The Minimalist Paradox: Less is More
Updated: Sep 21, 2021
You may have heard the expression “less is more” when it comes to describing minimalism. The less you own the more you can enjoy the things you have chosen to keep. The less you own the more open space you have. The less debt you carry creates a path to more freedom.
There’s a paradox of gaining through losing that can feel like a sweeping undercurrent on a minimalist journey.
What does Less is More mean?
Less stuff = more space
Less debt = more financial freedom
Less to do = more time
Less spending = more saving
Less stress = more happiness
The paradox of having more freedom, enjoyment and space by owning less and doing less can feel confusing at first. Living with less over time can bring many benefits.
But I don't want to lose my stuff?!
Yes, living with less means having less to own, to buy, or to do. However, having more freedom, enjoyment and space through losing things can feel emotional of you think of removing items as losing something rather than gaining something.
Guilt is sometimes a part of decluttering.
Financial guilt, emotional guilt, sentimental guilt, what if guilt - they all plague me when I declutter. Especially in the beginning but I've developed some "decluttering muscles" along the way to help me deal with those emotions.
When does less become more in minimalism?
Less becomes more once the benefits of minimalism fall into place. In the beginning, I did not understand what "less is more" meant, and it certainly didn't help me declutter. Now, after 2 years of living minimally, less became more after I changed my mindset about STUFF.
Here's the thing, in my opinion. You do not need to be a minimalist to feel that less is more. In fact, I aim to provide articles and resources for helping people gain that feeling without becoming a minimalist.
Living with less is an individual choice and an endless journey. Minimalism is a lifestyle and decluttering is an action. You can live with less and not be a minimalist. In fact, I have a term for it: minimalish.
What is Minimalish?
MINIMALISH: simplifying your home and life by choosing your enough, discovering your extra, and keeping the freedom to expand
My version of minimalism is like being on a "stuff diet" but you are allowed to keep donuts in the house. Just less donuts.
STUFFOCATION: My A-HA Moment
Stuffocation: to feel proverbially suffocated by belongings. To have too much stuff. To wish for less stuff.
I was stuffocating
My A-HA moment hit me when I came home from a vacation and we walked into our home. I literally fell to my knees and sobbed. We had SO. MUCH. STUFF. I didn't know where to begin or how to deal with it all.
I didn't know HOW to declutter or make the decisions necessary to even start living with less stuff.
We had rented the home of a minimalist (I didn't know that when I booked it!) and accidentally lived with less furniture and stuff. I didn't have a place to unpack the TWENTY FIVE bins of stuff I packed for our family.
Turns out, I didn't need most of it. Not having a place to put stuff forced us to just take out what we needed to use. I was happy. The kids played mindfully and longer with the few toys they picked out. We played games and spent time together without the anxiety of clutter all around us - like we had back home.
Fast forward to today, and in this video, I talk about my journey of achieving that "Less is More" feeling, and when I changed from the action of decluttering to being a minimalist.
YouTuber Side Note
A little behind the scenes in this YouTuber’s life. film, edit and upload all my videos using my iPhone. Part of my equipment includes a microphone that plugs into my phone, soft box lights, a ring light, and I’ve just purchased a gimbal to stabilize videos more. I’m still learning how to use that.
Another piece of equipment is an Anker Nano charger. Here’s why I chose to partner with Anker as a sponsor for this video. It charges my iPhone three times faster than when I used the iPhone charger block that came with my phone. The Anker Nano was designed for the iPhone but can charge other phones and devices that use USB-C. iPhone filming and editing drains my battery and this charger gets me back to work on minutes instead of hours.
Are you ready for less is more?
Two years ago, if someone had said “you will gain through losing” when it came to my stuff and donating it, it would not have helped me. I understood the concept and it sounded great, but I had no idea what to do.
The idea of donating or trashing did feel like I was losing but not in an effort to gain. It felt like losing. Losing a financial guilt battle. Losing something I might need or want someday. It didn’t feel like I was gaining anything.
Here’s when it clicked for me. When decluttering became minimalism. When having less meant having more.
The pivotal point on my minimalish journey came when I changed how I thought about stuff. Yes, that mindset shift the minimalism experts talk about. Instead of seeing a pile of items and choosing what to donate or trash, I saw a pile of items to hand pick what to keep.
I flipped the switch.
Instead of choosing what to part with from that pile, I chose what I wanted to intentionally keep in my life. On my shelves. In my purse. In my kitchen drawer. One pile at a time - one day at a time.
Then, I evaluated the remains of each pile bit by bit. What could I trash? What could I give away? What could I sell?
Greg McKeown talks about the Inversion Principle in his book, Effortless, on page 32. Turning an assumption upside down to change a point of view and open your mind to a new way of doing things. He calls it the Effortless Inversion.
Two years before his book was published, I had used that very tactic on my stuff to overcome stuffocation. Thank you, Mr. McKeown for putting a name to it for me.
Back then, I was inspired by a quote from Francine Jay:
“Decluttering is infinitely easier when you think of it as deciding what to keep, rather than deciding what to throw away.” - Francine Jay, author of Joy is Less
How to Start Decluttering Your Home
By thinking of what to keep instead of what to donate or trash, decluttering became easier. I was expended less mental energy and finding joy in items. Decluttering had catapulted me into minimalism and the my focus shifted to what matters most.
Decluttering One Day at a Time
I had some big declutter days and some small days. Intentionally focusing on what matters most meant allowing for some mental space for emotions. Guilt, fear, and what if. What if I need it later. What if I want it later.
Acknowledging those emotions and the pain cemented my decisions. Once the pain and emotions ran their course, I was left with space. Open, minimalist space.
The minimalist mindset shift that becomes part of the lifestyle change makes it possible to shift your thinking from losing something from your life by decluttering it to gaining something by removing it from your life.
In the beginning, for me minimalism was about getting rid of things. Decluttering is definitely still an ongoing part of living a minimalist life. My likes and tastes change and my knowledge about purchases grows.
I would say I've shifted from getting rid of things in an effort I live with less and discover minimalism to cultivating and curating an ownership of things that I use, need, or love instead. It has become more about acquiring the right kinds of things into our life.
In our home, I feel like we have shifted to a curating mindset about stuff, furniture but I think about it an ongoing work in process. I like the freedom that we have now that if someone comes to visit, I can tidy up and sparkle it up in 15 minutes but that we can still have a mess going on of we want. It’s no longer a mess along messes on top of hundreds of stuff.
It's just... less mess.
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