If we had to choose the most powerful principal to live by both in our lifestyle and design style, we would have to say Minimalism. In a world crowded with thoughts, sales, news, promos, (exasperated gasp…) opinions, photos, advice and an overabundance of unnecessary material goods – it is easy to drown in the noise, and lose yourself or your message in many instances. Keeping a minimalist mentality forces you to be clear and concise, edit out the BS, and live only with what serves you.
As designers, we are faced with the challenge of organizing a client’s business ideas so that they look visually pleasing, professional and reputable. We help decide what should stay and go, or what needs to be highlighted. Sometimes it is difficult to explain to someone that the more text that is squeezed into their flyer, the less people are going to want to read it! (the graphic designers reading this are nodding emphatically right now) But minimalism is intrinsic for graphic designers for these reasons, as our goal is to get people to want to look at your business, trust you and feel they know what you stand for. So trust us! Less is more.
Of course there are different design styles, but as a general rule in art and design, there needs to be sufficient “white space” for the viewers’ eye to rest between content. Otherwise, they get overwhelmed and don’t know where to look. Then they’ll scroll to the next image, or walk right by your poster because their eye just had an anxiety attack. We believe this to be especially true in the present digital age, where people’s attention span has shortened and senses have been dulled by overstimulation. You literally have only milliseconds to capture someone’s attention with your graphic, or it’s on to the next. (Is anyone even still reading this?)
Ok here is an example! Which of these graphics do you prefer? Which do you think gets the message across better, or would you be more likely to share on social media?
Hopefully you said number one, to prove our point. We tried to make it obvious in this one, but if not, its probably just because it’s REALLY hard for us to make a “bad” design example. (*wink*)
As expats and travel-lovers, minimalism is also key to our survival. If we want to keep living a life of freedom, where we work for ourselves and do what we love, we can’t be gathering all kinds of toys and gadgets, eating out every meal and buying cocktails every night, leasing a new car or running up credit card debt (that’s right- we’re not trust fund kids). Unlike the people who work full-time for someone else for years and years to save money before moving to another country or going on a long trip, we decided to figure it out as we go! Life is unpredictable, and we don’t believe you need to wait until retirement to live the life you want to live. But you have to be willing to compromise, and the trade off for freedom is a that our income varies month to month. We have had to be creative and diversify our income sources, but the real key to making this work is that we live with minimal overhead and expenses, to avoid crashing and burning, or burying ourselves in debt. Living in Costa Rica is very conducive to a minimalistic lifestyle anyways, so though many of our simple ways of life are by choice, it’s also partially due to what’s available. But that is just another thing we love about the beach towns of Costa Rica! There isn’t a mall or (evil) Wal-Mart in every pueblo here. This means we cook more at home and eat healthier as a result. Buy less clothes and “toys”, but don’t worry so much about our appearance or status. And we aren’t inundated with advertising and temptations every time we walk out of the house; instead we appreciate the beauty of nature and feel immense gratitude for life and this Earth every time we watch a sunset over the Pacific.
“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.”
Ellen Goodman, American journalist (1941 – )
We spend money on the basics only – rent, utilities, car repairs, gas, food – and get our pleasures from walking the beach, surfing, doing yoga, making arts and crafts, cooking, fishing, playing with our dogs. It sounds cliché but the simplest things in life really are what make you happiest! And when you aren’t stuck in a M-F, 9-5 schedule, you have much more time to enjoy those simple things. Think about it- you don’t have to work all those extra hours if you don’t have all those extra expenses. Plus, when you have a little extra cash it’s extra exciting to treat yourselves.
(Tips on achieving a more minimalist lifestyle below!)
If you would like to incorporate more minimalist philosophies into your business, design, or overall lifestyle, here are some tips and ideas to help you clear space for what is truly important, and be happier, healthier and more productive!
1) Make lists. Seeing things together in a list will help you prioritize and organize. Write down all of your monthly expenses, and decide if you can eliminate some, or work towards lowering certain items. Write down all of your business messaging and see if you can combine, make more concise, or eliminate some of the points (before handing off to your graphic designer! hehe). Make a meal plan and grocery list and stick to it. You get the idea.
2) Go backpacking! Even if it’s just for a weekend trip, try bringing only the essentials in a small bag or backpack. Work your way up to longer trips, or camping excursions where you live out of a backpack for a period of time and realize you can survive with less. This will help you detach from your non-essential belongings, and you’ll start to value experiences over things. Getting in touch with nature, observing how other cultures live, and enjoying the present moment will also remind you what is truly important in life, and what you need to be happy and fulfilled is not material.
3) Use only cash. Set a weekly budget for yourself and withdraw that amount from the ATM. Use only that cash all week – no swiping allowed! This will help you prioritize and keep you from making impulse buys. There is something about seeing the physical cash there that makes it real as you see it disappearing!
4) Recycle, trade and create. If you’re feeling like you need a new look and want to change up your wardrobe or home decor, remember there are many ways to achieve this without running out to the mall! Get creative and remember that new to YOU doesn’t necessarily need to mean new from the store. Pinterest is great for getting repurposing ideas, DIY decor, upcycled clothing tricks, and other fun ways to spice up your home or closet. Or trade clothes with a friend who also wants some new duds!
5) Do some spring cleaning. Cleaning out your living space, getting rid of things you don’t use and organizing the things you do use will also help give you a sense of mental clarity. When things pile up in your house, you have a tendency to feel bogged down mentally and emotionally too. Donate things from your wardrobe you haven’t worn in the last few seasons, make some cash by selling old sporting equipment or furniture on Craigslist. Start your new minimalist lifestyle with a clean slate!
Hopefully we have inspired you to prioritize and clear space for the important things. We’re not saying you need to become a dumpster diver or “freegan“, (though, good on them!) but if you feel all your time is consumed with a job you hate, to pay for things you don’t really need- it might be time to reprioritize. If you grew up in the U.S. or other country where the culture has been pushing “more money + more things = more success,” all of your life, it may take awhile to let go of that way of thinking. If your friends and family live this way, you need to remember not to compare yourself to them, but do what makes you happy. For us, there was sort of a “detox” period where sometimes we missed our North American lifestyles (mostly when facing challenges), and still struggle with keeping our superficial wants and desires in check. But the longer you work at it, the more you will enjoy your freedom and lightness, and realize your old life was probably motivated by some pretty shallow things.
If you like our minimal, clean style of design, or are starting your own business to escape the 9-5 trap, make sure to contact us for branding and website design, or just to share your story! We love hearing from other entrepreneurs, expats and free-thinkers!