The Minimalists: Less is Now — A Documentary on Intentional Living

Netflix, Inc.
Netflix, Inc.

About the Minimalists

Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus are longtime friends who promote and practise a minimalist lifestyle. Authors, bloggers, podcasters, filmmakers, and public speakers, the two minimalists now share their latest documentary film on Netflix titled The Minimalists: Less is Now.

What exactly is minimalism?

The definition from Cambridge Dictionary states minimalism as ‘a style in art, design, and theatre that uses the smallest range of materials and colours possible, and only very simple shapes or forms’. 

Deriving from the same meaning, a way of living known as the minimalist lifestyle is created. While there are several definitions, the essence is very much the same — to live with less.

Living with only the essentials, minimalists strive to lead a lifestyle that focuses on experiences and relationships instead of material possessions.

Netflix, Inc.

About the film

Delving deeper into the ideologies of minimalism, the Netflix film explores Millburn and Nicodemus’ thoughts behind this lifestyle. “How might your life be better with less?” 

Introducing Millburn as the first of the two to embrace minimalism, the film illustrates the life events behind this adaptation of lifestyle and his pursuit of happiness. 

Meanwhile, Nicodemus’ unconventional ‘packing party’ wherein he stores all the items he owns except for the essentials, has proven an interesting point. Only 20 per cent of his possessions provide value to his life while the remaining 80 per cent are still in the boxes. Do we really need all these stuff around us to live a fulfilling life? 

The Minimalists: Less is Now encourages viewers to take a step back and think about life beyond material possessions.

Consumerism and its impact

“The consumer world understands that if I can get you to choose before you think, I’m gonna get you to buy things you do not need.” – The Minimalists: Less is Now

The 53-minute film begins with a short introduction of the flourishing e-commerce industry today. In a world driven by material possessions, the film highlights the negative connotation of success being tied to items and the validation of people by the things they own. 

Consumerism has us trapped in a cycle of never feeling satisfied. This constant encouragement to have the latest electronic gadget and to accumulate items has us conditioned to spend in order to achieve happiness. ‘More, more, and more’, this endless pursuit of things may seem attractive at first but may only end up causing guilt, stress, and debt.

Millburn’s story

Growing up poor, Millburn had once envisioned a future filled with money and material possessions, defining them as the epitome of success. However, despite achieving the ‘American Dream’ with a high-paying job, he had found his life lacklustre. 

Shortly after the two life-changing events in his life, his mother’s death and divorce, Millburn discovered minimalism. In time, he realised that he had abandoned what had truly mattered in his pursuit of ‘success’. This leads to him practising minimalism, enabling him to search for the true meaning of happiness.

“Our memories are not in our things, our memories are inside us” – Joshua Millburn

When his mother had passed away, Millburn had intended to keep a full storage of all her possessions. However, he decided to keep only a few selected memorabilia, donating, and giving the rest away instead. This scene had struck an emotional chord in my heart, I too had wanted to keep all material possessions of a lost loved one for nostalgia. But, love and memories are not found in boxes.

The Minimalists’ minimalism

Minimalism is not only about living with as few possessions as possible. Minimalism is to have the freedom to find our passion and to live our life with love. 

The problem with today’s world is the importance we have given onto our material possessions thus forsaking our health, relationships, and passions in the process. In the meantime, this endless chase of items has taken up space in our living area and accumulated into debt. 

The incorporation of minimalism in their lives have enabled Millburn and Nicodemus to find intentional living. The detachment of success from material and monetary value is the first step to happiness and they hope to impart this knowledge to their followers. 

Netflix, Inc.

The “Less is Now” challenge

At the end of the film, Millburn and Nicodemus provide a challenge for their viewers — the “Less is Now” challenge. Partnering with a close one, viewers are encouraged to let go of one thing they own on day one, two things on day two, three things on day three, and so on. 

These items may not have to be discarded but to be donated, sold or recycled.

The verdict

“A life of passion, unencumbered by the trappings of the chaotic world around you. What you’re imagining is an intentional life.” – Ryan Nicodemus 

The film has taught me to live life intentionally, providing a great insight to the minimalist lifestyle. While I may not be able to completely abandon spending on ‘wants’, it has definitely conveyed a lesson of mindful purchase. Does this item really make me happy? Do I have enough money after purchasing this item? What am I going to use this item for? 

Through a simple message of less is more, Millburn and Nicodemus have provided ample examples and pointers to live a simpler, happier life without being tethered to the chase of material possessions. 

Like Marie Kondo’s method of keeping only items that spark joy, it is pertinent to stop purchasing items frivolously. After all, happiness is not found in accumulating things but to be found in relationships, experiences, and passion.


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