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Updated by Paul RYKEN on Feb 20, 2020
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Paul RYKEN Paul RYKEN
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Must-Watch Documentaries for Aspiring Minimalists

Looking for inspiration to live more with less? Here is our list of documentaries about minimalism, less waste and more.

This list was originally published on https://www.minimalistjourneys.com/minimalism-documentaries/ on 15 January 2019 and is republished with permission.

1

Affluenza / Escape from Affluenza

Affluenza / Escape from Affluenza

Minimalism as a movement began long before The Minimalists came along. The 1997 documentary, Affluenza, called it Voluntary Simplicity, and disturbingly, the things that were discussed then are still relevant now. Affluenza and its sequel, Escape from Affluenza, provide a look at the rampant materialism consuming America and show that we have not learnt our lessons over the past 20 years.

Books such as The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith (originally published in 1958), Giving Kids The Business by Alex Molnar, and Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin are referenced in the documentaries for good reason. If you can look past the 1990s hairdos, these documentaries will get you thinking about what is important and what is ethical in our western society. Maybe, we’ll learn our lessons now.

2

Consumed

Consumed

Not technically a documentary but a reality-TV show, de-cluttering expert Jill Pollack challenges families who are drowning in their stuff to live with only the bare essentials for two weeks and get rid of 75% of their stuff by the end of the experiment. With (most of) their possessions gone, each family is forced to confront the real issues that were buried under all their stuff, issues that have affected their relationships and quality of life.

While interesting to watch, the show would have done a better service to those featured if it had been in conjunction counselling/psychotherapist sessions for some of the protagonists, as the underlying issues, in some cases significant mental health issues, can’t be truly addressed without them. Jill revisits the families after three months to see how they are going, and it’s no surprise that some of them have fallen back to old habits.

3

Living On One Dollar

Living On One Dollar

Living on One Dollar follows four young American friends as they live in Guatemala for two months on just $1 a day – the harsh reality for 1.3bn people around the world, including many Guatemaltecos – battling hunger and parasites, and realizing that there are no easy answers.

While in Guatemala, the guys released short YouTube videos about their experience. The videos quickly received over 700,000 views, inspiring them to produce a feature-length film, Living on One Dollar, to mobilize others to help end extreme poverty. Living on One Dollar is one of the most thought-provoking and inspiring documentaries we have seen, and it didn’t come as a surprise to us when it won Best Documentary at the Sonoma International Film Festival.

4

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (aka The Minimalists) are the two most well-known advocates for Minimalism. They started touring in 2011, book publishing in 2012, and then released this documentary in 2016.

The documentary revolves around their 2014 tour to promote their book Everything that Remains. It cuts back and forth from their experiences and interactions on the tour with other prominent advocates for the movement including Dan Harris (10% Happier), Patrick Rhone (Enough), Tammy Strobel (You Can Buy Happiness – And It’s Cheap), Colin Beavan (No Impact Man), Leo Babauta (Zen Habits), Joshua Becker (Clutter-free With Kids) and Christine Koh (Minimalist Parenting).

5

The Clean Bin Project

The Clean Bin Project

Could you ever live completely waste-free? In this award-winning documentary, partners Jen and Grant go head to head to see who can swear off consumerism and produce the least amount of garbage.

Described as An Inconvenient Truth meets Super Size Me, Jen and Grant’s light-hearted competition examines a darker problem: waste. Featuring laugh out loud moments, memorable images, great animations and captivating interviews, this film is a fun and inspiring call to individual action.

6

The True Cost

The True Cost

The True Cost is not just a documentary about sweatshops. It explores issues of materialism and over-consumption, the power of advertising, and the social and environmental impacts of fast fashion. The documentary is a collage of interviews with garment industry workers, factory owners, environmentalists, and people promoting fair trade and sustainable clothing production. A real eye-opener… at least for us.

7

Thrive With Less

Thrive With Less

As part of a project, six millennials document their search for what it looks like to live minimally in an excess-driven culture. The participants ask some probing and pertinent questions of themselves and of the viewers: When did we decide that more is better, yet never enough? When did social media, fancy cars and fashion take priority over family, friends and the things we’re passionate about? Somewhere along the way our society has become more focused on attaining fleeting sources of gratification rather than working towards establishing true, lasting joy. This is a lesser-known documentary with a small budget feel, so it may not be everyone’ s cup of tea.

8

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo

Author Marie Kondo offers tips on the art of keeping your home and workspace tidy and organized. Her 8-part Netflix series looks at different couples, from those with toddlers to empty nesters and downsizers, and in each episode, she presents different ideas on how to organise the house to be less cluttered and feel more like home. Marie’s show is both entertaining – in a reality TV kind of way – and enlightening. While it isn’t the most riveting, her specific advice is fresh and thought-provoking, especially if you haven’t read her books (which includes us).

9

What Would Jesus Buy?

What Would Jesus Buy?

A parody of sorts, infusing consumerism during the holiday period with religious overtones, Reverend Billy from the Stop Shopping Church, along with his Gospel Choir, travel from New York to Los Angeles to fight the Shopocalypse and reinforce their (despite the wrapping) serious message: Stop shopping.

On their road trip in the weeks between Black Friday and Christmas, they brave harsh winter weather, hostile security personnel and even a threat to their own mortality, but a scene on a parking lot at Christmas Eve makes all challenges worthwhile (you’ll have to watch it to know what we’re talking about).

As with Affluenza / Escape from Affluenza, this documentary is 20 years old, yet its message is as topical as ever. Sad but true.

10

Why Denmark is the Happiest Country

Why Denmark is the Happiest Country

We only watched this television show recently upon recommendation by our friend Christine (thank you) and found it to be a refreshing take on how minimalism can contribute to living a happier life.

In this show, Oprah Winfrey gets an insight into Danish life when she visits Denmark’s capital Copenhagen. She speaks to locals and experts, trying to understand why the country regularly tops the Happiness Report rankings. Comparing the lives of the Danes she meets with those of her fellow Americans, she discovers that spending time with loved ones is more important (to the Danes) than owning a big house full of stuff. Or as one of the people she meets puts it: Small space. Fewer things. More life.

Could living with less be the key (for all of us) to living a happier life?