This Month's Inspiration- Minimalism

by - Sunday, January 10, 2016

Donald Judd, Untitled, from
Christmas is over, decorations are put away, and like most of us out there, I am trying to clean up my act in January! All of the holiday business (and treats) and a trip away have me ready to refresh my house, my life, and my body. The biggest To Do on our list is to start spring cleaning (yes, we know it isn’t spring yet, but someone explain to me why you would start cleaning once the weather gets nice outside). So this month is all about cleaning out and simplifying. 

I love a good jumble, or a fun arrangement of a bunch of cool stuff, so my inspiration this month is the Minimalists and contemporary minimalist design, to remind me that sometimes keeping things simple can also make a huge impact.

Jackson Pollock, Cathedral, 1947- from
The minimalists were a bunch of individuals who came along at the end of the 50’s, when the psychoanalytically-loaded chaos of the Abstract Expressionists was gaining fame. Money, and oodles of imitators. AbEx artists like Barnett Newman, Willem deKooning, and good old Jackson Pollock used explosions of color and gesture to express their post-war feelings and anxieties. Lots of them. Feelings on Feelings on feelings. These paintings are so loaded with content that they are sometimes termed “allover paintings” They don’t have a focal point because there is just so much going on everywhere! That sounds like my house right now, with less masculine angst.

Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Carl Andre, and my beloved Dan Flavin among others introduced an entirely different approach to respond to these previous artists’ success. Rather than cover the art object with seemingly infinite gestures and emotions, they presented one idea at a time. In “Specific Objects” Don Judd argues that even abstract painting is playing into old rules of representation and perspective- he suggests to resist the onslaught of artistic expression by using clean industrial materials (steel or glass) instead of artistic materials (like paint or canvas). Judd also preferred sculpture, like this Dan Flavin Monument to Tatlin, because it presented one singular idea instead of many at one time.
Dan Flavin, Monument to Tatlin, 1966- from
This theory may seem like a long way from my current mission to clean out my basement, and I won’t be interrogating the artistic expression of dusting, but hear me out. Our home has two functions- the practical functions (eating, sleeping, sitting, etc) and aesthetic functions (it says something about who we are to ourselves and to anyone who visits). I tend to prefer an aesthetic that says TONS of things at once about who we are and that is ready to fulfill ANY function that it might need to. In doing that, we have accumulated a lot of stuff. I want to re-evaluate the objects we have in our house, and hopefully diminish some of what we have collected, by coming back again and again to the question of function- how much can you get rid of if you just let go of what isn’t actually that useful or beautiful to you? Is it better to have a pile of things that fulfill a function, or a few that can address all those needs as well?

Tossing stuff may not seem eco-friendly at first. In fact, if you have bought it, shouldn’t you use it?  In most cases,Yes! Please use it (and take care of it) if we can.

But here’s the thing. We as Americans have so much stuff that we no longer know what we have. How many times have you bought something only to realize you actually already had it at home? I know it happens to us! We have “condensation points” in our house that always seem full of stuff (the desk in the kitchen, the basement, the toy box) where new things land but hardly ever does something come out. Even when the house is clean, these little hoards still exist. So we keep getting toys, even though there are already ones getting no use. If you have so much that you can’t assess your needs or you can’t take care of it all, you have too much. This list wisely explores why we keep things when we don't need to. 

Don’t throw it away- donate it. Put it up on Buy Nothing (no seriously, I will nag you all about Buy Nothing until I start hearing reports that you joined or started one- it is life-changing). I hate to throw something away, because I might need it someday, but if someone can use it now, why am I just hoarding it away? This became so clear to me after having a baby. They are in those clothing sizes for a month or two before it’s on to the next one. I could save all The Bub’s clothes for the next baby at that size, or I can pass it on in Buy Nothing, and five or six babies could wear that clothes before we even have another one. The more we share what we have, the less waste we create.

No small task, right? But this is what is on my mind this month. And as blogs like A Virtuous Woman reminds me, this is more than a question of mess, it is about stewardshop and focus. Setting some fresh new goals and cleaning out those cluttered corners. If November and December are all about buying ethically, January is all about taking care of what you have by getting rid of things ethically!

To live a more eco-friendly and ethical life, our house has two major hurdles to tackle: First, I want to do more research about cleaners- what’s the least toxic and waste-producing way to keep our house clean? How can I reuse these plastic spray cans instead of buying more? Secondly, how can we minimize the stuff in our house so we know what we have and keep it nice?

Theme for 2016? Less is the New More. Let’s do this.

Ok, so who wants to join us spring cleaning? So much fun, right? My (very) optimistic estimate is that we will be cleaning for about a month. I will try to share some of our ideas for thinning out collections and I would love to hear yours too! Happy Cleaning! 

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  1. I love minimizing stuff! Especially being at the stage of life where I am basically always preparing for another move. Clothing always feels very easy to get rid of, but I have a hard time getting rid of things people have given me, even if they have never been used, because I then I feel ungrateful. But then instead I end up with a shake-weight in the trunk of my car for months, so...



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