Flirting with Minimalism or Downsizing? These TED Talks May Just Talk You Into It

published Jul 4, 2015
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(Image credit: Brittany Purlee)

It remains to be seen whether downsizing and minimalism are going to be a cultural shift or just a cultural fad, but these ideas are certainly in the air and on a lot of minds. If you’re feeling a tug toward simplicity and paring down, here are some excellent TED Talks to watch on these topics from people who are already “walking the walk.”

With one exception, these TED Talks come from Tedx events – TED-sanctioned but independently run events. If you’re not familiar with TED Talks, they are short (under 18 minutes) talks to present and share big ideas.

And if you don’t have time to watch, I’ve pulled out a few sentences from each that gives you a sense of the talk:

The Minimalists at TEDxWhitefish

I was living paycheck-to-paycheck. Living for a paycheck. Living for stuff. Living for a career that I didn’t love. But I wasn’t really living at all…All those things that were supposed to make me happy — they weren’t doing their job. So I decided to donate and sell all of it. And you know what, I started to feel rich for the first time. I started to feel rich once I got everything out of the way and made room for everything that remains.

Graham Hill TED Talk

First of all, you have to edit ruthlessly. We’ve got to clear the arteries of our lives. And that shirt that I hadn’t worn in years? It’s time for me to let it go. We’ve got to cut the extraneous out of our lives, and we’ve got to learn to stem the inflow. We need to think before we buy. Ask ourselves, “Is that really going to make me happier? Truly?” By all means, we should buy and own some great stuff. But we want stuff that we’re going to love for years, not just stuff.

Adam Baker at TEDxAsheville

You need to define what freedom looks like in your life. You need to take steps starting today to realize that. Where does it start for most people? It starts right here, with your crap…What happens when this person loses their job? What happens when they’re offered a better job in a different city? What happens when they need to adapt either physically, emotionally, financially to any situation that comes up in life? The answer is—at best—that they’re restricted. They’re held back. They’re clogged. They’re congested from adapting to any sort of change because of the amount of crap they brought into their life.

Jennifer L. Scott atTEDxStGeorge

One of the strange side effects of having too many clothes is we still have nothing to wear…We’re operating under the misconception that the more clothes we have the easier it is to get ready in the morning. When actually the opposite is true. The less clothes you have, the less choice you have, the more thought and organization you put behind your wardrobe, the easier it is to get ready in the morning.

Marty Stano at TEDxUMDearborn

I began retracing my journey to happiness and I found a pattern. A pattern by which I’d been living most of my life whether I was conscious of it or not. Minimalism. By its simplest definition minimalism means “less is more”. One purpose of minimalism is to get rid of the things in life, the distractions, that we don’t truly need to find more of the things that bring us happiness. We can apply this idea “less is more” to all aspects of our life: material possessions, health and diet, our work, and non-material things like thoughts. When we practice minimalism we can benefit with more time, more energy, more money, more freedom, and ultimately, more happiness.

Angela Horn at TEDxCapeTown

You see, living a debt-free or close to debt-free life is more than possible and it brings with it a whole lot of extra cash. Cash that can be put to far better use doing those things that you love, but just never seem to be able to afford. Traveling, weekends away, whatever blows your hair back….You see, stuff, it turns out, is a very demanding mistress. And as soon as we gave her the boot, our weekends and, in fact, our whole lives, went from being jam-packed with chores to wide open.

Andrew Morrison at TEDxColoradoSprings

What I am suggesting is that we have to readdress how we look at housing and stop looking at these giant McMansions and start living in what I call “human scale.” Human scale is about having all of our housing needs met, but not strapping ourselves to the work wagon. Somewhere we were told that a bigger house with lots of square footage that’s going to make us happy and I would suggest that it’s actually the exact opposite of that. I think with less square footage we have more time to find our freedom and create happiness for ourselves.

David Friedlander at TEDxDumbo

The way I think about it, from a literary standpoint, is the world in a certain way is like this big, rambling rough draft. There’s a lot of really great elements in it and there’s a lot of amazing things going on right now, but a lot of times it’s really just obscured by all the superfluous shit…What we’re talking about here is really reducing things down to its essence. Editing. And that’s why we say editing is the skill of this century. Really getting down to what’s important whether that’s an architectural conceit, whether that’s product design, whether that’s relationships or your job. Just getting down to the essence of things.

Tiny home, big life — an experiment in simple living

Erin & Dondi Harner at TEDxFrontRange

[In designing our tiny house] we used the 80/20 rule: we took the 20% of our house that we use 80% of the time and we designed the house to include just that…we didn’t just take a regular house and shrink it down to be tiny either. We cut out everything we possibly could that wasn’t used daily or at least a couple times a week.

Grant Blakeman at TEDxBoulder

So we live in this world full of abundant choice and it’s really awesome. I mean, I can get on a plane and fly anywhere tomorrow. But that choice comes with a cost…we’re finding that consumers when faced with too much choice , are actually choosing not to choose. It’s just easier to not make a choice and have those choices be made for you…We want to live really full lives and that’s the way we should do it. But part of living a full life is finding negative space.

Re-edited from a post originally published 7.5.15-NT