In recent times, more people seem to have discovered the joys and virtues of a simple lifestyle. Tidying up has become a household call to action. Office employees want to go back to basics, work the land, and live on a farm.
Simplicity has become a trend. It manifests almost everywhere you look. The typical consumer is overwhelmed with the complexity of modern living and the variety of options available. They want fewer decision points and better overall quality.
Savvy companies like Apple and Google have embraced this minimalist consumption and made it part of their user experience. Restaurants have thrived off serving only one dish or specializing in one ingredient.
But is the movement towards simple living only a temporary phase? And if it’s here to stay, how can we still enjoy the richness and variety of experiences that life has to offer?
A response to current events
It’s no secret that works of cultural significance are influenced by the events of the day. This results in creating a ‘zeitgeist’: period-specific cultural patterns that capture the spirit of the times.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, for instance, fascination with death and luxury gave rise to a collective aesthetic we’ve come to know today as ‘baroque.’ More recently, the 1960s were associated with freedom of speech, love, liberal thinking, and challenges to authoritarian rule in many countries.
Perhaps, what’s less known is that such period-specific influences extend beyond culture and into design itself. And design meshes with the fabric of our lives. It affects the appliances and decor in our homes, the devices and tools in our hands, how products are packaged, what we buy, how we dress.
The modern age has increasingly come to be defined by crises related to sustainability and our collective impact on the environment. In this context, it can hardly be surprising that our values have shifted away from excessive consumption, or at least towards a more sensible, minimalist version of it.
Wanting less and more
We don’t even know if we can successfully navigate the challenge of living sustainably, as a collective, in the decades to come. That alone gives us myriad reasons to continue to strive for simplicity in various aspects of our lifestyles moving forward.
Millennials and younger cohorts will have their lifestyle preferences profoundly shaped by events such as the recessions of 2008 and 2020. They will know what it’s like to live through a pandemic exacerbated by climate change. They are keenly aware of how modern technology can warp our lives and often are the first to heed the call to break free of devices.
Thus, while the mantra of ‘less is more’ may have begun to resonate in the present day, its impact on these young generations will ensure that it extends even beyond.
Yet it’s hard to ignore that even though we want to have a simple lifestyle, we also know that variety enriches the whole.
When you see what other people are doing on social media or read about the latest cool innovation, it’s natural to want to share such experiences. This is partly related to the ‘fear of missing out.’ But it’s greater than that.
On some basic level, we realize that novel experiences are good for us. They stimulate us, make us happier, and increase our engagement in living.
Aspiring to fluid simplicity
The Pareto rule can help us to reconcile this apparent conflict between striving for less and wanting more.
It states that 80% of your outcomes derive from 20% of your efforts. Applied to your lifestyle, that means that you can be simple, perhaps even boring, in the majority of your activities and time spent. What matters is being intentional about the remaining 20%.
Fluidity is the key to maximizing this sort of balance. In any activity, it’s not enough to have good timing. You also need to be able to make the right move. For instance, amid the pandemic, the housing market boomed, and buyers could access some of the best mortgage rates in years. But someone deep in debt or with mostly illiquid assets wouldn’t be able to capitalize.
It could be overwork, excessive social commitments, unhealthy relationships, or unproductive habits. Let no more than 80% of your life be invested into the mundane, simple stuff.
Don’t over-commit your time, energy, or resources to things that will drain you, lock you into a rigid schedule, or otherwise prevent you from enjoying that remaining 20%. Be mobile, fluid, and ready to jump at the right opportunity to really maximize a great new experience.