More is Less

Minimalism, as a lifestyle concept, is something I have only recently begun to appreciate. I had heard the term before, but associated it more with an austere artistic style than simple living; like a black, 12-inch cube almost imperceptibly off center in a 10-by-10-foot white square. Art!

And even before I was drawn into the minimalist blogosphere (an attraction that was probably fated by the alignment of my evolving philosophies with the stories and tips offered up by bloggers like Leo Babauta (Zen Habits) and Joshua Becker (Becoming Minimalist)), my wife was ‘minimalizing’ our lives to great effect.

A garage sale here, a clothing donation there, the occasional ‘junk’ purge. No physical item was safe, and I’ll admit, as a recovering pack rat, I harbored some initial anxiety (after all, “one man’s trash …”).

But just as I felt my materialist tendencies under siege, I also experienced a certain exhilaration as each item left my finger tips, bound for the bottom of a Hefty bag. And I couldn’t help but notice that our collective family sanity was being fortified.

There is nothing quite so liberating as unloading things that hold us back. But until we find the courage to start launching everything from the dusty, ill-fitting corduroys to the “but-what-if-we-want-fondue?” kitchen appliances, the task of distinguishing the necessary and useful from the balls and their chains is an arduous one.


It’s difficult to avoid platitudes about our materialistic world and the inherent technological, physical and emotional junk that looms over, clings to and sucks at our souls. But platitudes become so because they resonate.

The more ‘stuff’ we have in our lives, the less we appreciate. Devoting ourselves fully to every moment and to the loved ones who inhabit them is impossible when we’re surrounded and consumed by gadgets, appliances, cosmetics, accessories, endless wardrobes, holiday shopping lists, Twitter feeds, and imagined needs. There’s always one more email to check, 12 more toys to put away, and 15 minutes until you can have my undivided attention (as long as my phone doesn’t ring).

Given our nearly complete lack of mindfulness amidst this modern maelstrom, it is sometimes a wonder we have managed to maintain the real relationships that sustain us.

So in 2014, in alliance with my inspiring, pioneering wife, I commit to less. Less clutter. Fewer possessions. Smaller budgets. Less grasping for tiny consolations. Less mindless web surfing. Less debt. Fewer obligations for obligations’ sake. I resolve, come what may, to make more room for personal growth this year. To replace diversion with conversation. Speculation with actualization. Aimless worry with mindful purpose.

What’s the hardest thing you have ever had to throw away? What other minimalist strategies have worked wonders in your life?

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7 thoughts on “More is Less

  1. I love this post! I think that we feel the need to always have more more more but in fact, I find when I have less is when I feel more gratitude and abundance.

    While I don’t want to be a 100% minimalist (I will keep my books, I love my binders for scheduling) I do want to get rid of clutter and old keepsakes that do not serve a purpose in our home.

    • Thanks, Shay! I totally hear you on the books, too. We’ve pared back our collection, focusing the purge on paperback classics that can be had for free (or dirt cheap) electronically and text books and other hardbacks that we admit we’ll never reference. But I love books too much to go 100% clean on that front. Nothing wrong with prioritizing!

  2. Very well said. As the resident stuff-purger in this house, it’s true that I have been known to throw out with somewhat reckless abandon as Brian mentioned. Yet in all that time, if someone were to ask me if there was anything I threw out that I regretted later, I would answer a confident no. To be honest, once it’s “out of sight,” for me, it is definitely “out of mind” as well.

    Though I have always enjoyed throwing out, for me personally, the tipping point for me into minimalism was after returning from our family camping trip this past August. I was stressed before we left but felt great the entire 2 weeks we were gone, with nothing but what we could fit in the back of our SUV, which was mostly camping necessities. Then the moment we walked through the door of our beloved home, I immediately felt heavier as I looked around. That was my moment of clarity – seeing how all the “stuff” we hadn’t needed, or even remembered having, while away was really weighing us down. I looked around and thought about all I needed to clean, organize and rearrange. Then I made a decision – one that was simpler than I had ever thought -we just needed to have less. A lot less.

    It’s a journey, but with each donation or trash day, I know I feel better about how we are working towards literally and figuratively lightening our load. =)

  3. I Love this post! I had started clearing my closets, But there’s more to do.
    Where did all this stuff come from? The more I look the more I find. I do feel much lighter since I began getting rid of things I have not used for years.
    I also thinned out my book collection But, there are some I refuse to let go. : ))

  4. One strategy that I began practicing this year to become more minimalistic I am do like to buy clothes, shoes, cosmetics, etc. I made myself a promise……for each one item I purchase I MUST give away two items. I usually give these things to women at work or to charitable organizations. Sometimes I save them for my Mother’s garage sales and let her keep the money. It’s fun figuring out how I can barter or exchange items!!

    • What a great idea, Tracye! Talk about a win-win opportunity – your items end up with folks who have more use for them and you get that clarity of less clutter, the fun of something new, and the joy that comes from giving. Love that!

      EDIT: And check out the latest post on Joshua Becker’s blog (about generosity/minimalism):

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