About fifteen years ago, a friend of mine sold her large beautiful home and opted for another house about a quarter of the size. There was no financial circumstance that mandated the change. Rather, she decided that having fewer things reduced her responsibility to care for them thereby gaining more time.

Her attitude towards living a more simplified life sadly sounded silly to me at time. Today I’m embracing the concept. Instead of buying a larger house like the rest of my peers, our family has opted for a smaller one. My friend’s courage to buck the American culture of “more is better” is now inspirational.

In a few weeks, we literally eliminated several roomfuls of furniture, donated over a dozen van loads of stuff, and tossed countless bins of trash. It has been a freeing experience with many benefits achieved from having less. Here are a few of them.

  1. Less stuff equals less responsibility. Things demand proper maintenance. The more things that exist, the more that needs to be cared for. Eliminating things allows people to better manage what they do have.
  2. Happiness is not about more things. At the heart of collecting possessions is a belief that more things mean greater happiness. But happiness can be achieved regardless of circumstances or possessions. Using things to gain more satisfaction puts pressure on an inanimate object instead of looking inward.
  3. Purging stuff is cleansing. Each item should be evaluated for its’ future use and benefit. Keeping things “just in case” or “just because” demands that the item be utilized in the future in some manner. This expectation places pressure on future decisions. Eliminating the item frees the expectation.
  4. What remains is valued. After all of the unnecessary stuff is gone, the items left behind can be treasured. These selected items have meaning from the past as well as a purpose for the future. They are less likely to go to waste.
  5. Life feels more simple. When life is simplified it is easier to get back to what matters most. There are fewer choices and fewer demands which actually means there is more time. More time in turn allows a person to do what is important to them rather than what is being demanded.
  6. More focus on relationships. Strangely enough, the fewer things that are around, the more time that can be given to relationships. If the relationships in life are what matters most, consider abandoning the responsibility of stuff in exchange. The shift is worth the effort.
  7. Begin with the end in mind. At the end of a life, most people don’t wish they had more things or worked longer hours. Rather, they wish for more time to do the things they enjoyed. It is far easier to focus on enjoyable activities when there are fewer things to manage.

This concept of less is not for everyone. Some cultures and religions value having less. But clearly within the American culture, there are far more people who believe that the more things we own, the better. Going against the curve might be difficult to explain but is so worth the effort.