More Than Just Less Stuff: A Minimalist Approach to Technology and Life
Many minimalism blogs are dedicated to things like streamlining your life through only owning a certain number of personal possessions or becoming a digital nomad. However the main focus of minimalism is finding the core features of your life that make you happy — and leaving the rest behind.
In the age of technology — with smart phone addiction, constant notifications and information overload, many people are seeking ways to disengage with a system designed to constantly increase our screen time. As a result, alternative lifestyles have emerged as a way to push back against these new unhealthy habits and achieve greater happiness and health.
One of the most interesting developments of the last years has been a lifestyle choice called minimalism. Minimalism as a concept, is about distilling down the essential things in your life, whether those essentials are relationships, possessions, how you spend your time or even what you read.
While minimalist techno, minimalist design, or art share the same underlying concept — minimalism as a lifestyle can be a way to help combat a number of issues we face living in the modern world. As a minimalist, all non-essential things can be left behind, allowing more time and focus for the things that really bring you value, and ultimately make you happier.
What is Minimalism?
The origin of minimalism depends on the context in which you discuss it. However all minimalist movements stem from the question ‘What is essential?’.
Minimalism can apply to almost any topic but is often associated with an artistic, musical and design movement as well as more recently, a lifestyle.
For many, minimalism is a post-WWII artistic movement that emerged from New York City in the 1960s. Many notable artists from the minimalist era were creating not only to ask what is essential to create art but also challenge what art is. The movement is characterized by the distillation of form to barebones compositions, often geometric with limited color pallets.
Alternatively, some talk about minimalism with regards to minimalist music. Minimalist music has it’s roots in the 1960s downtown scene in NYC. It uses limited materials and no narrative structure, gradually progressing or gradually transforming with the repetition smaller musical phases without an obvious goal.
Minimalist design and minimalist architecture is often associated with the strict formalism of the German Bauhaus. All minimalist design again distills function down to only the essentials — creating structures that use only the minimum materials (and nothing more) to achieve the desired use of the object or building.
Minimalism can be applied to nearly anything. This ‘distilling down’ to the essential is the most important quality of minimalism, often giving way to a simplistic beauty without any distraction.
When it comes to having a minimalist lifestyle, there is a lot of debate as to what actually qualifies. Many blogs are dedicated to things like streamlining your life through only owning a certain number of personal possessions or becoming a digital nomad.
These are all viable routes toward a minimalist lifestyle. However, the main focus of minimalism is finding the core features of your life that make you happy — and leaving the rest behind.
“Minimalism isn’t just one way of life. It’s figuring out what works best for you (and your family if you have one) but being more mindful of what you own and do. Not obsessing over possessions, but being mindful. It’s about finding contentment.” — Leo Babauta of mnmlist.com
A minimalist approach extends to how you access information, treat relationships and any other element in your life. Here are the three that most modern minimalists focus on as important when trying to live a more minimal life:
For many people, there is a difficulty when separating a sense of happiness from an excess of material possessions. Many begin their minimalist lifestyle by downsizing their number of possessions. There are a lot of reasons we buy more stuff than we need but essentially, minimalistic living questions what we need to be happy. Possessions that do not directly correlate with our essential activities should be removed. This may seem counterintuitive, but it’s been proven that excess brings stress and distraction rather than happiness. Challenges like the Project 333 where people will downsize their wardrobe, offer guidelines and a path toward living better with less.
Part of living minimally is living more deliberately, which extends not only to objects, but also people. One of the features of the digital age and increased ability to keep in touch with people both nearby and far via technological communication channels and social media.
This is a double edged sword, because it allows us to find people with similar values despite proximity (which can be incredibly fulfilling) but also maintain relationships with hundreds or thousands of people (which can be exhausting). Minimalists apply the same approach to their relationships as their possessions, opting to focus on fewer relationships that provide more value.
Each day we are inundated with information through our phones, computers, televisions and various connected devices. This information excess is not only detrimental to our ability to focus, it also gives way to feelings of need and discontent.
This ‘never enough’ feeling can extend from physical possessions and friends to information. To achieve minimalistic living, many pare down their consumption of information, both in how they choose to consume, but also what they choose to consume in order to maintain focus. Even simple steps like taking your smartphone out of the bedroom to cut down on constant notifications can provide a huge decrease in stress.
Not everyone needs to be a minimalist, however the question of how you consume is critical to ask. Whether you’re an individual or a company, it’s necessary to question how you engage with the world — particularly as technology evolves and changes our behaviors.
We think that technology companies will benefit greatly from minimalist living considering these questions so as to make better products that are more valuable to customers — improving their lives instead of trying to profit off their addiction.
Are you living as a minimalist? We would love to hear more! You can always reach us with ideas, feedback and questions at firstname.lastname@example.org