Minimalism can make our lives easier, greener and richer

Minimalism can make our lives easier, greener and richer

We all read Robinson Crusoe when we were kids and still remember this amazing story of survival and quest. But have you ever wondered, as grown-ups, what it would be like to find yourself shipwrecked on a deserted island? 

Let’s develop this scenario a little, in a friendly manner. The motorboat you hired broke down very close to the shore. How convenient, I know. My blog is called Azure, so what would you expect? Besides, I have zero experience in boating, so I’ll skip the juicy narrative and focus on the setting of this soft and sketchy scenario.

Minimalism makes our lives richer

You got safely onto the island but have no supplies whatsoever. The good part is that somehow you know for sure that a boat will come and rescue you in 24 hours. Now we'll split the scenario in 3 versions. Keep in mind that it’s only for a day, so there's no need to even think about hunting or fishing for long-term endurance.

You’re 20 and spend 24 hours with your honey on a heavenly beautiful deserted island. You live on love, coconuts and fresh water.

You’re 40, happily married, and get shipwrecked with your spouse and two kids. Coconuts and fresh water are still there, lucky you, so you live light-heartedly a quality-time full day with your loved ones.

You find yourself all alone on the island. You have easy access to fruit and water and the landscape is as beautiful as in the previous scenarios, but you have no one to share all this with. Most of us would intensely miss human company. If you are self-sufficient and like the challenge of survival-type situations, 24 hours should probably become 24 days. But I guess everyone would finally want to go back to family and friends.

My point is that you can feel happy with limited material resources. I'm not saying that having plenty of them prevents you from being happy, I'm just saying that it's not enough. Sometimes we forget that home is what we share with our loved ones. I think that using imagination to picture ourselves outside our daily lives is one way to avoid taking family joy for granted.

If you feel this way, you may be embracing minimalism without knowing it. I, for one, have done it for about two decades.

Minimalism as a design movement

I like to rediscover the little things that I use every day. Like the coffee cups. I have a limited space in my white-and-grey little kitchen, so I have no more than a dozen of mugs and cups, for all three of us. Hovering around the coffee cup shelf to choose the one that suits my mood is actually the first highlight of my mornings at home.

I move fast by nature, so I prefer mugs to cups, one third empty as an anti-spilling safety measure. I look at the squarish plain-white one near my laptop and I realize once more how comfortable I feel surrounded by objects with minimal colors and abstract patterns. From furniture and interior design to clothing.

For a long time, I thought it was only a matter of personal choice, but a Discovery documentary made me aware that my preferences coincided, in fact, with the basics of an artistic movement. It was called minimalism and had started in the late 1950s. 

While the etymology of the word is undoubtedly Latin - from the superlative 'minimus' meaning 'smallest', 'least', 'youngest' - the origin of the movement is still under debate. The attribute of 'father of minimalism' is disputed by two painters: the Italian Enrico Castellani, who set a distinctive trend with his monochrome style, and the American Frank Stella, iconic for the prevalence of geometric forms in his innovative abstract compositions.

In a nutshell, minimalism is a way to capture and express the essential elements of an item or subject, with no room for any unnecessary parts or features. It is a quest for the very core of things, for their vital shapes and colors. A quest for and an embodiment of essence in art, architecture and design.

I think that being a minimalist artist goes beyond handling simple, neutral forms and colors. Minimalism, in its richest meaning, implies an artistic statement, a goal which governs the techniques and materials used. I also think that those who create or resonate with such essentialized forms of beauty will most probably shape their defining values and relations in the same minimalistic manner.

Minimalism as a way of life

Have you noticed the simplicity and friendliess of the monochromatic flat icons that we can see everywhere in contemporary design? The bare shape of a house, plane, photo camera, whatever modern society needs to advertise or to easily spot and use? That's a minimalist approach, and if we find it good enough to depict an otherwise complex object or process, I think it can be good enough to influence our entire behavior. If it's so obvious that a square with a triangle on top is a house, then why not define a home as a decent dwelling place with a lot of love on top of it all?

I'm not saying that we should ignore the details and intricate aspects of our lives. Not at all. It's great to perceive life, nature and relations in all their richness. But it's not necessary to own things in order to enjoy them.

On the contrary, once you remove the excessive parts of your lifestyle, you have more time for what should really matter to all of us: love, respect and support for our human fellows and for the world we live in. I know it sounds overwhelming, but it's actually fun. You pay attention to others' needs, while enjoying whatever the day brings you. The unexpected and often invisible good things, I mean. For free.

As far as I'm concerned, I've always wanted better, rather than more. I think it's a good way to relate to the outer environment, because 'better' is something that we can do by ourselves, with almost no material costs or pressure put on the others. It's about improving yourself instead of buying goods as a goal in itself or a measure of self-assertion. 

The objects we buy or own do not change who we are. They can only make our journey more pleasant or comfortable in whatever changes we want to make in ourselves. But those changes are, in fact, subject to our will power and self-control. It’s like when you listen to music while washing the dishes. The fact that you own a device that plays enjoyable music doesn’t change the physical process of doing a chore. It just makes you feel more comfortable while doing it.

But again, you can get the same effect all by yourself. You can sing or you can flavor your thoughts with the most revitalizing recollections or projections for your future. You don’t need to see a rainbow every day to feel your soul therapeutically enlightened for a few seconds, you only need to remember the one last summer. With this kind of rich and self-helping mind, I think that no chore is overwhelming and no frustration is unbeatable.

Less is more may sound like a paradox, but it's actually true and enriching. The less we have of the unimportant, the more we can feel and share of the important.

I sip once more from the plain white coffee mug and stretch my arms in my cozy chair. I hear the cheerful voice of my son, who's just woken up, and I feel so ethereal and ... complete. I feel and live, in my own way, the "auguries of innocence" of William Blake:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

Minimalism can make our lives easier, greener and richer

Minimalism can make our lives easier, greener and richer

We all read Robinson Crusoe when we were kids and still remember this amazing story of survival and quest. But have you ever wondered, as grown-ups, what it would be like to find yourself shipwrecked on a deserted island? 

Let’s develop this scenario a little, in a friendly manner. The motorboat you hired broke down very close to the shore. How convenient, I know. My blog is called Azure, so what would you expect? Besides, I have zero experience in boating, so I’ll skip the juicy narrative and focus on the setting of this soft and sketchy scenario.

Minimalism makes our lives richer

You got safely onto the island but have no supplies whatsoever. The good part is that somehow you know for sure that a boat will come and rescue you in 24 hours. Now we'll split the scenario in 3 versions. Keep in mind that it’s only for a day, so there's no need to even think about hunting or fishing for long-term endurance.

You’re 20 and spend 24 hours with your honey on a heavenly beautiful deserted island. You live on love, coconuts and fresh water.

You’re 40, happily married, and get shipwrecked with your spouse and two kids. Coconuts and fresh water are still there, lucky you, so you live light-heartedly a quality-time full day with your loved ones.

You find yourself all alone on the island. You have easy access to fruit and water and the landscape is as beautiful as in the previous scenarios, but you have no one to share all this with. Most of us would intensely miss human company. If you are self-sufficient and like the challenge of survival-type situations, 24 hours should probably become 24 days. But I guess everyone would finally want to go back to family and friends.

My point is that you can feel happy with limited material resources. I'm not saying that having plenty of them prevents you from being happy, I'm just saying that it's not enough. Sometimes we forget that home is what we share with our loved ones. I think that using imagination to picture ourselves outside our daily lives is one way to avoid taking family joy for granted.

If you feel this way, you may be embracing minimalism without knowing it. I, for one, have done it for about two decades.

Minimalism as a design movement

I like to rediscover the little things that I use every day. Like the coffee cups. I have a limited space in my white-and-grey little kitchen, so I have no more than a dozen of mugs and cups, for all three of us. Hovering around the coffee cup shelf to choose the one that suits my mood is actually the first highlight of my mornings at home.

I move fast by nature, so I prefer mugs to cups, one third empty as an anti-spilling safety measure. I look at the squarish plain-white one near my laptop and I realize once more how comfortable I feel surrounded by objects with minimal colors and abstract patterns. From furniture and interior design to clothing.

For a long time, I thought it was only a matter of personal choice, but a Discovery documentary made me aware that my preferences coincided, in fact, with the basics of an artistic movement. It was called minimalism and had started in the late 1950s. 

While the etymology of the word is undoubtedly Latin - from the superlative 'minimus' meaning 'smallest', 'least', 'youngest' - the origin of the movement is still under debate. The attribute of 'father of minimalism' is disputed by two painters: the Italian Enrico Castellani, who set a distinctive trend with his monochrome style, and the American Frank Stella, iconic for the prevalence of geometric forms in his innovative abstract compositions.

In a nutshell, minimalism is a way to capture and express the essential elements of an item or subject, with no room for any unnecessary parts or features. It is a quest for the very core of things, for their vital shapes and colors. A quest for and an embodiment of essence in art, architecture and design.

I think that being a minimalist artist goes beyond handling simple, neutral forms and colors. Minimalism, in its richest meaning, implies an artistic statement, a goal which governs the techniques and materials used. I also think that those who create or resonate with such essentialized forms of beauty will most probably shape their defining values and relations in the same minimalistic manner.

Minimalism as a way of life

Have you noticed the simplicity and friendliess of the monochromatic flat icons that we can see everywhere in contemporary design? The bare shape of a house, plane, photo camera, whatever modern society needs to advertise or to easily spot and use? That's a minimalist approach, and if we find it good enough to depict an otherwise complex object or process, I think it can be good enough to influence our entire behavior. If it's so obvious that a square with a triangle on top is a house, then why not define a home as a decent dwelling place with a lot of love on top of it all?

I'm not saying that we should ignore the details and intricate aspects of our lives. Not at all. It's great to perceive life, nature and relations in all their richness. But it's not necessary to own things in order to enjoy them.

On the contrary, once you remove the excessive parts of your lifestyle, you have more time for what should really matter to all of us: love, respect and support for our human fellows and for the world we live in. I know it sounds overwhelming, but it's actually fun. You pay attention to others' needs, while enjoying whatever the day brings you. The unexpected and often invisible good things, I mean. For free.

As far as I'm concerned, I've always wanted better, rather than more. I think it's a good way to relate to the outer environment, because 'better' is something that we can do by ourselves, with almost no material costs or pressure put on the others. It's about improving yourself instead of buying goods as a goal in itself or a measure of self-assertion. 

The objects we buy or own do not change who we are. They can only make our journey more pleasant or comfortable in whatever changes we want to make in ourselves. But those changes are, in fact, subject to our will power and self-control. It’s like when you listen to music while washing the dishes. The fact that you own a device that plays enjoyable music doesn’t change the physical process of doing a chore. It just makes you feel more comfortable while doing it.

But again, you can get the same effect all by yourself. You can sing or you can flavor your thoughts with the most revitalizing recollections or projections for your future. You don’t need to see a rainbow every day to feel your soul therapeutically enlightened for a few seconds, you only need to remember the one last summer. With this kind of rich and self-helping mind, I think that no chore is overwhelming and no frustration is unbeatable.

Less is more may sound like a paradox, but it's actually true and enriching. The less we have of the unimportant, the more we can feel and share of the important.

I sip once more from the plain white coffee mug and stretch my arms in my cozy chair. I hear the cheerful voice of my son, who's just woken up, and I feel so ethereal and ... complete. I feel and live, in my own way, the "auguries of innocence" of William Blake:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

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