Minimalism - A Documentary About The Important Things

Last Tuesday, Carl and I went to see The Minimalists’ new documentary film. It was released for one day in many theaters across the country. We both thought it was a great film and highly recommend it to anyone interested in pursuing an intentional, meaningful life. Check out their website to keep up with when the documentary will go on sale. 

Without giving too much away, here were my biggest takeaways…

Is this Useful?

Dan Harris was one of the people interviewed & featured in the film. He shared about his experience with stress, anxiety, and having a panic attack on National TV. All of that eventually lead him to taking up meditation. When asked why he started meditating he simply answered, “It makes me about 10% happier.” An intriguing answer to say the least, and thus the title of his book was born.

During his interview he mentioned that the best advice he’s ever received, in the context of worry and anxiety, is to ask himself, “Is this useful?” Whenever he would start to worry or rattle off endless “what if’s” he would be able to stop himself by asking, “Is this useful?”

This really resonated with me, as I’ve been on a year and a half long journey through uncovering the root of my own anxiety and learning how to manage & reduce it. That’s how I fell into Minimalism to begin with. I was already on the path towards living a meaningful and intentional life that reflects my values, when I discovered that Minimalism was just that. Once I made that realization, I fully embraced it. That decision has been the catalyst to A LOT of changes over these last months.

But, I’m still human and still don’t have all of this figured out, so any tool I can add to my toolkit is warmly welcomed. Worry and anxiety really aren’t useful 99.9% of the time - and when I get caught up in my own head, and my pulse starts to rush and my hands start to sweat, and my head starts to feel light and woozy - I can stop it.

I can ask myself, “Is this useful?” “Can I change this outcome in the next 20 minutes?” “What’s the worst that can happen?” Chances are my responses will be, “No, no, and not death.”

If you’re like me and can get easily overwhelmed by all the things - next time, try stopping the onrush by asking yourself, “Is this useful?” It’s only been a few days, and already it’s been so helpful.

A New American Dream

Juliet Schor, a sociologist, economist, author & more, was also featured in the film numerous times. She talked a lot about our relationship with consuming, but the thing that got to me the most was her describing what she wishes would become the new American Dream.

A world where we were less focused on stuff and more focused on our community, where neighbors knew each other and communities thrived. A world where we all were going after our dreams and goals without sacrificing each other, the environment and our planet. A world where we were focused on what really matters to us and less focused on the opinions of others. A world where status came from generosity and compassion instead of cars and houses and social media followings. A world where we loved people more than we love stuff.

This is my dream too. I’ve grown so much in these last 7 months. I feel like a completely different person, yet at the same time I’ve never felt more like myself. I want that feeling, that confidence and empowerment for everyone. When I stop to think about how far we need to go as a society in order to reach that new found freedom, my heart hurts and I start to tear up. 

I yearn for a time in which we all cared more about each other than ourselves. If my journey has taught me anything, it’s that I’m not alone. Everywhere I look people are getting more in touch with who they were created to be, more in touch with how they can make this world a better place, more focused on community, more focused on love & kindness, less focused on stuff, decluttering their homes like their lives depended on it - and this gives me such hope!

This way of living and this mindset aren’t mainstream, but it’s growing and people are becoming more aware. I really do feel that we’re living on the cusp of a very significant time and I’m excited and expectant that the best is yet to come!

I Could Live in a Tiny House

Yup. I could definitely do this. The more I get rid of, the more my mind opens to dreams and desires that have been buried for years. Just by getting rid of your junk, you start to feel like you can do anything. Yes, REALLY! 

I’ve had a couple experiences with living minimally thus far. I backpacked through Europe for over two months in college and out of 35 people I had the least amount of luggage with me, bringing only enough clothes to create seven outfits! I’m still pretty impressed with myself over that - especially because I was SO far from any sort of minimalist lifestyle, it’s not even funny. 

I also lived with our eGroup leaders from church for six months during our engagement and only brought enough things with me to fit inside of an armoire. That particular time shifted something inside of me. I knew that it would be the experience I needed to break me of my materialistic tendencies, and I was right. I never felt like I didn’t have enough - and I still didn’t use everything I brought with me!

Now that we’re 7 months into this, I look around and I feel like I could get rid of so much more, but haven’t because then our house would be pretty empty. We currently live in 1500 sf of space and I know we don’t need all of this. I’m really looking forward to the day when we can design our own place!

That being said, I really want to test out living in a tiny home for a while to see how we like it. I know we could do it, but I still don’t think I would want to do it for a long period of time. Even though I don’t like stuff as much anymore, I still enjoy space. With being an introvert, I don’t think I could handle a tiny home with no place to go and be by myself for a while, but I still would love to try it out as an experiment. So, if you know of a great tiny home near the Charlotte area on AirBnB - let me know! :)

Designing Around Minimalism

There were several designers and architects featured, discussing how to design around your way of life instead of around what you want. I loved that! They mentioned a study done that showed how much of your house you use based off of heat readings. I don’t remember the exact statistic, but it was a very low percentage with most of the gathering occurring in the kitchen.

LifeEdited was one of the firms featured and they demonstrated the design of their NYC apartment - showing how certain walls move to create another room, or how desks and beds are concealed within other walls. It was amazing! They made a tiny NYC apartment so efficient! It was light and airy with plenty of space to entertain, and then could be adjusted to accommodate sleeping and guests. 

As designers, Carl and I were both really excited about that portion of the film and started to discuss and dream about our own future home and how we could possibly incorporate some of those elements. 

Those are just a few takeaways - seriously, the film was phenomenal. There were so many different professions and lifestyles featured so that no matter who you are, you could see yourself in the film and see that living this way is possible! Watching the film left me feeling excited for the future! I encourage you to check it out for yourself and think about it. See if there are any ingredients to this recipe that you can apply to your own life - you won’t regret it!

And with that, I'll leave you with quite possibly the best tagline ever...

Love People & Use Things - Because the Opposite Never Works.
— The Minimalists