The Green Audacity of Lifestyle Minimalism


Photo by Internet Power Lunch.

I’ve been thinking a lot about minimalism lately for some reason.  We all have an idea of what "minimalism" is, but I wanted to dig a little deeper.  According to Wikipedia, minimalism describes a movement where "work is stripped down to its most fundamental features … it is rooted in the reductive aspects of Modernism, and is often interpreted as a reaction against abstract impressionism and a bridge to Postmodern art practices."  Strip it down to the fundamentals. 

I like the concept of stripping stuff down to the fundamentals.  You can strip down anything and literally find that "less is more."  Try it.  I honestly believe that with the right amount of less, less can be more.  Why is that?  Well, quite simply because less equals the fundamentals and enjoying the fundamentals — with no excess — feels good.  Let me explain my thoughts on the lifestyle of minimalism. 

1.  Minimalism at Home.

We live in a square footage society.  But minimalists don’t get all cluttered up with square footage.  Minimalists don’t need a huge master bedroom because they’re smart enough to realize the only thing they do in there is sleep and, well, use the bed.  It’s a bed. room.  Minimalists are fine with small bedrooms, too, because like the master bedroom, bedrooms don’t get used like the TV room.  Minimalists can go without a dining room, too, because the TV room is surprisingly functional in that regard.  That is, unless you need to impress someone snobbish (and even then, minimalists can outsource the dining room requirements to the nearest Red Lobster).  Minimalists don’t need the two-car garage because they don’t have all the crap to store in the two car garage.  Once you apply minimalism to the home, you’d be surprised by home much square footage will set you straight. 

Similarly, minimalists don’t buy large homes because they don’t have enough stuff to put in them.  Some large homes can become so packed with things that it’s tough to breath.  Some small homes can feel bigger than huge homes.  Why?  You gotta use your space right. 

Large home people should rethink how they’re using space.  Take a pen and paper and list all the items in each room of your house.  Go through and eliminate stuff that you don’t use.  Get back to the fundamentals.  Cancel out some decorative items, too.  Baskets.  Trinkets.  Weird frillies that clutter and confuse.  Wallpaper of all kinds.  Keep the rugs, some pictures, and necessary lamps.  Keep the main pieces of furniture.  Seriously consider whether you need two end tables or a coffee table.  And don’t buy replacements in the future.  The list for each room in your house should be small.  Super small.  Know everything you have. 

The product that you don’t buy is the greenest.  Adopt a little lifestyle minimalism and you’ll be surprised how open the world seems. 

2.  Minimalism at Work. 

What does your desk, cubicle, or work space look like?  Minimalists get rid of stuff.  They don’t take on stuff to begin with, but you may have to start with getting rid of various items.  Recycle the various plastic items and sundry knick-knacks from all the previous training sessions and holiday parties.  Keep the sentimental items, but use some discretion.  There’s no reason to clutter the brain with all that distraction and trash.  And after you clear out some room, stop taking stuff.  And stop giving stuff to other people, too.  Branded trinkets and promo items, etc.  Don’t buy it, don’t take it, don’t give it. 

Let lifestyle minimalism take root in everything you do.  For example, instead of handing a draft to the assistant to print and send off, why not email the filename and path.  No need to have drafts floating around everywhere.  You’ll begin to realize that the less is more mentality goes a long way towards minimizing the various items floating around in your life (and the life of others).  Don’t float items to others and don’t take on others’ float. 

Also, let minimalism take hold of your email.  Write shorter.  Also, think twice about that email tagline that says, "think before you print this email."  Fundamentally, what does that thing do?  First of all, thousands of people read that everyday and most of them would never think of printing emails to begin with.  If someone has an email printing problem, chances are, the tagline isn’t going to stop them.  Minimize pixels for the benefit of your eyes and others.  Save the world some mental energy.

3.  Minimalism All Over the Place. 

I wish phonebook companies thought about minimalism.  They forget that people don’t use phonebooks anymore.  Phonebooks clutter up everything.  I wish the credit card companies thought about minimalism, too.  Even just one letter would be sufficient if you’re trying to get my business, but credit card companies forget that Americans are all cluttered up and have no room for credit.  I wish Subway thought about minimalism.  I don’t need a plastic bag with every 6" sub because the sub is already wrapped and taped.  Plus, I tell you I’m minimalist every time I buy a sandwich and you still keep giving me the bag.  I’m trying to downsize my collection of plastic bags, thank you.  I wish the grocery store thought about minimalism.  Those "I’m not a plastic bag"-type bags can really clutter the car and home storage.  I go commando when it comes to the shopping bag.  You’d be surprised how clean life feels without any of that stuff because you can honestly carry a lot with two hands. 

Less is more, remember. 

Let lifestyle minimalism take hold in every aspect of everything around you.  Gargoyles on buildings?  Don’t need ’em.  Nobs and curves on chairs?  Don’t need ’em.  Plastic covers for the research report?  A staple will do just fine.  Dice cubes hanging from the rear view mirror?  Cool, depending on the color, but you don’t need ’em.  Gnome for the garden?  The garden will be okay without one.  Right? 

That’s why they say to get back to the fundamentals.  Practice makes perfect, and if you get started, lifestyle minimalism will become addictive and involving — you can extend minimalism to any conceivable activity around.  It’s seriously the green thing to do.  Be a minimalist.

Matter of fact, I realize this article isn’t that minimalist — might need to chop a little off, so I’ll get back to you.

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  • Justin

    Bravo. Love this blurb: “The product that you don’t buy is the greenest. Adopt a little lifestyle minimalism and you’ll be surprised how open the world seems.”

  • Preston

    A bravo from the king of minimalism. Nice, I’ll take that.

  • Marc Joseph @

    Nice post Preston.

    I always strive to be minimalist at work. However, in the paper society that we live in, it’s sometimes easier said than done. The CD sets still seem to pile up.

    I worked with someone once who NEVER had a single piece of paper or trinket on his desk. In fact, he always looked like he didn’t have anything to do. Maybe he would have a coffee cup.

  • Preston

    @marc – you’re right, I mean legally, there are papers on my desk that must exist. But I do have the most minimalist desk in the office. Not empty, but … you know. It’s easier to get work done for me.

    With CDs, stack those suckers in a nice piece or sell ’em off for $$. It’s a win win.

  • Justin

    Moi, the king of minimalism? Nice, I’ll take that. I guess it really does fit.
    I have no cd’s: burned ’em & then gave them to the library for a tax writeoff. Music is lastfm, etc. I don’t watch dvd’s.
    I have one tiny portable hanging-file-folder box that I use for my most important papers. Everything else is scanned, saved and backed up.
    Years ago, because I’m the nautical sort, I became addicted to L.L. Bean’s canvas ice/yacht bags, and carry just about everything with them – tools, groceries, etc. They last for ages and ages, and look cool, too. No plastic bags for me!
    And the desk? Nothing ‘cept the laptop, a pen cup and a scribble pad. Can’t stand clutter…. :)

  • Brian

    Since embracing the Green mentality in my business practices it has made a world of difference. In loans there is nothing but paper work. Since going green with no paper in a loan transaction the lack of files has made my life so much better. No paper, no folders, nothing but PDF’s. Cheers Preston.

  • Cheryl

    Great Concept, however, I feel that the Green mentality shows no personality, no warmth, no appreciation for the artistic or sentimental side of life. It’s very cold and uninviting, somewhat like an office waiting room or a model home that is not lived in. I’m all for saving our environment,no more urban sprall,reducing emmissions, recycling etc. As for our homes, let them be homes, warm and inviting, colourful and cosy, not cold and impersonal. Don’t lose the Human touch and by all means greet a person in your emails and say “hello, how are you doing?” before getting down to business.

  • Lee

    Using canvas shopping bags is the way I shop.
    As to the coldness of the decor, one can still get rid of much “stuff” yet inject warmth with a few found natural items…..a piece of driftwood, some pine cones, a few wildflowers gathered from the roadside. Such items are renewable, minimal, and constantly changing with the seasons.

  • Chad Ludeman

    Some of my favorite things about continually changing towards a minimalist lifestyle are the improvements in the quality of life. Less time cleaning your excessively large home, less time shopping for stuff you don’t need, less time finding and building storage for more stuff. More time and money for the important things in life like family, friends, God, nature and fulfilling hobbies…

  • GlobalGreenQueen

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on minimizing and how it can help the environment!

  • Samual

    This article is very inspiring. It has put a definition to the way I think and has inspired me to become a minimalist.

  • Aryel

    Wonderful article ideas and comments.
    BIG help in my struggle with acquiring and saving and sentimentality and loss. Love the Green Life idea attached to the concept of less is more. Simple elegance is my effort. Minimal acquisitions! Maximum simplicity.
    Thanks for ideas.

  • Aryel

    Wonderful article ideas and comments.
    BIG help in my struggle with acquiring and saving and sentimentality and loss. Love the Green Life idea attached to the concept of less is more. Simple elegance is my effort. Minimal acquisitions! Maximum simplicity.
    Thanks for ideas.

  • Javier Tapia

    …I think we have a very different way at viewing what it means to be human…(excesses, defects, mistakes…to mention a few..) I always disliked Minimalism, still do,, but granted, it seems to be currently in vogue. One of my issues is that you make it sound like religion, too preachy, so intolerant and cold, specially in the category of mistakes…who cares about “fundamentals”…if the true value is to be “better” and “greener”…maybe we should all “imagine” art, do more invisible paintings…let’s try to be a True miniminalist…do nothing.

  • 〇rlandο Gοdhand〇

    I agree. Less is m

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