Minimalism: A documentary about the important things

minimalism documentary

I watched Minimalism: A documentary about the important things some months ago after reading many recommendations to watch it. You can watch it on Netflix, if you have a subscription. I believe it’s on the Apple and Google store as well, but don’t quote me on that.

The premise of the film is fairly simple. Two guys, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus are crossing the country (USA) on a book tour. The documentary follows their journey, talks about how it all started and cuts away to talk to others who have also embraced the minimalism lifestyle. There was also much talk about applied minimalism and the global impact of consumer culture.

My thoughts

I started watching this with no expectations. I didn’t even know what it was about! All I had heard was that it was ‘good’. I’m not a person that does a whole heap of research or reading before I watch a film or read a book. There were no pre-conceived ideas, no bias, and therefore when I tell you that I liked this doco, I truly do.

It wasn’t what Minimalism was that struck me. It was when they talked about mindless consumption that a lightbulb went off in my head. And then they talked about how people felt miserable despite being in high paying jobs and being able to buy all these material items that it started me thinking.

Mindless consumption. That pretty much sums it up. It sums up the problem I’ve been having.

My story

I have a confession to make. Some 15 years ago, my parents gave me the princely sum of $15,000. To this day, I cannot tell you what I spent it on. When I tried to do some digging through statements and receipts, all I came up with was that it had disappeared in very small amounts (under $100, most times under $50) but very, very frequently. I bought needless things by the truck load, I purchased little snacks here and there and somehow, in the space of 4 – 6 months, it disappeared. It is one of my most shameful memory of money and how I repent that now! It is not a debt, but often I feel like I should come up with that money and return it to my parents – how I spent it was not deserving of a gift like that.

I also feel like that period of my life was the very epitome of mindless consumption. There was not much thinking going on, lots of buying and lots of pointless spending of money. And while I have toned down by a considerable amount since then, it wasn’t till I started reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying that things truly started to change. I started decluttering my surroundings but it wasn’t till I watched this film that something finally clicked.

My revelation

I now know why I have this endless cycle of ‘happy – neutral – malcontent – explosion of unhappiness which results in a massive clean up spree’. Plain and simple, I have too much shit around me. All these things that I had surrounded myself with that were supposed to keep me happy was actually doing the exact opposite. As I decluttered my surroundings, I started feeling the cobwebs lift and I started to declutter my work and personal life too.

I no longer mindlessly consume, or at least I try not to. Instead, before buying anything I question, question and then question some more. I think it is definitely okay to consume, as long as you are 100% sure that every thing that you are buying, every action that you are taking is something that you are doing with purpose. An example of this would be meal planning. We used to just wander into the grocery store or farmers market and bought whatever took our fancy. We had no set plans and as a result, we wasted lots of money through wasted ingredients and wilted vegetables. I cringe just thinking of all the items that are now in landfill as a a result of my thoughtlessness.

This year, I undertook a few massive rounds of decluttering. It is still very much a journey in process as I slowly disentangle my emotional self from my belongings. Every round of decluttering has brought along a sense of peace. I didn’t really understand why that was, but I had this fire within me to purge, in search of that peace. I didn’t know (till now) that it was my own belongings that were pressuring me, causing me stress.

My goals

To always be mindful and to always be purposeful.

I am soon to embark upon my 4th (or maybe it’s 5th) round of decluttering around the house soon (I do that every school holiday) and am actually really excited to do so. Currently my study and my walk-in wardrobe is causing me stress along with my dresser. Letting go is not easy, but the more I do it, the easier it gets.

If you get the chance, watch the film. It may or may not speak to you, but like me, it might just set off a series of fireworks and light a bulb.


5 thoughts on “Minimalism: A documentary about the important things”

  1. We watched it a while back, like you, with no expectations. What surprised me was how much Mr. ETT really enjoyed it. It made us both more aware. I’m not interested in massive declutters (I should be, but I give up because its overwhelming). Instead, I focus on a drawer or a cupboard at a time, then try really hard to keep it that way. It will take me years to finish the whole house, but it is slowly working. Sometimes I open a kitchen cupboard just to appreciate it!

    It sucks to look back at what we were like, but there’s nothing we can do now. I’m just grateful that I finally saw the light. Documentaries like Minimalism help to remind me why it’s important.

  2. Pia, really very nicely you shared your story. There is a time period comes in life where lots of buying and lots of pointless spending of money occurs. That gives us a lesson in the future, create a question in our mind why we did that? Yeah ! it’s true that documentaries like ‘Minimalism’ help to remind us why it’s important.

  3. Wow, awesome lesson you got to learn, from yourself! It’s great that you remember it always now. It will surely be helping you make better decisions these days.

    Yay for less stuff. I personally hate ‘stuff’ in the house. My partner likes it though. I feel great joy when we get rid of things/throw things away. I just hate having stuff all around me, it almost suffocates you!
    Sometimes I think I’d like to start over, in a house with nothing. And just add one thing at a time as it became absolutely necessary.

    You really nailed it when you said ‘not much thinking going on’… this is the problem. People live each day like robots, without thinking about what they’re doing, and doing it every day. In the end they spend most of their life without ‘thinking’ about it.
    I read somewhere – Thinking is the hardest work there is… that’s why so few engage in it.
    Sad but true

    1. SMA, me too! We were at a friend’s on the weekend. She built and has been in for nearly 12 months. She has avoided all clutter apart from some tasteful decorative items. She even has one room completely empty (yes, possibly too much house, but still.) It is so relaxing to spend time there. Nothing is out of place because there is basically nothing to be out of place.

  4. We don’t live in a big house, so when it was packed with things, our house always looked messy and I felt stressed out. I’ve been decluttering and donating things the past 2 years, and our place looks way better & cleaner and more organized. Every time I drop off more donations, the lighter I feel and the happier I am that someone else can enjoy things that I barely used and were just sitting on a shelf or in the basement. It’s so worth it. I love living with less stuff. I feel like I have room to breathe and really appreciate what I decided to keep. Not done yet though.

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