[Transcript] – How to Love People & Use Things, Whether Or Not You’re A “Hoarder,” Minimalist Diets & Workouts & 7 Essential Relationships with Joshua Millburn.

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Transcripts

From podcast: https://bengreenfieldlife.com/podcast/joshua-millburn-podcast/

[00:00:00] Introduction

[00:00:56] Podcast Sponsors

[00:05:27] Publishing forays in the realm of minimalism

[00:11:13] The four stages of hoarding, and which stage you're likely at

[00:17:27] The “lightbulb” moment when Joshua Millburn embraced minimalism

[00:26:07] Starting points into the realm of Minimalism

[00:29:28] Ben and Joshua Millburn discuss a minimalist diet

[00:32:46] Podcast Sponsors

[00:36:35] cont. A Minimalist Diet

[00:43:59] Minimalist exercise and workouts

[00:49:27] Why being busy doesn't make you important, it just makes you busy

[00:52:26] The seven essential relationships with other people

[00:59:21] Mindfulness or meditation practices

[01:00:44] How social minimalism promotes a life of productivity and creation

[01:11:01] Closing the Podcast

[01:11:37] End of Podcast

Ben:  My name is Ben Greenfield. And, on this episode of the Ben Greenfield Life podcast.

Joshua: And, why do we do that? Because we think more is going to make us happy, but the pursuit of more is often what is making us miserable.

Ben:  Going after the perfect fitness program or the perfect diet program. In my industry, once they find God, all of a sudden, all that stuff seems to become less important because they've found something that actually fulfills.

Joshua: By getting rid of the excess as you start to make room, you actually increase the void, you're making room for what's truly important. And then, you start asking some deeper questions.

Ben:  Faith, family, fitness, health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking and a whole lot more. Welcome to the show.

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Alright, folks, welcome to the show. I think this show, we should probably just make it 5 minutes long because it's about minimalism. What do you think, Josh? We just say a few words and lead people to their minimalist life?

Joshua:  As you know, I'm full of pithy expressions and saying, so I guess we could just speak in aphorisms for a few minutes.

Ben:  Yes, exactly. Like the pithy title of your new book, which is honestly why I originally wanted to get you on because a lot of people might be familiar with your original book, which was just called “Minimalism,” right?

Joshua:  Yeah, yeah.

Ben:  Okay.

Joshua:  Our first book was over a decade ago and it was called “Minimalism” was about discovering what was actually important in life, how to live a meaningful life. But then, this new book, “Love People, Use Things” is really a relationship book.

Ben:  Yes, “Love People, Use Things.” That's definitely a pithy title. And, for those of you not familiar with Joshua Milburn, my guest on today's show, and I'll link to all of his stuff if you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Minimalist. He and his, I don't know if you call him your partner or your business associate or what, or just your friend, Ryan Nicodemus who's not on the call with us today, it's just Josh and I. Anyways, these guys are known as “The Minimalists” and they actually have overhauled a ton of people's lives in terms of allowing them to live a more minimalist life, and their work has been featured all over the place like Wall Street Journal and Time Magazine and GQ. You guys did a whole documentary as well, didn't you?

Joshua:  Yeah, we've got a couple films up on Netflix. The first one was called “Minimalism,” a documentary about the important things. And, that really got the message in front of a whole lot more people. And then, the most recent one came out this year. It's called “Less is Now.”

Ben:  “Less is Now.” Is that on Netflix right now?

Joshua:  Yeah, yeah, it's out on Netflix currently. It's extremely minimal. I think it's 53 minutes.

Ben:  Okay, alright. I actually don't watch enough Netflix to know if that's minimalist, but it sounds pretty good to me. So, we'll try and keep this podcast at least 52 and a half minutes and go from there.

So, anyways, you guys may have heard me too. I've been on Josh and Ryan's podcast called The Minimalist Podcast, and I'll link to some of those episodes as well at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Minimalist. But you know what, Josh, we've hung out, what, four times now in LA, I think, three or four times.

Joshua:  At least, yeah.

Ben:  Something like that. Yeah. But it seems I'm always getting put in the hot seat by you guys, and then, I drink some coffee with you and then leave and give you a hug, or a high five, or slap on the back and then we're done. But I don't think you've ever actually told me your backstory of this whole minimalist thing. Did you just one day decide to get rid of all your extra shit and go from there?

Joshua:  Sort of. I think it starts even farther back from that. I was born 40 years ago in Dayton, Ohio and I grew up really poor. We're on food stamps and government assistance, and there's a lot of alcohol abuse, and drug abuse, and physical abuse in the household. And, I thought the reason we were so unhappy growing up is because we didn't have any money. And so, when I turned 18, I went out and I got an entry-level corporate job and I spent the next dozen or so years climbing the corporate ladder. And, by age 30, I had achieved everything I ever wanted after working 60, 70, 80 hours, sometimes 90 hours a week, had all the trappings of success, the big suburban house with more toilets than people, the luxury cars, the walk-in closets full of designer clothes. I had all the stuff to fill every corner of my consumer-driven life. And, in many ways, you could say I was living the American dream, but it turns out that that wasn't my dream. And, in a weird way, it kind of took — getting everything I thought I wanted to realize that maybe everything I ever wanted wasn't actually what I wanted at all. And, I knew I needed to simplify my life because ostensibly, I was successful, the people around me saw that I was successful and I bought all these things to make me happy. The average American household has 300,000 items in it. But, of course, most of us aren't hoarders, we just own a lot of stuff. We —

Ben:  Does the 300,000 items include toothpicks or are we talking just toys and books? 300,000 seems a lot.

Joshua:  It is a lot. Yeah. And so, I don't go around people's houses and count their stuff. That's a stat from the Los Angeles Times. And so, what I can tell you is this, I've been in a lot of people's houses and most people aren't what the hoarders you would see on television, those are what we would call stage four, stage five hoarders when we talk about the continuum of hoarding. But, most people in the western world tend to be at least stage one hoarders. And, there are a bunch of different signs around that, what's going on in our lives. Now, the question is why do we accumulate all of these excess things? Because it'd be wonderful to have 300,000 items who was increasing our joy, our happiness, our tranquility, our meaning in life, but quite often, those excess things are actually getting in the way of what's truly important to us.

So, as a minimalist, it's not about getting rid of everything, it's really about identifying what's essential, what's non-essential and value-adding, and then also what is junk. Most of the things we own are junk and it's getting in the way of those things that are adding value to our lives.

Ben: Okay. So, I want to get back to how you actually proceeded to minimalize your life. But you just alluded to this continuum of hoarding and stages. Is that an actual thing or is that something that you guys developed as part of your minimalist program?

Joshua: No, it's an actual thing. Well, hoarding is it's a mental disorder, but we all have pieces of that mental disorder. So, there's another term called spartanism. You may have heard of it, not running a Spartan Race, but spartanism is the idea you can't hold on to anything. And so, the other side of that, of that continuum is hoarding. And so, when you look at your TV and you see people who are hoarding, those people are at the terminus of that mental illness. They have a whole bunch of excess stuff that's scattered all over their counters, and floors, and attic, and basement. You can't even get into some of their rooms. But, a Level 1 hoarder just has light amounts of clutter and they don't have all the noticeable odors and all the excess stuff. And, they tend to just have a bunch of clutter around their house. Well, me, I was a well-organized hoarder, so maybe I didn't have clutter strewn throughout my house, but I had an ordinal system of bins and boxes in my basement, and spare bedroom, and in the attic, and in the garage. I had a two-and-a-half-car garage. I don't even know what that means. Now, I couldn't even park two cars in that garage. Well, why is that? Because I had a lot of excess stuff.

And then, you go beyond that, you go to Level 2, 3, 4, 5 hoarders, that's when you start to see the odors throughout the house, you see overflowing garbage and trash cans, you'll see bugs, you'll see no clean dishes in the house because they're all stacked up in the sink. Well, when it gets real extreme, you'll see the hoarding of dead pets in the freezer and things like that.

Ben: Oh, my gosh, geez.

Joshua:  Yeah. So, it's easy for us to point and sneer at those folks like, “At least I'm not like that.” Yeah. But, think about it, you may never be like that but it doesn't mean that the stuff isn't actually getting in the way. Just because you're not tripping over it doesn't mean it's not getting in the way of a more meaningful life.

Ben:  Wow. So, I think for me, a big part of it, and I don't know if you've really studied up much on the human psyche behind hoarding, but there's this desire to be prepared. And, not in a prepper necessarily gold buried in the backyard and in Campbell's soup cans and underground tunnels under your house, but this idea that you want to hold on to certain things because who knows when they might come in handy, who knows when you might actually have a need for whatever that extra space heater or those, I don't know, the dozen extra dark chocolate bars in the pantry, or the waffle iron, or I just get an air fryer in addition to my pressure cooker, and my sous vide wand, and my 18 other different ways to cook. And so, part of it is preparation, part of it is having a little bit of fun and variety with let's say how you want to make a steak if you get to choose between a grill and a skillet and a sous vide wand. But, when it comes to being prepared versus hoarding, is there somewhere where the line is drawn or how would you differentiate between the two?

Joshua:  Huge distinction. And, it's as simple as this, it's intentionality versus being unintentional with the things we consume. There's this term “memetic desire” or “memetic belief.” And, that's just a fancy way to say, “I don't actually want the things I want, it's someone else who wants them and advertisers, or marketers, or demographers, or statisticians are telling me that I want those things. They are telling me my life would be better with those things even though I don't truly believe it myself.” The other side of that is, as a minimalist, I'm not a deprivationist. So, being prepared can be a wonderful thing. Now, of course, we can't prepare for everything, we all know that intrinsically. But, these three dangerous words constantly come up, “just in case.” I think they're the three most dangerous words in the English language. And, you didn't say it, but the essence of what you were saying, “There's we hold on to a lot of things just in case we might need them in some non-existent hypothetical future.”

Ben:  Right.

Joshua:  In the new book, we have these 16 rules for living with less. And, one of them is called the “Just in Case” rule. Now, here's the fascinating thing, because I would often say, “I'm going to hold on to this just in case, I was still even –” when I first embraced minimalism, I'm still holding on to probably 10,000 just in case items, all these extra cables in the electronics, drawer, the universal remote over here, or I got to have an extra pair of swimming trunks over here, whatever it was, I had a lot of, “I'm just going to hold on to, I'm not really using it, I'm not really getting value from it, but I'm going to hold on to it just in case.” So, the Just in Case rule basically says, “Hey, if I'm holding onto anything just in case, I can let go of it because I can replace it for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from wherever I am.” So, we also call it the 20/20 rule.

Now, at first, that sounds like an incredible rule of privilege. Oh, my God, I want to go around spending $20 every single day on replacing these just-in-case items. Well, here's the truth about it. Over the course of the last decade since Ryan and I have come up with that rule, we've had to use it five times between the two of us. And so, spent about 100 bucks over the last decade. And, that $100 has allowed me to let go of tens of thousands of just-in-case items that would have otherwise gotten in the way because the truth is, all of those things we're holding on to just in case. If we're not actually getting value from them now, there's a good chance we're not going to get value from it in some distant future.

Ben: Okay. So, back to your story. You were successful, you had the suburban house, you had all this stuff. What was the lightbulb moment for you?

Joshua:  Yeah. So, I've known Ryan since we were fat little fifth graders. You asked what do we call each other, are we business partners, are we? Yeah, we've been best friends for 30 years now, and we both grew up poor, and in the same town, and both climbed the corporate ladder at the same corporation. At the same time, we graduated high school the same year. And, right around age 30, two events happened to me that forced me to look around and question everything. My mom died and my marriage ended both in the same month. It was getting into two car crashes at the same time, and I started just questioning everything, why have I been defining success this way? Why have I given so much meaning to all these material possessions? Who's the person I want to become? How am I going to redefine success?

And, as I started asking these questions, I realize that my life might be better with less. We never stop to consider less in our culture. It's always more, more, more, more followers, more money, more status, more success, more achievements, more trophies, more material possessions, I need more. And, why do we do that? Because we think more is going to make us happy. But, the pursuit of more is often what is making us miserable. All those things we bring into our lives to make us happy aren't doing their job. In fact, the objects of our desire quickly become the objects of our discontent. “I may have really wanted that thing, but now that I get it and I've had it for a while, it's becoming a burden or it's becoming outdated or it's just getting in the way.” My journey basically started with that question, “How might your life be better with less?” And, when I asked that question, the reason that was so important is it wasn't a prescription, it wasn't like, “Here are the 67 ways to declutter your closet.” None of us have a shortage of decluttering tips. That's not the problem, the problem is we don't understand what is enough in our lives. And so, for me to get to enough, it wasn't about adding more, it was about subtracting all of the superfluous things that were in the way. And so, in a weird way as a minimalist, I actually get far more value now from the fewer items I own than if I were to water them down with hundreds of thousands of trinkets.

Ben:  Yeah. You alluded to something earlier too, this idea of human desire being the mimetic like we imitate what other people want and that's how we choose like partners, and friends, and careers, and clothes, and where we're going to go on vacation. There's actually a really great book. I read it recently. I'm imagining you probably saw it. It just came out this year called “Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire.” Have you seen that one?

Joshua:  Yeah, yeah. We had him on the podcast.

Ben:  Yeah, Luke Burgis I think is his last name.

Joshua:  That's correct.

Ben:  Yeah. I'll link to that one in the shownotes. It's a good read but this idea of, well, comparing ourselves to the Joneses and if they've got, whatever, cluttering up their garage and we happen to drive past and take a peek in and see that, and it gives us a whole bunch of ideas about things we might want. And, fortunately, I don't really have many neighbors, so I don't have to deal with that so much as I have to deal with the random 10 packages of biohacking equipment and supplements, and functional health foods that just randomly appear on my doorstep every single day. And, even for me, there's a little bit of angst because this is cool stuff, and I sometimes justify the fact that I'm an immersive journalist. My job is to try this stuff and come back to the world and report on what laser lights and infrared devices and protein bars, work, and which don't, but yet I find myself in many cases spending an extra hour to two each day just digging through all this stuff that I normally. 

And, I don't know what you think about this, but it's a thought process that goes through my head sometimes whether it is a book, or an article, or a podcast, or an audiobook, or a belonging. I sometimes will get something in front of me and I'll think, geez, I never ever would have been interested in this at all on my own volition, it's not something I'm passionate about or had any inkling to look into, yet because it showed up on my doorstep or because somebody's texted me that I should check this out, all of a sudden, there's a little bit of FOMO if you don't try it out. And, it's sometimes hard to strike a balance between living a life where you're curious and seeking adventure and learning new things. And then, also just having so many new things that you don't finish half the old things and the new book replaces the stack of the 10 other books that you had planned to read. And, it does get difficult, doesn't it? And, especially in the information era where we have access to be able to find out about all this stuff, it's hard.

Joshua:  Yeah. You mentioned Keeping Up with the Joneses. And, that was a particular problem, a generation ago, but it's far more pernicious than that now because not only are we comparing our lives with our neighbors, we are comparing our lives with the lives of everyone we've never met on Instagram, in TikTok, and everywhere else and thinking, what is consumerism? Consumerism is just the ideology that buying things is going to make me whole or complete. Now, as a Christian, I know that you understand that there is no wholeness and consumption and you're not going to get it outside of yourself and you —

Ben:  Right, the so-called eternal hole in the soul. We try to fill all this stuff until we get satisfied when in fact the only thing that can fill an infinite endless eternal hole is something infinite and endless and eternal, which would be God. And, you'll find a lot of people who are just constantly going through life trying new shit and purchasing things and going after the perfect fitness program or the perfect diet program. In my industry, once they find God, all of a sudden, all that stuff seems to become less important because they found something actually fulfills.

Joshua:  Yeah. You make peace with the void in a way. And so, realizing you can't fill the void, in fact, we've been told the void is bad, it's a strange thing because the part of the country you live in, I used to live up there in Missoula right down the street from you, and no one goes to Montana and says, “Look at this giant void.” No, they said, “Look at this beautiful open space.” You go to northern Idaho, “Oh, my gosh, look at the mountains and the valleys here.” We don't say, “How can I fill this void as quickly as possible?” And, yet, we do that in our own lives. And, what we try to do, here's the pattern, it happens to all of us. I'm incomplete so I'm going to buy things, I'm going to embrace consumers, I'm going to buy things, they're going to make me complete or they're going to make me happy. And then, we buy the things that doesn't make us happy. You know what I need, I need more things. And then, when that doesn't make us happy, you know what the problem is, I need even more things. And, of course, that plays out until we have those 300,000 items and you're 30, or 40, or 50, or we had one lady who was 94 years old who came to our San Diego event, we're doing these tour stops right now, and she said, “I'm 94, I'm finally simplifying my life for the first time.”

And so, we accumulate for a long period of time and then what do we do, we think that's going to make us happy. When it doesn't, well, then we get rid of the stuff. And, one of the problems is we start chasing happiness through minimalism or through letting go. And, that also doesn't make us happy, and then what do we do? And, we say, “Well, you know what, the problem was I didn't have the right things. I need better things and more improved things,” or whatever. And, that void remains there the whole time. So, minimalism isn't simply about letting go to make you happy. In fact, anyone listen to this could go rent a giant dumpster, throw all your stuff in it and be utterly miserable after that because you've just gotten rid of all the pacifiers as well as all of the things that add value to your life. But what you can do by getting rid of the excess is you start to make room. You actually increase the void in a way. You're making room for what's truly important. And then, you start asking some deeper questions about what it means to live a meaningful life.

Ben:  Yeah. Yeah. Alright, well, I want to get into some of the practical nitty-gritty because obviously, people could read the book until they're blue in the face to wrap their head around the philosophy of the idea of loving people and using things and also the general idea of minimalism. I think that by watching your films or reading the books people are going to learn a whole lot more about the whole idea behind this.

But, down into the practical nitty-gritty, man, I've noticed that like you and Ryan, you wear black shirts. And, I think it's black shirts and jeans, and seems you have generally a relatively simple wardrobe. If I walked into your closet, is it really just the same few black shirts and jeans and shoes like a Steve Jobs type of thing?

Joshua:  It is for me. One of our tour stops recently, someone asked me, “How many black T-shirts do you own?” And, my honest answer was one drawer full. I don't know. I don't really count my things. But minimalism is not about a particular austerity, I just happen to wear what's simple for me so I don't have to make these excess decisions. I have some black shirts. I have some short sleeve and long sleeve. I even have a button-up or two. And then, yeah, I have a couple pairs of jeans. I keep it really simple. But I know other minimalists who want to wear bright purple and that's totally fine too. In fact, in our new podcast studio I'm in right now, you've got to see a glimpse of it. This morning, we've got this beautiful artwork that is behind us because I think one of the amazing things about minimalism is when you strip something down to its essence, to its bones, the bones are the beauty of the thing. So, if you're in our new podcast studio, it actually looks like an art gallery or a museum. We have these beautiful paintings in here from a really talented artist and everything is intentional because the excess is gone. We go to a museum, the most beautiful spaces in the world, we also don't walk in there and say, “Oh, my god, look at this void, look at all this empty space.” No, we realize that I'm complete, you're complete in an empty room. So, anything aesthetically can enhance the experience of life, but it is not the purpose of life.

Ben:  Okay. So, I get the idea of decision-making fatigue with the wardrobe. I think that's a pretty simple one for people to wrap their head around. And, I think you can still strike a balance between fashion and minimalism. Meaning like for me, for example, I discovered this new clothing gear, it's called Spiritual Narcissist last year. Actually, one of my buddies started the company and I never would personally purchase a $600 coat at least of my own volition, but he sent me one and I tried it and I loved it. And, I wound up with a whole couple of giant boxes of their gear so to speak. And, that's what I wear down 90% of the time. It's just this flowy, hempy, organic, hippy-dippy Spiritual Narcissist stuff because I like it, it feels good and it gives me an excuse to be able to wear my pajamas out to dinner. And yet, when people ask, I'll tell them it's men's luxury clothing and therefore it's justified.

And so, I think you can be fashionable and still be minimalist. I kind of like the idea of going with a specific brand of clothing like Vuori, or Spiritual Narcissist, or I don't know Levi's, or whatever, and then just having that brand be your shtick. And, for me, that's something I've been increasingly doing, just giving myself permission just to wear a certain brand of clothing. And, my wife loves it because T-shirts get constantly thrown out. But, minimalism with the wardrobe is something that I think is a pretty simple place to start.

What about diet? There's this concept in the nutrition industry that the more consistent your meals like same thing for lunch, same thing for breakfast if you're breakfast eater, maybe the same thing for dinner, same beverages, same snacks actually allows you to maintain better metabolic health because you're guessing a lot less about calories and nutrient density and content, you just become more accustomed to what makes you full and what doesn't and it also allows you to make meals more quickly and reduces a lot of the decision-making fatigue of diet. I'm curious about you though. I know and I'm fine if you get into this if you want to that you have some specifics that you adhere to for the diet for specific health reasons. But, I'm just curious what your diet actually looks like and how you comprise or recommend a minimalist diet.

Joshua:  Yeah, I'd be happy to talk about that. Real quick just a circle back on the clothing bit. I'll tell you this. The most fashionable people I know are all minimalists. Because a minimalist wears their favorite clothes because they only own their favorite clothes and everything else is excess and it's been repurposed somewhere else, either recycled or donated to someone else who can get value from it. We all have that oversized orange sweatshirt with tassels that's sitting in the back of the closet that we haven't worn since '98 and it's just there collecting dust. And, not only is it there in our closet taking up space, but it's taking up space in our psyche, in our mind, it's creating mental clutter, emotional clutter, this internal clutter that's going on inside of. So, yes, minimalism is a way to actually be more stylish in a way.

Moving on to diets, we did an episode of the Minimalist Podcast with, well, two unlikely guests. We had Rich Roll, he's a vegan athlete. You know Rich?

Ben:  Yeah.

Joshua:  And, we had Dr. Paul Saladino on there. And so, you would think that Paul Saladino is the carnivore MD. And so, you would think between the two of them they would have no commonalities, whatsoever, the Venn diagram of what they eat at the time was literally a 100% plants versus a 100% animals, and yet there were so many commonalities between the two of them. And, what I learned is a minimalist diet is ultimately about what you remove from the diet just with the stuff, it's about what you remove with the stuff. But a minimalist diet is also about what we remove from our lives in terms of what we consume, what we eat. And so, it's much more about eating real food that's something that both Rich and Paul agreed on. Eat real food, don't over or under-eat. Avoid inflammatory foods. Keep away from refined oils. Steer clear of processed foods. Don't eat foods that make you feel crappy. And so, eating organic plants or grass-fed meats and then eating or buying local whenever possible. I think these are the fundaments of a minimalist diet. And, yet, that could be applicable to a vegan, to a carnivore or 99.9% of us omnivores as well.

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So, I make usually a smoothie for breakfast every morning. It's a variant but typically it's a bone broth, or kefir, or coconut milk, or yogurt as the base, and then typically ice for just bulk and volume and to give it that nice icy ice cream texture, some sweetener like stevia or monk fruit, and then typically some super superfoods. I freeze raw liver and keep that in the freezer. I put a couple chunks of that in my morning smoothie, usually a scoop of a clean whey protein isolate, a little bit of creatine. Blend it up and top it with a few superfoods that I keep in the top shelf of the refrigerator like spirulina, or cacao nibs, or coconut flakes, or what have you.

Lunch is always a low calorie but high nutrient density type of meal like pumpkin puree or sea moss gel or I use these things called Miracle noodles, which are amazing because it's having pasta without actually eating pasta. And then, I'll put some kind of a really nice oil on that like Andrea Seed Oil or an Extra Virgin Olive Oil, side of vegetables and typically some meat that's left over from last night's dinner.

And then, dinner tends to be more widely varied because we cook as a family. And, typically, I'll make a meat dish and my sons will make some a starch ditch sweet potato fries or sushi rice or something like that. And, my wife will make a lovely salad and we all come together and eat. And so, for me, it takes a ton of decision-making fatigue out of my day to be able to have that same routine and then it's just sparkling water, and gum, or Zevia and gum in between those meals.

For you, what would be an example of what a simple minimalist diet would look like based on the fact that I know you've been through a little bit health-wise as far as your diet goes?

Joshua:  Yeah. A few years ago, I was down in Brazil, and I got a parasite. I drank some water down there and, yeah, it was the worst experience. Not only did I have a food poisoning event, but I started developing a crazy amount of ulcers in my small bowel over a hundred ulcers in my small bowel. So, I couldn't eat anything for a while. Literally, the only thing I could digest was meat and some white rice. And, even then, it was constant inflammation. And so, reducing the inflammation was something that was really important to me. It sounds to me like what you're describing with your diet is it adheres to all the stuff we just talked about of with eating real foods not overeating or undereating, avoiding inflammatory foods. It sounds like none of those are inflammatory to you, the refined oil bit. And, not eating foods that make you feel bad. And so, that last bit there about eating foods that make you feel bad, that is highly perspectival. Because if you have someone who has 100 ulcers in their small bowel, your kale might knock them out for a day. But, for your average person, my wife is a dietitian and a nutritionist and her, Bex. And, she can eat a much wider variety of foods than I can. Now, thankfully, I've gone through three years of healing and I've been able to expand.

And so, my diet looks very similar to an autoimmune paleo diet. So, there's basic meat and starches like sweet potatoes. I'd eat Japanese sweet potatoes every day and some white rice. And, I tend to fast for about 18 hours a day. And, what's been really helpful for me is I was obese at one point back in my teens and I lost the weight and I gained it all back in my early 20s. I'm a pretty thin guy now 6'2″, 165, but I weighed 80 or 90 pounds more than I weigh right now. It was all chin and gut, and I was very unhealthy. And, I think the reason I set my gut up for this ease was I was always looking for the quick fix, I was always looking for a solution. And so, when I started getting this weird acne on my scalp in my early 20s, I went to a doctor who said, “Oh, yeah, yeah, we'll give you this benign antibiotic that you'll take daily.” And so, I took this antibiotic every day, Bactrim, for 12 years, and it totally carpet-bombed my gut.

Now, it turns out my scalp acne was just a soy allergy. And, even now, if I have a little bit of soy, my scalp will break out. And, as soon as I eliminated soy, I was fine. But the problem is after 12 years of doing that, I set my gut up to be, well, just a factory of dysbiosis. And so, it has been a time for healing. And, that's why this latest book that we wrote, it really is about healing relationships in our life; our relationship with money, our relationship with stuff, our relationship with ourselves, which is another way to say our health, mental health, physical health, et cetera. And, healing is rarely about the doing. Often about what you don't do. Ben, if you go break your leg skiing, there's not a whole lot that you can do to heal the leg, it's much more about what you don't do. It's not, well, you need to go out and run 4 miles a day, that'll heal it quicker. No, no, no, that will often make it worse. And, what I've realized is quite often we try to do a lot of things that actually prevent us from healing. And, sometimes healing whether it's your relationship with stuff or your relationship with your family has to do with stepping back and considering less in different aspects of life.

Ben:  Yeah, yeah. Well, I think that a lot of people who are struggling with weight or metabolic health, that whole idea of simplicity of diet and giving yourself permission to eat the same thing day in and day out is good advice, needs to be balanced with the whole concept of seasonal eating. If there are certain things that grow in your area that you tend to be accustomed to in the spring or the summer, I think it's actually better to when those things are out of season rather than ordering them from Amazon or whatever other source that you're getting your crazy superfoods from to instead try to just choose what's local. 

For example, for us in the fall or winter, I am doing with that lunchtime salad a lot more bone broth, fermented and canned foods that we've prepared in the spring and the summer and a lot less of the fresh veg or the fresh fruit or the fresh produce and the citrusy foods or the avocados and the coconuts, et cetera. And, in the spring and summer, it varies a little bit. And, when I travel, if I'm at a let's say a place that's a destination hot spot that's warm and tropical, it'll be more fruit and more starchy carb just because the body when it gets exposed to sunlight and vitamin D can handle more carbohydrates and fruits. And, that that's just an example of local seasonal eating and how the body responds very well to that type of approach. I interviewed Dr. Dan Pompa on my show about this whole idea of feast/famine cycles and seasonal eating. And, I think that you have to make sure that if you're eating the same thing day in and day out that you also take into account seasonality. And so, it could be the same general structure of the meal but different components based on what's growing in season near you.

But, what about exercise and workouts? Well, I have a word document that I keep on my computer. It's got 30 key workouts in it, just like my favorite workouts that I found over the years. And, 30 sounds a lot but I'm also in the fitness world. So, for me, that's not a whole lot compared to the apps, they have hundreds and hundreds of different workouts on them, et cetera. I have my one blood flow restriction band workout and my three Airdyne combined with kettlebell workouts, and then my Vasper workout, and my sauna routine, et cetera. And so, every Sunday night, I sit down and I put together my calendar for the week. And, I do this for all the clients who I work with as well. I write down all their workouts for that whole week typically on a Saturday or Sunday and then there's just no decision-making fatigue when you wake up in the morning aside from the fact that if you've had a crappy night of sleep or you're feeling more sore than usual, you may have to call an audible and adjust the workout to be a yoga session or easy an easy walk or whatever. But, for me, it's very freeing to be able to say, okay, well there's all these amazing sexy workouts in men's health magazine that I could try on for size and all these new workout tools and biohacks and fitness gear. But I like to keep things somewhat simple because the best workout is the one that you're going to do. And, often simplicity and even having those workouts memorized and already in your brain so you aren't having to dig around with your phone at the gym and/or have some magazine or book open trying to figure out which exercises to do. That can be a very freeing way to have a more minimalist fitness routine. But, for you personally, do you have any keys that you adhere to when it comes to fitness from a minimalist standpoint?

Joshua:  Yeah, I have a daily foundation and then we can build upon that foundation. But the daily foundation does not require a gym, it doesn't require any equipment, it doesn't require anything except me really, and ideally, a pull-up bar although I can get around that if I go to a local park as well. And so, every day, I call it my 18-minute minimalist workout. And, it is literally push-ups, pull-ups, and squats until I'm exhausted. And so, I'll do that every day. I tend to do it in the mornings. And then, I walk on top of that. So, thankfully I live in Southern California so I can walk pretty much anytime. And, I tend to walk 8 plus miles a day. And, those two things keep me really fit, but also those are the things that I enjoy doing. And then, I can supplement with some weight training once or twice a week on top of that. And, I find that it's, well, as you said, incredibly simple. And, the easier part here is that I tend to do it every day because everyone has 18 minutes a day. I can never have an excuse and say, well, I just don't have the time to do this, it's 18 minutes and I can do it in my bedroom while I'm listening to a podcast. And, if I want to build on top of that, if I want to keep going beyond 18 minutes, great. But, if not, I've set myself up with that foundation for the day. And, at age 40, I'm more physically fit now than I was when I was 20.

Ben:  Yeah, walking is underrated by the way. For me, if I can do a 30 to 40-minute exercise routine on any given day that pushes me to the edge, and whether it's high-intensity interval workout or a strength training routine, I fill in the gaps and just walk everywhere. And, that's when I feel at my healthiest. You're throwing a little sauna, a little cold plunge here and there, but basically hot and cold, tons of walking, and then 30 to 45 minutes of actual structured workout on any given day. And, that's just perfect for me. And, compared to the more, gosh, totally non-minimalist Ironman triathlon, Spartan Race type of workouts, I used to have to do with tons of decision-making fatigue and the need for three different pre-workout blends to even get you going for your second workout of the day because you already did one in the morning and it's time for the afternoon routine. It just gets dizzying and exhausting versus waking up 30 to 40 minutes, get the thing done and then the rest of the day is just walking if you have time getting the sauna, getting a cold pool and it's super simple. But, it's another perfect example of where I think people listening in can free themselves.

Sometimes I think what happens is people assume that because there's so much complexity and options out there when it comes to diet or workouts, they just assume everybody's switching things up all the time and has this amazing complexity and they're getting magical results from all that. But ultimately, the fittest healthiest people I know, it's pretty dang simple. And, even when it comes to lifestyle, I think it was James Altucher who I was talking to and he said something on the show to the extent of he likes to podcast, he likes to write, he likes to read books and he likes playing Monopoly or something like that. And, he's like, “And, that's all I like to do.” And, I think that that can also be really freeing just not having to have a ton of hobbies. Maybe going deep in just a few, keeping yourself open to options in case there's something you want to dive into like trying out frisbee golf or something like that. But I think that idea of too many hobbies or too many interests is another example where minimalism can start to suck the enjoyment out of life because you're just juggling all these things that you want to do but none are true passion projects.

Joshua:  Yeah. We can call it experience consumerism in a way or experiential consumerism.

Ben:  Somebody has a name for it.

Joshua:  Really what we're talking about here is all the stuff didn't make me complete, you know what I'm going to do, I'm going to fill up my calendar with all kinds of calendar clutter. And, in fact, in our culture, what do we say? It's a badge of honor. “Oh, what are you up to lately?” “Oh, I'm just so busy,” as though that were a good thing or a status symbol. And, it's fine if you want to be busy. But, whenever I say I'm busy, what I'm really saying is my life is out of control. Everyone else is dictating my time, my calendar, what I get to do with my hours and minutes and days. And so, much like James Altucher who you described there, my calendar doesn't have a whole lot of stuff on it. And, the reason it doesn't is because I say no unless I really, really want to say yes, I get to say yes to doing something. Having this conversation with you, yeah, this is a hell yeah, I want to have this conversation with you. So, great. Yeah. Well, let's schedule an hour for it. But that way I know for sure everything I'm doing is a hell yeah.

And, if I start to feel that pain of, “Oh, why am I doing this? Man, I can't believe I have to do this.” Well, that's an indicator, that's an indicator that I have committed to something, and I have to ask myself why did I commit to it. Is it because I wanted someone else's respect or validation? I needed them to venerate me so I said yes to their project or whatever it was. It doesn't mean that person's wrong, it just might mean that that obligation is wrong for me because I have only 24 hours today, and I'd rather spend those hours — also as an extreme introvert, I'd rather spend those hours with just me than being drained by being around a whole lot of other people.

And so, yeah, you talked about simplicity versus complexity. The word “complex” comes from the Latin root complect, which means they interweave two or more things together. And, that's the problem in our lives, we've complected our lives, we've interwoven a bunch of obligations, and toxic relationships, and debt, and material possessions, and houses, and all of these things, mental clutter, emotional clutter. We've interwoven all of that into our lives no wonder we're so stressed out, no wonder we're so miserable, no wonder we're so discontent. Simple on the other hand shares the Latin root simplex, which just means of one, one thing.

And so, it's funny because we talk about all of our priorities. A few years ago, the United Nations released their list of 163 priorities. Well, if you have 163 priorities, that just tells me you have no priority at all. In fact, that word “priority” didn't have a plural until the 20th century because literally, “priority” means the first thing. So, if you have 163 the first things, that's nonsense.

Ben:  Yeah. With this whole minimalism idea, would you say that there are other things in your life that you would classify in addition to like wardrobe diet exercise decluttering the home that you think is pretty dang minimalist relative to the average person like big wins for you in the minimalism department that may have even surprised you when you incorporated them?

Joshua:  Yeah, I think so. So, in the book, we talk about the seven essential relationships in our lives. Because originally, we want to write a relationship book, but then Ryan and I realized like, “Oh, wait a minute, we screwed up all of our relationships in our 20s. Well, why is that?” It's because we were so focused on the things that weren't actually important. There were all these other relationships we had to heal first before we could heal our relationships with people. And so, because we're the minimalist, it starts with our relationship with the stuff and getting that under control. But then, there's the relationship with the truth. We often lie to ourselves. We tell ourselves these disempowering stories about who we are, or who we can be, or the world that we need to live in, or I'm supposed to be this person or I should do that, I shouldn't do that. These are disempowering stories and they're not rooted in the truth. And then, of course, the relationship with the self. So, the person you spend the most time with is you and yet the irony of that is if I were to meet someone who treated me the way that I treat myself, I would stop hanging out with that person immediately. We beat ourselves up, we treat ourselves poorly, the negative self-talk, the self-doubt, all of these things ruin our relationship with the most important person in our lives, ourselves. It goes beyond that relationship with values.

Most people aren't clear with what their values are. Ryan and I identify these four different types of values. If you're building a house, you have foundational values, so everyone has a very similar foundation. It's health, relationships, creativity, contribution, et cetera, et cetera. We have the same five, six, seven foundational values. All foundations pretty much look the same. But, beyond that, you have structural values and these are things that make life, well, your life unique. And so, your structural values will determine how your life looks, how your house would look.

And then, we have surface values. Those are aesthetic things, the things that make life more interesting; hobbies and interests and activities you like to do. And then, beyond that, unfortunately most of us are so focused on this fourth type of value. I call them imaginary values. We say that, “Oh, yeah, my health is a value of mine or my relationships are a value,” but your real values are however you spend your 24 hours in a day. So, if it's incessantly scrolling through TikTok, nothing wrong with TikTok but if I'm spending an hour or two a day, that just means that is the most valuable thing, that is my priority in the moment, that is what I value the most, scrolling TikTok, or Instagram, or Facebook, or watching TV, or whatever it might be. Nothing wrong with those things, but that is the thing I value the most. I may be forsaking the things I actually value. In fact, in the book, we have this values worksheet where people can work through and better understand those values. Not just for themselves but so they can better interact with the partner in their life, their husband, their spouse, their significant other, whatever.

Beyond — go ahead.

Ben:  No, no. Dude, go ahead and finish that thought. I had one, but I want you to finish that thought.

Joshua:  Well, beyond that, I think one of the biggest areas here is our relationship with money. So, unfortunately, we have a ton of debt, a ton of discontent in our country. Why is that? And, all throughout the western world. Well, we're one of two countries in the world that has this 30-year mortgage. And now, in fact in the United States, there's a 40-year mortgage, and we're advertised too more than ever. And so, we're made to feel inadequate by corporations so they can sell us a solution to the problem they've created. I'm not against material possessions, I own plenty of things, I get a lot of value from those material possessions. The problem is when we think they're going to make us more complete and the problem beyond that is when we go into debt which is actually giving up a piece of our freedom in order to acquire things we don't need. We're spending money we don't have to buy things we don't need to impress people we don't like. 

And so, our relationship with money is totally dysfunctional. The average credit card debt in the United States is approaching 16,000 for indebted households, we spend $1.2 trillion a year on non-essential goods. Most people don't even know what that means, a trillion dollars. So, to put that in perspective, if you went out and spent a dollar every single second, it would take you 31,000 years to go spend a trillion dollars. And, if you spend a million dollars every single day since the birth of Jesus, you still wouldn't have spent a trillion dollars by now. And yet, we are spending over trillion dollars every year on non-essential goods, we're spending more on watches and jewelry than we are on higher education. So, not only are we overspending, we're misprioritizing our spending. And then, we're also spending our time in weird ways and we can never get a refund for misspent time.

Ben:  I feel one of the things that's really been helpful for me when it comes to minimalism is simply stopping and slowing down and not only just planning out my day like I talked about how I'll do on a Sunday night planning out the workouts for the week, but I sit at the beginning of the day and I don't have a super-duper intense transcendental 2 by 20 minutes a day type of meditation practice. But, in addition to sitting with my family for about 10 minutes in the morning for morning meditation and five to 10 minutes in the evening for our evening self-examination and meditation, I typically have, at the beginning of the day after I've woken up and doing my stretching and everything, I will simply sit in silence for just three to four minutes just thinking about what I'm about to do, what I'm about to go accomplish for the day, and how my day is structured and what activities I'll be engaged in. And, what I find is that when I don't do that, I get in a checklist mode and I start just basically hoarding information and engaging in a very non-minimalist type of day. But, having a few moments of silence at the beginning of the day, and I think the reason that it seems to work for me is I really think it allows me to get connected to what the most important thing is for the day. And, by focusing on those things that are most impactful and meaningful and important, I'm able to say no to and ignore some of the clutter a little bit more efficiently.

Do you personally do any type of mindfulness or meditation practice to get yourself into the minimalism groove so to speak?

Joshua:  I don't know that I would call it a practice per se, but yeah, there's a lot of silence that interweaves my days. A friend of mine once say, I speak — he's a real stoic person. He said, “I speak only when it adds more value than silence.” And, the irony of that is he doesn't speak very much. I think quite often, we like to talk because we want to feel validated, we yearn for other's respect. And, that becomes a type of prison whenever we need someone else's validation, we need their appreciation, we need their love or their care or we need them to think a particular way about us. And, it's a prison, but the irony of that is if they think a certain way about us or feel a certain way about us or have a certain expectation about us, those might be prison bars but those are bars lining their cage, not mine. And so, I get to walk away from someone else's expectations as soon as we realize the facade of it. And, one of the best ways to do that is to, yeah, to speak only when it adds more value than if I want to speak at all.

Ben:  When it comes to social events and things like that especially living in LA, I've run into this a lot. You inevitably get invited to a ton of meetups, and parties, and functions, and coffee meetups, and brain-picking sessions. And, I think that one of the reasons people ask me how I'm so hyper-productive, I think one reason for that is I live in Spokane, Washington. There's not a huge collective of fellow like-minded entrepreneurs or podcasters or people who would constantly be kicking down my door to meet up and also a lot less FOMO because there's just fewer social events going on in general that I feel I need to be a part of or that'll be missing out if I didn't join in on. And, I think that's a saving grace for me from a productivity and minimalism standpoint just living in a town where there's not a whole lot going on relative to a place like let's say LA, or New York City, or Austin, or any of these other places where I visit. I'm like, how do people even do this when you arrive into town? Your phone just blows up with all these people who just want to meet, meet, meet. Do you have any tips especially for somebody who lives in LA for people who just need to need to say no to social functions more so they can do more of what Cal Newport would refer to as “Deep Work“?

Joshua:  Yeah. I'll give you two perspectives. And, this is where the other half of the minimalist, Ryan, really comes in. He and I are radically different people as you know. In fact if you look at us on a Myers-Briggs personality test, we're literally exact opposites. I'm an ISTJ, he's an ENFP. But, he's also an extreme extrovert, I'm an extreme introvert. And so, when we lived in Missoula, Montana for five or six years, even there, he constantly found ways to be engaged with the community. He stumbled his way into the lead role of a play and he had never even been in a play before it. And so, he will do all these things. In fact, he really thrives and gets his energy from interacting with other people. So, every night, he has something scheduled for himself because he truly enjoys that. He gets benefit from it. He finds value in those activities. The problem is if I were to assign those same priorities to me, if I were to assign that same need to me, it would make me miserable. And, I know this from first-hand experience because I thought I was supposed to be an extrovert.

And so, throughout my 20s, I did a lot of extroverted things with my career, and networking events, and co-workers, and buddies, and going out to these events and constantly on the go. And, it's not that there was anything wrong with those things, I think Ryan thrives in an environment like that. But now, I simply say no unless I feel so compelled to say yes that it's a no-brainer for me. And so, I say no to 99.9% of the things are out there. And, I really experience the joy of missing out in the process.

Ben:  Yeah. I think one of the toughest parts for me still and this is something I'm still trying to wrap my head around and deal with is a lot of people have my phone number like clients and friends, of course, and acquaintances. And, people they'll ask me, “Hey, text me a PDF of some blood test that they did,” and be like, “Hey, can you take a quick look at this and let me know what you think?” And, I it's one of those things that would take me just two minutes to open it up and look at and be like, “Oh, hey, just keep your eye on this and this is concerning,” whatever. But I get literally over a dozen such texts a day. And, I feel like an asshole when I reply, and I'm like, “Yeah, please just go to my website and get a consult and that'll allow me to free up time and be able to justify going through all of this.”

I guess what I'm trying to say is when my phone blows up like that, I think a lot of people don't realize that, yeah, this might seem a tiny little one to two-minute thing for me, but it's actually coming from a hundred different people a day. And thus, it adds up to the point where I could literally just be texting to friends all day helping them out or replying to Facebook messages from people who have these quick one-off questions. So, I really try and operate the way that I would want to be treated in situations like that. If I have a friend who's, let's say, a plumber and my toilet is acting funny, I don't text them and be like, “Hey, just a quick thing, my toilet is doing this funny thing, what would you do if you were me?” I will literally tell that person, “Hey, where can I go to hire you to pay you to actually come and do this thing for me?” And, I think that that's another thing that–especially for professionals or people who help other people, I would imagine doctors running the same thing, they're friends asking about health issues and it's like you could spend your entire day just helping people out for free because it because it feels there's a little bit of angst, there's a little bit of hesitation when you're just, “No, I'm sorry, I can't do this.” Because it's to your friend or to your acquaintance. And, that's still a pain point for me.

Joshua:  Yeah. I think part of it has to do with what one might call boundaries. But I think the other thing is we really care about other people's opinions of us, and it's getting back to that thing. And so, you might think, “Oh, I don't want to upset that person.” And, I get it because I feel that, “Oh, someone asked me for something I would say no.” Why am I really saying no is because I want to be able to say yes to something I find to be more important. But, if I say yes to them, it may be simply because I don't want to upset that person but, of course, we know what the truth is, you don't actually have the true power to change their mood from chipper to insecure, from happy to upset. And, because the problem is we've outsourced our happiness in a way without realizing it, we cling to the admiration of others. And, what's the equation on that? If they like me, I'll be happy. And, if they don't like me, I'll be unhappy. Well, that's not what love is, that's just relationship consumerism.

And so, the question I have to ask myself is, “Who told you that you need their approval?” Even the people closest to me, if it's my family, or my spouse, or my child, who told me that I'd be a lesser human being without their respect? No one. That's just a story that I tell myself. And, sadly, I'm correct, if I need someone's acceptance, they will forever wield a rubber stamp over my internal state. But, when I no longer need their validation, then I sort of recover that power that I relinquished in the first place. And, in a weird way, if I don't need that validation, I reclaim my freedom. Now, you might be asking, “Well, how is that possible?” It's where minimalism comes in. It's only possible by letting go.

And, the next question is, “Well, how do you let go of the need for approval?” You don't need to do anything. Letting go is not about the doing, it's about — so, maybe a better way to put that is letting go is not something you do, it's something you stop doing, you cease clinging to the toxic relationship or you cease clinging to the obligation, you cease clinging to the material possessions, you cease clinging to the need for approval. We stop clinging to that thing we think is going to make us better or more complete. Because in truth, whatever other people think about us, I don't have a whole lot of control over that. I mean think about if the person listening to this has 500 Facebook friends and you try to appease just your Facebook friends, you're going to drive yourself crazy.

Ben:  Yeah. And, I guess if you're concerned about a relationship going south or you offending someone because you're unable to accommodate the quick requests that they're sending you throughout the day. Then, that's on them. If they're going to forsake your friendship or be offended because you aren't able to step out and do a coffee brain-picking session for the 18th time that week. It's one of those things where it's really not your problem, it's their problem if they're offended by something like that. And, I think you're right that a big part of it especially for me is I'm a people pleaser, and I don't like the idea that I turned somebody down or maybe potentially offended someone. But, really ultimately, if that person gets offended by me not having the time to address this quick little thing, again it's more on them than it is on me. And, I guess it's just that permission that you give yourself to not have to feel that stress and pressure to please people all the time, which is why I think probably your next book should be something like how to be a minimalist asshole, something along those lines. Yeah.

But, in the meantime, “Love People, Use Things” is I think an even better title. And, this new book, I really liked it. You guys sent me up a copy and I didn't delve into everything in the book honestly, especially the seven areas that you get into in terms of decluttering and minimalizing, but I really recommend it to people. I think it'd be a refreshing read and especially needed in this era where we're just, gosh, bombarded all the time with so much stuff. So, if you want less stuff and less clutter and less stress and less debt and discontent than a life with fewer distractions, I'd recommend that you check out Joshua and Ryan's book. And, I'll link to it if you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Minimalist. You guys just have a fantastic podcast and I've been on a few times, so I'll link to the episodes that I did with you guys, and also all of your books over there at the shownotes at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/Minimalist.

Josh, I can't wait to come down and check out the new studios as well. Sounds like you got some good minimalist feng shui going on down there.

Joshua:  Ben, I can't wait to send you some PDFs via text message.

Ben:  Yes. Send me lots of PDFs, lots of little requests. And, if possible, please ask me a few times this week if you can pick my brain or have a quick coffee. That'd be amazing.

Joshua:  That's going to have to be the inside joke. I'm just going to randomly just text you. That's great.

Ben:  Yeah.

Joshua:  Thank you, brother, I appreciate it.

Ben:  One grand coffee. Alright, man. Well, folks, I'm Ben Greenfield along with Joshua Fields Millburn signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com, have an amazing week.

More than ever these days, people like you and me need a fresh entertaining, well-informed, and often outside-the-box approach to discovering the health, and happiness, and hope that we all crave. So, I hope I've been able to do that for you on this episode today. And, if you liked it or if you love what I'm up to, then please leave me a review on your preferred podcast listening channel wherever that might be and just find the Ben Greenfield Life episode. Say something nice. Thanks so much. It means a lot.

 

 

I've been interviewed a few times on the outstanding The Minimalists podcast with Joshua Millburn and his partner in crime Ryan Nicodemus, who together founded The Minimalists.

Emmy-nominated Netflix stars, podcasters, and New York Times–bestselling authors, Josh and Ryan help millions of people live meaningfully with less. The Minimalists have been featured in TIME, GQ, ABC, CBS, NBC, BBC, and NPR, and they have spoken at Harvard, Apple, and Google.

Here are links to a few of my previous episodes with them:

But this time it was I who put one of them (Josh) in the hot seat for my podcast, and I was able to speak with him about his journey into the minimalism mindset, how we sometimes go about it the wrong way, the four stages of hoarding, and much more.

At age 30, Josh and Ryan walked away from their six-figure corporate careers, jettisoned most of their material possessions, and started focusing on what's truly important. In their debut book, Minimalism: Live a Meaningful LifeJosh and Ryan explored their troubled pasts and descent into depression. Though they had achieved the American Dream, they worked ridiculous hours, wastefully spent money, and lived paycheck to paycheck. Instead of discovering their passions, they pacified themselves with ephemeral indulgences, which only led to more debt, depression, and discontent.

After a pair of life-changing events, Joshua and Ryan discovered minimalism, allowing them to eliminate their excess material things so they could focus on life's most important things: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.

At first glance, people might think the point of minimalism is only to get rid of material possessions: Eliminating. Jettisoning. Extracting. Detaching. Decluttering. Paring down. Letting go. But that’s a mistake. True, removing the excess is an important part of the recipe—but it’s just one ingredient. If we’re concerned solely with the stuff, we’re missing the larger point.

Minimalists don’t focus on having less, less, less. They focus on making room for more: more time, more peace, more creativity, more experiences, more contribution, more contentment, and more freedom. Clearing the clutter frees up the space.

Minimalism is the thing that gets you past the things so you can make room for life’s important things—which aren’t things at all.

In this episode, Josh and I discuss his new book Love People, Use Things (which he also co-wrote with Ryan), in which he moves past simple decluttering, to show how minimalism makes room to reevaluate and heal the seven essential relationships in your life.

In this interview with Joshua Millburn, you'll discover:

-Publishing forays in the realm of minimalism…05:43

  • Documentaries:
  • Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life, by Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus
  • Ben on the Minimalist Podcast:
  • Josh grew up with hard times in Dayton, OH
  • Achieved material success by age of 30, but was left unfulfilled
  • Adopted a minimalist mindset and lifestyle and began sharing with others
  • Average American home contains 300,000 things (stat from the LA Times)
  • Most people in the west are stage 1 hoarders
  • Those excess things are often getting in the way of what's important

-The four stages of hoarding, and which stage you're likely at…11:15

  • Spartanism: you can't hold on to anything (opposite of hoarding)
  • Level 1 hoarder: light clutter, excess stuff in house, garage, etc.
  • Advanced stages: smells, garbage, dead pets in the freezer, trash all over
  • Intentionality is the line between hoarding and preparing
  • “Just in Case” rule
  • 20/20 rule: items that can be replaced for $20, within 20 minutes of home

-The “lightbulb” moment when Joshua Millburn embraced minimalism…17:24

  • Marriage ended, mom died within the same month
  • Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire by Luke Burgis
  • Luke Burgis on The Minimalist Podcast
  • Less stuff makes us value it more
  • Information Age makes it difficult to ascertain what's important, causes us to compare with neighbors and everyone around the world
  • Consumerism: an ideology where we believe “stuff” will make us feel whole and complete
  • Minimalism becomes a pursuit of the “God-shaped hole” without the right motivation
  • Removing excess creates room for what's truly important

-Starting points into the realm of Minimalism…26:00

  • Wear simple things, avoid decision fatigue
  • The bones are the beauty
  • Spiritual Narcissist clothing (use code BEN22 to save 22%)
  • Vuori clothing
  • The most fashionable people are minimalists, because they wear their favorite clothes only

-Ben and Joshua Millburn discuss a minimalist diet…29:24

-Minimalist exercise and workouts…43:44

-Why being busy doesn't make you important, it just makes you busy…49:12

  • We consider busyness as a status symbol
  • Being busy is actually being out of control of your life; everybody is dictating my time
  • Make everything you do a “hell yes”
  • Priority means “the first thing”

-The seven essential relationships in your life to balance before focusing on relationships with other people…52:11

  1. Stuff
  2. Truth
  3. Self
  4. Values
    1. Foundational values
    2. Structural values
    3. Surface values
    4. Imaginary values
  5. Money
    • Going into debt – Giving up a piece of our freedom to acquire things
    • Spending money we don't have to acquire things we don't need to impress people we don't like
    • Spending 1.2 trillion dollars a year on non-essential goods
  6. Creativity
  7. People

-Mindfulness or meditation practices…59:05

  • Silence is interweaved throughout the day
  • A stoic friend of Joshua's: “I speak only when it adds more value than silence”

-How social minimalism promotes a life of productivity and creation…1:00:27

  • Deep Work by Cal Newport
  • Be aware of tiny pieces of time consumed by responding to requests
  • Concern with others opinion of us
  • Letting go is not about the doing; letting go is not something you do, it's something you stop doing
  • Love People, Use Things By Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus

-And much more…

-Upcoming Events:

Resources mentioned in this episode:

– Joshua Milburn:

– Podcasts:

– Books:

– Other Resources:

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