Notes on Minimalism: A documentary about the important things

Have you watched the Minimalist’s film yet?

Called Minimalism: A documentary about the important things, the film is available through Netflix from 15 December, but can already be purchased via other channels such as iTunes. This release is a timely reminder of why our consumer-orientated culture doesn’t ultimately bring ‘tidings of comfort and joy’ to those who embrace a ‘spend now, pay later’ ethos. Indeed, we hear from contributors such as Dan Harris that we’re spending money faster than we’re earning it, but are wired to become dissatisfied. No wonder there’s a growing interest in a life unencumbered by the trappings of contemporary living.

In the film, it’s interesting to hear Joshua Fields Millburn explain, “Every possession serves a purpose or brings me joy.” This is reminiscent of 19th Century architect, writer, artist and designer, William Morris, who said:

“If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

The documentary describes how, in the mid-1990’s, the US went on a ‘buying spree’ when products such as fashion, electronics, and household goods flooded the market. Owning material goods positioned people in status terms. That’s certainly true. I remember when extended family members showed off their snazzy mobile phones in the latter part of that decade when neither my husband nor I had even contemplated buying one. We felt like second-class citizens, well before FOMO had even been thought of 0f.

In Australia, the country with the largest average home size in the world, the average size of a home has grown from 162.2m2 in 1984 to 241.1m2 in 2012/13 (source: ABS via Amelia Lee, http://undercoverarchitect.com). Yet, we learn in the film that (on average) most people use only 40% of the space in their home.

So, what have we done with the space?

You got it!

We filled it with stuff we don’t need, bought with money we can little afford, to impress people we don’t even like. If I recall correctly, that’s a phrase used by minimalism advocates such as Joshua Becker. Doesn’t that ring true?

The documentary implores us to ask ourselves how much we really need, when we know that happiness only increases up to a certain point as our standard of living improves. After that, it’s up to us. Ask yourself what what really matters. I’ll bet it won’t be having yet another sweater in the closet, a ‘better’ smart phone or some new ‘designer’ shoes. In any case, the film challenges us with the following question:

“What do you sacrifice by being constantly busy, constantly working?”

Surely, you have to work as hard as you do, for the hours you do, just to pay for the stuff you choose to buy.

The conclusion of the film brings a ray of hope. It suggests revising the American dream, turning towards:

– Community
– Equality
– Responsibility towards the planet

That has to be a better way to live.

4 thoughts on “Notes on Minimalism: A documentary about the important things

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