How Technology Encourages Minimalism

Today I had a great conversation with Ben Brooks for the podcast adjunct to this site, ProductiVardy. Among some of the things we covered was minimalism. I asked him his thoughts on the term, and he had this to say:

“I like a lot of the aesthetics that go with minimalism. I like the idea. But I’m certainly not minimalist in everything I do. I just try to strike a balance to where it feels comfortable and not uncomfortable.”

I’ve talked about productivity buzzwords at The Next Web, with minimalism being one of them that tends to get misused — and overused in its misuse. And I think that Ben is certainly not the only one who balances it in that fashion. And technology can play a huge part in creating a minimalist atmosphere, making that balance far easier to achieve.

I’ve recently picked up a MacBook Air, and I’ve already found that the amount of data it will hold has changed how I use my computer.1 I’m more aware of file and folder organization, and am careful to rid my new machine of files, folders and applications that are either redundant or no longer useful to me. It is almost through a deprivation of storage space — local storage space — that my 11-inch MacBook air has promoted a more minimalist computing experience.

Services such as Instacast and Rdio have also had a hand in creating this atmosphere. I no longer have to store audio files on my computer; I can use my iOS devices as broadcasting devices thanks to these two services. Rdio handles my music, Instacast handles my podcasts. As a result, iTunes rarely enters the equation.2

Tech is getting smaller and more portable, so the visibility factor of that plays well into the minimalist ideal. It’s almost as if the term “better seen and not heard” has been replaced with “better there and not seen” as a result of the shrinking size of our devices. And since these devices can do a lot of things despite their smallness in stature, the notion of having less devices — less small devices — is possible and nothing suffers by going that route.

Smaller devices means smaller — or less cluttered — workstations. Software solutions like Evernote means less of a need for physical filing cabinets. Emailed statements and receipts mean less of a need for them as well. All that adds up to less furnishings. Less furnishings could lead to less floor space needed, which could lead to a smaller living space.

Ultimately, all of that could lead to less stuff to deal with and more money to deal with. But that’s a personal choice. You have to decide where you feel comfortable and not uncomfortable. Just like Ben does.

Just like we all do.

1 FYI: No one talks about minimalism+tech better than Sir Patrick.
2 iTunes — that behemoth of an application — still comes into play for updates. Sigh.