Looking for inspiration to live more with less? Here is our list of documentaries about minimalism, less waste and more.

10 Must-Watch Documentaries for Aspiring Minimalists

Paul Ryken and Sandra Rosenau Last Updated: Friday 27 March 2020 Discover Minimalism, Limit your footprint Leave a Comment

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Podcasts, books, (video) blogs and documentaries about minimalism (and its various incarnations) have been a great source of inspiration (and motivation booster) on our journey, and we are keen to share with you a shortlist of documentaries and television shows that have influenced our way of thinking and living over the past 3+ years (in alphabetical order).

If the clutter in your home causes you unnecessary stress or you are sick of mindless (over-)consumption and the impact it has on us and our beautiful planet, these may give you the final kick in the butt to start your own minimalist journey.

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Affluenza / Escape from Affluenza

Minimalism as a movement began long before The Minimalists came along. The 1997 documentary, Affluenza, called it Voluntary Simplicity, and disturbingly, what was discussed then is still relevant today.

Affluenza and its sequel, Escape from Affluenza, provide a look at the rampant materialism consuming America and show that we have not learnt our lessons over the past 20 years.

Books such as The Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith (originally published in 1958), Giving Kids The Business by Alex Molnar, and Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin are referenced in the documentaries for good reason. If you can look past the 1990s hairdos, these documentaries will get you thinking about what is important and what is ethical in our western society. Maybe, we’ll learn our lessons now.

Escape from Affluenza is a Must-Watch Documentary for Aspiring Minimalists

Watch it on:

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IMDB logo
Rating
76%

Affluenza / Escape from Affluenza

Average Rating: 7.7
Votes: 17
Reviews: 1

Consumed

Not technically a documentary but a reality-TV show, de-cluttering expert Jill Pollack challenges families who are drowning in their stuff to live with only the bare essentials for two weeks and get rid of 75% of their stuff by the end of the experiment. With (most of) their possessions gone, each family is forced to confront the real issues that were buried under all their stuff, issues that have affected their relationships and quality of life.

Jill revisits the families after three months to see how they are going. Sadly, it’s no surprise that some of them have fallen back to old habits. While interesting to watch, the show would have done a better service to those featured if it had included counselling/psychotherapy sessions for some of the protagonists, as the underlying issues – in some cases significant mental health issues – can’t be truly addressed without them.

Consumed: One of the curated Must-Watch Documentaries for Aspiring Minimalists

Watch it on:

Netflix
IMDB logo
Rating
66%

Do you prefer listening to podcasts? Here is our short list of podcasts relating to happiness, minimalism, simple living and more.

Living On One Dollar

Living on One Dollar follows four young American friends as they live in Guatemala for two months on just $1 a day – the harsh reality for 1.3bn people around the world, including many Guatemaltecos – battling hunger and parasites, and realizing that there are no easy answers.

While in Guatemala, the guys released short YouTube videos about their experience. The videos quickly received over 700,000 views, inspiring them to produce a feature-length film, Living on One Dollar, to mobilize others to help end extreme poverty. Living on One Dollar is one of the most thought-provoking and inspiring documentaries we have seen, and it didn’t come as a surprise to us when it won Best Documentary at the Sonoma International Film Festival.

Living on a Dollar is a Must-Watch Documentary for Aspiring Minimalists

Watch it on:

Netflix
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IMDB logo
Rating
59%
Rotten Tomatoes is a review-aggregation website for films and televisions programs.
Audience Score: Who liked It
74%

Living on One Dollar is a must watch film that provides a unique look into the hardship and hope of life in extreme poverty. – Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Laureate

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (aka The Minimalists) are the two most well-known advocates for minimalism. They started touring in 2011, book publishing in 2012, and then released this documentary in 2016.

This documentary has become the most referenced and searched for documentary around minimalism and values-based living. It revolves around Joshua and Ryan, and their 2014 tour to promote the book Everything that Remains. It cuts back and forth from their experiences and interactions on the tour with other prominent advocates for the movement including Dan Harris (10% Happier), Patrick Rhone (Enough), Tammy Strobel (You Can Buy Happiness – And It’s Cheap), Colin Beavan (No Impact Man), Leo Babauta (Zen Habits), Joshua Becker (Clutter-free With Kids) and Christine Koh (Minimalist Parenting).

Minimalism: One of the curated Must-Watch Documentaries for Aspiring Minimalists

Watch it on:

Netflix
Buy movies and TV shows, download or stream them, and watch them anywhere
IMDB logo
Rating
67%
Rotten Tomatoes is a review-aggregation website for films and televisions programs.
Audience Score: Who liked It
51%

If you watch the film, you may have the same reaction as I did – reach for my phone and turn it off as the credits rolled. Instead of wasting time and mental energy scrolling through social media before bed, I felt inspired to disconnect completely. That was 12 hours ago and my phone is still off. It feels amazing – Katherine Martinko from Treehugger

Want more? Our complete list of minimalism, sustainability and anti-consumerism documentaries is available on IMDB.

The Clean Bin Project

Could you ever live completely waste free? In this award-winning documentary, partners Jen and Grant go head to head to see who can swear off consumerism and produce the least amount of garbage.

Described as An Inconvenient Truth meets Super Size Me, Jen and Grant’s light-hearted competition examines a darker problem: waste. Featuring laugh out loud moments, memorable images, great animations and captivating interviews, this film is a fun and inspiring call to individual action.

The Clean Bin Project is a Must-Watch Documentary for Aspiring Minimalists

Watch it on:

Buy movies and TV shows, download or stream them, and watch them anywhere
Vimeo provides free video viewing services as a competitor to YouTube.
IMDB logo
Rating
78%
Rotten Tomatoes is a review-aggregation website for films and televisions programs.

One of those rare documentaries that make you feel like you can do something about the problems in our world. – Vail Daily

The True Cost

The True Cost is not just a documentary about sweat shops. It explores issues of materialism and over-consumption, the power of advertising, and the social and environmental impacts of fast fashion. The documentary is a collage of interviews with garment industry workers, factory owners, environmentalists, and people promoting fair trade and sustainable clothing production. A real eye-opener… at least for us.

The True Cost: One of the curated Must-Watch Documentaries for Aspiring Minimalists

Watch it on:

Netflix
Buy movies and TV shows, download or stream them, and watch them anywhere
IMDB logo
Rating
77%
Rotten Tomatoes is a review-aggregation website for films and televisions programs.
Audience Score: Who liked It
65%

The customers have to know they’re in charge. You don’t have to buy into it. – Stella McCartney talking in the documentary

Do you know if what you wear is sustainably and ethically made? Not sure? Learn how to find out more about your stuff. It’s eye-opening.

Thrive With Less

As part of a project, six millennials document their search for what it looks like to live minimally in an excess-driven society. The participants ask some probing and pertinent questions of themselves and of the viewers:

  • When did we decide that more is better, yet never enough?
  • When did social media, fancy cars and fashion take priority over family, friends and the things we’re passionate about?

Somewhere along the way our society has become more focused on attaining fleeting sources of gratification than working towards establishing true, lasting joy. This is a lesser known documentary with a small budget feel, so it may not be everyone’ s cup of tea.

Thrive With Less is a Must-Watch Documentary for Aspiring Minimalists

Watch it on:

Vimeo provides free video viewing services as a competitor to YouTube.
IMDB logo
Rating
66%
Rotten Tomatoes is a review-aggregation website for films and televisions programs.

I found some parts of this film uncomfortable. The film quickly moves on from an initial sense of elation to one of potentially troubling discomfort. – Minimaldrobe

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo

Author Marie Kondo offers tips and sparks joy with her art of keeping your home and workspace tidy and organized. Her 8-part Netflix series looks at different couples, from those with toddlers to empty nesters and downsizers. And in each episode, she presents different ideas on how to organise the house to be less cluttered and feel more like home.

Marie’s show is both entertaining – in a reality TV kind of way – and enlightening. While it isn’t the most riveting, her specific advice is fresh and thought-provoking, especially if you haven’t read her books (which includes us).

Tidying Up With Marie Kondo: One of the curated Must-Watch Documentaries for Aspiring Minimalists

Watch it on:

Netflix
IMDB logo
Rating
79%
Rotten Tomatoes is a review-aggregation website for films and televisions programs.

Tidying Up With Marie Kondo isn’t life-changing, But it is surprisingly watchable. – Jen Chaney

What Would Jesus Buy?

A parody of sorts, infusing consumerism during the holiday period with religious overtones, Reverend Billy from the Stop Shopping Church, along with his Gospel Choir, travel from New York to Los Angeles to fight the Shopocalypse and reinforce their (despite the wrapping) serious message: Stop shopping.

On their road trip in the weeks between Black Friday and Christmas, they brave harsh winter weather, hostile security personnel and even a threat to their own mortality, but a scene on a parking lot at Christmas Eve makes all challenges worthwhile (you’ll have to watch it to know what we’re talking about).

As with Affluenza / Escape from Affluenza, this documentary is 20 years old, yet its message is as topical as ever. Sad but true.

What Would Jesus Buy is a Must-Watch Documentary for Aspiring Minimalists

Watch it on:

IMDB logo
Rating
64%
Rotten Tomatoes is a review-aggregation website for films and televisions programs.
Audience Score: Who liked It
56%

Must see viewing for anyone who thinks of Christmas as just a mall and its night visitors – Ann Hornaday from the Washington Post.

Why Denmark is the Happiest Country

We only watched this television show recently upon recommendation by our friend Christine (thank you) and found it to be a refreshing take on how minimalism can contribute to living a happier life.

In this show, Oprah Winfrey gets an insight into Danish life when she visits Denmark’s capital Copenhagen. She speaks to locals and experts, trying to understand why the country regularly tops the Happiness Report rankings. Comparing the lives of the Danes she meets with those of her fellow Americans, she discovers that spending time with loved ones is more important (to the Danes) than owning a big house full of stuff. Or as one of the people she meets puts it: Small space. Fewer things. More life.

Could living with less be the key (for all of us) to living a happier life?

Why Denmark is the Happiest Country

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Watch on YouTube Now
SaleBestseller No. 1
Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World
Hardcover Book; Newport, Cal (Author); English (Publication Language); 304 Pages - 02/05/2019 (Publication Date) - Portfolio (Publisher)
$16.49
Bestseller No. 2
Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life
Amazon Kindle Edition; Millburn, Joshua Fields (Author); English (Publication Language); 141 Pages - 12/08/2011 (Publication Date) - Asymmetrical Press (Publisher)
$8.99
SaleBestseller No. 3
The Minimalist Way: Minimalism Strategies to Declutter Your Life and Make Room for Joy
Layne, Erica (Author); English (Publication Language); 157 Pages - 03/12/2019 (Publication Date) - Althea Press (Publisher)
$12.29
Bestseller No. 4
Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism
Amazon Kindle Edition; Sasaki, Fumio (Author); English (Publication Language); 260 Pages - 04/11/2017 (Publication Date) - W. W. Norton & Company (Publisher)
$11.83

What (other) documentaries have inspired you to declutter your (home or work) environment, become a more conscious shopper and consume less? What resonated most while watching these documentaries? Please leave a comment below.

Feature photo by Pim Chu on Unsplash.

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Looking for inspiration to live more with less? Here is our list of documentaries about minimalism, less waste and more.
Looking for inspiration to live more with less? Here is our list of documentaries about minimalism, less waste and more.
Looking for inspiration to live more with less? Here is our list of documentaries about minimalism, less waste and more.

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