With so many lives changed either temporarily or permanently in the last 12-18 months, the term, ‘less is more’ has possibly never been more relevant and can actually be beneficial in so many areas of our lives.
The temporary joy in acquiring something new, for most people, particularly in the western world rarely lasts that long. We move on surprisingly quickly. The cycle of wanting more material things or experiences therefore needing more money to buy them, which intern leads to push for promotion or a search for a job that pays more money to pay for them. The more ‘stuff’ you have the bigger the home you need, or possibly forced to pay for storage. The increased home and contents insurance. The time and/or money needed for repair or just maintenance, it can go on in a constant cycle.
Joshua and Ryan from The Minimalists are extremely honest in their stories of dissatisfaction , where they had achieved everything they thought was important in life – the 6 figure career, the home, the car, the seemingly perfect lifestyle yet they were unsatisfied, depressed, stressed and in debt. This then caused them to make large lifestyle changes.
In general, once basic needs, health and security are met the correlation between greater wealth and greater happiness is no longer the same and can even start to diminish.
More Options More Decisions
Having little or no choice can be too restrictive and make us unhappy or feel that we have no autonomy over our lives. More choice increases our happiness however too many choices can be overwhelming and we then end up with too many decisions to make.
How many people have a closet full of clothes yet they feel they have nothing to wear or late for work trying to decide?
Twenty years ago I travelled to Canada, wonderful, amazing country. However coming from the UK at that time if you asked for a coffee, the chances are it was given to you white, if you wanted black you would have to say before the milk went in, and no one had heard of nut milks! I think some places may have offered cappuccino if you were lucky!
So back in Canada, up early, slightly jet lagged we wanted to have a look around and decided to go out for breakfast. We found a cafe with huge options on the boards. I thought I’d make it easy by going for a coffee and a doughnut. The poor waitress was probably equally alarmed at my lack of knowledge and how many questions it took to get my order. First question what type of coffee then decaf or normal? milk? what kind of milk? Dairy, nut or soya? OK dairy -full, semi or skimmed? Sugar? what kind of sugar? We then moved onto the doughnut…what kind of doughnut? what flavour? Iced or plane? I think at this point I stammered something like plane with plane icing! I just remember feeling exhausted by the time I sat down!
The Paradox Of Choice
In his book The Paradox of Choice Psychologist Barry Schwartz explains how often choice can become detrimental because our expectations are raised to receive a perfect outcome. However, frequently we do not receive a perfect outcome. We are therefore more likely to become more satisfied from choosing the same outcome from less options than more. Our expected outcome and our actual outcome can be different.
When you have too many options you are more likely to freeze up and become overwhelmed and ultimately not make a decision this is called Analysis Paralysis. Possibly me in my breakfast scenario I was on the brink of just saying ‘you choose!’ If your wardrobe is rammed, so you just end up putting on the T-shirt and jeans that are on the chair from yesterday. OK, so these decisions are not necessarily life changing, but what about a decision regarding changing jobs or choosing a home to rent or buy? There can be so many variables here, and possibly if relocating ..both at the same time? Sometimes there can be so many decisions that you end up doing nothing, which could be the worse decision!
The accumulation of stuff in garages, utility rooms, basements, lofts, and sheds is incredible. Of course there are items that you want to keep but are only utilised for part of the year and need a location. If you are trying to reduce your waste, they need a location to be ready to be reused. But how often do these places become dumping grounds because of a delayed decision or action, or just lack of time to deal with them.
At some point, usually at bursting point, a big job of reorganising, tidying and decision making is needed. Sometimes where people have ran out of space they are then having to pay for storage units to store the stuff that they are not using. Now don’t get me wrong, there are areas of my garage at this moment in time that could do with some serious sorting, and there are definitely items that are unloved and in need of a new home. I’m a work in progress! But it is worth thinking about your needs, what you have and why you are keeping it.
Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist tells the story of how he heard about Minimalism from his neighbour whilst doing his annual garage clear and realising that his son had been waiting for him to play with him all day, this started a huge change in his home, lifestyle and ultimately changing his career.
Whether by choice or necessity new ways of working, living and meeting have had to be found. New opportunities have been created or attempted. Within the devastation of all sorts of loss at all levels, how many people over the last 18 months have started to consider what they really needed or wanted in there lives and how to go about changing it?
Millions of people whether temporary or more permanently are now working from home. Do they need to move to create a home office or actually with some thought can a work area be created?
If within a household, multiple people are working from home and all had cars they previously drove to work suddenly 1 car could be shared and work for everyone. OK with possibly some public transport and personal organisation thrown in. However, think of the financial saving to that household of running costs and depreciation, the environmental impact as well a the time lost with cleaning, organising repairs and road worthy certification, insurance and whatever government ID and documentations for your country are required.
Unless you have a job involving huge amounts of time on the road; most cars spend most of their time parked for 6-8 hrs having spent 15-30 minutes getting you from a-b. Of course convenience and practicality come into it but ultimately isn’t 1 car to keep organised and on the road easier to manage than possibly 2, 3 or 4 in a household?
Sometimes all it takes is a bit of time sitting down thinking about what you need, what you want and what makes you happy. In my post 5 Instant Happiness Tips For A Bad Day I talk about a simple but helpful tip I picked up from Sarah Von Bargen in creating a happy list.
Whatever you do, start small, don’t stress about it. Starting with one area can be helpful like your wardrobe. I came across Marie Kondo and followed her system of reducing down my clothes I later then gave project 333 a go. I found the boundaries used helped in making decisions. I’ve since created a capsule wardrobe that works for me and helps to restrict purchases so I don’t return home with items I’m just hardly going to wear.
One thing I did find after going through the process, was how often people commented on how nice I looked, or something they had never seen me in. It made me laugh as I had not purchased any more clothes, in fact I had a lot less clothes in my wardrobe but what I did have was clothes I liked and that suited me so less definitely became more!
For my own story read Less Is More – My Own Story
Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus The Minimalists
Psychologist Barry Schwartz and his book The Paradox of Choice
Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalis