Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

5 Reasons to Love Less

The word “less” has always been a hard sell. While we might not necessarily be biologically disposed to more (stuff, space, distractions, etc), more is an easy concept to comprehend–more is more. It’s one louder. It’s very easy to sell. What we got ain’t enough. More will help. It will make us happier, better, more complete people.

Less is problematic–not simply because it would be the death knell of SkyMall. We might not actually want to hear that we are complete already. We might not want to hear that we are so materially abundant that we can afford to subtract. We might not want to hear that our happiness is not a function of some missing thing–that we already have all we need. We might prefer to shift the responsibility of our happiness onto external things–i.e. get more _____ to fill in our existential blanks.

But has any thing actually make us happier? Sure, there might be momentary satisfaction when we get new stuff. But ultimately, that high fades and we’re left wanting more.

If advertisers sold stuff in a truthful fashion, they might say, “Buy this car because it gets the fifth best gas mileage in its class and has decent resale value. But don’t expect much more than satisfactory transport. This car, like all stuff, won’t and can’t make you happy. That’s up to you”–a pretty rotten carrot to dangle in a customer’s face.

But there it is: adding more stuff, while sometimes useful, won’t make you more happy. More problematically, when more is not useful, it can be harmful to our economic, environmental and emotional wellbeing. (Note: the world could certainly use more love, peace, generosity and other immaterial stuff).

We think less needs a new connotation–to be rebranded if you will. So we have come up with five reasons to love less (we were going to do more, but thought better of it):

  1. Less is better for the planet. This is the elephant in the room ain’t it? Our planet has been pushed to the brink of catastrophe (some say beyond the brink). The reason? Our obsession with more growth, money, stuff, space, etc. We have stripped the planet of unimaginable resources. We have scarred its surfaces. We have returned nature’s bounty in the form of sprawl, pollution, aquatic plastic and landfill fodder. Is it really that big of a deal to live in a smaller home, not buy things we don’t need and walk/ride our bikes more often? If consuming less meant avoiding probable environmental catastrophe, wouldn’t that kinda be a sensible thing to do?
  2. Less gets us into the present moment. Despite our best efforts to prove otherwise, humans cannot do more than one thing at a time; paying attention to one thing will inherently displace our ability to pay attention to another. When we have less in our lives, we can pay attention more fully to the fewer things we do have and enjoy them more.
  3. Less is easier to manage. If our time from birth to death were a balance sheet, how much time would we want allocated to managing stuff–to shopping for it, returning it, cleaning it, fixing it, organizing it, working to pay for it and so on? Conversely, how much time would we want to spend connecting with the people we love, relaxing, enjoying recreational activities and other meaningful experiences? When we have less meaningless stuff to manage, it opens up time for the meaningful.
  4. Less is usually more interesting. We’ve written about the human tendency to over-prepare, and also about how life tends to happen dealing with our lack of preparation. If we think about it, the consequences of not having enough are almost invariably less significant than having too much (we are, of course, referring to first world problems). Try less. Be unprepared. You might find yourself with a more interesting life.
  5. Less helps us find out what is truly important. When our lives are filled with excess, there might be too much noise to separate the important from the unimportant because nothing is distinct. Relationships take on similar value as getting a new laptop. It is through the process of reduction, of continually finding out what we can live without, where we can determine that which we cannot.