Minimalism: A documentary about the important things

Grace AmsdenEditor-in-chief

When thinking about the future, it might be common for an individual to strive to live in a large house, have the nicest car and a high-paying job – all things that can add to their mindset of the “perfect life.”

Watching Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things can make viewers question their values and what it means to be happy—or what society thinks they should be happy for.

This documentary shares the journey of best friends Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn who both live as minimalists. They worked together at the same job for eight years, yet Nicodemus realized that his life wasn’t ultimately what he wanted it to be. He said that each day, he’d go to work on many days from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. He’d later come home and engage in a cycle of watching TV, checking emails, making phone calls and watching more TV.

At 28 years old, Nicodemus decided he wanted to get rid of some of his possessions after hearing about minimalism from Millburn. So, Nicodemus packed his belongings into boxes with the intention of seeing what he really used. After three weeks, 80 percent of the items were still in the boxes, by which he then sold and discarded many of these items. Nicodemus and Millburn carry a message throughout the film: living a simple life with less items means more.

New items are constantly being pumped into stores and advertised. There’s a reason why children see an advertisement for a new toy on TV and want it, though this can apply towards people of any age and for a series of items.

As stated in the documentary, advertisements promote the message that people need something new, even if they already have a similar item; however, it can feel rewarding to go shopping and purchase items. There’s something oddly satisfying about carrying around shopping bags the new goodies. Yet, this excitement can wear off. The documentary proves the point that with fewer items, the items remaining can actually be necessary and utilized often instead of just collecting dust.

It was neat to see examples throughout the film of the different environments by which a minimalist may live – which includes a tiny house. As shown, Tammy Strobel, author of You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s Cheap), resides in a charming small house after donating about 90 percent of her items, she said. After working in a cubicle for around 10-12 hours per day, she was unhappy and found that a simpler life could be achieved if she got rid of some of her items.

It’s scary to imagine a life confined simply to sitting inside a cubicle, staring at a computer screen for a substantial amount of time. It’s even scarier if it starts affecting one’s health and happiness.

The documentary touches on the fact that there’s an alternative to following the American Dream, as Millburn said that this isn’t the only template out there.

One interview in particular is striking. It’s with Colin Wright, entrepreneur and full-time traveler. He travels the world, carrying all his items in duffle bags. He said that he’d always wanted to travel outside of the United States, and now does so without a permanent residence.

Though not directly discussed in the documentary, Nicodemus said that he and Millburn created the “20/20 rule” about five years ago. This rule means that when they’d travel, they decided to not bring any “just in case” items. For example, this could mean bringing a second pair of sunglasses in addition to the first pair. Nicodemus said that a “just in case” item can be found in 20 minutes for less than $20 and this rule has worked about 99.9 percent of the time.

Even though the content in this documentary is light-hearted, viewers should prepare to engage in a reflection of their lives and consider what’s truly important.

An emotional moment in the film is when Millburn shares when he found out about his mother’s diagnosis. While at work, he delayed the incoming call from his mother, checking the voicemail later, by which his mother informed him of her stage four lung cancer. Millburn said he realized that he hadn’t spent enough time with her.

The material in this documentary makes the viewer think about themselves and their lifestyle. The transitions sometimes serve artistic purposes, such as the roar of noise during the clips from the mayhem of Black Friday to a simpler, calmer landscape.    

It’s almost as if this documentary makes a permanent mark on the brain, so much to start looking around one’s living space and identifying items that aren’t all that necessary. But it may not be easy to make such change, even if someone is interested in this lifestyle. Small changes might be a start, such as by cleaning through items in the garage.

One aspect to consider is that some individuals decorate their homes in ways that might contain many items and may even look like a museum. There isn’t anything wrong with this, unless the house is completely hoarded in ways that makes it difficult, unsafe and unhealthy to navigate. The message here is inspiring but may not  become an easy reality.  

The documentary serves as a wake-up call for determining what an individual wants their future to look like without the pressures from the rest of society.

For those interested in viewing Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, the film can be downloaded in August, and there are also screenings of the documentary in Washington.

For more information and a schedule of screenings, go to

I give it HHHHI

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

Grace Amsden
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Minimalism: A documentary about the important things

by Grace Amsden time to read: 4 min