Kirsten Dirksen and the gang over at faircompanies have released a handful of intriguingly eclectic videos over the past month or so: a chat with the designer behind a a magnificent, 70-foot vertical garden — a fine work of vegitecture, to be sure — in Barcelona; a tour of a beautiful, daylight-strewn urban retreat, also in Barcelona, that boasts plenty of natural “flow;” a visit to an organic apple farm in Napa Valley. Yet I keep on going back to a video featuring a guy wearing a baseball cap doing pull-ups in a nearly empty one-bedroom condo in Santa Clara, California.
The tour — it can be viewed as eerie or inspiring, depending on how you feel about rather drastic possession editing — is of the home of Singapore-born Peter Lawrence, a Silicon Valley expat who was able to retire at the ripe old age of 40 (lucky guy) after working as a manager at HP. In his condo, you’ll find a sleeping bag in lieu of a bed, a lawn chair in lieu of a couch, a pot, a pan, a fork, a spoon, a computer, a projector, a guitar, a "go bag," and not much else.
You see, Lawrence is a self-described minimalist (understatement of the year, right there) and chooses to live in a manner that makes Graham Hill’s less stuff-centric Life Edited project look like an episode of “Hoarders.” Seriously, when it comes to paring down in pursuit of the "simple life," this guy means business. He even penned a self-published book about the topic called “The Happy Minimalist.”
As a collector, a lover of product design, a decorator, and someone who finds comfort in being surrounded by possessions, these kind of living situations drive me nuts. They make me anxious; all I see is a blank canvas just waiting to be filled with stuff so that it can be considered as what I interpret to be a “home.” I want to send this guy a couple of nice throw pillows and a few items to fill up that barren medicine cabinet at the very least. Maybe a wall tapestry, too. And a mattress.
I had a similar, not-very-popular reaction to this "zero waste" house. Yet extreme minimalism forces me to think and more importantly, reflect about what really matters. It helps that Lawrence is so articulate and so open about how his minimalist lifestyle has allowed him to focus on “internal stuff." A bit new age-y, yes, but he has some great points.
Lawrence firmly believes that “the most worthy possessions that we have are actually within us." He notes: “That's why I don't consider myself lacking any material stuff. And that's why I'd rather devote the limited resources that I have, time being one of them, in developing traits and skills rather than material stuff."
His website digs in a bit deeper:
"The life of a minimalist does not have to be deprived. Rather, it is simple living focused on what is truly needed to make a person happy and can be filled with enriching experiences — as demonstrated by Peter’s life."
Again, Lawrence’s uber-minimalist philosophy isn’t for me — or for many of us — but there’s a lot to be gleaned from the clutter-free path that he's chosen to follow. Take a look and let me know what you think. Could you ever see yourself living as Lawrence does? My only question is: Why the spacious, cookie-cutter condo? I'm curious as to why Lawrence hasn't downsized to put his simplistic lifestyle into better perspective. A one-bedroom pad with all the amenities just seems off for someone who needs — and has — so little. I'm not saying he should decamp to a yurt in the woods but, you know, a home that emphasizes the fulfilled and not the empty.
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