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Documentary Review | Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things

Rating: 3 out of 4.

Last night I had the pleasure of watching a thought-provoking documentary called Minimalism on Netflix.

Released in 2015 and directed by Matt D’Avella, Minimalism underlines the futility of our tendency to accumulate things. Things we don’t need or things that add no value to our lives. Yet for status reasons, we keep on buying stupid stuff. Actually, we not only buy new stuff, but we also hang on to the old stuff, resulting in a major hoarding probelm. I am sure a lot of you reading this are nodding your heads yes.

Minimalism centres around Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn. The duo has come to be known as The Minimalists since and they advocate less is more lifestyle.

Minimalism and The Minimalists
The Minimalists – Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn

The documentary captures their interactions with TV hosts and common people as they promote their book and philosophy of minimalism.

Minimalism also features other practitioners as well as experts from academia. Together, they bring interesting perspectives and make the documentary a worthwhile watch.

Apparently, Ryan and Joshua wasted their entire 20s in pursuit of the American dream except that it was a twisted version of the American dream – the one promoted by the consumer marketing companies. So they splurged their money on hoarding useless things and chasing worldly pleasures.

At age 30, both started feeling a void of purpose in their lives triggered, perhaps, by a feeling of material surfeit. Both felt stuck and unhappy. It was at this point they decided to expunge all the non-essential stuff from their lives and live on only what was essential.

“The standard of life is determined not so much by what a man has to enjoy, as by the rapidity with which he tires of any one pleasure.”

Simon Patten, the pioneering economist-philosopher

See, there is this facet of consumer capitalism which goes under the radar of many. When you become a victim of mass-marketing techniques and buy stuff on pure impulse, you inadvertently coax yourself into a behavioral pattern.

Just as a kid is fixated with new toys, you love your new car, gizmo, set of clothers, etc. But as soon as the novelty of last purchase wears off, you decide to venture out seeking a new reward.

This circle of conspicuous consumption has no end.

Juliet Schor, Professor of Sociology at Boston College, affirms, ““Advertising has infltrated and polluted our culture.”

The advent of online shopping has allowed this infiltration to multiply many times over.Today when you are connected 24*7, advertisers know where all to carpet-bomb you with ads. There is no escape.

Even if you don’t feel like buying, the shopping apps and the social media narcissists ensure that you don’t get off the treadmill.

There is all kinds of pressure – social media and TV ads inducing most of it. Fear of missing out (FOMO) drives you nuts and Fear of better options (FOBO) throws you for a loop. Long story short, the consumption and piling up of stuff goes on unabated.

Minimalism asserts that every possession should serve a purpose. Ryan Nicodemus remarks that every time you buy something, ask yourself – does this piece of furniture or this gadget add any value to my life?

Another featured expert in the documentary aptly puts it:

“You can never get enough of what you don’t really want.” – Rick Hanson, Neurologist

While the documentary has minimalism at its cetre, but it kind of goes off-centre by talking more and more about advertising, advertising to children and consumerism. I know they are all interconnected, but I felt that by going down those adjacent issues, however important they are, the documentary digresses from the main topic of minimalism.

All in all, Minimalism a decent documentary. If you are a newbie starting down the minimalism road, you’d draw a lot of inspiration from it. It does lose steam towards the end, but, still manages to get the message across effectively.

Minimalism Practicing Authors Who Feature In The Documentary

  • Patrick Rhone, Author – Enough
  • Tammy Strobel, Author – You can buy happiness (and it’s cheap)
  • Colin Beavan, Author – No Impact Man
  • Leo Babauta, Author – Zen Habits
  • Christine Koh, Author – Minimalist Parenting
  • Joshua Becker, Author – Clutterfree with kids

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