MINIMALISM

What is minimalism? It's a lifestyle that focuses on the essentials of how we live - like "embracing kindness" - and what we consume. It's about maximizing pleasure by cutting out the noise and making things more simple. Because of this, it's more sustainable and a way of living that keeps at the forefront of our minds that "every choice counts".

 

MINIMALISM IS VALUE

BY ISABEL FREY RIBEIRO

Value. A word which, in itself, is often undervalued. It is inherently associated with money but its meaning runs much deeper; it’s a measure of regard, importance, worth, or usefulness.

As with any other numerical measure, monetary value is a useful and universal indicator. But it is neither perfect nor personal.

We ask: "How valuable is this?"

But we often forget to ask: "How valuable is this to me?"

 

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This is the key question in a minimalist way of living. So what is the definition of minimalism? Well, in truth, there isn’t one. Or at least, there isn’t one: there are several. It has existed in many forms and been given many names throughout history. It’s been recycled, if you will. But the essence is the same.

Minimalism is valuing that which is important, useful, or worth something to you. It is mindfully keeping what you value - the people and relationships in your life, the hobbies you have, the work you do, or certain material possessions you own. And it is considering the environment and those who inhabit it by fixing what is broken and letting go of what you do not need.

Minimalism is leaving space in mind and place for what brings joy and meaning to your life.

Minimalism is knowing what you value, and why.

Minimalism is intentionality.

The specific term “Minimalism” came about in the 60s, describing a distinctive art movement which focused on an “enlightened simplicity, a unity in which all the parts of a work of art form a single coherent whole.” The idea behind the modern use of the term minimalism, however, goes back thousands of years - from the importance of introspection in Chinese Zen philosophy, to the focus on simplicity and negative space in Japanese aesthetic traditions (as in ikebana, a form of traditional flower arrangement that focuses on the intensely emotional quality that can be contained in simple natural elements), to the modern legacy of Ancient Greek and Roman stoics such as Marcus Aurelius, who challenged his followers with ideas such as: “Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own.” (An example of a modern legacy made out of principles such as these? ARTICLE22, creating something beautiful, simple, and meaningful out of something complicated and destructive).

There is something precious, something heartening in the solidary idea of minimalism, a link that exists like an heirloom throughout the ages - the fundamental humanity of the idea, encouraging respect and intentionality in all aspects of life - with the ultimate goal of living simply, happily. The practice of minimalism encourages positivity, and, by extension, peace. This is, perhaps, something we all need these days.

Over the past few months, we’ve all been finding out what we value.

There have been times where we’ve wished for more space around us, and less space between us. There have been times we’ve felt gratitude for what we have, and times when thankfulness has been far out of reach. There have been times when we were okay. And there have been other times when we were not so okay - which is okay.

But we still have reason to smile: because we’ve been in this together.

We are still in this together.

And if we’re minimalist about it, together cannot fall apart. Because together is valuable beyond words, and what you value, you keep with intention, you repair when it’s broken, and you play as a card in your winning hand.


YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE A STOIC TO BE A MINIMALIST

BY ISABEL FREY RIBEIRO

“Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own”

-Marcus Aurelius

True wisdom lasts through the ages - as do the metaphors that encapsulate it. Although it is doubtful that Marcus Aurelius ever dealt a hand of cards, his advice still holds weight today. Commonly regarded as the last of the “Five Good Emperors,” this philosopher, Stoic, and eventual ruler of Rome, was favored by Emperor Hadrian (of the wall) early in life and was later adopted by Emperor Antonius Pius (Hadrian’s successor). His Meditations, which include the quote above, encompass his thoughts on Stoic philosophy, which has a - perhaps surprising - connection to this month’s theme of minimalism.

 

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Stoicism originated in Athens in the 300s B.C.E. and was influenced by the likes of Socrates, who famously said “all I know is that I know nothing.” Stoicism only made its way to Rome 200 years later, in the first century B.C.E. As the Roman Empire spread over much of the western world, so did the ideas it nurtured. These Stoic philosophies survived the Middle Ages and reappeared in the 1600s, influencing Enlightenment thinkers and our methods of thinking and governing today.

Truly a minimalist philosophy, Stoicism esteems values over valuables. In particular, Stoics hold dear the Four Virtues: temperance, courage, justice, and wisdom. Like Japanese minimalism, Stoicism is not just an aesthetic or a philosophy, but a way of living. In a way, it is a very un-philosophical philosophical movement. The Stoics didn’t just think about thinking - they thought about doing, and then they did what they thought, as exemplified by another admonishment from our good friend Marcus Aurelius: “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be One.”  

The Stoics’ philosophies of doing have a salient legacy in modern minimalist ways of living. Here are some worthwhile daily practices that fit well into both:

JOURNALING

Especially in the evening, journaling can be an excellent way to be present with yourself - to unwind and let go of any lingering thoughts, worries, or questions from the day. It can even give rise to new realizations. Even simply stating the events of the day can help sort out how you feel about an event, a relationship, a conversation… anything.

PHILANTHROPY

It doesn’t have to be philanthropy in the usual sense. You don’t have to be a philanthropist; you don’t even have to give money to charity. Philanthropy can be as simple as donating unused items around your home, or volunteering. It can even consist of simply giving the best of yourself to others you encounter throughout the day. In other words, making your mission to “Be good,” like ARTICLE22’s partner Rebecca Rusch. In fact, the beginning of the definition of the word philanthropy is “the desire to promote the welfare of others” (according to Oxford Languages). So even conscious buying - ensuring the sustainability of an item for the Earth and the people who have made it, for example - could, in a way, loosely be considered philanthropy.

REFLECTION

Just “reflecting” may seem very broad, but that is because, like the previous practice, there are many ways to go about it. One way to exercise reflection is to recognize the personal experiences, biases, and opinions that you bring to the table and attempt to discover how they affect your actions, interactions, and reactions. Realizing our subjectivity in the world can help bring about understanding, and, eventually, wisdom. Another minimalist way to practice reflection is to evaluate what it is that is important to you in life, and then to act on this reflection. For example, this reflection could focus on: What do you value? Who are your role models, and why? Making a list (or journaling!) can be a helpful way to figure this out and discover what is truly essential in your life. Finally, Stoic reflection can comprise noting mistakes, accepting them, and then, finally, doing better for having realized them.

What did Marcus Aurelius have to say about this? “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Or, as the singer Eric Bibb said in his song “Just Keep Goin’ On”: Take every knock as a boost/And every stumblin' block/As a stepping stone.”

Like all minimalist ways of thinking, Stoicism is quite simple at its core, and its practices are quite achievable with a bit of time each day. A page of journaling here, a breathing exercise there, and we are on the way to getting to know ourselves a little better. Which means: we can all be un-philosophical philosophers and agents of our own happiness.


ARTICLE22 AND MINIMALISM

BY GINA AL-KARABLIEH

ARTICLE22 reflects minimalism through care for the social, economic, cultural, and environmental factors that are embedded in sustainability. The first collection, PEACEBOMB, concentrates on the transformation of weapons - in this case already detonated bombs - and other scrap metal into heirloom jewelry. Each piece is handcrafted by traditional Laotian artisans, and purchases not only directly benefit them and their community, but also help the environment by contributing to MAG (Mines Advisory Group) to clear the 80 million unexploded ordnance, in turn, making land safe, and providing new metal to artisans to craft more original designs.

 

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ARTICLE22 has built a supply chain that aims to be as sustainable as possible which entails minimizing undesirable negative effects on the environment and producing products in a sustainable socioeconomic manner. We reduce undesirable waste of resources in the products' life cycles, ensure ethical working conditions for our stakeholders, and raise awareness about what it means to consume more sustainably in general.

ARTICLE22's jewelry pieces are mostly made up of aluminum, which happens to be one of the most recyclable and recycled materials in the world. Actually, aluminum can be recycled over and over again without degrading, which saves up a lot of energy and resources.

ARTICLE22 invests in a circular economy, which is a multi-dimensional, non-linear process focusing on taking advantage of available resources to design and promote products that can be reused, repaired, and/or remanufactured. According to Sustainability Guide, the process is "restorative and regenerative by design and aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times," and it is environmentally friendly.

By recycling war shrapnel and other debris into upcycled and recyclable jewelry, ARTICLE22 is committed to a circular sustainable process that emits minimum waste and extends the life of the material / product.

 

HOW WE CAN CONTRIBUTE TO CREATING AN ETHICAL ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY ECONOMY

Before making a purchase, ask yourself questions like:

1. How would my purchase impact me, the people who made it, and the environment positively?

2. Is the business I am supporting ethical when it comes to the environment, saving up energy, and their employees' working conditions?

3. How would my purchase be different or / helpful or / make a positive difference?

4. Will this purchase bring me joy? Basically, why should I make this purchase and how might it change my life?

5. Can this product's life be extended? Or, is it recyclable?

6. Am I contributing positively or negatively towards the environment through this purchase?

 


WHAT IS DIGITAL MINIMALISM?

BY MICO MENDOZA

Digital minimalism. Have you heard of it? It can be an odd thing to consider during this time in history (that’s now!) when the only way that we can connect is by being tethered to our devices. But true change is incremental. So, thinking about how to optimize the pleasure you get from your digital life when you need your phone the most, might just be a good starting point for practicing whittling down your use of tech to the essentials.

We are living in an age of digital excess- overflowing email inboxes; limitless social media scrolls, taps, and likes; unending list of people to follow, music to listen to, videos and shows to watch.

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Without a doubt, it is easy to get lost in this saturation of technology. But, technology is a double-edged sword. It has its benefits- accessible entertainment, quick sources of distraction from stress, limitless interconnection of information, a lifeline to friends and family. At the same time, the digital excess often disperses our attention and focus, potentially leaving us feeling exhausted and unsatisfied at the same time.

Living with less of this digital noise is difficult, but not unattainable. To live with less is to live with more, but such a lifestyle of minimalism entails commitment and thoughtfulness. Change must come from within, first. In the words of ARTICLE22 collaborator and world-renowned model and environmentalist Angela Lindvall, “peace begins in me.”

PHILOSOPHY OF INTENTIONALITY AND FOCUS

The first step is committing to a philosophy that highlights intentionality and purpose. Digital minimalism, a term coined by author and computer scientist Cal Newport, emphasizes that our relationships with our apps, tools, and phones are nuanced and deserve more intention.

It is easy to immediately go to the common-sense fixes: turn off your notifications, delete your apps, or even give up your smart phone entirely. But digital minimalism also requires a thoughtful method to declutter your digital life and decide how you would shape it around the values that matter to you.

It involves a thoughtful process of auditing your existence in the digital world-- identifying how much time you spend on Facebook or Twitter, how much of your online presence is habitual and how much is not, which communication technologies you depend on professionally, and so on-- and distilling it to only the things that support your values in life.

3 CORE ELEMENTS OF DIGITAL MINIMALISM

1. INTENTION

You are not completely giving up technology. You use it with consciousness and purpose rather than with compulsion.

2. OPTIMIZATION

After decluttering, you are restoring back to your life tools, apps, digital practices that WORK for you. You weed out the good from the bad of technology.

3. COMMITMENT

You happily miss out on things that are ultimately expendable, and commit to using technology with intention, focus, and purpose.

DECLUTTERING

As the pandemic forces all of us to examine how we engage in our relationships with family and friends, our jobs, and our lifestyles, it also presents an opportunity to reevaluate how we connect online. In his book Digital Minimalism, Newport recommends a 30-day cleanse, where you would remove all optional technologies– apps, tools, and websites that are not essential to your professional or personal life. This requires a high level of commitment, but there are different steps you can try out first to get a feel of what digital minimalism is like.

EXPERIMENT IN DIGIAL MINIMALISM

1. QUICK FIXES 

  • Turn off notifications, and set a time to check your emails and notifications once a day or week.
  • Go a day without using your phone
  • Use a website blocking software for 1 week
  • Instead of scrolling through social media, be actively social- call old friends, initiate conversations with the people you follow
  • Delete your 5 most addictive apps for 1 week
  • Don’t bring your phone when you go to a dinner or a get together
  • Don’t use your earphones when you are running, walking, biking, or commuting
  • The next time you feel bored when you’re in line for the supermarket or when you are getting food, don’t check your phone. Talk to the people around you.
  • Instead of playing video games, commit yourself to playing board games with family or friends.

2. DETERMINE YOUR OPTIONAL TECHNOLOGY

Once you already got a feel of the digital minimalism lifestyle and are ready to commit to the declutter, it’s time to define your technology rules. Decide which apps and tools are optional, and remove them. Optional technology includes all technology except those that are vital to the daily operation of your professional or personal life.

Newport also suggests you come up with operating procedures to specify the hows and whens of using a particular technology and enables critical uses.

3. CLEANSE

Now it’s time to take a break from your optional technology for 30 days. This break is crucial in honing your focus and clarity, which are both going to help you carefully make decisions at the end when you reintroduce some of these optional technologies to your life.

Consider: Keeping a journal and tracking your ‘technology triggers.’ Spending more alone time. Reclaiming leisure time. Being alone with your thoughts and being proactively accessible in the real world.

4. RECYCLING

This stage is more crucial than you might think. Your ultimate goal is to start from a blank slate and only let back into your life technology that passes your strict minimalist standards.

Your 30-day break is like placing the different aspects of your digital existence in a recycling bin. After taking your time to detox, now is the time to figure out which of these things really add value to your life, and restore them with a stringent set of rules you commit to.

Newport poses questions that you need to answer:

  • Does this technology directly support something that I deeply value?
  • Is this technology the best way to support this value?
  • How am I going to use this technology going forward to maximize its value and minimize its harms?

5. COMMIT

Once you reintroduce technology in your life, it’s time to commit. Newport highlights the importance of operating procedures. You set which apps and tools you still want to use, how much you want to use it, and when do you want to use it. Maintaining these operating procedures is crucial in maintaining a thoughtful, purposeful, and empowering use of technology.

HAPPILY MISS OUT

In the end, the goal of digital minimalism is understanding that your relationship with technology is nuanced and complex. Technology will always have its negatives and positives. The end goal is finding a delicate balance between them, where you take charge of your digital existence-- with intentionality and the conscious goal of shaping it around the values that matter to you.

SOURCES

Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World (book)


MORE ON MINIMALISTIC TRADITIONS

 

 

MINIMALISM IN JAPANESE AESTHETIC TRADITION

BY ISABEL FREY RIBEIRO

Serenity, balance, and harmony with nature are the touchstones of Japanese minimalism, an aesthetic tradition and way of life influential to modern elements of design and rooted in the Japanese Zen Buddhism.

Zen is not just a philosophy, but a way of living. It seeks wisdom and happiness in simplicity. The Buddha is reputed to have said that “health is the greatest gift [and] contentement is the greatest wealth.” He encouraged his followers to spread this wealth through love and peacemaking (Love is the Bomb!). ARTICLE22 takes this philosophy to heart in our PEACEBOMB collection. The Buddha also called for intentionality in thoughts and actions, advising that “better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.”

 

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Zen Buddhism may be considered the origin of the saying “the journey is more important than the destination.” It reminds us that truth and beauty can be found in the ordinary and the everyday.

This is also a basic tenet of Japanese minimalism.

Just as in the calm emptying of the mind through Zen of meditation, Japanese minimalism values empty space. In Western culture, emptiness has historically been seen as a negative characteristic, even unnerving at times, and growing consumerism led art become a way of displaying wealth and power, often replete with extravagance - one need only look up rococo or baroque-style art and architecture to see the influence of these ideas.

Recently, however, modern design has embraced negative space. When applied, the principles of Japanese minimalism add to this, changing it from a trend to a way of life, challenging the elements of modern architecture and design which can sometimes be seen as cold and detached.

Japanese minimalist style brings in warmth by incorporating not only neutral but also natural colors: rich browns and deep greens. It also seeks natural light wherever possible. Sunbeams stream freely into uncluttered spaces.

To truly understand, this requires turning much of Western thought on its head. In Japanese minimalism, emptiness is not nothingness, but rather is, in itself, something. It has value. An empty room, an empty mind, is not bare - it is free. It is not distant - it is eminently present. It accepts the core conviction of minimalism: keeping what is essential with intention, appreciating the little things, and transforming bareness into beauty.


This regard for negative space can be seen in the Japanese practice of ikebana. An art form that has existed for hundreds of years, ikebana is a traditional way of flower arrangement that focuses on the intensely emotional quality that can be contained in simple, natural elements. Although there are different schools of the art, some of which can take years of formal study to answer, it is by its very ethos, a peaceful, personal practice focusing on a few main components.

Unlike the western arrangements we might be used to seeing on kitchen tables and at wedding ceremonies, ikebana is not about filling the vase with myriad colorful flowers to create an ideal, which can sometimes be like one, large, multicolored blossom. In ikebana, each individual flower, stem, and branch is distinctly emphasized. There are three main elements: the shin, the soe, and the hikae. These three - usually a longer branch, a shorter branch, and a flower - represent sky, man, and Earth, respectively. They are not just the foundation but the focal point of the arrangement. Only a few more jushi - or subordinate stems - are added, and the arrangement is complete. Ikebana uses line and form to find balance in asymmetry - another aspect of Japanese minimalism which has been embraced by modern design.

Making an ikebana is almost a form of meditation in and of itself. It creates harmony with self and nature, as it takes into account the origin of each flower and plant (and, at times, other natural items too - moss, rocks, earth) used, as well as the symbolism and seasonality of each, to determine placement. It takes the environmental consciousness of minimalism to the next level - not just to consider the environment, but to grant it so much respect, to love it so much, as to be one with it.

Thus, the aesthetic of Japanese minimalism, and of ikebana especially, is only a part of it. In truth, it lends itself to a way of being: the calmness and natural beauty of the physical space surrounding you almost always touches the internal world, filling you with the feeling that life is like ikebana. It is exquisite and fragile, powerful and fleeting, pure and still. 

SOURCES

Artsy.net What is Ikebana? The Japanese Art That's Making a Comeback

Sapporo.co.uk The Art of Less is More

Japantimes.co.jp 'Zen: The Art of Simple Living': Habits, ideas and hints for living a happy life

Youtube Ikebana Flower Arrangement Tutorial

Photo by David Brooke Martin on Unsplash



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