Living with less26 Feb 2013
Any talk of perfection is often linked to minimalism.
Growing up and learning about design, I was advised to know when something is both nice and useful when “when there is nothing more to remove”. That became the mark of near-perfection to me. As a result I have tried to abide by this rule when going about design and writing. This decision has come to haunt me on several occasions with comments centering on the work appearing “bland”, not exciting, very quiet and such. So maybe sometimes I personally have taken it too far? A big possibility given i’m not much of a designer but minimalism doesn’t just stop at design. Recently I have wondered if the “less is more” principle can be applicable across all the other domains that are just as important in life. For example, when designing a room or envisioning one we would like to own, can we think of the space being plain and bare as opposed to a buzzing work area? How would that register with our minds and desire to own it?
Let’s dial back a bit; one of the reasons minimalism is hard to apply in our daily lives is because we have been wired to believe more is, well, actually more. Living with less when you can afford more is seen as self-inflicted mediocrity. We love lives filled with splendor and glee, even if it may be for a second, we like to wow and be dazzled by something. With minimalism this is often taken away and replaced with function. The core of what achieves a goal is given highest priority. So when it comes to attire for example, we don’t just don a t-shirt and pants and leave it there. We like to add-on some flair, a few rings, a Nike shoe, a sticker on a shiny laptop, stuff like that. Minimalism strikes me as a very unnatural step. Much like being a CEO according to Brad Horowitz.
In athletics, some things like becoming a sprinter can be learned relatively quickly because they take a natural motion and refine it. Others, like boxing, take much longer to master, because they require lots of unnatural motions. For example, when going backwards in boxing, it’s critically important to pick up your back foot first, because if you get hit while walking backwards the natural way—picking up your front foot first—often leads to getting knocked cold. Learning to make this unnatural motion feel natural takes a great deal of practice.
It is damn difficult to live a minimalist lifestyle because it borders on self-deprivation, clear focus and unwavering discipline. On one side of the pendulum we have celebrities, who take pride in living in excess and on the other side we have the “eccentrics”, the Mark Zuckerbergs, the Larry Pages, billionaires who choose to live for much bigger purposes, it seems. Save for their little houses, little cars and normal attire could these guys overdo it in some other areas too?
Is living with less likely to bring you the happiness you want? I would love to hear what you think.