'Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things'

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Minimalist and clutter-free kitchen

David Papazian / Getty Images

This intriguing film asks a question we should all be asking ourselves: "How might your life be better with less?"

When Joshua Fields Millburn packs for a trip, he uses a single duffle bag. It contains two button-up shirts, a few T-shirts, a stack of underwear, jacket, toiletries bag, laptop, and a blow dryer. He’s already wearing his single pair of jeans and shoes, so those don’t need to be packed. And that’s it – he’s off and away for a ten-month book tour around the country.

The Minimalists

Millburn, together with his childhood friend Ryan Nicodemus, is one of The Minimalists. The two-man team is on a mission to spread a message that less is more, that letting go of material possessions opens people up to better human relationships and more meaningful lives, not to mention free time and saved money. They have found a receptive audience. Millions of readers flock to their website, updated regularly with thoughtful blog posts and podcasts, seeking advice on how to focus on the things that really matter in life.

Now, Millburn and Nicodemus have been featured in a new film called “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.” Released in 2016, it has been called “the #1 indie documentary of the year,” thanks to impressive box-office numbers. The 78-minute film follows Millburn and Nicodemus on their book tour across the United States, reading, speaking, and hugging people along the way.

Crowds grow steadily in size, from a handful of people at an event at SXSW music festival in August 2014 to standing room only at The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles ten months later.

An Inspiring Film

While Millburn and Nicodemus are the film’s main story arc, “Minimalism” features many other fascinating people, all of whom are seeking meaning in life through simplicity. These include scientists, who examine the psychological reasons for our human obsession with constantly acquiring more and why we’re never happy; an architect who argues that we should be designing homes to fit our lives, not the other way around; a journalist who copes with stress through meditation; a world traveler who carries everything on his back; authors who write about clutter-free living, minimalist parenting, and the importance of turning off our phones; and even TreeHugger’s founder Graham Hill, who now runs Life Edited.

I was pleased to see Courtney Carver’s Project 333 featured on the film, too, as I’ve written about her popular ‘capsule wardrobe’ approach in the past.

The film is inspiring. It was emotional to learn about the tragic childhoods that both Nicodemus and Millburn experienced, with their drug addict and alcoholic mothers. It makes one realize that, despite earlier financial successes, they do not come from a position of white privilege, but one of real poverty and challenge. It makes their message all the more poignant.

If you watch the film, you may have the same reaction as I did – reach for my phone and turn it off as the credits rolled. Instead of wasting time and mental energy scrolling through social media before bed, I felt inspired to disconnect completely. That was 12 hours ago and my phone is still off. It feels amazing.

“Minimalism” is currently available on Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Vimeo, and can be purchased on DVD.