You Are What You Own

The Razor’s Edge, by Madeleine Richey

I’d like to introduce you to a topic that might sound a bit foreign to most of us. The reason for this is because we live in a consumer culture, where emphasis is placed on the things we own and how much money we have. We’ve all heard that these things do not make us happy, and I’m inclined to believe that, but I’m not proposing poverty as a solution to the problem. Instead, why don’t we consider minimalism?

Minimalism is the idea of living simply. Not poorly, but simply. This means owning only the things that add value to our lives. For some of us, it might mean owning only what we can carry in a bag, but for others it might mean just a smaller closet and less junk around the house. I recently went through my own closet and possessions in an attempt to downsize, and it was such a relief to own less and find that I don’t need most of what I had stowed away in my closet that I am going to do it again. Besides the obvious benefits of having less stuff (no avalanche of clothes falling out of the closet when you open the door) you can donate what you don’t need to benefit people who do need it.

The term ‘minimalist’ can mean something different to everyone. Some people will toss out everything but the bare essentials, while others just throw out that extra paperwork or those really worn-out shoes they don’t need any longer. But the main purpose in living a minimalist lifestyle is to slow down, get rid of the distractions owning so much unnecessary stuff brings, and enjoy life: Time to sit quietly, meditate, and enjoy nature, the experiences of life, and the people in it. Focus on relationships, not items.

The idea of minimalism as a lifestyle has been brought to the forefront recently by three men: Ryan Nicodemus, Joshua Fields Millburn, and Colin Wright. These three men live minimalism each in their own way. If you have a minute, I can tell you a little bit about them, but you’re probably best off asking them yourself. They’re nice; don’t be scared!

Colin Wright (shown above), though they call him the ‘third minimalist’ was the guy that introduced them to the lifestyle in the first place. Colin, a full-time traveler, moves to a new country every four months and owns only what he can carry with him when he moves—generally that is less than 60 items, but that is subject to change. Don’t believe me? Here is one of his lists: He’s also written several booksthat you can read if you’re interested. But his minimalist lifestyle isn’t everything; he also believes in living sustainably, constantly seeking self-improvement, and being open-minded. This guy is an incredible entrepreneur who can think on his feet; I am intrigued by some of his philosophies, and I really think he’s on to something. You can learn more about him at his website:

Next is Joshua Fields Millburn. This guy quit a six-figure job and totally transformed his life to live a minimalist lifestyle, though to less of an extreme than Colin. Joshua is not a full-time traveler, and therefore doesn’t need to have all his belongings fit in one bag. (You can see pictures of his previous apartment here: He writes full time (phenomenally, I might add) and teaches writing classes. Visit his website to learn more:

Ryan Nicodemus, Joshua’s best friend, also quit his “successful” career to live minimalism. Why is “successful” in quote marks? They claim that, even though they were making six figures, had the status symbols of big houses and expensive cars, and other such trappings, they were not actually “successful” because they were not happy. He has co-authored best-selling books with Joshua, likes the outdoors, and loves people. Ryan spends his time writing and mentoring people. Who better to help you turn your life around than someone who has made a big lifestyle change? You can read more about him here:

Right now, these guys are living in Missoula, Montana, starting a publishing company called “Asymmetrical Press” (, and just released a novella written by author Shawn Mihalik called The Flute Player. The press is just getting off the ground, but so far it’s off to a great start.

If you want to get involved in their community and connect with other writers, just follow this link and sign up: You’ll find me on there, and meet lots of other awesome writers, some of whom are on incredible journeys of their own and writing about it to tell the world what they are learning.

If you want to learn more about minimalism, you can check out their website:

I think minimalism is a great idea. It’s all about living in a way that is not only sustainable, but profitable. We don’t need most of the things we own, and if they don’t make us happy, or add value to our life, why keep them?

Maybe we should give minimalism a try.

Visit Madeleine’s blog at

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