B1 Intermediate US 5478 Folder Collection
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Translator: Morgane Quilfen Reviewer: Helena Bedalli
Joshua: My name is Joshua Fields Millburn and this is Ryan Nicodemus.
Together, we run a website called theminimalists.com
and we promise the folks we'd kick things off this afternoon
with something inspirational,
something to get you all excited.
So, I'd like to talk about something uplifting.
(Cheers) (Laughter)
Let's talk about death!
If any of you are uncomfortable talking about death,
now might be a good time for you to leave.
I have a feeling we will be seeing him again in a minute.
Anyway, yeah, we could talk about death.
Let's see, seven years ago,
I was 28 years old, and up until that point in my life,
I had achieved everything I ever wanted:
The six-figure salary, the luxury cars, the closets full of expensive clothes,
the big suburban house with more toilets than people,
and all of this stuff
to filled every corner of my consumer-driven lifestyle.
Man, I was living the American Dream!
And then my mom died. And my marriage ended.
Both in the same month.
And these two events forced me to look around
and start to question what had become my life's focus.
You know what I realized?
I realized I was so focused on so-called "success" and "achievement,"
and especially, on the accumulation of stuff.
Yeah, I was living the American Dream,
but it wasn't my dream.
And it took getting everything I thought I wanted,
to realize that everything I ever wanted wasn't actually what I wanted at all.
You see, just a year earlier, mom, she moved from Ohio down to Florida,
to finally retire.
Because that's what you do when you live in the Midwest.
And, well a few months after she moved down there,
she found out she had lung cancer.
And a few months after that,
she was gone.
I spent a lot of time with her down in Florida that year,
as she went through her chemo and radiation.
And when she passed, I realized I needed to make one last trip,
this time it was to deal with her stuff.
So, I flew from Dayton, Ohio, down to St. Pete Beach, Florida,
and when I arrived, I found about three apartments' worth of stuff
crammed in a mom's tiny one-bedroom apartment.
But don't get me wrong, it's not like mom was a hoarder,
she wasn't.
I mean, I didn't find any dead cats in her freezer.
But she owned a lot of stuff.
65 years worth of accumulation.
Did you all know
that the average American household has more than 300,000 items in it?
But of course, most of us aren't hoarders, right?
No, we just hold onto a lot of stuff.
We hold onto a lifetime of collected memories.
I know mom certainly did.
So, I did what any good son would do --
I think that's me on a bad hair day --
I called U-Haul.
I called U-Haul and I asked for the largest truck they had.
In fact, I needed one so large,
I had to wait an extra-day, until the 26-foot truck was available.
And as I waited for that U-Haul to arrive,
I invited some of mom's friends over to help me deal with her stuff.
I mean, there was just too much stuff to go at it alone.
Her living room was stuffed with big antique furniture,
and old paintings,
and more doilies than I could count.
She loved doilies.
And her kitchen was stuffed with hundreds of plates, and cups,
and bowls, and ill-assorted utensils.
And her bathroom was stuffed
with enough hygiene products to start a small beauty supply business.
And her linen closet,
well, it looked like someone was running a hotel out of her linen closet,
which was stuffed with mismatched bath towels, and beach towels,
and bed sheets, and blankets, and quilts.
And don't even get me started on her bedroom.
Why did mom have 14 winter coats stuffed in her bedroom closet?
Now, come on, she lived in St. Pete Beach, Florida!
Suffice it to say mom owned a lot of stuff,
and I had no idea what to do with any of it.
So, I did what any good son would do; I rented a storage locker.
When I called, I asked for the largest storage unit they had.
You know what they asked me?
"Do you want one that's climate-controlled?"
Climate-controlled, just so mom's stuff could be comfortable?
No, I don't want one that's climate-controlled,
just give me a big box with a padlock on it!
You see, I couldn't co-mingle mom's stuff with my stuff,
I already had a big house, and a full basement full of stuff.
But a storage locker? Oh, yeah!
A storage locker would let me hold on to everything!
Just in case I needed it someday, in some non-existent, hypothetical future.
You know, just in case.
Just. In. Case.
The three most dangerous words in the English language.
Anyway, so there I was, attempting to finish packing mom's stuff,
when all of a sudden, I noticed these four boxes.
These old printer-paper boxes.
Kind of heavy.
Sealed with excessive amounts of packing tape.
So, I pulled them out one by one.
I noticed that each box was labelled
with just a number, written on the side, in thick, black marker.
All I saw was: one, two,
three, four.
I stood there, looking down,
wondering what could possibly be in those boxes.
It looks like we're out of time folks. Hope you enjoy the rest of the conference!
No, it was my old elementary school paperwork,
grades one through four.
You know, as I opened those boxes, my curiosity ran wild,
and I thought to myself,
"Why was mom holding onto all that stupid paperwork?"
But then, all those memories came rushing back,
and I realized she had been holding onto a piece of me,
she was holding onto all those memories in those boxes, right?
Wait a minute!
Those boxes had been sealed for more than two decades,
which made me realize something important for the first time in my life:
Our memories are not inside our things.
Our memories are inside us.
See, mom didn't need to hold on to those boxes to hold on to a piece of me,
I was never in those boxes.
But then, I looked around at her apartment,
I looked around at all her stuff,
and I realized I was getting ready to do the same thing.
Except instead of storing her memories in a box in my home,
I was getting ready to cram it all into a big box with a padlock on it.
So, I did what any good son would do,
I called U-Haul and I cancelled that truck.
And then I called and I cancelled the storage locker.
And I spent the next 12 days selling, or donating, almost everything.
And I learned a bunch of really important lessons along the way.
Not only did I learn that our memories aren't in our things, they're in us;
but I also learned about value, real value.
You see, if I'm honest with myself,
I was just going to selfishly cling to mom's stuff,
but of course, I wasn't going to get any value from it,
as it sat there, locked away in perpetuity.
But the truth is that by letting go, I could add value to other people's lives.
So, I donated much of her stuff to her friends, and local charities,
giving the stuff a new home.
And the things I was able to sell, I was able to take that money
and give it to the charities
that helped her through her chemo and radiation.
And when I finally returned to Ohio,
I returned with just a handful of sentimental items:
an old painting, a few photographs, maybe even a doily or two.
And the final lesson I learned, well, it was a practical one.
While it's true that sometimes, our memories are in our things,
it's also true that sometimes,
the things that we have can trigger the memories
that are inside us.
So, while I was still in Florida,
I took photos of many of mom's possessions.
When I went back to Ohio,
I went back with just a few boxes of photographs,
which I was able to scan, and store digitally.
And those photos made it easier for me to let go,
because I realized I wasn't letting go of any of my memories.
Ultimately, I had to let go of what was weighing me down
before I was able to move on,
and to move on, well, I had to look in the mirror,
and take an inventory of my own life.
It turns out I had an organized life,
but really, I was just a well-organized hoarder.
I mean, everything looked great, sure, but it was just a facade,
and I knew I needed to simplify things.
That's where this beautiful thing called "minimalism" entered my life.
For me, it all started with one question:
How might your life be better with less?
You see, by answering this question,
I was able to understand the purpose of minimalism,
not just the how-to, but the why-to.
I learned that if I simplified my life, I'd have time for my health,
for my relationships, my finances, my passions,
and I could contribute beyond myself in a meaningful way.
See, I was able to understand the benefits of minimalism
well before I ever cleaned out a walk-in closet.
And so, when it came time for me to actually declutter my life,
I started small, I asked myself another question:
What if you remove one material possession from your life each day, for a month?
Just one. What would happen?
The end result:
Well, I unloaded way more than 30 items in the first 30 days,
like way, way more.
It became this kind of personal challenge, discovering what I could get rid of,
so I searched my rooms and closets, cabinets and hallways, car and office,
rummaging for items to part with,
retaining only the things that added value to my life,
pondering each artifact in my home,
I'd ask, "Does this thing add value to my life?"
The more I asked this question, the more I gained momentum.
And embracing minimalism got easier by the day.
I mean, the more you do it, the freer, and happier, and lighter you feel,
and the more you want to throw overboard.
For me, a few shirts led to half a closet,
a few DVDs led to deep-sixing almost an entire library of discs.
A few decorative items led to junk drawers who shed their adjective;
it's a beautiful cycle.
I mean, the more action you take, the more you want to take action.
Ultimately though, the purpose of minimalism
has to do with the benefits we experience
once we're on the other side of decluttering.
Hence, removing the clutter is not the end result,
it is merely the first step.
I mean, it's possible to go home,
get rid of everything you own and be absolutely miserable,
to come home to an empty house and sulk, after removing all your pacifiers.
Because consumption is not the problem.
Compulsory consumption is the problem.
And we can change that
by being more deliberate with the decisions we make each day.
Over the course of eight months, I deliberately jettisoned
more than 90 per cent of my material possessions.
Although, if you visited my home today, you probably wouldn't walk in and yell,
"Oh my God! This guy is a minimalist!"
No. You'd probably just say, "Wow, he's tidy."
You'd ask how I keep things so organized,
and I'd simply grin and tell you that I don't own much,
but everything I do own adds real value to my life.
Each of my belongings, my car, my clothes, my kitchenware, my furniture,
has a function.
As a minimalist, every possession serves a purpose or brings me joy,
and everything else is out of the way.
With the clutter cleared, I felt compelled to start asking deeper questions,
questions like:
Why did I give so much meaning to my stuff?
What is truly important in my life?
When did I become so discontented?
Who is the person I want to become?
And how am I going to define my own success?
These are tough questions, with difficult answers,
but they've proven to be much more important
than just trashing my excess stuff.
And if we don't answer these questions carefully, rigorously,
then the closet we just decluttered will be brimming with new purchases
in the not too distant future.
So, as I let go, and as I started facing life's tougher questions,
things got simpler,
and the people around me noticed something was different too.
People at work started saying things like,
"You seem less stressed!" "You seem so much calmer!"
"What is going on? You seem so much nicer!"
And then my best friend, a guy named Ryan Nicodemus,
whom I've known since we were fat little fifth graders,
he came to me one day, and he said he noticed how happy I was.
And that opened him up in time
to the concepts of minimalism and living a meaningful life with less.
As he simplified his life, that made room for these deeper conversations,
conversations about how our unchecked consumption
wasn't just affecting our lives, it was infecting our entire society.
Ryan: You see, the more we consume, the more waste we produce.
But then of course, the opposite is also true.
If we consume less stuff, we produce less waste.
As you all might know,
if the entire world consumed like the United States,
we would need over four Earths to maintain our unchecked consumption.
How can we, as consumer-driven Americans, keep consuming like this?
It's pretty simple; we go deeper into debt!
That's how.
Did you know the average American carries four credit cards in their wallet?
And one in ten Americans has ten or more active credit cards.
And the average credit card debt is over $16,000.
The total consumer debt of the United States
is nearly 12 trillion dollars.
12 trillion dollars!
Let me just put that into perspective for a minute.
If you went out and spent one dollar every single second,
it would take you more than 31,000 years to spend a trillion dollars.
In fact, if you went out and spent a million dollars a day,
ever since the birth of the Buddha,
you still wouldn't have spent a trillion dollars by now.
And we have nearly 12 trillion dollars in debt.
And the only way out is to let go.
When we let go, our actions, it encourages others to let go, too.
Six years ago, Josh and I, we let go of our stuff,
so we could start living a life that aligned with our values.
We started consuming less, so we could start living more.
And when our lives became our message,
we started a blog, so we could share that message with others.
We called it "theminimalists.com."
Since then, we've written books about simple living,
we started a podcast about intentionality,
and we released a documentary called "Minimalism."
All in an effort to add value to other people's lives.
And that's really why we're here today,
we really, really hope
that we can add value to all of your lives.
So, if you leave here with just one message,
we really hope it's this:
Love people and use things, because the opposite never works.
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The Art of Letting Go | The Minimalists | TEDxFargo

5478 Folder Collection
April Lu published on July 8, 2018
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