Less is more… what?
Minimalism is often condenced into the phrase “Less is more.”
But like most sayings, “less is more” could do with an explanation. The idiom doesn’t offer any consolidation, nor invite into action. Its simplicity has created a clean white door without a handle. What, exactly, can “less” so kindly promise?
Maybe the penner of the slogan left us clues. Enter German-American minimalist architect, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
Mies van der Rohe is one of the thought-leaders of the modern minimalist movement, which is growing in popularity. But even if you have never heard the name, Mies van der Rohe’s style is familiar to any urban dweller. His idea of beauty inspired the steel-and-glass buildings that scrape city skylines today.
Though his aesthetic is sterile, Mies designed his pointy monuments to target a single purpose. His buildings were not meant for leisure and socializing, unlike open gardens, café boulevards or cobbled piazzas. Instead, these structures were cleared from colors, interesting shapes, sounds and excessive smells.
He made buildings that reflect the undistracted focus of the people inside them.
Isn’t less… boring?
Granted, having more ‘nothing’ doesn’t sound too appealing. But Mies van der Rohe’s cold architecture is not entirely to blame.
Minimalism is not made appealing through marketing, since “less is more” is a stumbling block to capitalist ideology. Influence, self-improvement, and happiness are meant to come from luxurious excess. These ideas are spoonfed through advertisement, until nothing no longer enough.
Because minimalism doesn’t sell to a mass audience, its core sentiment should be revised into something more optimistic. And more seduction.
Something like less but better or less but…
1. More creativity
Creativity requires a lack of already made creations.
Like a freshly painted wall on a busy city square, it begs to be tarnished, softly whispering “draw on me” to passers by. Likewise, the compulsion to hum in an empty house is tempted by the lack of noise. Painters start anew on a clean canvas, and writers do not write on pages that are already written.
Humans have an urge to fill empty space with anything. This is why accumulating clutter comes naturally – it’s not a bad thing at all. The disorganised atelier of an artist or a noisy recording studio of a musician is a nest of inspiration. Here new connections can be made from previous works. Their embellished environments are charged with tools of creativity and do not cause distraction but stimulation. Yet each of these creators started with an empty room.
The biggest obstacle of innovation is overthinking.
In fact, the lack of creativity most often results from a cluttered mind, not a cluttered house. Elimination of distraction, friends that take up all your time and bring you no joy, constant bombardment of news, notifications, gossip – these perpetuate worry and negative baggage. A minimalist walks away from everything, which does not carry importance to their goals. They drag mental luggage filled with a few bright and refined stones instead of a sack of rubble.
Tip 1. To become a more active creator, create clear mental spaces.
Next time when your friend is using the toilet and that wave of boredom and loneliness creeps up and chokes you, allow it. Welcome it, and take this opportunity to react as you would if being suffocated: increase your breathing. Focus on nothing other than air going in and air going out. Air going in and air going out.
For in this lonely moment, you are not going to drown. Instead, you can become an expert floater. A habitual acknowledgment of “right, now I have a moment to be bored” will make your mind become so accustomed to seeming empty moments that eventually it will swim and wonder. Your thoughts may lead you to yet uncharted parts of your head, where you can discover something new.
2. More power
Minimalism amplifies intension.
Surrounded by an empty canvas, a single dot is powerful and captivating. The best innovators focus on a single goal in order to maximise its impact to an audience, like a polished, heavy dart shot directly to the heart of the board.
Minimalist thinkers simplify ornate tastes into their naked bones. They aim to re-imagine, question and tear down accepted tradition, shearing away everything that is unnecessary. Every remaining frame, brushstroke, or stone is left to serve a specific purpose and to show the designers intention in the clearest way possible.
In fact, anything that can be practiced – be it design, sports, literature, social networking, marketing, or leadership – can be excelled in through minimalism. Elimination of fake friends and distracting subscriptions on social media can increase the quality of your daily online experience. Cleaning up your conference speech from ticks and weak phrases increase your confidence as a communicator. And as Bruce Lee puts it: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
Tip 2. Increase impact in your audience by becoming an expert listener and learner.
Next time you are having a one-to-one conversation or a group meeting, be the one who speaks the least. This gives you time to listen and to create focus into everything you say and become a more impactful speaker. You will strike more wise, composed and confident to your small audience.
3. More content
Minimalism increases gratitude.
Being content is a permanent state of appreciation for what you have, which is a more endurable feeling than happiness. This mentality roots from the philosophy of Japanese aesthetics. One of its main principle is Kanso, meaning simple or plain. According to Kanso, being decorative and excessive is a distraction from the natural and eliminating the non-essential lets us achieve clarity and calmness.
Gratitude towards your possessions is openly taught by Marie Kondo. Her KonMari method of elimination and organisation focuses on identifying items that “spark joy”. Her method in similar to Hygge, a Danish belief that your possessions and home should aim to create a positive and stress free environment.
If we only owned things we think to be useful or beautiful, your homes and private lives would become sanctuaries, devoid of resentment towards the homes or lives of others.
Therefore, when adopted to everyday life, minimalism can develop into a permanent lifestyle that maximises productivity and impact, while minimising distraction and stress.
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