How to Embrace Minimalism in Your Creative Practice

I have, like many people right now, been interested in pursuing a more minimal lifestyle. I’ve spent hours reading The Private Life of a Girl and The Minimalists, cut down my wardrobe and my excess. I’ve become more mindful of everything I buy from food to books. I’m definitely not a poster girl for a minimal lifestyle. I probably still have too much. But I’m trying and I’m conscious of the affect my consumption has on my own psyche and the wider world. I’m doing it in my own way, which I personally think is more important than following any “rules”.

But the one area I haven’t explored is my creative practice. On the one hand, I’m excited to embrace minimalism wherever I can. On the other hand, I personally think some elements of producing creative work just can’t exist within a minimalist frame. All creative work comes from collecting information and inspiration from other sources, the more the better, that act of collection, of active consumption of as much as you can seem diametrically opposed to minimalism. Similarly, to make good work, you have to make a lot of bad work. You have to keep making and producing and putting more into to the world, which again can’t fit into minimalism.

That said there are things we can do as creative to work more simply and be more conscious of how much we’re consuming and wasting. Here are the five ways I’m trying to incorporate minimalism into my work.

WORKSPACE

Having lots of things in your works space can serve as a distraction, and a handy excuse to hoard. So, I have cleared my desk almost completely. All that stays there now is my laptop, my notebooks (sketchbook, journal, diary), my pot of pens and a jug of water. These are the essentials I need pretty much whatever I’m doing. Then I bring in whatever else I’m working on and just focus on that one piece of work or collection of images. As someone who’s very tidy desk, tidy mind orientated it’s made me a lot calmer and meant that I work much more efficiently because I’m not rifling through papers or feeling like I don’t have enough space. That said I do still have prints I love up above my desk – as I said, I’m not perfect with this decluttering malarkey. Have a think about the things you actually need to have to hand, you might find that by clearing away the excess you, as well as your desk, find a new focus.

UNIFORM

I’ve written before about my work uniform. I have a set collection of clothes I wear for work, and now my free time too. It’s not so much a capsule wardrobe. It’s probably not quite small enough, and I don’t swap anything out seasonally. But by limiting my choices and only having things I actually enjoy wearing in my wardrobe, I have saved so much time, reduced my decision fatigue, and also felt way less of a need to buy new clothes – other when that heat wave took London! Plus getting into my set uniform always gets me into the right mindset for work.

RESOURCES

I know I said earlier that constantly creating is, at least to me, not in keeping with the minimalist mindset, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reduce the amount of waste you produce. Make the most of all of your resources and use them cleverly. That can mean anything from using both sides of sketchbook pages to reusing old artworks in cards or gifts, collecting scraps of paper to make rough books, reducing the amount you print, working more digitally, or even just working in batches to get the most out of whatever you’re using. I’m attempting slowly to do all of these a little bit more, and I really am finding that my bin is filling up far slower and I’m approaching my work in new ways which is actually making me more creative in my work.

CURATING

Just because you create loads, doesn’t mean you have to share it all. Curating what goes on display and only showing the pieces you really love or that have a story to tell is a really nice way to both up the quality of your online (or physical) presence and embrace a more minimal, thought through approach to your work. This is something I’ve been working on a lot in creating my portfolio.

SAYING NO

Minimalism encourages you to focus on only consuming what you need and what makes you happy, things of quality. I think the same logic applies to work as well. You should only take on the jobs (within reason, taking into account the fact you have to earn enough to live) that you are going to find fulfilling. Before you say yes to taking on a new project, ask yourself: do I have enough time, mental space, and energy to do this? Will I enjoy working on this project? Will I be left with an outcome I am proud of? Is this something I really want to do? I’m still not very good at this, but I’m trying, and eventually, I’ll get there.

Are you trying to live a simpler lifestyle? What’s working for you?

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2 Comments

  1. August 18, 2017 / 6:25 am

    i’m a sucker for minimalist workspace, however, sadly i can’t do that with my own desk. i have a gaming desktop on my ‘work table’ which also serves my somewhat vanity which means i have my essential stuff there like skincare products and whatnot. it’s all because my room isn’t spacious and i have to be smart with my things! you might think ‘maybe you have too many stuff’ but eh, in my defense, my room really is small haha it’s my dream to have a minimalist workspace someday!

    speaking of ‘work uniform’, i also have a few clothes that i always use for work and my mom is so annoyed that she says ‘why do you keep using this same top / skirt / etc!? you’ve used this LAST WEEK!’ and ugh, a part of me kind of thinks, ‘she’s kinda right. what if my coworkers think i only have these clothes that i keep using this floral skirt EVERY WEEK at least once?’ but then again i thought, ‘ah screw this. i wear what i’m comfortable with. who cares about if i wear this shirt this week and wear it again next week? as long as it’s comfortable and doesn’t restrict my movement in the office, right’ :))

    You should only take on the jobs (within reason, taking into account the fact you have to earn enough to live) that you are going to find fulfilling. – this! when i was hunting for my first job, adults around me said that i was too picky and lectured me that since i’m a fresh grad, i shouldn’t be too picky about the place i wanna work at. i told them that it’s not them who’s doing the job if it’s shitty so really, they wouldn’t understand. i mean the perfect workplace or job is def impossible but you should always find a job in an environment that you enjoy, at least that’s my principle. once, i attended a seminar and the spokesperson said something that still resonates in my mind. he said, “i started this business not because i wanted the money, the success. sure, those are great outcomes but what’s important to me is that i want to work with the person who’s going to be my partner. i want to work with the person, not the business.” and i’ve lived my life with that kind of mindset in mind. it’s kind of easy to find a job with decent or high salary but finding a job that has people you can truly connect and feel at home is difficult – this is something that i was aiming for. fortunately, my first job has a decent pay and i am now working with people i can feel at home with. while the perfect job doesn’t exist, it is possible to find a good job with an enjoyable environment.

    ah, sorry for blabbering. i just have lots of things to say when it comes to accepting / looking for jobs. it just triggers my memories for some reason, lol

    • Natalie
      August 21, 2017 / 4:11 pm

      First off, thanks so much for taking the time to leave all of this and to respond to so much of what I wrote. It’s honestly incredible.

      When it comes to minimalism, I feel like you just have to do what you can with the space you have. When I was at home my desk had to do so much that there was no way it could ever be that minimalist, clean, white ideal. So I get it completely. As long as your workspace works for you – who cares?

      On the whole work uniform thing, comfort is always king. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with repeating outfits unless you’re a fashion icon, honestly no one notices. Can you describe what all of your colleagues were wearing two days ago? Even if they did care, what does it matter? If you’re dressed appropriately for the job you do, and you’re clean/presentable, what could they complain about?

      I completely agree when it comes to job hunting. As much as you need a job you should try as much as you can to make sure what you do is something you find interesting or at least in an environment you feel comfortable in. You’re going to spend the majority of your day there, so if you’re miserable all of the time you’re not going to be doing your best work or being your best self.

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