Documentary Film Review: Minimalism

It’s hard to know what to write about right now. With the ongoing Coronavirus lockdown and subsequent humanitarian and economical crises, I just don’t know what the world is going to look like when this ends. That’s why I decided to sit down and watch the documentary called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.

I’m not a minimalist. I mean, I try not to have too much “stuff,” and I find tiny houses fascinating, but I like the warmth and color that accessories bring into my life. I live in an environment of weather extremes, so we pretty much need two wardrobes and a few waterproof things for the in-between. I thought that if nothing else, I would enjoy the calm of a documentary about minimalism, and maybe get a few good tips for how I can get rid of more stuff.

The movie surprised me. I mean, how complicated can a movie about minimalism be? It’s minimalism… But it was really quite warm and relaxed. The main focus of the film is a duo that calls themselves The Minimalists (Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn). They are a pair of lifelong best friends who went from striving and unsatisfied to minimalists, and it changed their life for the better. They wrote a book about it called Everything That Remains, and in the film they’re on tour, one suitcase each in an old car, promoting their book.

Along the way, the film crew interviews other self-proclaimed minimalists, and they talk about things like the challenges of a minimalist lifestyle with children, the calming effects of meditation, tiny houses, and the effects of advertising on children.

Some of the people featured in the documentary are more strict adherents to the philosophy of minimalism, while others just lead a simplified version of what most of us consider normal. One of the guys described minimalism as a continuum, and explained that we all fall somewhere on that spectrum and have to find balance and compromise with the people we live with.

That balance was a refreshing change from the “slash and burn” way I’ve heard minimalists speak in the past. They also said that if something makes you happy, don’t get rid of it. Surround yourself with things you love – just get rid of the excessive rest of it, and don’t get caught up in striving for more stuff because you think it will make you happy. Stuff won’t make you happy.

Aside from not being fulfilling, the quest for more stuff drives humanitarian and environmental disasters. Our “need” for the latest and greatest leads manufacturers to cut costs, outsourcing jobs to countries that don’t have labor standards and creating unsafe work environments for people – including young children – who aren’t paid a viable wage. Making fewer and more deliberate choices in our consumption allows us to do more good with our spending rather than making more waste.

Minimalism is just over an hour long, and it available on Netflix. It was made in 2016 by director Matt D’Avella.

While I’m not about to get a dumpster and toss out all my stuff (that just feels wasteful…), the movie did inspire me to reconsider my shopping habits and the things I strive for. Plus, I just really enjoyed a relaxed hour of clean and organized spaces…

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