Lynn Rivest 🚢

Apr 7, 2022

Less is more doesn't work for this minimalist

In 1947, architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe adopted a now famous phrase to describe his esthetic. 

Less is more.

This aphorism is now commonly used in many different contexts and is a favourite of many a minimalist. It seems to say in few words, what minimalism embraces. Owning less and doing less means more of something good. 

I’m not a fan. 

It implies that more is good or better. I realize it’s a pithy phrase and leaves out a lot of nuance but that’s the problem. It’s easy to take it at face value and assume that more is equal to a good outcome, something desirable. 

More is simply more.

It’s additional. What it adds may or may not be good. And what is good is subjective. 

By doing less, you’ll have more time. But what will you do with that time? If you spend it ruminating about the dreadful and hopeless state of the world, one could argue that’s not good.

Trying to reason out this thinking feels like trying to untangle a messy hairball but I thought it was worth exploring.

Today, I heard a saying that I much prefer to reflect my kind of minimalism.

Less but better. 

German industrial designer Dieter Rams coined the term that summed up his design philosophy. 

The use of the word better feels, well, better. 

Better is still subjective but embodies more nuance. It’s not good or bad. It’s better. Which may or may not be additive. 

Minimalism isn't merely about subtracting.

It’s about adding and removing things and experiences in your life that help you feel how you want to feel. When you do this intentionally, you’ll find that you don’t need as much as you think you do. So does that then mean less is more?

No, it means you have and add less to make it better.

Lynn Rivest 🚢

Founder, minimalist biz | I talk about building a minimalist business in midlife and aging boldly while doing it.