Simplicity and Complexity: Opposite Extremes

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo da Vinci 15th Century, Italy 

Leonardo DaVinci

“Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves.”  

Edwin Way Teale 1920’s, Illinois

“Everything should be made as simply as possible, but not simpler.” Einstein 1940’s, New Jersey

“Simplicity is it’s own artistry.” 2015 Starbucks Ad Campaign, Seattle

Starbucks Simplicity AdStarbucks Simplicity Ad

Great minds from many different ages and fields have touted the wonders of simplicity.  From 15th century Italy to 21st century Madison Avenue, the notion that less can be more, simpler can be more elegant, and that perfection can be achieved by subtraction rather than addition, has been touted.

In some cultures and eras, these ideas have been embraced and in others, dismissed.  In times of scarcity, thrift was not just a virtue, but a necessity.  It’s pretty easy to keep things simply when you have no choice. But what happens when times are easy?  Simplicity can seem like an unnecessary restriction.  There are lots of goods and services at your fingertips and you’re flush with resources, so why not indulge?

For starters, do you want to have a life of sophistication and artistry or a life of clutter and chaos?  Everything we own also owns us.  Edwin Way Teale said it well. Reduce your wants and your labors will be reduced. When you own less, you tend to own better. When you own less, you are able to curate your life in a more thoughtful and harmonious way.  When you simplify your home, your schedule and your life, paradoxically, they all become richer and more meaningful.

So where are you on the simplicity-complexity continuum? If you want to shift, how do you make that happen?  The first step is awareness.  Remember that needs and wants are not the same.  The next step is to embrace the philosophy that perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add but when there is nothing more to take away.   Can you make things as simple as possible, but not a bit simpler?  And finally, you can begin to nibble away at the physical clutter and detritus that have accumulated over the years.   Stick with it and before long, you’ll be singing the praises of artistry through simplicity!

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