During my summer blog redesign project, I added a number of design websites – both general design and web-specific – to my daily reading list. Through them, I’ve learned more about what I’ll call the Cult of Minimalism.1 Minimalist web design puts an emphasis on strong, simple design elements that easily convey a site’s message to the reader. That means fewer widgets and graphic embellishments in favor of a sparse, but carefully designed, look.

That aesthetic has been my goal in my blog redesign. The interesting aspect of Minimalism is that it takes as much effort to make something simple and beautiful, while avoiding being boring, as it does to pile on element after element.

The Cult is about far more than design, though. Many people live their lives according to minimalist principles. They pare down their possessions to only what they need each day and carefully consider each purchase before adding something.

The two articles below highlight this minimalist take on what we own. While I think the hyper-minimalists go a bit far in their efforts, two things about their lifestyle appeal to me. Their embrace of digital living, for starters.

One of the things I love most about computers is how powerful they have become in our lifetimes. Today a computer isn’t about just creating spreadsheets and business letters or playing games. They’ve become our primary communications devices and where we store much of our lives, making data that was once stationary endlessly portable. Not everything can be digitized, but the idea of having as much of your life as possible on a few hard drives and always having it handy appeals to me. We all kind of do that, but to go all in and not have a desk full of papers, bookshelves full of reading material, and photo albums or CDs lying around has a certain allure to me.

Second, reducing your possessions and thinking more about your purchases is something we can all do better at. I find it’s way too easy to click the Purchase button on a website, or throw in an extra item or two at Costco or Target without really thinking about whether I need them or not. The digital age has made it easier to replace Need with Want when we are shopping, whether online or in person. Each time I clean out my office closet or the attic or go through my clothes at the end of a season, I think that I should be wiser about replacing the times that I’m throwing out or giving away. And yet I keep buying shit. A lot of shit.

I think cutting down on physical commodities in general might be a trend of my generation – cutting down on physical commodities that can be replaced by digital counterparts will be a fact,” said Mr Sutton.

Another unintended philosophical nugget of the project was to understand that many things are worth less monetarily than you think. Some of your possessions might even have a negative value.

The final article explores the opposite extreme: never getting rid of anything. These stories – the ones about people with homes that are literally full of junk – always fascinate me. It’s one thing to have all of your storage spaces crammed full of stuff. It’s another to let it take over your living space completely. These people always feel like they should be at the center of a mystery novel, because they clearly have some interesting stories to tell.

“It’s little by little,” he said, stumbling to explain his compulsion. “If I don’t need it now, I’m going to need it later.

  1. Cult is a strong word, but that seems to be the standard naming convention these days for any movement that is small but has an extremely devoted following.