As I’ve found myself enjoying a slower pace this year, I’ve noticed a few surprising benefits in my daily routine. Somehow, the act of blogging slower and with more focus has trickled into other areas of my life: I savor meals rather than voraciously shoveling spoonfuls into my mouth, hunched over my desk. I pause before speaking, taking note of the weight my words might hold. It’s almost as if I’ve taken my brain off autopilot and back into manual mode, experiencing all five senses again. And at the risk of sounding very made-for-TV-educational-movie, it’s a welcome change. Still, I’m noticing something else…
Our world is noisy. Cell phones ringing, dogs barking, motors revving. And that’s not all – there’s a noisier, louder, stronger force at work in most of our homes and communities: visual pollution. We see it every day, whether in the form of highway billboards or apartment building flyers. And with every trip to the grocery store, we bring home the loudest speakers of all and display them on our bathroom shelves: branded products.
It never occurred to me to take stock of the endless slew of labels and brands that exist in my own home until I sat down to write this and quickly surveyed my office. My desk is fairly brand-free, but I couldn’t help but focus on the passive clutter that each bold, busy label (and admittedly, the objects themselves) brought into my work space. (I’m quite sure my mother is saying “I told you so” at this very moment, reminding me of her favorite adage: ‘A cluttered desk is a cluttered mind.‘)
It’s the very reason I cheered when I spotted “De-Branded Design” as part of London department store Selfridges’ No Noise campaign - the removal of all branding from some of today’s most popular products. Imagine label-free ketchup, lotion – even paper bags, all available for purchase alongside “The Quiet Edit,” a curated selection of minimal items for your closet. The premise is simple enough: “We invite you to celebrate the power of quiet, see the beauty in function and find calm among the crowds.”
But for Selfridges, it’s not just about retail. In an effort to practice what they preach, the department store opened a Silence Room as a space to decompress from fast-paced, frenzied lifestyles. (The room has an online version, of course, in the form of Headspace, meditative podcasts for shoppers to download.) “It is about taking a moment; about having the chance to sit and think without so much outside interference,” Selfridges spokeswoman Annette Cremin says. “It is a chance to turn the volume down on London. It is an experiment to see how people react when they are taken away from their gadgets and forced to be silent.”
It’s a lofty goal, but an important one. Adding white space to your day (and home) is the muffler that just might promise a quieter morning. And sure, brand-free baked beans is a minimal step toward a calmer, less-frenzied future. But in a big, busy world, perhaps minimal is just what we need.
Image Credits: Selfridges