What Living Like a Minimalist Actually Looks Like

UPDATED: July 14, 2017
PUBLISHED: July 14, 2017

Have you noticed the word “minimalism” popping up all over the place lately? Blogs, books, social media, podcasts, TV segments—it’s definitely a hot topic.

I thought I knew what it meant. And I thought I was a pretty minimal guy already. But then I met one of the leaders of the trend (he and his business partner are known as The Minimalists) and realized it goes much deeper than a clean and simple living space.

Related: 12 Easy Ways to Simplify Your Life

It’s about mental health and lifestyle. It’s about clearing out whatever isn’t serving you in your life, be it emotional, physical, mental or spiritual. It’s about getting honest with yourself about where you are holding onto things that are holding you back.

Joshua Fields Millburn is the co-founder of The Minimalists, which has become a hugely popular podcast, Netflix documentary and lifestyle in the past few years.

After talking to Millburn, I began to re-evaluate my own purchasing decisions and what is actually serving me. Millburn has an amazing story of transitioning from a workaholic, deep in debt, unhappy life full of “stuff” to living with less than 300 items to his name.

He doesn’t even need internet in his house or data on his phone, though he runs an online business. I was fascinated by our conversation and what Joshua has learned from heading this movement.

First, I noticed immediately how calm, happy and content he is. When he told me the stories of how dysfunctional many of his relationships had been before becoming a minimalist, I was curious about how he had become this way.

Related: 17 Beautifully Simple Quotes to Channel Your Inner Minimalist

“You can’t change the people around you, but you can change the people around you,” he says. Wow, yes.

Every successful person I interview is very mindful about the people they surround themselves with. Who they choose as spouses, business partners and friends are all very intentional. They protect their energy and the influences on them as if their lives depend on it. This was a new side of minimalism I hadn’t yet considered.

Thinking of relationships in terms of quality over quantity is not a new idea. But thinking of being selective about the people I surround myself with from the perspective of a minimalist is.


It doesn’t matter if we get rid of all of our stuff and live out of a suitcase if we are surrounding ourselves with people who aren’t supportive of where we are and where we are going.


As Joshua explained to me, we are getting thousands of messages thrown at us daily via conversations, ads, videos, what we read, etc. We are so inundated with messages that we must be selective about the sources we are exposing ourselves to if we want to stay focused on our core priorities. That starts with the people we are surrounded with.

It doesn’t matter if we get rid of all of our stuff and live out of a suitcase if we are surrounding ourselves with people who aren’t supportive of where we are and where we are going. This rings true on a big level for me.

The biggest shift I’ve ever made in my life has been the people I have surrounded myself with. I keep a pretty small circle of people close to me. They are my core team who I trust to give me feedback, keep me on track and support me in my vision. That’s the kind of minimalism that creates real results. It’s a lifestyle you can start living today.

If you want to hear more from Joshua, you can listen in on Episode 407 of The School of Greatness.

Related: What Happened When I Tried to Cut the Negative People Out of My Life

Lewis Howes, author of the New York Times best-seller The School of Greatness, believes that how you feel every moment is more important than what you do or what you have. As a lifestyle entrepreneur, high-performance business coach and keynote speaker, he was recognized by President Barack Obama as one of the top 100 entrepreneurs in the country under 30.