locker for our things, or having a larger house or more space. We sort of have these basements, they're really just mausoleums of stuff, right?
[00:16:44] Jordan Harbinger: So yeah. Good word. Yeah, it really is a mausoleum. Like here's everything I wore in middle school. What are you doing? Why is this still here?
[00:16:51] Joshua Fields Millburn: Right. And then we try to organize the things. Organizing is actually the problem.
[00:16:55] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:16:55] Joshua Fields Millburn: You can go to the container store and buy all these clutter coffins, right? Because that's what they are as well. And we bury our things in these clutter coffins and yes, we've become well-organized hoarders. Well, the easiest way to actually organize your stuff is to get rid of most of it. And that really starts with letting go of the expectation that these things are going to make me happy or complete.
[00:17:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I really do enjoy this. And I was dreading cleaning the basement for literally years because I thought it was going to take so much time and be really hard to let go of stuff. I think I cleaned out hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of items in less than eight hours, spread out over two days with my mom. It was actually quite fun. We went out to lunch, we went out to dinner. You know, she was thrilled to get rid of all this nonsense — or I think we went into breakfast and dinner because we worked through the day, but it was like a really fun sort of trip down memory lane. And then it was like, "Let's get rid of everything." And she's like, "Okay, are you sure? This is your old stuff."
[00:17:50] But it was like, the whole thing was kind of like looking through a really nice 3D photo album, but you know that you never want to see those things again, right? Because people go, "Well, I would never throw away all my old photos." This is like going on a time travel trip through those things but you know that you never have to do it again. And if you want to do, if you really want the gist of like all of the good feelings, you just look at the photos you took of some of the things you got rid of that you will obviously never miss, like a stinky moldy mother's day card from 1991, right? Or earlier.
[00:18:25] So it really is kind of an interesting experience and cathartic isn't quite the right word for it because yes, it's cathartic, but it's also — something you said about making room really did make a lot of sense, right? Because we're used to spending money to try and buy our way to happiness. Like you said, with the expectations and we do get that payoff upfront, whether it's the newest iPhone or a second Lexus or whatever you were talking about right before with your luxury cars and your suits and ties.
[00:18:51] Now, though it actually has become quite a lot harder to think before we purchase things, which is what — that used to be my solution to over clutter where I was like, "I'm going to sleep on this before I buy it."
[00:19:02] Joshua Fields Millburn: That's right.
[00:19:03] Jordan Harbinger: And then online shopping happened, man. And that went straight out that freaking window.
[00:19:07] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yeah. We have some rules to deal with this. And in our new book, it's called Love People Use Things Because The Opposite Never Works. Sort of this tagline that started with our live events and then our podcast and eventually we turned it into a book. It's about really healing the seven relationships in our life, and it starts with our relationship with stuff. But of course, how do we deal with those things? And as you just illuminated, we've removed all the friction, right? It's one-click buying. It's same-day shipping. It's the ultimate convenience. I feel like we're about two years away from just thinking about a thing before it just materializes in our home, right?
[00:19:43] Jordan Harbinger: Drone delivery, man. Imagine like, "Oh, I'm going to have to wait five hours for this to arrive. No, there's a thing flying through the air. That's about to drop this literally into my hands in my backyard.
[00:19:54] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yeah. And we complain if something shows up a day late or whatever. And it's because we have these new expectations now. And so we have some rules in the new book that sort of talk about how to deal with some of these things, the no-junk rule, the wait-for-it rule, et cetera. But here's the real problem, the problem is when we remove all the friction, which sounds really nice, and there's nothing wrong, inherently wrong with convenience, but we've sort of battered ourselves so much with convenience. We removed all that friction that we've accidentally lost the traction as well. And so it's like trying to drive on a skating rink. Of course, you're going to keep careening from side to side and we're doing that. We're hitting the walls and it's the wall of anxiety and the wall of discontent and the wall of anger and the wall of sadness. And it's because we've lost all that traction, removing all over the place.
[00:20:43] Jordan Harbinger: I like the idea that there's nothing wrong with convenience, because I think a lot of folks who probably hear you speak about this maybe for the first time think, "Oh, so this guy just wants me to go back to 1985 mail order where I've got to wait six to eight weeks to get something just in case I don't really want it. Well, then I'm just going to end up making an impulse buy and returning it later. It's the same problem, you know, the same environmental impact of sending something back." And I'm actually thinking about doing a whole new show on this because I think if what you say doesn't convince people, have you looked at all into the logistic nightmare of returning like a pair of shoes you bought from Zappos? That's the wrong size or a pair of pants you bought from Amazon? It's the wrong size. Like 80 percent of that stuff just gets thrown into, shoveled into a landfill.
[00:21:23] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yeah.
[00:21:24] Jordan Harbinger: It's horrible.
[00:21:25] Joshua Fields Millburn: So the average American throws away 81 pounds of clothing every year, when 95 percent of that can be reused or recycled, right? And so why are we doing that? Well, you already pointed out. We purchased a lot of things that are sort of aspirational purchases and they just sort of sit on the shelf or on the hanger. Two reasons for that, one is we're waiting for the perfect occasion to wear the thing, but more likely than not, it's also, "I'm buying that thing because it looked really good on the mannequin or in the advertisement. And now I feel as though I need to have it, even though it doesn't look great on me and I don't feel confident and I don't feel good about it, but the sunk cost, I already purchased it so I might as well hold on to it." And by me holding onto it and not letting go of the thing, now, no one is getting value from it. It's just sitting there in the back of a closet collecting dust.
[00:22:20] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Joshua Fields Millburn. We'll be right back.
[00:22:25] This episode is sponsored in part by Better Help online therapy. We talk about better help a lot on the show. This month, we're discussing some of the stigmas around mental health. Many people think therapy is for so-called crazy people, but therapy doesn't mean something is wrong with you. For me, it actually made me realize that I'm not the crazy one in the situation that I happened to be in before. It's people around me that were kind of the crazy ones. So that was a major game changer for me. A lot of people wait until things are unbearable to go to therapy. I'm guilty of that too, by the way. But I've come to learn that therapy is a tool to utilize before things get worse and it can help you avoid those lows. And you know what I'm talking about. Better Help is customized online therapy that offers video phone, even live chat sessions with your therapist. You don't have to see anyone on camera. If you don't want to. It's more affordable than in-person therapy and you can get matched in under 48 hours. So give it a try, see why over two million people have used Better Help online therapy.
[00:23:19] Jen Harbinger: Our listeners get 10 percent off your first month at betterhelp.com/jordan. That's B-E-T-T-E-R-H-E-L-P.com/jordan.
[00:23:28] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Everlane. You think being born and raised in Michigan I'd be more tough, but basically anytime at 65 degrees or lower here in California, I'm freezing my butt off. It's definitely sweater/holiday season. So celebrate like I'm doing by cozying up and your Everlane gear. I love the French Terry hoodie. And if you need a gift idea, Everlane sweaters are perfect for gifting too. My father-in-law doesn't listen to the show. So I can say on air that I got him the luxurious, super soft grade A cashmere sweater in two colors. Everlane sweaters combine luxury with sustainability. It's premium quality that you can feel good about this holiday season Everlane even offers re-cashmere. That's recycled for a 50 percent smaller carbon footprint or alpaca. That's gentle to the touch and even gentler on the planet.
[00:24:09] Jen Harbinger: Give the gift of premium comfort and sustainable impact with Everlane sweaters. Go to everlane.com/jordan and sign up for 10 percent off your first order plus free shipping and get easy returns within 30 days of your ship date. That's 10 percent off your first order when you go to everlane.com/jordan and sign up.
[00:24:27] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Blue Moon. Blue Moon is on a mission to bring some brightness to your life and break up your routine from its refreshing flavor with Valencia orange peel for a subtle sweetness and hints of coriander. Blue Moon Belgian white is a one of a kind beer. That's what we stock in our fridge when I'm looking for a beer. I'm going to take a little break this holiday, maybe some Far Cry 6 with a Blue Moon, possibly served in a glass with an orange garnish to showcase its beautiful hazy color. I'll drink it with my pinkie out. Also be sure to try Blue Moon, latest brew Blue Moon Moon Haze, a hazy juicy pale ale brewed with dried whole oranges for a brighter taste. That's unmistakably Blue Moon. It's perfect for relaxing at home or with friends. Or if you've got little kids running around, drink five.
[00:25:06] Jen Harbinger: Reach for a Blue Moon when you're in need for some added brightness. Get Blue Moon and Light Sky delivered by visiting get.bluemoonbeer.com/jordan to see your delivery options. That's get.bluemoonbeer.com/jordan. Blue Moon made brighter. Celebrate responsibly. Blue Moon Brewing Company, Golden Colorado Ale.
[00:25:23] Jordan Harbinger: Thank you for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers keeps us going. Now, I know it's an episode about minimalism, but I got to show a mattress here and there, folks. Got to keep the lights on. All of the deals and all of the sponsors and all of the codes are in one place, jordanharbinger.com/deals. Please do consider supporting those who support us.
[00:25:41] And don't forget, we've got worksheets for many episodes. If you want the drills and exercises talked about during the show in one easy place, that link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast.
[00:25:51] Now back to Joshua Fields Millburn.
[00:25:55] There's something called recreational shopping or recreational shoppers. Have you heard of these people? It's like large retail chains in Amazon and things like, that will label somebody like you or me, well, not us, but somebody who's at another human who shops a lot and returns things, a recreational shopper. And these, they cause hell for these companies, right? Because they'll buy — and this is a real example — they'll buy lawn mowers, tractors, large equipment. And it'll all get shipped to them. And then they'll just return it. And they'll examine where this person lives. And they'll say this person bought a tractor and they live in like New Jersey or a giant riding mower. And it's a person who lives in an apartment. It just makes no sense. And there are people that are addicted to these like dopamine hits and the convenience and the lack of friction and shopping has turned — it's hard to not blame these people, but also the system is set up against all of their psychology, where they're getting these dopamine hits and a lot of times things aren't going super well in their lives. They're really stressed out and they're getting a temporary reprieve by ordering makeup.
[00:26:55] I had a friend who I won't blow up here on the show. She's a lovely person, but she was going through a really stressful time in her life. And she would buy makeup probably three to four times a week, like mail-order makeup. And she had — I went to her house and she was like, "Okay, when you come in, you're going to — I have to explain something to you before you make a snide comment." And I walked in there and it was just piles of like unopened makeup and she's an environmental activist. And she said, "The saddest part is they can't reuse any of it because it's makeup. So I can't even return it in good conscience because it's going to get thrown away. I feel like I have to use it." And so talk about stuff owning you. This was like the worst type of situation she had put herself in, but it was caused in part of course, by circumstances in her life, but also by deficit advertising. And I'd love for you to talk about this a little more because this does sort of trigger even the most, quote-unquote, normal of us, well adjusted of us to buy crap that we don't need.
[00:27:52] Joshua Fields Millburn: In our last film, it's called Less is Now. It's out on Netflix and Annie Leonard is in there and she's this environmental activist and she talks about deficit advertising, but really it's, I think, the term that marketers use now is the vertical expansion of your reference group, which is really just a fancy way to say Keeping Up with the Joneses because it used to be, you would compare yourself against your neighbor, "Oh my neighbor got the Corvette. Now I feel as though I need a Corvette." Well, now you're comparing yourself against everyone you've never met because of your Instagram feed or whatever, the ads on TV or in the magazine, et cetera.
[00:28:28] And whenever I do a live event — we're in the middle of this tour right now. Whenever we do a live event, I'll have people in the audience describe what a successful person looks like. Describe to me a picture of a successful person. And it's always the same thing. It's usually a guy with a suit, a watch, a nice car, possibly a boat, a big house. And so this is the idea of success. Well, where did we get that from, right? Nothing wrong with those things. I have a house, right? I have a car. I own a suit, as well. I'm not saying that we need to get rid of these things, but understanding, "Oh, we've been sold this meme of in order to be a successful person, you have to be a particular kind of person." Well, that kind of success doesn't actually exist. This is sort of an iceberg and all we're seeing is what's above the water here, but what's below the water. I made really good money in the corporate world, but I had almost half a million dollars worth of debt.
[00:29:22] Jordan Harbinger: Oof. That's a lot, man.
[00:29:24] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yeah, it took me many, many years to pay that off because—
[00:29:27] Jordan Harbinger: What was the debt from? That's it like you can't, you got to try to rack up debt like that, you know?
[00:29:32] Joshua Fields Millburn: You would think so, but—
[00:29:33] Jordan Harbinger: Not to take a swing at you, but—
[00:29:34] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yeah.
[00:29:35] Jordan Harbinger: It makes a lot of money.
[00:29:37] Joshua Fields Millburn: It doesn't happen overnight. I mean, there's some big purchases there. I had three luxury cars. I have two Lexuses, Lexi is, I think is the plural.
[00:29:44] Jordan Harbinger: Lexi, yeah.
[00:29:45] Joshua Fields Millburn: And then I had a Land Rover and again, I'm sure they're all fine cars. But when you're paying three car payments, not to mention insurance and I had a two and a half car garage. I don't even know what the heck that means, right? What's a half car?
[00:29:59] Jordan Harbinger: Both Lex and two cars. Got it, yeah.
[00:30:01] Joshua Fields Millburn: Exactly. Well, here's the weird thing. So nearly 40 percent of Americans can't fit a car in their garage.
[00:30:09] Jordan Harbinger: Guilty, but I have gym equipment in there. It's a good reason.
[00:30:12] Joshua Fields Millburn: There you go. Well, the thing is you're using the garage. They're not actually using the garage.
[00:30:18] Jordan Harbinger: No, it's a storage unit.
[00:30:19] Joshua Fields Millburn: It has turned into a storage unit, right?
[00:30:21] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:30:22] Joshua Fields Millburn: And it's not to demonize them, but it's to understand like, "Oh, I'm spending a whole lot of money on a whole bunch of things I don't need. You mentioned that sort of problem of — what'd you call them recreational shoppers, right?
[00:30:33] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I think that's what Walmart calls you when they know you're not going to keep the thing you order and they ban your ass from buying.
[00:30:40] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yes.
[00:30:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:30:41] Joshua Fields Millburn: And so the problem is that we are, to an extent, all recreational shoppers. So they did a study recently, 93 percent of teens rank shopping as their number one favorite pastime.
[00:30:54] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, that's so horrible to hear.
[00:30:56] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yeah.
[00:30:57] Jordan Harbinger: That's so horrible.
[00:30:58] Joshua Fields Millburn: You can look at kids younger than them. You know, the average child in the Western world has nearly 300 toys, but plays with 12 of them each day.
[00:31:06] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my God.
[00:31:07] Joshua Fields Millburn: And then you do a study on that and you realize like, oh, the same thing we already know. Children with too many toys don't enjoy quality playtime the same way as their peers with fewer toys do. And it's because of the paradox of choice, we get so overwhelmed by all of these things that we have. We don't even know what to do with it. We sort of throw our hands up and end up not enjoying any of it.
[00:31:29] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:31:29] Joshua Fields Millburn: And then as adults, we all have our own toys as well. So you asked how I got into debt. It's because over time I thought I needed certain things. I thought I needed the expensive watch. And when the first expensive watch didn't do it, well, of course I need to have more than one. I can't wear the same watch every day. I need 10 pairs of dress shoes. I need a dozen suits. I need 70 dress shirts. Who the hell wears—?
[00:31:51] Jordan Harbinger: 70 Dress shirts?
[00:31:52] Joshua Fields Millburn: I had 70 dress shirts.
[00:31:54] Jordan Harbinger: You just hate doing laundry. I guess, that's what, that's what it sounds like.
[00:31:57] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yeah. The problem is the laundry day was a nightmare, right? You wash 70 shirts.
[00:32:01] Jordan Harbinger: I need three washers.
[00:32:04] Joshua Fields Millburn: And so nothing wrong with these things. What is wrong is we've been told that we need more and more and more. In our culture, we always consider more. We never stop to consider less. And why don't we stop to consider less is because we don't know what enough is. No one stops to identify, "What does enough look like for me?" And if we can figure out what that picture of enough is usually it's reached not through adding, but through subtracting.
[00:32:32] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. There are hundreds of millions or I would say just billions of dollars probably spent on telling us that we're not enough through advertising.
[00:32:39] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yeah.
[00:32:40] Jordan Harbinger: So with that kind of onslaught coming at us 24/7, it is difficult and also forgivable that a lot of people, especially young people, don't kind of have the wherewithal to fight that. I mean, you have some of the smartest people in the world trying to fight your ability to combat your ability to fight that when you see an ad on Instagram, after looking at a certain influencer or influencer marketing and things like that. I mean, even on this show, I try and be really careful with sponsors and prefer things that are like services over items. And I've rejected many items that I think are going to end up not lasting long or seem like they are bad for the audience, although I do advertise a whisky brand, but let's be honest, that could go either way. And it doesn't usually result in clutter, but you know, there's a lot of things that I think are just bad for us and companies, some with some of the largest budgets, come at us and say, "We want you to advertise this."
[00:33:36] I don't want to out anyone. I'm trying to find a way to talk around the examples here, but it's very, very difficult and I can see why this is just, it is just the special forces of advertising coming at you and being like, "Buy this plastic thing for your plastic thing that covers your plastic thing and will be thrown away in a year and last 10,000 years in a row in a landfill somewhere." And further, and I think you said this in the movie, Less is Now, we trade our time, especially more than most Western nations here in the United States. We trade our time to get more money, to get more stuff. So we're actually, we're trading our freedom for stuff and that stuff depreciates and is later junked. And then it's made even worse when you incur debt to do this.
[00:34:17] So if you think about it, instead of just wasting money, you're actually spending your freedom to get that thing. That calculation, that made a little bit of a shift for me, because I was like, "Well, how much freedom am I giving up if I buy a more expensive watch?" Because when you think about money, it's like, "Well, oh, I'm doing well. I can afford it." But if you think about how much freedom you're trading for it, even if you can't come up with a concrete measurement. You're like, "Wow. That's like weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks of actual work. What if I took a vacation that long, or I can have this watch?" It's like, "Nobody wants a watch at that point," right? Unless you're just a watch fanatic and you're getting a hell of a lot of value out of it. I'm not going to do that. I would much rather have that vacation than that watch or that upgrade of my whatever thing that I don't care about.
[00:35:00] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yeah. We think about money as being sort of ultimate resource and there's nothing wrong with money. I'm not allergic to money as a minimalist. It's no longer the primary driver for doing what I do, but I'd also be fooling myself if I said it doesn't have a place in the vehicle. I just don't let it in the driver's seat, so to speak. But whenever we make considerations, of course, that is one resource. We want to be careful with that resource. We want to be intentional what that resource, but not forsaking the other. I would argue more important resources, attention, time, you mentioned freedom, focus, energy, our skills. These are all other resources that we have. And they're much more limited, especially our time, right? You can get a refund for the thing that you purchase if you're discontented with it tomorrow, but there is no refund for misspent time.
[00:35:50] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, that's interesting. And look, some people might assert that it's easy to say that you need less, but from a superficial point of view, it seems like some of this trend, like the pursuit of less, could also be a form of avoidance. And I wonder what you would say to those people, right? I mean, it almost sounds like your Spartanism argument from before, but I'm curious what you think. It's really easy to sort of encapsulate, mistakenly encapsulate minimalism in just throw away all of your stuff that you don't want and...joy, but it's not quite like that.
[00:36:20] Joshua Fields Millburn: No, not at all. In fact, I think you're hitting the nail on the head here. You know, you could have a carpenter who goes to buy a hammer and just because they purchased a hammer. A hammer doesn't actually make them a carpenter, right? And the same thing is true with the minimalists who uses minimalism as a tool, simplifying one's life. You can have that hammer and you can bludgeon someone with it. You can also bludgeon yourself with minimalism. You can let go of the things. You can deprive yourself of the things that add value to your life. Everything you own can fit in one of three piles. It's either essential, it's not essential but adds value, or it's junk.
[00:36:56] As a minimalist, I'm really focused on that third pile, getting rid of the excess stuff. Because we all have the same essentials, right? We all need clothing and food and shelter, vocation, education, et cetera. There's some basic essentials that we need. And then there are the non-essentials and this is perspectival. What is going to add value to your life may not add value to my life, and so what adds value but is not essential. I'll give you an example. Well, I have a coffee table, right? I have a kitchen table. I have a couple end tables — it sounds like I have a lot of tables. I don't really.
[00:37:28] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, you got a lot of surfaces in your apartment. I can tell.
[00:37:32] Joshua Fields Millburn: But the thing is like, yeah, strictly speaking, I could get by fine without a dining room table, right? But it adds value to my life. So I'm not going to say, "Well, we need to get rid of that. Now, it is true that sometimes I'll remove the things that add value for a temporary period of time to see whether or not they're truly adding value to my life, or if my life is enhanced without them. But if not, then I certainly don't want to go without those few things. The problem is most of the things we owned, they fit in that third category, that junk category. And those are the things that masquerade as though they add value because we saw it in an ad or we saw someone else using it, or maybe we even got value from it five years ago, but now we're clinging to it out of some sort of pious sense of nostalgia. And we're not actually getting anything from it. In fact, it's extracting our resources, our time, our energy, our focus, it brings forth that psychological clutter in addition to the actual physical clutter that's there in your home.
[00:38:31] Jordan Harbinger: I know you got some core values of minimalism and one is let go of sentimental items. And I found that kind of counterintuitive. I mentioned earlier in the show, how I just took pictures of all my kids schoolwork and then threw the actual stuff away. But I think a lot of people are going to have trouble with that. You know, they're going to look at like a piece of something that they got from a relative or some other, maybe it is their kid's schoolwork. I don't know. I'm not going to go, I just kind of like, "Should I really get rid of this? It doesn't take up that much room."
[00:38:58] Joshua Fields Millburn: Sure.
[00:38:58] Jordan Harbinger: It does bring me joy when I look. Why do you think it's still important to get rid of that stuff at some level? And some occasions I should say.
[00:39:05] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yeah. So letting go of sentimental items, but not necessarily all sentimental items. So here's the problem, if everything is sentimental, then—
[00:39:13] Jordan Harbinger: Then nothing is, right?
[00:39:14] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yeah, nothing is sentimental. And so that's what we do though we impart sentimentality, which is just excess sentiment. I mean, you can look it up in a dictionary. Sentimentality just means that we have excess sentiment with respect to a thing. And that sentimentality is weighing us down, especially when we're clinging to tens of thousands of so-called sentimental items. You know, when I was dealing with my mom's stuff, sorting through her things, I went back to Ohio with just a handful of sentimental items. Now, I could have kept all, you know, whatever, 300,000 items this year.
[00:39:46] Jordan Harbinger: A truckload.
[00:39:47] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yeah. Literally a giant U-Haul that I could have brought everything back and then put it in the storage locker because I couldn't co-mingle her stuff with my stuff. I already had a big house and a full basement full of stuff. But, you know, maybe a storage locker would let me cling to it for a little bit longer. And it would give me a little bit of certainty in the moment, but it would actually bring me a whole lot of dread and anxiety, because as you've already mentioned, having to go deal with that weighs on you. "Oh, I'm never — I'll get to that someday."
[00:40:15] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:40:16] Joshua Fields Millburn: "I'll hold onto these things just in case I might need them," in some non-existent hypothetical future, but that really, really weighs on us. Well, by having much fewer sentimental items, I get far more value and joy from those things, because they're actually displayed. I'm able to use them. They have some sort of function. They're not just sitting in a closet or an attic or a garage or a storage locker somewhere.
[00:40:41] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Joshua Fields Millburn. We'll be right.
[00:40:46] This episode is sponsored in part by Justworks. Are you a small business leader looking for an easier way to onboard and manage remote employees? Or are you just trying to do it all yourself? Justworks makes it easier for you to start, run, and grow a business. Let me tell you how Justworks can help your business. Justworks is the ultimate HR platform for small and growing businesses with simple software and expert support for benefits, payroll, HR, and compliance. Access national healthcare insurance plan, so your employees can get coverage no matter where they live. Get help setting up sick, leave policies, and administering harassment and discrimination prevention trainings that comply with state and local requirements. Across the country small businesses with big dreams love Justworks for its simplicity, intuitive platform, and time-saving features. Whether your team is remote or in-person, you could do it all, but why do it all alone? Justworks makes it simple to hire and manage remote employees across all 50 states.
[00:41:33] Jen Harbinger: Find out how Justworks can help your business by going to justworks.com. That's justworks.com for more.
[00:41:40] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Glenfiddich. Glenfiddich breaks from the single malt scotch whisky norm, and helps redefine what it means to be rich. It's very easy to get bogged down in material success when the currency of the new rich is getting more time and enjoyment out of what we've already got. Nothing really exemplifies this more than our guests here, Joshua Fields Millburn. As you're hearing here on the show, this is a guy who had it all, worked really hard from growing up impoverished to getting all of the bells and whistles and sort of rich kid toys that he could want and found that it was actually making him more miserable. And now he really does embody the minimalist element. I mean, hell, his brand is the minimalists. You can't really get more new rich and minimalists than that can you. And I'll tell you to watch his evolution from the person he was to the person he is now, it is really, really night and day, and he is just a case study for embodying this new mindset.
[00:42:26] Jen Harbinger: Skillfully crafted, enjoy responsibly. Glenfiddich 2021 imported by William Grant and Sons Inc, New York, New York.
[00:42:34] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored in part by Klaviyo. You remember that ideal holiday gift as a kid, it was probably a certain toy, hot new console, the big kid bike, and then after you become a grownup, the perfect gifts were the unexpected essentials. The ones you often get for yourself, fresh socks and undies, stackable storage containers, and owning your company's marketing data and growth, of course. That last one is definitely a great gift because owning your data helps build and retain larger audiences who stay actively engaged with your company. And that's a self gift our friends at Klaviyo are ready to share. Sure, boosting your marketing with Klaviyo, probably wasn't the gift you had in mind this year, but you got to admit it's a pretty good gift to give yourself. Want to own your data and your growth? Learn more at klaviyo.com/holidays.
[00:43:17] Now for the rest of my conversation with Joshua Fields Millburn.
[00:43:22] You have this 20/20 rule with which I call this how to get rid of USB charging cables, because this is really what it is, right? Like I've got a drawer — everyone has this, right? The drawer where it's like, "What if I need a FireWire 800 cable someday?"
[00:43:36] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yeah.
[00:43:36] Jordan Harbinger: And maybe you can get rid of that because nothing else uses it. But every single person listening to this, maybe one percent of the audience is exempt from this, has a bunch of different chargers for their phone. But their current phone probably doesn't use that exact cable, but like it's the USB C USB A dilemma, right? Like you have the bigger—
[00:43:56] Joshua Fields Millburn: What the hell are you doing with the Blackberry charger still, right?
[00:43:58] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. And those Blackberry ones, maybe you can get rid of that, but now your new MacBook doesn't have the big USB. It's got the little ones. It's got the USB C, but like sometimes you might need the bigger one, but do you need all five of those cables? Tell me about the 20/20 rule because this is something where it's sort of hard to wrap your mind around because it almost still sounds wasteful, but I'll let you get into it before I trash it.
[00:44:19] Joshua Fields Millburn: It sounds incredibly wasteful. In fact, it also sounds like an incredible rule of privilege for the ruling class. So let's dispel that. We have a few rules. The 20/20 rule is, I think, the very first rule we ever came up with. Now, when we say rules, they're not actual rules. They are boundaries that we set for ourselves.
[00:44:36] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:44:36] Joshua Fields Millburn: And they're adjustable as well. And so here's how the 20/20 rule works. We also call it the just-in-case rule. The three most dangerous words in the English language are "just in case." That's why you're holding onto all of these cables, right? And it extends way beyond your junk drawer or your electronics drawer. We hold on to tens of thousands of just-in-case items, just in case we might need them someday. We don't know when, we don't suspect we're going to, but you know what, just in case. And you know what you're right. If it was just a couple cables, probably wouldn't be that big of a deal, but it extends to everywhere in our house. We're holding onto all of these just-in-case items.
[00:45:13] So here's how the 20/20 rule works. Anything that you're holding on to "just in case" you can let go of it because you can replace it for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from wherever you are. Now at first, you hear that and you're like, "Yeah, but I want to go out and spend 20 bucks every day on a bunch of just-in-case items." Ryan and I came up with this rule back in 2011. I can tell you that it's a decade ago.
[00:45:35] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:45:35] Joshua Fields Millburn: Between the two of us, we've had to use it five times total.
[00:45:39] Jordan Harbinger: In 10 years.
[00:45:40] Joshua Fields Millburn: In 10 years.
[00:45:41] Jordan Harbinger: So 20 human years, if you multiply by the two of you.
[00:45:44] Joshua Fields Millburn: That's right.
[00:45:45] Jordan Harbinger: You've had to go out five times and repurchase some kind of cable, or doodad that you threw away.
[00:45:50] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yeah. Pair of scissors or, you know, a pair of shorts or something that we're like, "I'm holding onto this just in case. And now if I have to use that rule, it costs me less than $20, 20 minutes from wherever I am." And it's given me permission to let go of tens of thousands of other items. And it's not costing me 20 bucks every day. It's cost me a hundred dollars over the course of a decade. Who wouldn't want to spend a hundred dollars to let go of a bunch of excess stuff that's in the way?
[00:46:15] Jordan Harbinger: It's funny. You preempted my question here because I was going to say, "Look, man, a lot of people are going to think, 'Man, it's a waste to replace something like that even for 20 bucks.' There's environmental costs. There's, of course, the monetary cost." But I was going to guess that you only once in a blue moon have to use it. Now, five times in a decade, let's assume that you're really, really good at picking what you're going to need later and really, or not having to replace stuff or you're MacGyvering charging cables out of paperclips that you find around Hollywood or whatever. Because even then, when you look at it like spending a maximum of a hundred dollars or around a hundred dollars to get rid of tens of thousands of items, it really does make sense. Because of course, I was thinking you're just throwing things away and then replacing them three months later. That's even worse than having a junk drawer, right?
[00:46:55] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yes.
[00:46:56] Jordan Harbinger: Just from like a landfill and sort of junk trash perspective. What am I looking at? Carbon footprint, right? Environmental perspective, having to repurchase stuff, but you're right. The value you get from almost never having to do that. And then in addition, being able to get rid of like an entire garage full of stuff, and maybe even fit your car in there one day, it seems like a pretty good return.
[00:47:19] Joshua Fields Millburn: It feels to me that we are worried, so worried about putting our stuff in a landfill, but it's already functionally in a landfill in your house.
[00:47:25] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:47:25] Joshua Fields Millburn: But by letting go—
[00:47:26] Jordan Harbinger: It's just in your way.
[00:47:27] Joshua Fields Millburn: Right. Yeah. But we actually don't have to put in landfill. That's sort of a last resort.
[00:47:32] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:47:32] Joshua Fields Millburn: So I have another rule: whenever I'm trying to sell something or I'm trying to get rid of something, the first thing I try to do is sell it. If it doesn't sell in a week, I lower the price. If it doesn't sell in 30 days, then I donate it. If I'm unable to donate it, well, then eventually I'll recycle it and if I can't recycle it, well, then yes, there are a few things that will make their way to a landfill. But for following that process, we're being much more deliberate. We're not just renting a dumpster and throwing all of our stuff in it. There are a few things they're going to make their way to a landfill, but most of those things can actually prevent additional waste because what we're doing is we're finding other people who will get value from the things we no longer get value from. And so they don't have to purchase it brand new. They can have a slightly used, whatever, Blackberry cable, if they're still using a Blackberry. And I'm not going to use it anyway. So we might as well find someone else who will.
[00:48:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It's interesting. There's a lot of people that you can find that will use things. I mean, first of all, Goodwill Salvation Army, but if you live near where I live and you go to big cities a lot, I've got all these like iPhone batteries that you plug in that are external and you can't really throw them away because it's a battery. You don't want that to happen. And you can't really sell it because it only keeps like 60 percent of its charge, but I usually pack many when I go to a city like New York or even San Francisco, Chicago. And you see people who are sitting on the street, looking at their phone and they are absolutely thrilled to get an external battery. That's almost as good as a new one or, you know, half as good as a new one because you've replaced yours.
[00:49:02] And you're like, "Hey man, here you go. This keeps you from having to like, shut your phone down at night. Or you can watch even more, whatever you're streaming and listen to more music, whatever it is," because sometimes that's their only connection to the outside world. And you get creative finding what you can do with a lot of this old stuff that you think has no value. And it's actually kind of fun in a way to think about how much somebody else can use something. That's literally, you're tripping over. It's in your garage. It's landfilled in your house somewhere or in a storage unit. It's just in the wrong spot and you happen to be paying for it every month.
[00:49:35] Tell me about the packing party because this is something that I did when I moved by virtue of the fact that I had to pack everything. And that was like I said, at the top of the show, very eye opening, but people can sort of larp moving, right?
[00:49:46] Joshua Fields Millburn: That's a good way to play, yeah. Well, Ryan and I realized early on like the one time you're forced to confront all of your material possessions is when you move. You have to get everything out of your old house. They won't let you leave the stuff behind. And so you literally have to box up everything you own. And man. It's a real pain in the butt to box everything up. Even as a minimalist, I don't enjoy moving, but before being a minimalist, it was a totally different endeavor.
[00:50:12] And so Ryan and I came up with this wild idea called a packing party because he's a very sort of type A guy. And he saw me simplify my life over the course of eight months and he's like, "Hey, that's great. But like, I need to do something quick. I want to do something now." So we just pretended he was moving. I went over to his house one week and we boxed up everything, everything he owned. We even covered his furniture with different clothes and sheets. So it rendered it unusable. And then over the course of 21 days, he unpacked only the items he needed. We talk about this in the new documentary as well, we sort of did a reenactment of some of the packing party stuff.
[00:50:47] And so you can imagine that first night he unpacks a toothbrush and some clothes for work and some bedsheets on his bed and the furniture he actually used and maybe a tool kit the next day. Only the things that he needed. And over the course of those 21 days, at the end of it, he had 80 percent of his stuff still in boxes.
[00:51:05] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:51:06] Joshua Fields Millburn: And the irony of that is he couldn't remember what was in half the boxes, right?
[00:51:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Yeah. We had that. We had that. What's in here? Plates, but we have plates. It's that. It's that all over again.
[00:51:15] Joshua Fields Millburn: That's right.
[00:51:15] Jordan Harbinger: But it's with clothes, cables, bottles of stuff. If you're like me, there's like electronics and microphones and stuff that you haven't used in a decade. That are perfectly good, right? All kinds of stuff. That's a brilliant strategy. Most people will only have the kind of wherewithal to do that is when they are actually moving.
[00:51:33] Joshua Fields Millburn: Right.
[00:51:33] Jordan Harbinger: But I mean, can you break it down like one room at a time?
[00:51:36] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yeah.
[00:51:36] Jordan Harbinger: Because packing, everything sounds really shitty. I'll be honest.
[00:51:40] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yeah, it does. In fact, so in our new book, we had 47 different families do the packing party as well. Because we were like, "Hey, this worked for Ryan," but let's see if it'll work in the real world with families and different people from around the world.
[00:51:51] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:51:51] Joshua Fields Millburn: We wanted to give this some options. So some people were really brave. They did the whole house, other people, they could just do one room. If you just want to do it, start with your bathroom, do a packing party for your bathroom or a packing party for your garage or packing party for your closet even or you could do multi-room. We had several families who did multi-rooms. "So I'm just going to do my living room and my second bathroom." "Okay, great. Then you can do that." And what you learn very quickly is there are so many things in here that I was afraid to confront, but when you do it this way, you're only unpacking the things you get value from. And you forget about the rest of it.
[00:52:26] At the end of the 21-day experiment, then you get to decide, what things am I going to sell or donate? Ryan got rid of everything that was still in those boxes after 21 days. He sold or donated all of it. And that was really where theminimalists.com started, was with that 21-day journey. We started writing about that.
[00:52:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. It seems like it would be, and we sort of touched on this before, a little bit addicting, right? Because you're like, "What else can I get rid of?" We had that after we had moved and donated all this stuff, we're like, "What else can we get rid of?" And I was joking with my mom cleaning out the basement, "What else can we get rid of?" And she's like, "Are you kidding? I'm making your dad do this next." So they're going through the whole house and get rid of stuff. It really is funny how many things you think, "But I should keep this," and as you're going through it, you find, I literally found band-aids that were from before I was born.
[00:53:11] Joshua Fields Millburn: Wow.
[00:53:12] Jordan Harbinger: I opened one just to see if they were still good and, you know, spoiler, they're not. No, it doesn't—
[00:53:16] Joshua Fields Millburn: Disintegrate.
[00:53:16] Jordan Harbinger: Like the sticky stuff dried up and got broken down years ago. So you just have this crispy hard sort of paper bandage from 1978 that you can't use, even in an emergency. Yeah, some of this stuff just has to go, if you think about it like this, my mom said, "You know, you have to do this now because if we croak, you're going to have to do this alone and it's going to be kind of horrible." And that was sobering and very — I mean, you went through that, right? yourself with your own mom's stuff.
[00:53:45] Joshua Fields Millburn: When I was going through her things and I've written about that and we've talked about it, but what I'm seeing now is a lot of people come to our live events and there are parents who are like, "Hey, I'm dealing with this now. So my kids don't have to deal with it in the future," right? A lot of the time now that we have these two films on Netflix, we have kids who were bringing their parents and saying, "Hey mom and dad, I don't want to have to deal with your stuff. I don't want the stuff that you think I want and you're holding onto it. And I'm not going to tell you not to hold on to it. You do whatever you want, but I don't want to have to deal with this. So would you please do something about it or at least not pass it on to me?" And so we misconstrue, we get this idea, like the thing is value to me must be valuable to everyone else.
[00:54:28] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:54:28] Joshua Fields Millburn: But it's just junk for everyone else and it's going to get in their way. And so we have so many people showing up to the events now and they're realizing like, "Oh, one of my main motivators is I don't want to burden the people around me." And then as soon as they start letting it go, they realize, "Actually I was burning myself in the first place."
[00:54:46] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Now, it's a hundred percent true.
[00:54:49] Okay. For people who don't want to do the packing party stuff because it's too much of a step. Tell me about the 30-day minimalism game because I think this is a genius way to get people to just force themselves, to dip their toes in the water and then they start getting addicted to it.
[00:55:02] Joshua Fields Millburn: Well, let's be honest. Decluttering can be kind of boring. You don't get excited when you hear the word decluttering, right? You're like, "Aah."
[00:55:08] Jordan Harbinger: Generally, no.
[00:55:09] Joshua Fields Millburn: And so we found a way to make it fun with a little bit of friendly competition. Here's how it works. At the beginning of any month, you partner up with a friend, a family member or a coworker, and you both decide to get rid of some stuff at the beginning of the month. So it starts off really easy to give you that momentum that you need. So on day one, you each get rid of one item. Anyone can. Day two, it's two items. Day three, three items, so forth, and so on. Starts off really easy. But by the middle of the month, I found, for me and my wife and I and daughter, we still do it from time to time, even though we almost always fail. We never make his end of the month at this point, but it allows us to get rid of some stuff. But by the middle of the month, it starts to get more difficult, right? Day 12, it's like, "Oh my God, I have to get rid of 12 things. But tomorrow, I have to get rid of 13 things. On day 20, I have to get rid of 20 things." Whoever goes the longest wins. So you can bet whatever you want and you can bet a meal or, you know, 20 bucks or whatever you want it to be. And whoever goes the longest wins if you both make it to the end of the month, then you've both won, because you've gotten rid of about 500 items and that's just a really good start.
[00:56:06] Jordan Harbinger: That's crazy.
[00:56:07] Joshua Fields Millburn: We've had people play for many, many months. Some people keep going. So it's day 33, they get rid of 33 items. We have one lady who's been playing for years now. She just starts over every month. It's one thing on the first day, two things on the second day.
[00:56:19] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:56:19] Joshua Fields Millburn: And so it just keeps going, keeps the cycle going of the cycle of letting go.
[00:56:24] Jordan Harbinger: It seems like it would be tough to get — once you're in the double digits, it's like, "Are you — is one paperclip, one item?" Like how do you even, you know, you start to find ways around it because it seems very difficult to do. I'm guessing that once you get into the mode of looking for things that you can get rid of, that's part of the exercise, right? Like, "Oh, what is that? Oh yeah, I have jars over there. I should get rid of some of those jars," right? I'm literally looking at a stack of jars. I'm like, why do I have these? They probably got put there months ago. Who knows what we were going to do with them. They might not even be mine, right? So if I'm looking around at stuff to get rid of all the time, at least for the month that I'm playing this game, that's probably a good mindset to be in. That's not causing me a bunch of anxiety about how I have to now pack up everything in my entire living room and then wait for a what, 20 days or whatever to get rid of it.
[00:57:11] I'm trying to get people to try this versus them panicking and thinking that they have to move in order to get the bug of minimalism. You know what I mean?
[00:57:20] Joshua Fields Millburn: Yeah, for sure. I mean, so we even have a free minimalism game calendar on our website. It's theminimalist.com/game. You can see all the rules and stuff there. It doesn't cost you anything to play it. You just download the free calendar over there, but you're bringing up a really good point. You're talking about retraining the way we think about our stuff, because we see some of our things so much that we don't actually see them. We simply take them for granted, literally. They just happen to be fixtures within our homes, within our cars, within our, within our lives that we see them every day. So we ceased to actually be sensitive to them anymore.
[00:57:52] And this minimalism game, or the packing party are both great ways to start to see those things for what they are. And as we start to let go of those things, yeah, you can make up any rule you want. If you want a paperclip to be one item, fine, it's up to you. Or a box of paperclips could be one item as well, right? And so it's up to us to define that, but it's really about getting that momentum because at first we're so overwhelmed we don't know where to start. We don't know how to let go of anything. And the key to the game is just start with one thing. If you let go of one thing and tomorrow you let go of two things, then you'll start letting go and it will become habitual in time.
[00:58:29] Jordan Harbinger: Alright, this is solid. And I love the practicals, but I know that you've got this itch to do a philosophical kind of — you got your little monologue on letting go, man, and it wouldn't be The Minimalist podcast, it wouldn't be a Joshua Fields Millburn podcast without letting you wax on about this. So take us home, man.
[00:58:45] Joshua Fields Millburn: We're talking about what to do when we're talking about letting go, but letting go is actually not something that you do. Letting go is something you stop doing. You stop clinging to the excess stuff. You stop clinging to the toxic relationships. You stop clinging to the bad habits. You stop clinging to all of the things that don't serve you anymore, even the things that may have served you at one point in time.
[00:59:07] You know, my daughter is eight years old now. She doesn't play with the toy she played with when she was three, right? And yet we continue to cling to those things from a decade ago or five years ago or whatever. And so letting go isn't about simply decluttering or organizing our life. It's about understanding our attachment to those things and the absurdity of that attachment. How it's keeping us from being free. It's keeping us from being joyous and content and peaceful. All of these things actually get in the way of our tranquility. So letting go is not something you do, it's something you stop doing as soon as you stop the clinging.
[00:59:44] Jordan Harbinger: Joshua Fields Millburn, theminimalists.com. Thank you so much, man. This is a long time in the making. Sorry. It took so long, but it was always great to have you on. It's good to see you.
[00:59:53] Joshua Fields Millburn: Good to see you brother. Thanks so much.
[00:59:56] Jordan Harbinger: If you're looking for another episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show to sink your teeth into, here's a trailer with Dan Pink on why some of us are morning people and some of us are evening, and why science says we're more racist in the afternoon.
[01:00:09] Daniel Pink: People were more likely to get parole early in the day and immediately after the judge had her break. If you came before the judges break, you had a 10 percent chance. If you came right after the judges break, you had about a 70 percent chance. They had two groups of jurors. Every group had the same set of facts. One person had a defendant named Robert Garner. The other person had a defendant named Roberto Garcia, but on the same set of facts. Then they had another group that deliberated in the afternoon, same deal. When jurors deliberated in the morning, they rendered the same verdict for Garner and Garcia because it's the same set of facts. But when they deliberated in the afternoon, they were more likely to exonerate Garner and convict Garcia. Racial bias increases during that time.
[01:00:52] I would love to be the kind of badass who gets up at four o'clock in the morning, works out, read three newspapers in three different languages. And it's like at the office at 6:15 before the cleaning crew, but you know what, that's not me. So the idea that everybody can just get up earlier, that's easier said than done. It's not very sustainable.
[01:01:10] Jordan Harbinger: I know there's a ton of fellow entrepreneurs and just regular folks out there that have trouble getting up early and think, "Oh, I'm lazy.
[01:01:18] Daniel Pink: About 15 percent of us are very strong morning people, larks. About 20 percent of us are very strong evening people, owls. Two-thirds of us are going between. We are in some ways walking timepieces. We have time and timing literally imbued in our physiology.
[01:01:36] Jordan Harbinger: For more with Dan Pink, including how to match your schedule to your body's peak times for rest, recovery, and optimal focus. Check out episode 63 here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:01:48] Always a fun time talking with Joshua.
[01:01:50] Simple is not always easy. It seems like it is, but it's not because it requires us to be intentional about not going with the flow, not storing and buying things. It's taken me a lot to get rid of things, even things that I think I should get rid of, sometimes I want to sell it instead of donating it. And that becomes the excuse, right? So I've learned to just give things away or better not to get them in the first place.
[01:02:12] Thanks to Josh for his time and openness on this episode. I hope you enjoyed it. Please try the practicals that you heard about on this one. I think you will really get value from those. Links to everything will be in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Please use our website links if you buy books or anything from the guest. It does help support the show. Worksheets for the episodes are in the show notes. Transcripts are in the show notes. There's a video of the interview going up on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or just hit me on LinkedIn.
[01:02:42] Relationships are much better than things. And you can use the same system, software, and tiny habits that I use to create and maintain my relationships in our Six-Minute Networking course. The course is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig that well before you get thirsty. Most of the guests you hear on the show subscribe and contribute to the course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[01:03:03] The show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The feed for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's addicted to stuff or somebody who wants to experiment with minimalism and doesn't know where to get started, share this episode with them. I hope you find something great in every episode of this show. So please share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[01:03:38] This episode is sponsored in part by Chinet. Chinet is a people-focused brand disguise as a premium disposable tableware brand. Chinet prides themselves on being part of authentic human connections and playing an important role in togetherness. They've been a part of American culture for over 90 years, providing durable plates, cups, cutlery, napkins, and table. Chinet is the go-to brand for cookouts, holidays, birthdays, game nights, baby showers, and more. Chinet brand believes not only that everyone should have a place around the table, but that everyone should be welcomed with open arms and a full cup. Chinet Classic, Chinet Crystal, and Chinet Comfort products are all made in the USA with at least 80 percent recycled materials. Chinet brands products can handle anything from the sauciest ribs to the most generous slices of cake. Made to be microwave safe and leftovers' best friend, easy cleanup, environmentally conscious. Great for the upcoming holiday gatherings and perfect for all of life's get-togethers. Visit mychinet.com to find out more.
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