The Cold and Lifeless Modern Fantasy Workforce

Finding an action figure in your car seat can make your day. I’ll explain, but first pardon me for a little rant.

The modern workforce has a fantasy problem. It churns out images of minimalist work spaces and home decor that highlight a coffee cup on a sparse table with maybe a simple lamp, black-framed glasses, and an ultra-thin high-end laptop. Not a spec of dust to be found.

Or maybe a shelf with a stack of uber-trendy books from the latest self-help “thought leaders” are pictured with a single flower or nondescript cell phone perfectly placed.

Images like the above make me sad in a way. They conjure images of a cold and lifeless environment full of well, not much else.

Minimalism for minimalism’s sake

I’m a bit tired of seeing these images of minimalism as if it’s a requirement in order to either work in some studio apartment in a major city or setting up in a local coffee shop.

I’ve been there done that. I used to go to coffee shops and spread out in order to write curriculum for my classes, but I never had this super-clean desk void of life.

It’s a now universal look that so many “online-prenuers” and writers are sporting. Just think about this short list for a moment:

  • Muted, basic colorless backgrounds usually consisting of gray, whites, black, and maybe (just maybe) a muted blue.
  • Thick framed glasses (a must — makes you look smart).
  • Tons of white space!
  • Everything is in line and super neat.
  • The writer sports a beard or some semblance of facial hair.
  • He/she only wears gray, white, black, or maybe (just maybe) a muted blue.
  • He/she owns five shirts of the same make and color.
  • Nothing displayed is personal: no pictures of family, a personal heirloom, or collector’s item. This would violate the unwritten laws of looking like you have your $h!% together.

I think we have gone too far. We are creating images and personas of minimalism for minimalism’s sake. You see, I consider myself a bit of a minimalist (or essentialist). But I use it as a tool, I don’t adopt is as a religion. I don’t get up in the morning and think about how I can become even more of a minimalist.


When I was full-throttle into freelance writing I had to produce content at a breakneck speed. I didn’t have time or the requirement to minimize my workspace as much as possible, I didn’t need glasses, and I own clothes in several different colors. I wasn’t the classic minimalist dude, but I did know how to be efficient, distraction-free, and very productive.

I see it all the time. Guys (particularly) who feel like they need to look the part. Just like the gym is sometimes packed with meatheads, coffee shops can be filled with trendy “writers” who all love coffee, gray, and Evernote.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

You don’t have to wear the uniform. You can break free and actually be you for a change. Skinny jeans, a black T-shirt, and black boots may not be all that comfortable so it’s okay to wear what you feel like literally and figuratively.

And it’s okay to smile, too.

Do your thing

This whole work-from-home-or-coffee-shop-minimalism-movement is great. It’s a mindset that enables many to become extremely productive online. It can provide the tools and mindset to stay efficient and creative from a distance. But let’s not do it for the sake of doing it.

There are many successful writers who have thickly packed “workshops” full of familiar paraphernalia that richly inspire their creative sides. They see these places as comfortable environments where they feel at ease to express, explore, and discover new ideas.

They may have a stack of random books including classic fiction, biographies, and history. They may see a book, trinket, or some photo that sparks an idea and grows into something never before thought of. They are surrounded by their craft.

Now, I’m not saying you need to be a slob, but you also don’t need to be a poster child for minimalism. In other words, work backwards. Don’t think of becoming a minimalist first. Start with what needs to be done then apply minimalism as a tool — and only a tool.

The action figure

Whenever my wife or I find an action figure or some other evidence of our son in our car, bedroom, or bathroom counter we can’t help but smile. It’s such a real life reminder that we have a bit of a mess here and there, but we don’t mind at all. Those things aren’t out of place at all. They’re exactly where they need to be.

They’re not neat, tidy, or perfectly placed. They have meaning, color, and life. We see so much more that grays and picture-less walls. We have evidence of creativity all around us.

Yes, I am a huge advocate of throwing out or donating useless stuff. I actually find a lot of joy in cleaning out things and making my living space much more accessible and inviting. It not only makes life feel a bit less cluttered it also makes things easier to find.

So, yes. I am a minimalist, but only to an extent.

It’s only a tool.

How about you? Do you have a minimalist mindset but refuse to subscribe to it as a religion? Are you tired of seeing the same ole images that have hijacked minimalism? Do you have your own way and personal environment of expressing your creativity?

2 thoughts on “The Cold and Lifeless Modern Fantasy Workforce

  1. Interesting thoughts here, Brad. There is a minimalist sub-culture, and there are different aspects to minimalism. There’s an aesthetic side and a practical side to name just two I see. Like, in interior design or web design, minimalism is expressed in different ways/styles I guess. And the practical side falls along the lines of essentialism, the tool to use. I know there’s some crossover, and I totally see the stereotypical stock photo of a minimal writer’s workspace. I think a balanced view, like what you’re aiming for, is helpful. It’s easy for people to fall into trends because it’s trendy, and they may not really think about it, they just conform to an image. I have fallen into that before. As far as those who espouse minimalism as an ascetic religion or lifestyle, I can see that, but I like minimalism because frankly, clutter just stresses me out! I’m kind of a neat freak. Also, I like colors, mostly orange and purple. Anyways, I find it interesting the irony/oxymoron of “more minimal.” More of less please. It’s kind of a play on words. But, if people compete to be “more minimal” than others, than they’re using the means of “less” to be more. Like saying, “I am more (better) than you because I have less (stuff) than you.” That would not be good I think.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes indeed! I’m all about necessity, however, I do enjoy the actual act of cleaning out and being orderly. It’s like a type of active meditation. On the other hand I don’t have the uber-minimalist perspective like those on Youtube who give you a tour of their minimalist home which lasts about 30 seconds. It’s as though it’s become some sort of separatist tribe replete with gray T-shirt. Of course as with more things these days we seem to be going into our own corners of lifestyles and beliefs while pointing the finger at all the “wrongdoers.” But that’s another story.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

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