BOOK REVIEW: Love People, Use Things by The Minimalists

The full title of this book is Love People, Use Things Because the Opposite Never Works. A saying pretty regularly touted by the Minimalists – Joshua and Ryan.  

The Minimalists are not new to having me review their work. I have a review of their second Netflix Documentary (Review HERE). Additionally, I’ve also mentioned a few times in other posts that I do not enjoy their work. I gave their podcast the good college try back in 2017/2018. I believe that they haven’t been able to produce a new idea since they first started their blog ten years ago.  

flat lay photography of red anti radiation handset telephone beside iphone
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Now that I disclosed my bias, I want to make clear that I wanted to like this book, or for it to surprise me. I don’t like the idea of torturing myself for 10 hours for this blog (at least not until I get monetized… someone pls sponsor me). I went into the audiobook listening experience with good intentions, despite me not liking the authors.  

Unfortunately, this book did not surprise me… And the book mildly annoyed me for about 8 hours.  

I borrowed the book on Libby and once I started, I procrastinated continuing listening to it. When it automatically returned, I still had about two hours of run time left and I didn’t care.

In fact, I actually ended up listening to the podcast about the Elizabeth Holmes trial in the last hour I had the book for because it was way more interesting.  

The book was published in July 2021. If you are reading this in the future and don’t remember, that was still in the height of the Covid-19 global pandemic. The book isn’t very shaped by the pandemic, with the exception of the Preface. Below is a passage I wrote on my phone when I heard it in my audiobook: 

“In many ways [this book is] a pandemic preparation manual. If only we could have gotten this book into the hands of the struggling people before the spread of the virus. We would have prevented a great deal of heartache. Because intentional living is the best form of preparation.”  

That passage rubbed me the wrong way, for a lot of reasons. This passage is mostly referencing preppers and people that panic bought toilet paper at the start of the pandemic. As well, as people becoming aware of how uncomfortable their physical spaces made them, since they had to be home all the time. Both of those are real, and kinda privileged things that happened. But no amount of people living a minimalist life would have prevented COVID and the loss of life for millions of people around the world. In fact, the most effective preparation would have been to strengthen our healthcare systems, and paying our healthcare/essential workers an equitable wage and get the vaccine. Things that minimalism can’t fucking fix…  

Anyways, enough of me being frustrated by the pandemic, and back to the book.  

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In the Preface Joshua, the blonde Minimalists in the photos and main narrator of the book, mentions that if you know the Minimalist, Chapter 1 will be repetitive. So they are becoming somewhat self-aware.  

The last comment I had about the Preface was the stat that 95% of discarded clothing can be reused or recycled. But for some reason, they didn’t include that very little of the textile waste stream is sold secondhand, reused or recycled and that annoyed me (About 80% goes to landfill btw).

As mentioned before, and in other posts. The Minimalists are really dated and haven’t evolved in the past ten years. This couldn’t have been more obvious than when Joshua was discussing marketing and Billboards with ads for skinny jeans? Hello? 2011 called and they want their fashion trends back. Also, Billboards? Honey, if that isn’t an undisclosed sponsorship on Instagram or Tiktok, is it really an clothing ad? 

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Photo by Liza Summer on

I didn’t know until I was doing research for this post, but it’s part memoir. I believe they already have memoirs, so I don’t understand why this book had to be one too.

The first part of the book is detailing the Minimalists’ journey, that we’ve all heard before. As well, it goes deep on how terrible people Joshua and Ryan were before they found minimalism. Like both cheated, Ryan drove under the influence a bunch of time (luckily not killing anyone). I think they are trying to open up about these negative traits they used to have as a way to show that you need to be truly honest and open, since lying just leads down bad roads. 

I don’t think it landed the way they planned. There’s just such a privilege that comes with being able to talk about your drug use, and possible history of being a drug dealer (as I understood it, I totally could be wrong, don’t quote me, this isn’t libel) in a book without any real consequences.  

This feels extremely mean to write, but Joshua needs to go into therapy to talk to a professional about his mom. He spend a lot of time about his mom with a lot of anecdotes. Which some people might find interesting. But the volume of it… it’s so boring…. I probably could have finished the book on time if like two mom anecdotes were cut from the book. (like the hot dog joke for sure, that didn’t bring anything to the table. I won’t retell it but it’s not good). We, as your audience, will never care about your mom the way you do.

Joshua if you have the misfortune of reading this post: It seems like you still have a lot of complicated feelings you need to work through. Please talk to a professional about it!  

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Anyways… I actually probably should mention the format of the book. Each chapter is about a relationship (with your stuff, with yourself, others, money etc). I forgot that was the plan until Ryan would show up in my ear telling me some minimalist tips, and some exercises that reflect what was learnt in the chapter.

So Joshua would just chatter about his relationship with himself and I was supposed to learn something from that? I did try for the first couple chapters and looking back on my notes for this post. I have the following:  

Relationship 1 (Stuff), Question 4 – What is the real cost (beyond money) holding on to your items is costing you?  

  • Time dusting  
  • Partner complaining I have too many plants  
  • Time packing and unpacking when I move.  

Relationship 1 (Stuff), Question 6 – What did you learn about your relationship with material stuff this chapter? 

  • Nothing. Y’all ain’t original lol 
  • Idk… I probably should probably downsize in preparation for my next move, again.  
  • Straight up, forgot the chapter minus the skinny jean comment.  

Final thing, they quote Jordan Peterson and Dave Ramsey. Icons! 🙄 🙄🙄 #IYKYK

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If you couldn’t tell, I hated this book! Like, way more then I wanted to or expected to. Typically Minimalists content makes my eyes roll a bit but I can get over it. But after listening to ¾ of this book I should probably book an optometrist appointment to make sure my eyes didn’t pull a muscle or something from how hard they were working. Despite me not using them to read the book.

I can’t recommend this book. It was far too long, covers no ground and made me lose what little respect I did have for The Minimalists.  

Not to be fully negative: Below is a tweet-able sentence that I like in regard letting go of physical as well as emotional things.  

A willingness to let go, is one of life’s most mature virtues”.  

I thought that was nice, and there were a couple small lines, here and there, of a similar nature that were alright.  But not enough to read the book. You can find listicles online of the best quotes if you are interested.

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Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

Anyways… If you are curious about books that I actually finished, you can read my rankings of Minimalism and Decluttering books here.

I threw this Drew Gooden video at the end of my review of the documentary. I’m sharing it again because I love it and he hits on the points I have, but funnier than me:

MOVIE REVIEW: The Minimalists: Less is Now

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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.

Review time:

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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.

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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: