Organize & Clean

6 Streaming Documentaries Sure to Fuel Your Minimalist Fire

updated May 3, 2019
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In an increasingly overwhelming world, minimalism is having a moment. It seems very appealing (and doable!) to take control of your life one possession at a time. You can purge what you don’t need, get educated and intentional about what you do need, and forget the rest.

If you constantly feel like you’re too busy, too tired, or too broke, minimalism says that a life with less stuff promises more. More time, more contentment, more money, and perhaps most appealing of all, more happiness. So whether you’ve already Kondo-ed your whole home, are looking for inspiration to do so, or have no idea what I’m talking about, here are 6 documentaries to fuel your minimalist fire this weekend.

1. Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

This film follows The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, on their book tour across the United States as they meet and speak with like-minded people from all walks of life. Through their personal stories, as well as interviews with other prominent minimalists, the film lays out the basics and benefits of a minimalist lifestyle. The Minimalists encourage less compulsory consumption, so that you have space to fill your life with the people, experiences, and yes, even things, that you really love. Watch it on Netflix.

2. The True Cost

This documentary explores the rise of “fast fashion,” or clothing so cheaply made that it’s nearly disposable, and its impact on the world around us. If you’ve ever (or worse, never) wondered how an item of clothing is only $4.99, this eye-opening film looks at just how little workers are paid, their dangerous work conditions, and the negative environmental consequences of an industry focused solely on speed and profit. While many problems often feel too overwhelming to tackle, your closet is a very manageable place for you to begin your minimalist journey. Watch it on Netflix.

3. Small is Beautiful: A Tiny House Documentary

This documentary follows four people as they scrape together the cash and the skills to build their very own tiny houses in Portland Oregon. It’s a refreshingly honest portrait of the emotional, economic, and logistical challenges of tiny home building and living that are often overlooked in other Tiny Home shows. While the film does document the building process, it focuses more on the builders themselves- their motivations, fears, and the freedom they believe owning a tiny house will give them. Watch it on Netflix.

4. Thrive With Less

This documentary, created by six student filmmakers at Michigan State, turns the camera on the filmmakers themselves as they complete six minimalist challenges over the course of one month. They’re extremely earnest in their attempt to strip away all excess, and find more time to explore who they want to be, how they want to find meaning in their lives, and the community they want to surround themselves with. Their challenges provide small actionable ways to incorporate minimalism into various aspects of your own life, from riding your bike on local errands, to staying home with friends and family. Watch it on Vimeo.

5. Happy

This documentary travels around the world exploring what makes people happy and its findings definitely support a minimalist lifestyle, where close relationships and strong communities are highly valued. In the opening sequence, we meet a rickshaw driver in Kolkata, India who is described to be as happy as the average American, despite his absolute lack of material wealth or status. He cites his children, his family, and his community as the sources of his happiness, and people around the world agree with him. A fascinating look at what makes us happy, how we can make ourselves even happier, and what type of life we should pursue, in our pursuit of happiness. Watch it on Netflix.

6. Expedition Happiness

This film follows a filmmaker (Felix Starck) and a musician (Selima Taibi) as they leave behind their lives as busy creative professionals in Berlin to take on a North American adventure in a refurbished school-bus-turned-RV, travelling from Alaska to Argentina with their Bernese Mountain Dog, Rudi. The problems they face along the way showcase what full-time life on the road — living cheaply and freely — can be like. It’s eye and ear candy through and through — with original music by Selima Taibi herself. Watch it on Netflix.

Re-edited from a post originally published 4.13.2017 – TW