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  • Writer's pictureOverturnTheTables


I just finished watching 'The Minimalists' on Netflix and I have a few thoughts on the documentary. I know that it was more or less a promo for the minimalists and their book, but I feel the whole topic could have been dealt with in a much better way. My biggest criticism of the film was that the 'women and children' part of the minimalist story was left to the end.

It is hard as a female to watch a documentary about how these corporate male workers who have the opportunity and the white male privilege of being able to leave their jobs, get rid of all of their stuff and go on adventures. They did have a women early in the documentary that had done it at well. A white woman, with no kids, who probably wasn't going to have kids. A lot of people feel like going on the minimalist journey with their spouse and kids is very challenging. I would be more interested in seeing that journey. The short part at the end where they had a family that they interviewed, I found much more real. They talked about how the ideals were important, and that is what they wanted to pass on to their kids. I think this is a message they should have in a documentary all on its own!!

One of the arguments I think this documentary misses is that, we still need workers. We still need people to work and to do their jobs. We still need people passionate about education. We still need people willing to help the sick and dying. We still need people to farm and to fish and to care for our ecosystems. We still need scientists. We still need engineers. We still need people to fix things. Not everyone can minimize. And I know that they are trying to promote a frame of mind. But I think they focused in the documentary way too much on the whole 'quit your job' aspect of these minimalists. They virtually all had given up their work. And they were all in an incredibly privileged position to be able to do that. They say that it is because they decided that most of their income was used to buy stuff and that is why they could afford to give up their jobs. But the reality is that many people do not have the capacity to choose their employment. There are, for example, women, who are single mums, that have to work multiple jobs to put food on the table, who have to work long hours to ensure that their children can go to school and they need to buy items of clothing and makeup to 'look' their role and work to the expectations of their employers. I can't realistically see these women quitting their jobs to stop buying 'stuff.' But what I find interesting is that this really is a commentary on their lives in the first place. Every person that has the capacity to 'minimize' (including myself I really must admit) is in a position to be able to 'give up things.' What I think this points to is the harsh reality that, as COVID has pointed out, there are some corporate positions that are completely unnecessary, that are paid so highly that the people in them will never have to worry about living within their means. In the documentary they talk a lot about advertising and selling. And so many jobs in that industry are also completely unnecessary. People still need to work, people still need to afford to food, shelter, clothe their families and keep them safe. And the fact that the system we live in now, means that there are high paying white males (stereotyping well here aren't I) who can afford to quit their jobs, go on the road and live the lives that they want while others still struggle to manage for the basics is just awful and unsustainable. Some people would say that this is me talking as a communist. But I don't think that is the answer either! (Why am I trying to solve every problem in one night?).

Also, on a personal note, they show a lot of these guys living out of carry-on luggage and being 'homeless.' I'm basically in that position now, and have been for 6 months due to James staying up in Hervey bay while I moved back to Brisbane and me visiting my parents for internet and a whole range of other things. Can't say I'm a fan. Can't say its good for my mental health. There are people in worse situations than I am... again, who have no choice but to couch surf. I'm not sure how I feel about this.

I also noticed that the film showed them using a number of disposable items. So as much as I adore the minimalist philosophy. The 'minimalist and moving' lifestyle of these corporate men who leave everything and just go on the road with carry-on luggage is also a life that is wasteful. From a zero-waste perspective, I think this is where minimalism doesn't marry with zero-waste. Not all zero-wasters are minimalist... some are borderline hoarders. Not all minimalists are zero-waste. But many who minimize to a tiny house on a plot of land that they can grow and compost on, I think are more heading in the direction that I would want to go in.

I liked a few things about the documentary. One of them being what they said about 'collections.' I think if I was to show this to James he would be interested because we have a very substantial board game and book collection that we consistently use. I also liked the idea of project 333. Look it up ladies, its a great idea! I like what they said about mental health and worry and information overload.

I suppose this is just a friendly reminder to be critical of everything that you watch and read. Not that this is an example of green-washing, but it is something that has a level of hidden biases in it that we need to be conscious of. For some reason while watching it I was reminded of a year 12 assignment I did. Thinking back on it, I can't believe I ever did this. Our task in graphics was to design a drink to market the drink as something more than a drink. So I decided to market water to have a capsule in the top that had seeds in it. With accompanying instructions on the label for how to grow food in the bottle after use. If there isn't a better example of green-washing in the world, I don't know that is!

Be critical.

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