Design & ArT

Minimalism – a modern lifestyle

Nowadays most people have heard of the concept of minimalism. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with advertisements of consumerist culture, minimalism shows us an alternative. Minimalism can be found and practiced in almost all aspects of life. It describes the (more or less) strict and conscious renunciation of consumerism on the one hand, and of overly opulent art, design and architectural styles on the other.

The concept of integrating minimalism in your own everyday life is a fairly modern one. But in Japan the idea of beauty through simplicity is found in many traditional rituals and art forms. One of the most prolific minimalist traditions must be the tea ceremony. During the ritual of preparing and drinking tea every movement and every impression upon the senses counts. Every decoration, sound or smell that isn’t necessary should be shut out, because it would only subtract from the overall experience.

Following this thought of maximizing your concentration on the essential you can reach a simple conclusion: To concentrate on yourself, your life goals and your own happiness, you should reduce all disturbing influences. This is where people like Marie Kondo (tidying up to “spark joy” in your life) and Kenya Hara (the chief designer of the Japanese company MUJI) come into play, who are major contributors to the modern minimalist lifestyle. 

Minimal Room

Bestselling author and acclaimed tidying expert Marie Kondo is famous for her method of cleaning up and decluttering your space of living effectively. Her method is conveniently called the “Konmari”-method. It is all about which objects in your house “spark joy” (Kondo’s catchphrase), and which don’t. This Japanese Wonder Woman started her consulting business when she was just 19 and with 27 (in the year 2012) she wrote a book about her method, which has since been translated into over 27 languages. A lot of people got to know her through a Netflix series that was published in early 2019. She argues that “outer tidiness” in your environment also directly influences your “inner tidiness”, meaning your calmness, peace of mind and ability to think clearly. Decluttering your home means decluttering your mind.

The process of tidying up can be boiled down to the following steps:

  • All objects that are to be tidied up should be collected at one location.
  • You then take every object into your hands and ask yourself: “Does this item spark joy for me?”
  • If the answer is “no”, then you thank the object for its service and let it go (=throw it away).
  • If the answer is “yes”, you try to find a fitting place for it in your house, where the object from now on belongs.

Now you exercise these steps with every item in your living space. In the end you should only have objects left that make you happy in one way or another. This reduction on the essential serves to minimise frustration and maximise happiness.

Kenya Hara – the great nothing

Kenya Hara is considered one of the most influential Japanese designers of modern times. His work stands out through explicit simplicity. He always chooses clear, unadorned forms and is very cautious in his use of color. The color that is prevalent in his creations (if it can be called a color) is white. For Hara, white represents a form of emptiness that encourages personal interpretation.Therefore your own thoughts are supposed to flow into the empty space and fill it. That way, the variety of ways to fill the apparent emptiness is only limited by your own imagination and creativity.

To give an example: An object like a simple, empty bowl can be filled freely, however you prefer it. It could be a liquid or a solid object, depending on the person filling the bowl. In Hara’s philosophy, an object like an empty bowl can thus contain all the promises of possibility that result from empty space. Leaving room for interpretation encourages more engagement than too much specific information.

Finding your own way

Besides the two ways of thinking of Marie Kondo and Kenya Hara, which can at least partly be abstract and symbolic, there are many other, more pragmatic approaches. Nowadays there exist a multitude of youtubers and influencers who promote minimalism as a lifestyle and give specific advice. At the same time there are a lot of critical voices who promote their own concept of minimalism and their own way of doing things as the true and perfect way. But in the end, there is no perfect way for anybody, as our individual preferences and needs vary greatly. So we encourage you to find your personal thoughts about minimalism and how to translate those into your everyday life. It’s all about concentration on the important things in your life, whatever those are for you. More important than anything else is that your own way of doing things gives you more happiness, productivity and quality of life. Or – as Marie Kondo might say – do things in a way that your home and your way of life “spark joy” for you!

Published: 08.07.2020 | Posted by: Colin

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