Keep it simple, stupid

When people hear the words minimalism or living simply, they often think of someone who owns only 50 things and lives out of a box. This is a little misguided. The idea behind minimalism is that you pare down the material things in your life to the essentials. Only keep what is necessary so that you can focus your time and energy on more worthwhile things like family, friends, career, passions or education.

I started reading minimalism blogs back in September and became hooked instantly. I was raised by parents who emphasized frugality and never spending money you don’t have on stuff you don’t need. It was an easy transition for me. I’ve found more recent inspiration in the Tao Teh Ching and Bruce Lee’s idea of honest expression through martial arts. These things have caused me to start viewing the world with a mindset known as “KISS” or “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

I try to apply this logic to every aspect of my life. From clothing and technology, to political views and how I approach schoolwork. The simplest path isn’t always the easiest — it’s often the toughest way forward — but that only means it’s the most rewarding.

When I buy clothes, I buy plain clothes that will last me a long time. This way I save money and don’t have to worry about fashion trends.  One of my favorite bloggers says it best: “Should you wish to stand out from the crowd, consider doing so with your intellect, actions or humor.”

Schoolwork can also be kept simple. Why type a rambling, 11-page essay when a quality seven pages will do? Why write two paragraphs when a solid five sentences will do? Some professors will appreciate the effort and make an exception to page limits. Don’t worry if you don’t hit the minimum, just make sure it’s the best work you can do.

Simple living could also help us as communities and as a country both socially and economically. A collective movement to consume less would put less strain on the environment that sustains us. Not having to buy as much stuff means having to work less and being able to relax more with the people we love. People work like crazy just so they can buy stuff they don’t need to impress people they don’t like. That sounds terrible. Wouldn’t you rather work less and spend more time with family and friends?

But of course not just material goods cost money. Some experiences are expensive. Going to concerts and comedy shows, taking road trips and skydiving all cost considerable amounts of money. But if we all spent less money on things like huge TVs, we would have more money for those worthwhile experiences.

The major thing you should take away from this is simple (no pun intended). Keep life simple so you can focus your time, energy and money on what’s really important. Spending time with family and friends is important — reality shows are not. We’ve all heard the idea of living each day as if it were our last. That is probably hard to do considering all the things we want to accomplish just in case we die tomorrow, so I have a more realistic option. Make sure everything you do, every day, is worthwhile. Be awesome, do great things and keep it simple, stupid.

Reach the columnist at William.Joslin@asu.edu