The fictional extreme-minimalist future

In George Lucas’ first film THX 1138, the future of the world is an ascetic’s paradise of monochromatic environments, clean lines, barren surfaces, and shaved heads. A similar future is portrayed in Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. In both movies, the future is sanitized, impersonal, and sterile.

Robert Duvall in THX 1138

These films highlight what life is like when uncluttering embraces the extreme and stops focusing on achieving a remarkable life and instead focuses on getting rid of clutter for no other reason that getting rid of clutter.

Over on the website Pop Matters, Bill Reagan talks today about these clutter-free, personality-free, generic futures in the article “Table Space: The Final Frontier“:

Realizing that no one else is making an effort to bring the junkless future to life, I reexamined Kubrick’s film, looking for clues for how our species was to conquer the ever-growing piles, drawers, and shelves of stuff. As I studied, I realized that the barren desktops and uncluttered counters resembled the austere interior landscapes featured in Dwell magazine, whose photo spreads show family living rooms with improbably bare coffee tables, the shelves in the children’s bedroom displaying one or two pristine toys like museum pieces.

What that magazine removes isn’t clutter – it’s life: the hoodie tossed lazily over the back of the chair, empty juice glasses accumulating on the kitchen counter, retired coffee cups stuffed with ball point pens, dog-eared catalogs accumulating in the corner. In the effort to portray simple, they err on the side of antiseptic.

The science fiction of my youth removed the same evidence of daily living, but went one step further: also gone are the photographs on mantles, preschooler paintings posted on refrigerator doors, handmade trinkets and cheap tchotchke mementos. It seems that as seen from 40 years ago, the world was to become increasingly efficient but decreasingly sentimental. Is that what we’ll be required to do to control our interior sprawl? Do we simply need to value the empty space more highly than the items currently occupying it?

If so, perhaps it’s better that the great minds of our generation remain focused on the jetpack.

Check out the article and then come back here and weigh in with your opinion in the comments. I certainly don’t agree with all of Reagan’s conclusions — dirty cups on a counter are an invitation for pests, not a reflection of someone’s personality. However, if you clear clutter to make way for what matter’s most to you, then photographs of loved ones are exactly what an unclutterer would likely want on his or her mantle. I’m interested in knowing if you wish the extreme-minimalist future would have become a reality, or if you think these depictions went too far.

49 Comments for “The fictional extreme-minimalist future”

  1. posted by g. on

    I’m heading over to read it. Meanwhile, I’ve always admired the Shakers: a book I have shows built-in cabinets and wall hooks, so everything is out of sight, contents protected from dust, and the rooms are easy to clean.

  2. posted by John on

    I think sometimes when people say they want simplicity, they really mean unity, and unity is easier to achieve in a minimalist setting. It takes more artistry to create something complex and unified.

    The Sistine Chapel ceiling is complex, but it is ordered and unified.

    A serene Japanese garden is far from simple. It may be simple in some respects, but living plants are very complex.

  3. posted by Ben on

    On the other hand, Star Wars, Blade Runner and Alien showed a future where even bare walls are cluttered and textured with technology of some sort.

    In Blade Runner, Ridley Scott went so far as to use cement castings from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Ennis House for Decker’s apartment, while in Alien he gave the create limitless nooks and utility openings in which to hide and stalk the doomed crew.

    George Lucas contrasted the messy utilitarian feel of the Rebel interiors with the cold austerity of the Death Star.

    Kubrick took a more balanced approach in A Clockwork Orange, where the interiors are relatively neat and modern, but still look lived-in.

  4. posted by Lori Paximadis on

    Antiseptic — that’s exactly the right word. I can’t imagine living in one of those cold, sterile environments with no personality. I need some books, a blanket to snuggle under, a fleet of houseplants in mismatched pots that I made in my ceramics phase, candles I actually burn instead of worship, and so on. I always look at those ultramodern magazine spreads and wonder who can stand to live there.

  5. posted by PJ Doland on

    I’ve always felt that Gattaca struck a nice balance. It had a clean look that never really felt sterile.

    I think it was the overall color palette of the film that made the difference. Gattaca was actually quite warm, if you compare it to the other films you mentioned.

  6. posted by Kathryn Fenner on

    The 90s BritCom AbFab did a hilarious spoof of this with a couple–the wife was a very brittle Miranda Richardson-who were so thrown by a bottle of red wine brought by a dinner guest to their all-white ueber-minimalist home that it ultimately was simply taken out of the room.

    I was reflecting on this very thing this morning as I looked at my many large houseplants. They add visual clutter, but soften the space, clean the air, and conceal some less than perfect finishes and electrical outlets/cords, etc. I also use greens and golds instead of whites and grays and beiges. Makes a huge difference in perceived warmth while still leaving the room easy to clean.

  7. posted by GC on

    I think you have a fabulous point about the juice glasses and pests. Roaches, ugh!
    Human minds are so inclined on a whole to chaos that to strive for an antiseptic environment can only result in a balance of clean, neat, and orderly. Unless someone has a disorder, they will never be able to achieve Space Odyssey style emptiness.

  8. posted by Bill Barry on

    The problem with sentimentality manifested in a collection of physical things is at least two-fold:

    – It is a largely manufactured, rather than humanly innate, desire. The more vehemently we cling to this confusion, the more stuff we are likely to buy and accumulate.

    – In as much as sentimentality itself is natural, we have always found a way to express it. For most of human history, that way has been through a rich oral tradition and meaningful ceremony. As we lose touch with that history, we also lose a significant part of what makes us human.

    A future in which physical excess has been re-considered and largely eliminated, both for sustainable and aesthetic reasons, does not have to be one without sentiment, as long as we can re-discover the art of tradition and culture building which now lies supplanted by consumerism and neurotic hording.

  9. posted by chacha1 on

    Bill makes a good point about sentimentality. In the U.S., we have gone a little too far toward sentimentalism. We attach emotional meaning to so many different things. At the same time, we have become more distant and trivial in our actual human interaction. (Email, IM, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)

    What the “antiseptic future” represented in the two films discussed was, I think, the filmmakers’ vision of societies where rationalism/pragmatism had overtaken any concern for the animal side of human nature. Sensory deprivation, lack of privacy, extreme population-control measures … Lucas’ film is pretty obvious about these.

    2001 is one of those movies you either love or hate. I’ve only seen it twice and frankly don’t get it. But the design aesthetic throughout makes me shiver.

  10. posted by Mike on

    @PJ – Gattaca, yes, definitely. The interiors for that film were all shot at the Marin County Civic Center, so I think that authenticity added to the impression that things could still be “homey” even with the technological lifestyle changes of Twenty Minutes Into the Future.

    @John – Unity seems like a sound theory here. It’s the next step beyond coordination, and there isn’t a homeowner out there who doesn’t coordinate to some degree. And it’s hard to coordinate decor if there’s a big off-color electronic device or appliance that has to be within useful reach on a frequent basis. Perhaps this is part of why Apple is so successful despite high prices: their designs are minimalist enough to coordinate well with a large variety of other decor.

  11. posted by Rebecca on

    It is so hard to strike the balance between “lived-in” and “cluttered”. I drool over the Dwell rooms, as I’m sitting in my own living room, last night’s drink glasses sitting on mismatched coasters, the blanket I’d used for warmth strewn across the arm of the sofa, and at least three pieces of junk mail in every room. Then about once a month, we *really* clean, and try to get rid of all evidence the room is used on a daily basis, until we get to those random semi-sentimental (or worse “possibly useful someday”) knickknacks, which get left on some surface which is not in our direct line of sight while sitting on the sofa. It’s a horribly imperfect process.

    Does anyone really maintain a home that looks like a Dwell magazine? (If they do, what do the insides of the drawers and cabinets look like?) The only time I’ve ever kept a space looking so minimalist and lovely was when I studied in London for the summer in 2003, and that was only because everything I owned had to fit in two large suitcases at the beginning and end of the summer. It was great for two months, but if I’d approached the room as a more permanent residence, I would have bought furniture, decorations, frames, etc., in order to have the space reflect what I perceive to be “me”. (And, unfortunately, that can be a moving target.)

  12. posted by Lindsay on

    You can have a nice clean look and still have a livable home as long as you have lots of containers and cabinets. When I see a picture of, for instance, a bedroom with simple tabletop nightstands with say one item on them.. I know that’s bullshit. Where do you put your books? Where’s the cord for the alarm clock? Where’s the lamp and its cord? Let’s not even talk about where they hide those other things people keep near the bed.

  13. posted by Celeste on

    I don’t think they meant let the dirty glasses sit out indefinitely, I think they meant don’t be obsessive about stopping to wash (or put in the dishwasher) every dirtied item as soon as it’s been emptied. I’m big on clean as you go and might rinse the item, but I have no problem leaving the items sitting until I’m ready to go forward with the sink or dishwasher action in one act.

  14. posted by Lilliane P on

    Well, I went over the Dwell magazine and found this absolutely fabulous slideshow of a home which, imo, is anything but sterile. It’s delightful. So I’m not sure where all this is coming from. ???

  15. posted by Lilliane P on

    re Rebecca’s post: Yes, some people do live in homes like that. My own mother did. Very traditional, grand piano, bay windows, old house, and zero clutter, ever. The previous month’s magazines were discarded on the first of the next month, etc., etc. Most people don’t though.

  16. posted by Anita on

    My thoughts:

    1. Yes, the extreme minimalism of some futuristic films is going too far. But then, I doubt those film makers are “predicting” the look of the future; rather, they’re creating an archetype as a premise for their film.

    2. Is there anyone in the world who doesn’t know that interiors photographed for design magazines (Dwell or others) are staged? Of course a lot of personal items will be removed from the shot! After all, they’re not trying to showcase that family’s life, but their design style! So that choice is not prescriptive (i.e. this is how we actually live and how YOU should live), it’s simply meant to bring out the main design elements of the space, with minimal distraction. Any magazine will show you more or less the “bare bones” of a design; giving that space a unique personality and a lived-in look is not their job — it’s yours!

  17. posted by Katie Alender on

    Me-ten-years-ago would probably find me-now’s house sterile and bare-looking. Instead of accumulating and displaying knickknacks, we find one or two decorative items that we really like and let those set the tone for a room. With meaningful (to us) art on the walls and the furniture we like, our rooms feel very personal to us.

    Photos, mementos… in certain parts of the house, we let those things play more of a role. But we also use our TV to run slideshows of photos, etc. So they don’t need to be sitting on surfaces in frames.

    I feel that the simplest rooms in my house are the most peaceful, meaningful, and “homey” to me.

  18. posted by Beverly on

    I personally like extreme-minimalism (except for my book collection). However, as long as I’m married, it’ll never happen in my house. I can’t seem to hook up with a man who doesn’t love his stuff! Could be part of why I suffer from such terrible depression: my surroundings!

  19. posted by Michele on

    I also did not take the empty juice glasses phrase to mean “leave your dishes out until they attract pests.” It came across to me as an acknowledgment that it’s not unreasonable to let the dirty dishes accumulate during the day and then do the dishes once a day, after dinner. He seemed to be fleshing out a distinction between “clutter” and “life.” That is, leaving a few dirty glasses out during the day shows that your home is lived in. I don’t think he was saying that it’s ideal to leave them out, though.

  20. posted by JC on

    I have realized that it’s not the minimalist tones of the designs as much as the lack of natural materials that make the places seem cold and sterile. I don’t like the chrome-metal-glass-all white/balck looks either.

    Being surrounded by natural materials makes a dwelling more cozy, regardless of style. Even though they can be considered quite minimalistic, I’ve always admired the old Japanese wood and paper screen houses with mats and small tables and clean lined furnishings.

  21. posted by tabatha on

    i tend to like the extreme minimalist look also, but i’ll probably always have books around. although i am in the process of reading what i know i don’t want to keep and giving it away via BookMooch after. my boyfriend likes to keep stuff though, so i would settle for extreme organization at this point.

  22. posted by Jesse on

    While I’ve not seen 2001 or Gattica, I remember vividly as a child wanting to live on the Enterprise (TNG version for me, lol) – mostly because their technology was SO seamless that they were able to keep only that which WAS important to them (Data kept painting supplies and a cat!). But the members of the Enterprise were essentially deployed military – they had a few things for their off-hours, but they were only to be away from civilization a little while, so they kept their clutter to a minimum. Babylon 5 showed a “future” that had a bit more clutter – but they didn’t have replicators, nor was their technology as seamless, and they were STATIONED to B5 rather than on a “mission” (as in ST).

    I would say that the extreme-minimalist future as seen on Star Trek COULD happen for certain sectors of the community – but as in ST, it would take time for everyone to embrace it. For example, my grandparents are nervous about technology, so they don’t have a computer or cell phones or even cable TV. They do not get the opportunity to see my daughter often (as we don’t live near our family), but looking back, they have opportunities that their OWN great-grandparents never had. As a consequence of technology, they have less “stuff” than their great-grandparents, and when we are in their position, we will have less “stuff” than they have (can’t say it now, I’ve got kids toys EVERYWHERE at the moment, lol), and better opportunity to connect if our family isn’t near us.

    I think the key thing that bothers people (or maybe it’s just me?) is that so many people make minimalism=modernism. You can have a nice clean home WITH big cushy couches, an organized kitchen WITH an owl-shaped sugar bowl (don’t ask me, ask my grandma!), and dining room chairs that can seat all comers without them worrying that they’ll break them because they have stout German blood (that is, if you can figure out how to sit in them!). You can have a wardrobe that is organized and minimal WITHOUT wearing all white or “pajamas” (i.e. like the ST uniforms). You could have a FEW (or more…I love books!) books in hardbound leather on a shelf but the OTHER books on an eReader. You could, like Data, paint…with a REALLY nice easel and paint set-up…and still be minimalist in those things which AREN’T important. And I think that THIS is more indicative of where our future is heading. (Sorry for the book, my brain decided to just throw it all out there!)

  23. posted by Jim on

    “The Fountain”… the starship scenes are as minimal as you get, but far from sterile. He had pjs, a bowl, a knife, a quill, and a tree if I remember right.

    But who would need decoration with the view from that little soap-bubble?

  24. posted by Seika Tandem on

    From Wikipedia – Wabi-Sabi Wabi-sabi (侘寂?) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience. The phrase comes from the two words wabi and sabi. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”

    Go figure…

  25. posted by Dawn F. on

    Maybe an extreme-minimalist, sterile future will bless with me less sneezing and no need for allergy medication! LOL!

    Seriously though, I find a happy balance in our home of plenty of open, clutter-free space with a shot of family heirlooms, framed pictures of happy memories, a collection of vases and a few Hot Wheels cars lying around – with plenty of other things that share our well-controlled home space.

    While I might be sneezing less in an extreme-minimalist environment I sure would be bored and I would have zero motivation or enthusiasm.

  26. posted by Another Deb on

    I worked for a few months at a cleanroom facility that made microchips and discovered what sensory deprivation was like. There were only pieces of machinery, no paper was allowed other then tiny notebooks made of special lintless paper. We had yellow overlead lighting for the photomasking process, no natural light. We were all garbed in the head-to toe white bunny suits including face masks and hoods. We could barely tell one shapeless form from another except by our voices. Even then, we were not supposed to talk much because the moisture particles might be sprayed through the mask.

    In that emptiness I composed the most lovely poems, got great ideas for writing, saw the images of potential paintings in the reflections of the silicon wafers and overall had some kind of Homer Simpson trippy brain journey during every shift. Even so, I would not want to live there!

  27. posted by Cole on

    If you ask me, Bill Barry here is the one who needs to write an article. He had some rare insights up there in those few paragraphs that simply do not emerge in American culture these days. Speaking as a pastor who is preaching a 5 part series on “stuff”, he has some great insight. I’d love to read more.

  28. posted by Bill Barry on

    @Cole – here you go, sir: http://18263dayslater.blogspot.....uture.html

    Thanks for the prompt.

  29. posted by Helen on

    Deb, interesting story about the microchip cleanroom! I really identify with what you described – I find I’m much more creative when I have some mental ‘free space’.

    I enjoyed this post – very thought provoking and has inspired me to think about the aesthetics of the various ‘visions of the future’ in my favorite scifi flicks and series.

  30. posted by Barbara Tako on

    Balance is a word I’d like to add here. Okay, I also want to talk about personal choice and individual preferences.

    We each get to decide how much of daily life lingers on our horizontal surfaces, and each of us can choose how much we want our home space to be a reflection of ourselves. Each person’s balance point can be unique.

    I think it would be really boring if everyone’s home was “the same.” Haven’t we been in homes that we enjoy but “wouldn’t want to live in?”

    Thought-provoking post!

  31. posted by Jessica on

    I also disagree with Reagan. Film uses unusual settings to help tell the story; it’s not meant to represent real life. Minimalist photo spreads also show the place at its best, not during mealtime or a party. The most squalorous roommates I’ve had have each said that they feel “clean and tidy” equals “boring and unrealistic.”

    The balance that needs to be struck is aesthetic. I think a lot of messy people associate uncluttered order with a repressed family member. Either that, or they’ve never seen a home decorated in a style they’d like that also lacked a dirty sink, moldy bathroom fixtures, and stale piles of laundry.

    Personally, I don’t have catalogs around because I shop online. I don’t have framed photographs up because I have so many on my phone, my iPod, my desktop, and my social networking sites. The digital world allows us to enjoy much more of this stuff virtually than we would in an unnecessary physical manifestation in our homes.

    My house doesn’t have pencil cups, catalogs, or dirty cups, but it does have a parrot, a dog, plenty of art, and a bowl of sequined fruit. Sterile it ain’t.

  32. posted by Judith on

    I just found a comparison of a beautiful living space the way the owner (admittedly, a photographer) likes to keep/photograph it and how it was photographed for a magazine:

    Funnily enough, the more cluttered version (left) is the one by the mag.

  33. posted by Gina on

    Your grandparents’ grandparents had more stuff than your grandparents themselves did? Perhaps it was actually useful stuff they needed for the tasks of living in a time of more self-reliance.

    However, I find it a little hard to believe unless your past generations were relatively wealthy. In my family there are the stories of how my great-grandparents packed up EVERYTHING THEY OWNED into a single trunk, bundled up their two children and stepped onto a boat headed to Ellis Island. Most of what they brought were my grandfather’s tools of trade. They proceeded to raise 7 children total in the US, never living in a space larger than my current apartment (1050 sq feet). It was the following generations that filled up the same house with furnishings, not them. Even so, a lot of it wasn’t “stuff”, it was useful items for running the household and running the family businesses out of the same space.

    As children, my grandmother and her siblings each had 2 hooks on the wall from which to hang all the clothes they owned. There were no closets in the house at the time. We’re talking hooks that could hold maybe 10 clothes hangers total — in later years my great-uncle still hung his clothes from hangers on the same hooks in the same bedroom he’d once shared with broathers. We were able to fit all his clothes into a single box after he died.

  34. posted by Fred E. on

    The whole point of THX 1138 is that he escapes the sterile underground world and emerges onto the surface of the Earth in the final scene.

  35. posted by Gina on

    @Barbara Tako:

    Well said! This is the most brilliant thing said in this entire thread:

    “We each get to decide how much of daily life lingers on our horizontal surfaces, and each of us can choose how much we want our home space to be a reflection of ourselves. Each person’s balance point can be unique.”

    My own two cents is that nobody but me can determine what is or is not an “unnecessary physical manifestation” in my home. What I don’t like about the minimalist mindset is the value judgement some proponents bring to it that something is unnecessary and/or undesireable about having something that doesn’t fit a specific mold around — that there is something wrong with wanting a richer visual experience.

    The truth is, it works for you. Only you. I like clean and uncluttered surfaces quite a lot, but I also like well-placed decoration, and completely blank counters feel sterile and unsustainable to me. I can’t relax if there’s NOTHING on the counter, I feel like it’s not my space.

    I recently moved, and for several weeks didn’t put any artwork up on the walls. For awhile I actually enjoyed the blank space, but I knew I was ready to hang art when I walked into the room and the blankness felt hollow and unwelcoming. I think it was nice to give myself a break from the visual stimulation, and also to see my art differently than I’d been used to seeing it in the old place. But at some point my soul longed for the self-expression of adding layers of complexity into my space.

  36. posted by geekgrrl on

    AAAGGHHHHH FRED E – SPOILER SPOILER Please remove that post! That movie isn’t released here in Australia.

    That was rude and stupid. Posting the ending of a recent movie is just plain rude!!!! 5000 bad karma points to you.

    Thank you for ruining the movie experience for me.

  37. posted by Sonja on

    @greekgrrl: Hey, I;ve been down under recently and I can’t believe that Australia is really 38 years behind. THX was in the movies in 1971 😉 Don’t be fooled by the picture’s contemporary look: Geoge Lucas was a) far ahead of his time and b) kept doing what he did and contributed to shaping our modern aesthetics by his movies. Go ahead, your trusted video store should have a copy in stock.

    @Erin: thanks for this thought-provoking article. My uncluttering which had started out from baby steps had been gaining momentum remarkably over the last weeks of “sticking to it”. You probably saved a new convert from hurting herself by becoming fanatic.

    I agree from my heart that life is the purpose of any effort (e.g. to unclutter) – and not the other way round, Hah! now back to the hobbies, the social life and the relaxation that I started all this for!

  38. posted by geekgrrl on

    You’re kidding. How did I miss this movie? I have never seen it ever. Never even heard of it. I thought it was new.

    Apologies to Fred E for my abuse. My ignorance, not yours.

  39. posted by loudmouthed ignoramus on

    changing my nick to something more appropriate than geekgrrl. I’m so embarrassed!

    At this point I buy the whole room a round of drinks and have to karaoke ‘my way’ as punishment.

  40. posted by Fred E. on

    Sorry about the spoiler, I did realize what I was doing giving away the spoiler but figured since the scene was in the trailer that it wouldn’t be a problem. Still you should watch it. The original version is probably better than the director’s cut but you could argue about it either way.

  41. posted by the klutz formerly known as geekgrrl on

    not at all, Fred – after all, it’s a 40 year old movie and of course that’s fine. I thought you were talking about a new release, since there’s some new movies out and somehow I’ve been living under a rock and missed this one. I don’t recall noticing it on the shelf at the video store, either. Maybe because it’s old and likely wasn’t popular where I live.

    I get a bit touchy about spoilers, because Australia IS so far behind – some series, such as Battlestar, we don’t get until months after the USA. It makes it frustrating as a fan, when you have to assiduously avoid any discussions.

    I looked it up and noted the comments about the directors cut – I think the original might be better as you say.

    It would be interesting to do a timeline charting the writing and production of movies against a timeline of interior design trends and cultural trends.

    At the moment, domesticity is ‘in’ – with the recession, everyone is ‘nesting’ and women are staying home, so the lived-in look, warm and homey, they are all back in magazines.

    Science is almost always demonized.

  42. posted by Lori B on

    As Fred E. and others alluded to, the whole purpose of THX was to show an oppressive totalitarian state whose goal was to strip people of their individuality and become soulless automatons of the state, much like in 1984. It wasn’t meant to predict interior design trends.

  43. posted by the klutz formerly known as geekgrrl on

    That’s true, Lori B, but I wonder if the visual language – the interior space – that we use to create that feeling of soullessness is always the same, or if it changes?

    I’m thinking back to the Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. It’s many years since I’ve seen that though.

    I guess the same cues – monochrome palette, usually white – and featureless interiors with an absence of any personal effects – have been used for a long time to represent an absence of human warmth. There was a series called ‘Andra’ I think from the 70s with the same themes.

    It would be interesting to see how new cinema (given the recent minimalist trends) would handle these themes but given that Communism is no longer the enemy, I don’t know that we see much of the Totalitarian State, except in decay. ‘The Island’ I suppose.

    Maybe the fact that these things become cinematic conventions, visual shorthand, means that they are fairly immune to change. Or maybe it’s because the white and antiseptic has such strong innate connotations that our best efforts to define them as clean, fresh and open tend are doomed to failure.

  44. posted by Ruth on

    I am a messy person. I don’t consider myself unhygienic or anything, but, yes, sometimes dirty glasses stay next to the sink for a day! No, there are no pest problems due to this, and obviously I haven’t died… I didn’t realise this was shocking behaviour.

    I really think there are just two different types of people. Jessica said, “Minimalist photo spreads also show the place at its best, not during mealtime or a party.” This is exactly the problem my type have with these homes. In my opinion, a home IS at its best during a mealtime or a party. When else is it? When no-one’s at home? When they’re tucked up in bed and not “cluttering” things up? This is where accusations of minimalist homes being soulless come from – if a home doesn’t look good when people are enjoying living in it, then it’s not much of a home, is it?

  45. posted by Karyn on

    Best line from the article:

    > Nowhere in the script did Hal say, “Dave, I made you a wobbly clay bowl at summer camp. You should display it for the other astronauts to see.”

    Some talented soul needs to create this and post it on YouTube. 😉

    Regarding the matter of leaving dirty dishes sitting by the sink for longer than a nanosecond, I live in an apartment building in which sometimes I simply cannot, for whatever reasons, get the water to run hot. It doesn’t seem to matter what time of day it is (e.g., first thing in the morning, later in the afternoon, nighttime) so much as the luck of the draw.

    That means that sometimes I can’t get past “lukewarm” when I want to run a sink full of dishwater. So I just rinse the dishes, so there’s no crud to attract pests, then let them sit until I have time to try again later and wash them properly with hot water and dish detergent. The world hasn’t stopped turning on its axis yet.

    Bottom line for me: I like spaciousness and clean lines, but there’s a firm boundary between “neat and orderly” and “obsessive compulsive disorder.” I strive for the former, not the latter. Clean and organized enough to live in, relaxed enough to ensure that I’m actually doing some living and not just 24/7 cleaning. 😉

  46. posted by Gina on


    You said:
    “That’s true, Lori B, but I wonder if the visual language – the interior space – that we use to create that feeling of soullessness is always the same, or if it changes? ”

    I think it does — specifically because how else would you visually represent such a thing? It could also be an all-black or all-grey space. To me the essense of soullessness is a repression of the human spirit, especially its urge to create.

    I’m walking a fine line here, but in its extreme to me minimalism IS a suppression of creativity. Done well I think minimalism can be a celebrate of something that speaks so completely to or about a person that they want to strip away everything that would distract from that. But I think this requires a conscious embrace of minimalism.

    It is far too easy to just strip away EVERYTHING, thinking that nothingness=simplicity. There is nothing being referenced. Here, I think creativity and spirit has been stripped away and it’s empty in a way that I think goes too far.

    The THX scenes are depicting emptiness, and they are meant to be uncomfortable and sterile. That sort of minimalism to me is sterile in a negative way.

  47. posted by Laetitia in Australia on

    @Karyn: Use your kettle – it’s what I have to do for the mop bucket as, for some reason (blocked pipes, perhaps) the hot-water in the laundry has no pressure; everywhere else in the house it’s fine.

    Oh, my word – that desk at the end of the article makes me want to flee just looking at it; but as I de-clutter I have surfaces that look the same in the interim.

    After reading your posts about letting go of hobbies, last night I purged my key-ring collection (was planning this anyway). Now I just need to take some photos of the ones I’m giving up before I hand them to a friend who collects them.

    At the moment I’m also scanning articles from old gardening magazines so I can give them to other friends. All this is in preparation for another move (back to our home town this time).

    Each move I keep trying to get my “stuff” down to fit into a two-bedroom house / unit rather than 3 bedrooms, although I think that 2 bedrooms and a rumpus (for my craft, music and study gear) would be more suitable than 3 actual bedrooms. I could possibly manage 1 bedroom and a decent sized rumpus by getting rid of the futon couch-cum-double bed, but that would mean no o’night visitors.

  48. posted by Media as a big mac. « Cloud Life on

    […] (many actually designed in the ’50s); glass houses . An article that inspired me was “The fictional extreme minimialist future” on Unclutterer. In many ways, that is the goal. Some people find it cold and uncomfortable. […]

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