Colors are the smiles of nature. ~ Leigh Hunt
Minimalism is a tool, a means to an end, a device to help us clear the clutter and find what truly makes us happy. Minimalism is not the end goal, but something that helps us realize what the end goal really is and how to get there. Minimalism helps us get to where we truly want to go.
So why do Minimalist blogs, books and articles often show white-walled empty houses, free of messes, clutter and color? And why are many Minimalist blogs colorless, plain and seemingly lacking in any styling? And why do pictures of minimalist thought-leaders often show people dressed in shades of gray, black or white? Is the minimalist movement stuck in some colorless dimension where white and black rule and all other colors are banned?
I think some of this obsession with black and white hails back to the minimalist movement in art. It is characterized by simple shapes, lines, and colors. It is full of great examples and beautiful portrayals using black and white. At its heart, the minimalist art movement is meant to get at the basic or essential aspects of the thing being portrayed.
So, in defense of black t-shirts and plain websites, many minimalists and minimalist bloggers use these techniques from art in their lives and on the web. By wearing dull colors and avoiding most color, I think they’re hoping to uncover their personal essential characteristics. They want their personalities to shine through instead of being reflected by their bright or branded clothing.
This applies to websites, books, closets, houses, etc. Black and white rule along with a lack of color, links, sidebars, pictures, pages, and other content found on other websites. This puts a focus on the essential aspects of the message. Content over design.
And I agree with this for the most part. My website is pretty basic because I want to put an emphasis on the words rather than the design. I don’t have a lot of branded or designer shirts and I do have a few gray t-shirts. I believe in simplicity and letting content be front and center, whether that’s a blog post, my personality, or anything else.
But I do think that the white-walled minimalist houses, blank kitchens, black and white wardrobes, bare websites and lack of color are misleading and an unfortunate precedent. I have a hard time believing that anybody’s house actually looks like these pictures (I know mine doesn’t). It seems so staged and contrary to a major tenet of minimalism: to find our real passions and be authentic. My passions involve colorful things. So in the name of authenticity and beautiful colors, I’m challenging this stereotype and hoping you’ll do the same.
When I was a teenager and starting to explore the ideas of minimalism I was getting rid of some of my old stuff. But I also wanted to add some color to my life. My basement bedroom was white with gray carpet. One afternoon I asked my parents if I could paint one wall green. To my surprise they said yes. So that weekend we got some bright green paint, paint rollers, plastic, etc. We painted the entire wall green and it was awesome!
My bike is bright blue and my rain jacket/biking jacket is a matching bright blue. I bought, fixed and painted a stool that sits in our bedroom. It’s bright red. My favorite desktop wallpapers are green trees, blue oceans, pink/purple/red sunsets, and gray/pink mountains at sunset. If we had a little more sunshine in our basement apartment I would definitely buy a few more plants for our office to give it some more color. I love color! It makes me happy, boosts my mood and helps reduce stress.
I don’t want to say that any one way to be a minimalist is right or wrong. I hope that by writing this I can help those exploring minimalism see that it’s not all about white-walled houses with gray wardrobes. Minimalism is a tool to get at what’s essential in life and spend time, money and energy doing what really matters the most to you. And I think that includes lots and lots of wonderful color!
God created this beautiful Earth with every color imaginable and I think we ought to enjoy it. So go ahead, throw some color into your minimalism. Paint your desk yellow, buy that blue bike, put stickers all over your laptop.
Color makes me happy and is so much better than the dull gray, black and white that surround us in so many places already. Bring the beauty and joy of color into your life.
Here are some minimalist bloggers that I think do color right:
- http://www.rowdykittens.com – always has a nice bold accent color
- http://theartofsimple.net – used to have more green, but still colorful
- http://bemorewithless.com – a simple hint of blue
- http://joelzaslofsky.com – lots of blue
- http://caitflanders.com – love the green accent
- http://midwaysimplicity.com – bright green!
- Others? If you love minimalism and color, please share on Facebook or Twitter!
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Also published on Medium.