Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

“Imagine a life with less: less stuff, less clutter, less stress and discontent…Now imagine a life with more: more time, more meaningful relationships, more growth, contribution and contentment…”

I’m not a huge fan of “stuff”. In fact, I can honestly say that I detest “stuff”. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy nice things that have a place and purpose in my life, but to me, things with no purpose turn into stuff. And stuff clutters up space, whether that’s physical, mental, emotional…even virtual space. Stuff can include objects, people, ideas or mindsets. I neither have the time nor patience for useless stuff. I guess that’s why this particular documentary resonated with me so much.

As the title so appropriately states, Minimalism is “a documentary about the important things” in life. It follows Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Millburn, two former corporate types who chased the “American Dream” of money, prestige and stuff—all an illusion of what life is supposed to be about. Ryan’s epiphany regarding his life pursuits happened when his professional responsibilities led him to train co-workers to sell mobile devices to 5-year-old children. Joshua’s unfortunate moment of clarity occurred at the hospice bedside of his dying mother, during the same month he entered divorce proceedings. Life circumstances caused both men to re-evaluate their lives and adopt a lifestyle of pared-down minimalism: keeping only the few possessions that either serve a specific purpose, add value to their lives or bring them joy. Everything else had to go.

I love this documentary because it shines a spotlight on an invisible plague that society refuses to deal with: excessive consumerism. Our consumption has bred an insatiable desire for bigger, better, nicer, trendier stuff for so long that the overall notion is now ingrained in the fabric of our economic existence. People seem to be more attached to and obsessed with material objects than they are the people in their families and communities—and there’s definitely something inherently wrong with that.

 

Am I a minimalist? Not by Ryan and Joshua’s standards. But that’s the thing: their standard of minimal living doesn’t have to align with what I consider moderate living, and my definition probably wouldn’t fit yours. Listening to music and DJing add value to my life, so I can justify my setup and music collection. Conversely, having gargantuan walk-in closets with a million outfits won’t necessarily make me more valuable based on my personal self-perception and image, so I choose to spend modestly when it comes to clothes.

The goal of this film isn’t to get people to throw away all of their possessions and move into a tiny house with a stool as their only furniture. The goal is merely to ask yourself why you own the things you own, what they add to your life, and can you live and prosper in life without them. I believe that if we were all honest about the “things” and “stuff” that we own right now, we could admit that we would get so much more out of life if we focused on having a lot less. While most of us aren’t going to make drastic changes immediately, I think Ryan and Joshua are onto something. My hope is that we all move towards shifting our attention towards the things that truly matter. It’s the first step on the road to living purposefully, something that benefits us all.

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