A new book from podcasters The Minimalists is almost here. Called Love People Use Things: Because the Opposite Never Works, it’s about relationships. And about why our relationship with stuff gets in the way of developing meaningful relationships with people. Written mostly by Joshua Fields Millburn, with assists from Ryan Nicodemus, it’s a practical self-help book for the 21st century.
According to The Minimalists, getting our volumes of stuff and money management under control deepens our connections with people. Because things—their acquisition, costs, and storage—ultimately takes over our lives. Also, living with less stuff changes the available cash we have for traveling or contributing to our communities. Millburn discusses getting straight with our values, ourselves, and our creative endeavors too. The Minimalist path is about being true to ourselves so we can be honest with friends, coworkers, family, and significant others.
In between the many suggestions, rules, and ideas, Millburn shares stories about his childhood, early adulthood, and relationship with his mother. He admits that he did many things wrong in those years. Mostly, he chased the “American Dream,” with its focus on unrestricted acquisition and career advancement. Still, his life felt hollow and lacked connection until he started following the minimalist path.
Since then, he and Nicodemus have introduced these ideas to thousands or millions of people through their podcasts, speaking engagements, and books. Yet they seem like down-to-earth guys. Living simply will do that to you.
I’m not a self-help reader. But when Celadon sends me a book, I read it. They never steer me wrong, and this is no exception. The Minimalists inspired me to clean out some drawers because all ten of those sunglasses aren’t necessary. My husband and I are debating upgrading our 2007 Honda for a hybrid. After reading this book, we unflinchingly discussed priorities and cash flow. Still haven’t settled on a vehicle yet, though!
Early in the book there’s a story about a family losing everything in a fire. The way Millburn tells it, the fire made them (of course) grateful for their lives. And second, it freed them from lugging around a house full of mostly unnecessary stuff. Obviously, seeing sentimental items go up in flames is awful. But Millburn’s goal is inspiring us to sort and release things we don’t use.
There are plenty of less dramatic stories too. For example, people pack everything up in one room, and then they unpack only items they truly need. It’s a Minimalist shock to the system, but it also sounds more honest than reorganizing. According to Millburn, reorganizing and sorting through stuff still leads to keeping more than we need.
The more I think about this book, the more I must mention the preponderance of white privilege within it. Even though neither author had an easy childhood, their adulthood is certainly colored by the fact they’re white men. I felt the same way when I read You Are Awesome by Neil Pasricha. There’s no doubt that white men can “pull up their bootstraps” and find success. The same process isn’t accessible as easily (if at all) for people of color. If you need that perspective, I recommend reading books by Mychal Denzel Smith or Mikki Kendall.
Nevertheless, Millburn and Nicodemus seem genuinely interested in helping readers. Their choices are admirable, and the book explains it well. I recommend Love People Use Things if you’re looking for a new outlook that’s less about collecting stuff and more about creating meaning.
Many thanks to Celadon Books and the authors for an advanced reading copy in exchange for this honest review. Expected publication date August 13, 2021.