Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

Source: Official trailer from The Minimalists Youtube channel Source: Official trailer from The Minimalists Youtube channel

A couple weeks ago my wife and I watched a documentary on Netflix titled, “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.”

The film is a recent project released by The Minimalists, which are made up of Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn. I first heard about their story from watching a TED Talk they gave, entitled “A Rich Life With Less Stuff.”

Who are The Minimalists?

Their message is about how they both lived in the corporate world, stuck in the mindset of accumulating more money, possessions, and prestige. However, even though they were both successful in the traditional sense, neither of them were truly happy. They always had the newest gadgets, and had huge homes, but they were working insane hours and were constantly stressed.

When his mother passed away and his marriage ended in divorce, both in the same month, Joshua had an epiphany. He realized that most of his material possessions weren’t adding value to his life or helping him become happier. So he began to downsize his life, in order to focus more on what truly mattered to him.

Eventually his best friend Ryan began to take notice of some of the changes that were happening in Joshua’s life. He jumped on board with this new mindset as well, undergoing a “Packing Party” in which he boxed up every single one of his possessions. Slowly, over time as he needed to use certain items, he would unbox them. After a few weeks he realized that over 80% of his possessions were still in boxes. He ended up donating all the boxes, and a huge weight had been lifted off his shoulders.

At this point they decided to start a blog about their new life philosophy called minimalism. Minimalism is a lifestyle where you downsize your life in such a way that you only own possessions that truly bring value to your life. It’s about removing the excess from your life, so that you are able to focus on what’s more important. There’s no item limit or specific restrictions, and they’re not saying all consumption is evil. It’s just a more simple way of living, to reduce stress and leading to more freedom.

They now have over 4 million readers, a podcast, multiple books, and they tour the country to spread their message about helping people live more meaningful lives with less material possessions.

While they weren’t the first to start this philosophy, they have been key in helping it spread. This documentary has been an effective method of reaching more people.

Reviewing the Film

Overall, I thought the film was very good. It was professionally done and made a lot of interesting points. It showed some real life examples of people living out different types of simplified lifestyles.

The biggest focus was to hammer home how bad our consumer culture has gotten. People beating each other up on Black Friday, the storage industry being a multi-billion dollar industry, people buying homes that are way bigger than they need and then filling them with countless possessions that don’t bring any additional value to their lives.

One diagram showed that the average family only uses about 40% of their home on a regular basis, the other 60% is extra space that may only be used a few times per year.

It helped reinforce how important it is for us to be mindful about what we are consuming. This is largely focused on what we buy and what items we have in our homes, but also what we’re consuming from media and social networks. One of the stats that jumped out at me the most was that the average person checks their phone around 150 times per day! This is crazy, but doesn’t surprise me.

Another concept I found interesting was Courtney Carver’s “Project 333.” It’s a challenge where participants can only wear 33 items of clothing (not including socks, underwear, and pajamas) over a 3 month time span. One of the quotes that stood out was “I may have less clothing, but all the clothing I own is my favorite.” When you get rid of the clothing you don’t like as much, it means you get to wear your favorites more often.

Overall, the main message of the documentary was that it’s important for us all to be more conscious of what we’re consuming. It was a helpful reminder, and I’d highly recommend checking it out on Netflix if you get the chance. We may not have control over all areas of life, but we do have control over how much we  spend and how much we need to be happy.

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