As Americans become disillusioned with stuff, their message is spreading

Eat your heart out, Marie Kondo. In a society that feels like too much almost 24/7, minimalism is an understandably soothing dream. When you’re bombarded with phone notifications, with work anxiety, with the news cycle churning out constantly overwhelming things, all-white spaces and smooth wood surfaces and clean closets seem like the order you need.

Enter The Minimalists. The Cut spoke with Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, two thirty-somethings from Ohio who founded their blog The Minimalists in 2010. It’s Marie Kondo meets anti-materialist manifesto. The Cut described The Minimalists’ fanatic following:

Since 2010, the pair has carved out a lifestyle-guru niche for themselves through blog posts, books, a podcast with 6 million monthly downloads, and a Netflix documentary instructing their audience in getting rid of all the material possessions weighing them down and renegotiating their relationship to objects.

Many of us — even those of us who previously might have subscribed to the work hard, build a McMansion philosophy — are exhausted by capitalism right now. The Minimalists’ answer to this? Less is More and Be Happy With What You Have. And, of course, there’s a backstory. The pair, who grew up together in Dayton, Ohio, climbed corporate ladders in sales at a local telephone-service company.

According to The Cut, by age 28 they had six-figure salaries, designer clothes, and big suburban homes. Drugs and alcohol became a problem, and they became disillusioned with their 80-hour workweek. The catalyst for change was when Millburn’s mother passed away, and he traveled to Florida to deal with the overflow of she had left behind. He turned to the videos of fellow minimalist preacher Colin Wright and the change was sparked.

Today, the pair is on a “Less Is Now” tour that is selling out theaters from Boston to Los Angeles. Their fans are coming out in droves to the event that is “halfway between a TED Talk and a hipster-megachurch sermon.” The Cut writer Kyle Chayka found that audience members at their show in Cincinnati were looking to Millburn and Nicodemus not just for tips to reduce clutter, but for questions like “Should I quit the job that makes me unhappy?” and “Should I take out loans for graduate school?”

An audience member who spoke to Chayka talked about her journey to rid herself of the modern American Dream — and the stuff that comes along with it. “You see it on TV and that’s what people aspire to be. It’s something we do without thinking.”

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