Film Review: “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things”

Minimalist space, dining room with living space and windows overlooking water in background.
Image by Jean van der Meulen from Pixabay

How might your life be better with less? Ponder that for a moment. And then please read on!

Have you seen this documentary? That’s the question Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus pose. It’s about more than just minimalism in relation to stuff. It’s about the over-consumptive, planned obsolescent, mass-marketed culture that we live in, and how dissatisfied we are in our culture. A “documentary about the important things” really means just that. It’s not the stuff in our lives that’s important. Check out the trailer:

It leaves an impression

I watched this about a year and a half ago, and I liked it. But I recently re-watched it, after having gone through all the changes our family has gone through since watching it the first time: eliminating many toxic products; reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up; getting away from plastic products; reducing our household waste; etc. We got rid of stuff and had a big yard sale. We’ve been constantly reducing our material possessions, little by little, because it’s a process. So this time I viewed it with a new perspective!

And I was even more impressed by it. In the first few minutes, it featured video footage of the same Black Friday videos I had watched when I wrote my article on the consumer day of insanity! I was captured by the documentary for a second time.

These guys are really awesome and other than their book, they’re not selling anything. They are trying to spread the idea of minimalism and living life in the pursuit of happiness.

But what is minimalism?

I know it sounds like a trend, and it’s hard to define in one quick sentence. But it’s really just a way of living, and it can be different for everyone. It does not mean you give up all of your possessions, your house, your car, your boat. etc. It just means refocusing your life on what’s most important to you. It’s about becoming aware of your life and your behaviors.

The Minimalists, Millburn and Nicodemus, have a website where you can read about how they define minimalism. But here’s what they call an “elevator pitch” definition:

Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.

Define success and happiness for yourself

We live in a society that teaches us that success is defined by income and material possessions. Earn more, buy more, buy bigger. What if we all start defining success in a different way? Success can be measured in so many other ways than by career title, income, and how big your house is! Let’s decide for ourselves instead of letting society do it for us.

Maybe you want to spend more time with your children. Maybe that means you quit working 60 hours a week for a smaller salary. Perhaps you’re tired of working all the time to pay the big mortgage payment on the big house. That could mean moving into a smaller home, with a smaller mortgage, with fewer belongings; the trade-off might be having more cash for travel, spending less time cleaning the home, and less stress because your finances are less stretched. It could be any number of scenarios. Again, how might your life be better with less?

The Environmental impact of Minimalism

Consumerism is also ruining the environment through the sheer production of so much stuff! The less we consume, the less we waste. Watch The Story of Stuff for the environmental impacts of the cycle of production and consumption. You buying less means money for other things and less pollution – that’s a win-win!

The film is available on Netflix. If you don’t have Netflix, it’s available for rent or purchase on Amazon as well. Remember to always check your local library first. The Minimalists have two TED Talks as well, both worth watching. This one, entitled “The Art of Letting Go,” I found to be really moving:

I really like these guys. I don’t know if they’ll be touring again, but if they do, I hope to go see them. Their book, Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life, is equally inspiring. I highly recommend reading this book and viewing the film as well. Also check out my review of their newest book, Everything That Remains.

Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life book cover

We all have the power to make our lives better. And we all have the power to make great changes to the environment. I’m going to keep striving for less stress, less waste, and more happiness. What will you do? What improvements in your own life can you make?

Feel free to leave me a comment below. As always, thanks for reading!

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