Last week I watched a documentary on Netflix called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. The very next day I made a trip to Goodwill, and brought with me two large garbage bags of clothes, two brown bags of shoes, and two medium-sized boxes of miscellaneous old household “stuff”. I haven’t stopped thinking about the documentary since.
While I was cleaning out my closet, I got to thinking about the term “Minimalism,” and how it generally scares people away because most of us probably have this vision in our heads that being a Minimalist means owning next to nothing. It means an empty house and plain clothes. After watching the documentary though, I don’t feel that way at all. You see, I think Minimalism differs from person to person, because it’s about owning things that truly matter to you. Quality over Quantity. The doc uses the phrase, “Does this item bring value to your life?” And if it does, then keep it! If it doesn’t, then why are you holding onto it? After stirring on it for a couple of days, maybe I’d even go as far as saying Minimalism simply means cutting back on all the “stuff” – literally and figuratively – that doesn’t bring any happiness or value into our lives.
Because “stuff” shouldn’t be confined to only mean things that we can hold and feel and see.
The documentary touches on a lot of different subjects and different kinds of Minimalists and how they live their lives. It talks about how the “American Dream” used to mean coming to America and making a comfortable 50 – 60,000 dollar salary. And with that salary you could buy a house and a car and live a very comfortable life supporting yourself.
You were happy.
Since then, however, things have shifted and now we’re all in this new mindset that we need to make upwards of a six-figure salary in order to be deemed successful and happy by society. Because to be successful and happy means owning a big house and multiple cars and filling that house – and all of those empty rooms – with all this “stuff.” But is that “stuff” bringing any value to our lives if we don’t even look at it everyday? Probably not.
Are our closets, filled with 52 seasons worth of clothing (yes, fifty-two!), bringing any value into our lives if we spend half a paycheck on things we’ll wear only once? Probably not.
The documentary chronicles a couple different people who had that six-figure salary and were at the top of their games in their field, but they weren’t happy. And so the pursuit should really be about happiness, don’t you think? … Do you love what you’re doing? If you do, great! Keep doing it! If you don’t, then why don’t you do the things that you love and not spend the time—in this instance, the “stuff” is time—on the things that don’t really matter to you? The main point being that social media and advertising and what other people tell you do not define your own success and happiness. You do.
After watching Minimalism, I felt really inspired. I was reading a post by another blogger who has decided that she and her family will buy no new “stuff” for the entire year. And while I admire her quest, I’m not going to set out to do that. Instead, I’m focusing on Minimalism in other ways. Yes, I cut out some of the tangible stuff that’s been cluttering up my closet, my underwear drawer, and even the junk drawer in our kitchen (why do we all seem to have one of those, anyway?), and yes, I’ve already been asking myself a few important questions before purchasing something new: “do I really need this?” and “does this item bring value into my life?” or “do I already have something at home that will suffice for this particular ‘need’?” (My wallet is already thanking me!) But the “stuff” that I’m choosing to focus more on is the figurative stuff.
Relationships with others, personal and professional goals, dreams and aspirations, time and energy.
Letting go of the things I don’t really want or need in my life, and instead, channeling that energy into the things that I really love –people, especially. How often do we sacrifice time with the people we really really love and can’t get enough of, for others whom we don’t quite enjoy ourselves with as much, or for jobs or activities that we don’t necessarily relish in? Let’s cut the crap, so to speak.
The more time I’ve spent thinking about this documentary, the more the second part of its title has stood out to me: A Documentary About the Important Things, because ‘the important things’ are subjective, and because “things” can’t be defined as solely concrete items, it leaves Minimalism to be defined by each of us differently. It’s easy to look at Minimalism on the surface level and to define it simply as having less “stuff.” But when you delve a little bit further into what “stuff” can really mean, I think Minimalism just means caring more about the deeper kind of “stuff” in our lives. And that’s pretty rad, in my eyes at least.
The Quick Facts:
Title: MINIMALISM: A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE IMPORTANT THINGS.
By: JOSHUA FIELDS MILLBURN & RYAN NICODEMUS.
Length: 1 HOUR & 15 MINUTES.
Where to find it: NETFLIX.