Right off the top: I don’t like The Minimalists, so I will probably be a bit bias in this documentary review. I gave their podcast a listen for about 2-3 months back in 2017 after the Messy Minimalist recommended them. I just can’t get past their vague way of discussing topics. They had a segment where they would try to answer readers questions in tweet (back when it was only 140 characters) length answer. They’re answers were, in my opinion, stupid and never actually answered the question. This might be more of a reflection of how I’m wired, any sort of high level, HR or motivational speak just doesn’t click for me. If it isn’t specific I will probably not absorb or like it.
I also think their blog is pretentious. I did poke fun of it a bit in my Goodbye, Things Book Review.
So why am I watching this piece of media that I will probably not like? Content baby! But also because I like Matt D’Avella, the documentary’s director. I don’t watch all of his videos. But I think he’s a much more palatable version of what The Minimalists are trying to push.
The Minimalist do have another documentary on Netflix, that came out four years ago. I haven’t seen it but I don’t think that it will impact the viewing. Maybe, one day, I’ll give it a whirl.
I don’t believe that this documentary teaches you anything particularly revolutionary. If you’ve consumed The Minimalists (or Matt’s) content before this point or have read a book about decluttering/minimalism. Which makes sense if their target audience are people that haven’t done any of the things mentioned above and want to learn the good word about owning less shit.
Clocking in at about 53 mins, it felt a weird combo of being too long and too short. I wish the parts about Joshua and Ryan’s journey into Minimalism were shorter. Probably because I’ve heard it a number of times the few months I listened to their podcast, and the story of affluent white dudes isn’t that interesting to me.
It would have been nice to have a deeper conversation with their experts. Particularly Annie Leonard, I just finished the Story of Stuff. She’s great at presenting information about how hype consumerism is destroying the planet. Heck, I would even tolerate more Dave I will yell at you if you own a credit card Ramsey if it meant we heard more from the experts and testimonials.
For example, they had a 17 year old girl on screen once in the whole doc. I want to hear more from her, as a person that is probably one of the most advertised demographics in the USA. I’m curious to hear her opinion and experience.
It just seems odd that The Minimalist have been online for 10 years and this is their second Netflix documentary. Yet, they seem to only be able to talk about the same stories and push the same two ‘challenges’. The Packing Party, where you pack all your shit like you are going to move and just remove items as needed over the next 3-4 weeks. And the Minimalism Game, where on the first day you remove one item, day two – two items, day 3- items. At the end you will have removed (by trash, sell or donation) about 500 items from your house.
I’ve done variations of both and can say that it is effective at highlighting the items that you actually use. I might go into detail at some point about my experiences with it.
But to circle back, I feel like if the Minimalists are getting a little stale on ideals. So having other people either experts or testimonials take a larger portion of the screen time would have helped this project. Maybe that was the plan but 2020 made shooting more difficult. I don’t know, but the doc feels more like a long trailer than a documentary. It didn’t go deep enough.
I thought that it was well shot, and there was some really cute animations and graphics to keep it you watching. I really enjoyed those parts. But it wasn’t enough to I keep me from going back to my phone to complain to my friends about the doc.
Overall, it’s short and if you have Netflix and need something to watch as you fold laundry, it might be a good pick. Otherwise, I don’t believe that it’s worth seeking out.
Update: 2021-02-06: Drew Gooden did a awesome video about this doc that I found really funny and I pretty much agree with everything he said: