The Minimalists' New Video Series Explores Problems Created by Consumerism

'Let's Talk About Less' wants to get people thinking about life differently.

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The Minimalists are a pair of prolific, eloquent writers and speakers named Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Over the past decade, they've become known for their books and podcasts on how to simplify life, declutter belongings, and use time meaningfully. A documentary film called "Minimalism" (reviewed here on Treehugger) introduced even more people to their lifestyle, and another book is due for publication this year.

Now The Minimalists have another project in the works – a YouTube video series called "Let's Talk About Less." So far it has five episodes, ranging from two to four minutes in length. Each is a spoken presentation of an essay written by Milburn, and each addresses a different problem with our consumerist culture and how it can be remedied through the lens of minimalism.

The Minimalists
Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Milburn (L-R) are the writers and voices behind The Minimalists.

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The first episode examines the word "minimalism" itself. "Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things," Milburn begins, then explains that each person can make it their own. "It's not the label that matters anyway. It's the intention and the actions behind minimalism that make it worth pursuing." This is a theme I've written about before here on Treehugger, that minimalism isn't all or nothing and shouldn't scare people off.

"Minimalism is not black and white – I mean that literally and metaphorically – and people should feel free to interpret it as they please, based on their personal interests and aesthetic. For example, a person should be able to identify as a minimalist while living in a brightly colored space, decorated with a handful of funky bohemian furnishings." 

The second episode delves into the contentious topic of social media and how easily we get sucked into mindless scrolling. It's impossible to get "caught up," as a new Instagram feature says. Instead, as Milburn puts it cleverly, "The only way to avoid getting caught up on the web is to avoid getting caught up in the web." Remember always that, no matter how hard we try, we'll never reach the end of the Internet.

The third video addresses technology and the powerful tool it is, but one we must use carefully and for constructive purposes. All tools can cause both harm and good, so it's up to us to ensure we're using them for the latter. 

Next up is a thought-provoking analysis of the concept of busyness. This, Milburn explains, differs from "being focused"; although both states may appear similar, they have very different outcomes. He quotes Thoreau, who said, "It is not enough to be busy; the question is, what are we busy about?"

Lastly, a discussion of the economy, which challenges the most commonly-heard argument against minimalism – the notion that, if everyone practiced minimalism, the financial system would collapse and we'd all be doomed. Milburn argues in response, "Consumption isn't the problem; consumerism is the problem." Consumerism is unfocused, misguided, and seductive, and it promotes buying far more than what's required to cover one's basic needs. Minimalists, by contrast, purchase possessions carefully, asking important questions about an item's value. They support local businesses, which is a crucial component of supporting the economy, hence the concluding line: "Perhaps the best way to stimulate the economy is to start focusing on the community." 

The videos are short and easily digestible. They offer the mental reset that so many people crave in a highly accessible format. Of course, sitting down to read one of The Minimalists' acclaimed books would be an even more effective way to absorb their message, but this video series can be a good introduction to their work. Once you commit to banishing busyness and stop the scrolling, then you'll have plenty more time to sit and read the books in their entirety!