Do The Things You Buy Add Value To Your Life?

Director: Matt D’Avella/2015

Street Date: March 14, 2017/Kino Lorber

Have you ever gone shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving? Hundreds of people waiting for hours or sometimes days for the newest game system. Say you are lucky enough to snag one of those systems. You wrap it up and eagerly wait for December 25th to roll around. The big day arrives earlier than anyone desires but you truly can’t wait to see little Timmy’s face when he opens that package. For a moment on Christmas morning he is joyful, grateful, excited and happy. But what about a month later… a year later… when that system is kinda broken… is Timmy happy now? Did that “thing” bring him life? “What adds value to your life?” That is the question asked in Minimalism: A Documentary About The important Things. The Minimalist, Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn lead you on an adventure to live deliberately with less and be present with the people around you.

“I think we are confused as to what will make us happy.” Joshua Fields Millburn

For Nicodemus and Millburn this isn’t a cleanse or a thirty-day challenge. As the camera scans Millburn’s apartment there is very little that catches the eye. A chair, lamp, small table and guitar are the only items in his living room. When you meet Nicodemus he seems to be long-boarding to a meeting, barefoot in a black t-shirt and cargo shorts. This cleanse is now their life. They have stopped “filling the void” with stuff and climbing the corporate ladder. Those things didn’t bring them joy. Together they have written four books, and in Minimalism you catch them on a ten month book tour across America. 

Personally I find this lifestyle a little intimidating. I thrive in the clutter and mess of life. But what I liked about Nicodemus and Millburn’s philosophy was the flexibility for each individual’s personality to dictate what they eliminated from their lives. While they hold certain guidelines for themselves they do not hold others to a strict rule.

A large potion of Minimalism is given to Nicodemus and Millburn but director Matt D’Avella explores other methods to declutter and focus on the “important things”. Everything from living in small spaces in Manhattan to the tiny house movement to living out of a backpack and exploring the world is discussed. It is fascinating to see how people live and what is accomplished with goals and intentionality. Each of these lifestyles requires discipline but there is so much gained from the new experiences and the new communities they have joined. D’Avella wants to talk about consumption or “the hunt”. Not only are we on the hunt for a better car, the best TV or the large open concept house, we are on the hunt for the perfect life. So D’Avella brings up “fast fashion” and how we consume clothing. We want to look the part and with the right watch, dress, shoes or suit we might just get that job, girl or respect, you fill in the blank. “The hunt” doesn’t satisfy, but thoughtfulness and intentionality can bring purpose and drive. Enter Project 333. Project 333 encourages folks to dress with only 33 items for 3 months. (not including underwear but including shoes and accessories.) With a small “capsule wardrobe” you are able to own clothes you really enjoy and not keep pace with the trends of the unrelenting fashion world’s 52 seasons a year.

“We are a materialistic culture not concerned with the actual materials.”

There is even a portion directed towards unplugging from devices and being more present. Advertisements have polluted our culture and we live in a world where the key demographic targeted is children! Here D’Avella talks to minimalist families about mindfulness, meditation and what it looks like for children to be minimal. It is all these options and methods that makes Minimalism such a encouraging watch. Maybe I can’t live life like Millburn but I can take time to meditate and unplug from my phone everyday. These options make decluttering seem more attainable and very attractive.

In an America where Trump is President and Amazon is king, Minimalism might seem like an underdog. But as you watch Nicodemus and Millburn travel the U.S. you see the crowds that follow them. Everyone from baby boomers to millennials are in attendance and the rooms are packed. They are looking for financial freedom, for satisfaction and for truth. I don’t know if minimalism will make you happy, but the film Minimalism will make you think and is fun to discuss with family and friends. The only thing not minimal about Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things is it’s name. 🙂