The Art of Less is More

Buddha figure holding an empty bowl

Reducing our consumption of plastics takes a reevaluation of our drive for material consumption in general.  How did we come to play into the powerful marketing message of more is better?  Who gave us the right to squander valuable resources in order to satisfy our craving for more stuff?   Are you ready to take your power back, find peace, and practice the art of living with less?

Anyone who knows me well is familiar with my cycles of getting rid of stuff.  I often find myself thinking a cluttered house is a cluttered mind, as every item in our home competes for our attention.  We have a designated space in our house to place donation items.  We periodically go through our belongings and weed out those things which haven’t been used in some time.  If it hasn’t been used in 6 months or a year, it usually goes.  That isn’t to say we have a perfectly tidy home.  If you stop by our house, you may see my son’s trains scattered on the living room floor or dishes on the counter waiting to be washed.  Having two small children, we have our share of disorganization.  To keep clutter at bay, we keep the amount of our possessions in check.  When you own less stuff, you have less to clean and maintain.  That seems logical and easy enough to put to practice, right?  Not necessarily.  We live in a society that is always pushing us to believe that buying more stuff will increase our level of happiness.  If anything, collecting more possessions seems to have the opposite effect.  Each time you bring an item into your home, you become responsible for its maintenance and ultimately its disposal.  It is easy to become burdened by all of this stuff.  I find that the answers to many of life’s questions can be found reflected in nature.  Referring to animals, Walt Whitman wrote, “Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things, not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago.”  When we stop measuring our value based what others have or think, we become free.  You aren’t a better person for wearing the latest fashion trends, owning a larger flat screen than your neighbor, or for buying your kids more toys.  I don’t see anything wrong with buying something new, but buy it for you and not to meet other people’s expectations of what you should like.  At our house, we try to follow the rule of “one in, one out”.  That is, when one new thing comes into the house, one thing must go out.

If decluttering is new to you, I suggest that you start small.  If you purge too much too quickly, you are likely to rebound with a shopping spree.  Take it slowly and start with one drawer or one room.  Allow yourself time to unlearn what you’ve been taught as a consumer.  Letting things go might feel uncomfortable at first if you’ve given them too much power in your life.  You are not what you own.  Your value isn’t based on the things you possess.  Your memories live in you, not in your things.  I’ll end with a quote by John December, author of Live Simple, “Take the attitude that you will live in the world, rather than accumulate parts of it.”

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