Matt D’Avella’s reality-based film, The Minimalists: Less Is Now, discusses why minimalism is a vital lifestyle choice that one can either make now or be compelled to comply with later. It is a perfect blend of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s minimalist and constructive concept, ‘Less is More’. The Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus describe their minimalism journey, the psychological effects of consumerism and social media on our consumption habits, and the difficulties of modern living.

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Everything is available to us at the touch of a button nowadays, thanks to the Digital Revolution. Door-to-door same-day deliveries, online shopping and artificial intelligence are turning us into sluggish slaves to technology. Sooner or later, we will have drones delivering everything to our doorstep, eliminating the need to leave our homes. Big-box retail establishments are supplanting traditional shopping formats, and the urge to buy more and more is becoming an addiction.

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Minimalism in Everyday Life

In contrast to consumerism, which is all about ‘wants’, minimalism is about ‘needs’. To be more specific, living a minimalist lifestyle enables us to concentrate solely on our necessities. Consumerism, on the other hand, is all about satisfying one’s desires. Large profit-making institutions like Google, Amazon, Flipkart and Facebook know us better than we know ourselves. They target us with sophisticated and predictive advertisements that make us subconsciously feel inferior if we do not have that product. 

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We eventually buy that stuff, and the cycle continues. Most of the time, luxurious possessions only leave us unhappy and unsatisfied. We become emotionally attached to the things we buy and, thus, cannot separate them from our lives, even if they do not add any value. What we forget is that happiness lies within us, not in these material possessions.

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Minimalism in Architecture and Design

‘Minimalism’ is an artistic and architectural movement that emerged in the 20th century due to excessive consumerism. It entails that each of our possessions serves a specific function in our life. Minimalism is not about having too little of something; it is about having just enough. Minimalist architecture or ‘uncluttered architecture’ advocates the use of simple architectural components devoid of adornment or decoration to reveal the true ‘essence of architecture’. Balance and simplicity are hallmarks of minimalist settings. 

The minimalist design allows us more breathing space, minimizes our carbon footprint, and improves our health and well-being. Moreover, it provides us with a calm, relaxed and less chaotic environment.

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Architecture is all about aesthetics and functionality. The aesthetic quality of any space is described as sensual, emotional, affective, intellectual, cognitive and the most important measure of its ‘perceptible’ quality. A person comprehends a space more with visual appeal, a characteristic feature of urban aesthetics. In the words of John Pawson, known for his minimalistic aesthetic, “Architecture isn’t just about creating new buildings, sometimes it’s about returning what’s already there.” (Frearson, 2012).

For instance, Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House is a prominent example of Minimalist Architecture. To begin with, it is devoid of walls, which have been substituted by displays of floor-to-ceiling glass and drapes that, when closed, obstruct vision. Second, no internal divisions are in play within the house. 

“The interior volume is not compartmentalized but is distinguished as a lounge area with a fireplace, a dining room and two bedrooms. This house, which seems not to be, possibly by its desire for transparency, is, however, an architectural discourse – a meditation on what is more or less on almost anything, to use the words of Mies.” (WikiArquitectura, 2014).

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Decluttering our homes will aid in the decluttering of our chaotic lives as well. If we take a moment to look around, we will notice a surplus of unused stuff, simply gathering dust. We must remember that there are people out there who need this stuff more than us. The more we buy, the more space we require, the more garbage we produce, the more we contribute to the urban mess and the more unsatisfied and unhappy we feel at the end of the day.

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The Way Forward

Meeting up with friends and family and exchanging ideas and experiences is becoming increasingly rare. We seem to be more interested in virtual pals on social media platforms. However, deeper things satisfy us, such as our desire for meaning, progress and companionship. We unnecessarily complicate our lives because “we overlook or underestimate the sense of direction from our inner voice”. 

Amid this never-ending race, we have lost our sense of identity and our desire for belonging and satisfaction. It is time to design spaces that respond to human needs and not human greed. Our thinking needs to change. The rest will follow.

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References

[1] Frearson, A., 2012. Dezeen. [Online] Available at: https://www.dezeen.com/2012/09/18/sometime-architecture-is-about-retuning-says-john-pawson/ [Accessed 10 September 2021].

[2] WikiArquitectura, 2014. Farnsworth House. [Online] Available at: https://en.wikiarquitectura.com/building/Farnsworth-House [Accessed 9 September 2021].

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