Be Essential — Live Like a Designer

Amanda Mallardo
4 min readAug 8, 2020


What is essential? The situation in our world for the past few months have exposed this to us. It’s right in front of our face. How we respond to this situation will determine our position in life when this is all over. What value does all of our stuff have — the cars, homes, gadgets, clothes, food… all the things… if we aren’t healthy enough to enjoy them? Excess breeds in-balance, and this has been a year of getting back into balance; but the imbalance has been building over decades.

Our world is full of excess — excess news, food, work, production, and consumption. In the process of all this we’ve it seems that we’ve forgotten how to take care of ourselves. We’ve literally turned ourselves into zoo animals waiting for our keepers to feed us. And some of us continue to cry out to be fed instead of learning how to harvest.

But there is some good news. We live in the best time in the history of the world for this type of crisis to happen. We have all the information we need at our fingertips for whatever direction we wish to go in life. We can learn how to do anything in record time thanks to the internet. This is a perfect time for each of us to individually take a step back, figure out what is essential for our lives and for our ultimate health and good. Maybe that job you had wasn’t contributing to that. Ask yourself, if money and time were not an option, what would you be doing? If you come up with an answer, there’s a bunch of different ways you can start on that now. Even if it’s just watching a few YouTube videos.

If fear is getting in your way, ask yourself: “if time and money were not a obstacle, what would I be doing?” With a vision, you can start on a course of action. This situation could shift you to a wonderful new life, the life you’re supposed to be living. But that will only happen if you are open to seeing the other side of it. If you have your health right now, you’re already winning. Now what are you going to do with it?

As a designer, it’s my goal to make things as simple as possible — to take out anything that is non-essential so as to launch a final product that is intuitive and easy to use. This is what I do for my clients, but I’ve also done it for myself. I’ve built systems for cleaning, laundry, dishes, and pretty much any other task that is tedious or not enjoyable. I’ve optimized my life so I can focus on my joy and keep the pain to a minimum. I designed the life I love by either eliminating or deeply minimizing the non-essentials. By doing so, I have more time and energy to enjoy what matters most in my life — which for me is doing what I love, being with my family, and getting the most out of my experiences.

Start with a Basic Foundation

In product design, there is a concept of a minimal viable product. The MVP is the minimum amount of features needed for a product to be released and provide value for the customer.

The MVP is also scalable and future focused. There is a plan for new features to be added as the application gains traction.

This concept can be applied to all areas of life. For instance, I’ve recently redesigned the way I eat. The goal being just to start eating healthier at home. I’m not following a diet or a strict meal plan, but I’m just starting with the MVP. To develop this, I asked myself the question, If I only had one cupboard to hold enough food for a month, what would I choose to put in there? Keeping in mind the ultimate goal along — to eat healthy at home.

I did a little bit of research on basic nutrition and discovered that my must-haves would be a bag of rice, loaf of bread, canned beans, some vegetables, nuts, oatmeal, peanut butter, fruit, herbs and spices, some condiments, and some lean meats like chicken and fish. With this cupboard of items, there is a wide variety of meals I can put together by which I can start building on top of this foundation. I always have the comfort of knowing, that if I needed to, I could drop down to this foundation if I need a reset at any point. From here, I can grow my cooking ability and add more variety of food choices to my lifestyle.

The minimal viable product concept can be applied to many other areas of life. Lay that foundation, keep building, and before you know it, you’ll be living a life that you designed.

Do you have any strategies for simplifying your life? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.



Amanda Mallardo

UX Design Lead, Creative Coder, Design Thinker, Skateboarder, MS in Product Design