Back in Paris, I've been plunged back into daily life, but I tiptoe around it, retaining the warmth of the tropical sun on my skin. I'll have travel photographs and thoughts to share in the coming days, but while I make the time to sort through my memories and pictures, here is a quick thought on tools and objects labeled "simple" or "minimalist".
I'm currently reading a very interesting book called Faster, by James Gleick. I'll probably write about this book again, as it describes the accelerating pace of our society... in 1998 - you know, before smartphones, facebook and twitter.
There is a mention of simplicity in one of the chapters of this book - proof that none of us have invented the wheel, simplicity coaches and books already existed in the ninties after all. He explains that in this faster pace and information overload of the world, people feel more and more the need to slow down.
Paradoxally, the simplicity movement as described in the book is also filled of information, bite-size steps, rules and, of course, new purchases, that actually complicate the process instead of creating time in a busy world. He speeaks about objects marketed specifically for people who want to "simplify their lives" such as hardwood floors and other "Simple shoes".
In the end of this section, he concludes by saying the these simplicity gurus who publish tons of books about it may not apply the principles themselves. People may, in the end, read through simplicity literature and design the way they read architecture or travel magazines: as a way to dream about it as an ideal life, and not as a way to actually apply it to their own.
This short paragraph made me think a lot about the simplicity/minimalism movement of our decade. Certainly, many bloggers or famous figures feed their readership with carefully curated images of streamlined closets, wooden floors and black & white depurated environments, but how many of them walk their talk, and how many of us change our lives meaningfully as a result?
And what about so called "minimalist" brands? Is it really necessary to buy more stuff to simplify our lives? Does a nice Aesop hand wash make our bathroom more minimalist? (I'm guilty of buying from this brand myself, so the questioning applies to me, as a part of this "simplicity" movement). Are flowy linen shirts really a "must" for a "minimalist lifestyle"?
If the movement already existed in the late nineties, and 15 years later we stand at a faster pace than ever, still looking for quick and easy way to simplify our lives, then where do we stand now? What can we take away from this minimalist movement, and what part belongs to ourselves to develop in our own lives?