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Less is More

In October 2010 I was in Peru – a trip full of meaningful moments and encounters, many of which could not have been predicted.  For several days we stayed at a local family’s home in the Lake Titicaca area - a remote village with no running water or electricity.  Our hosts went out of their way to ensure our stay was comfortable, that we felt welcome, and were well fed.  We lacked for nothing despite the simplicity of our accommodations.



View from our room
One night, as we gathered in the "kitchen” eating by candlelight, sitting on a thatched hay bench built against mud-packed walls, one of my fellow travelers commented on her son’s recent purchase of a new monster house in the suburbs of Toronto.  She lamented that he had had bought a home larger than that he already had; one that would have continued to be sufficient despite his growing family.  She said, “he just doesn’t get it”.

Those poignant words I've never forgotten.  What followed was a discussion about how misguided we (North Americans and others) have become, believing that bigger/more is better and being fundamentally disappointed when we discover it's not.

Some say that less is more, while simultaneously struggling to keep track of all that they have accumulated….an unmanageable combination of items given to them, impulse purchases, seasonal trinkets, and plain and simple junk.

Perhaps I have my mom to thank.  Growing up with a pack rat was a sure recipe to turn me into the opposite.  My condo is so lean, both for lack of space and to ensure I don’t replicate the needless boxes she kept and managed for years.

I have been guilty of going to such an extreme that I get rid of things I find I later need. I feel a real sense of freedom in the lack of clutter and in managing just what it is that I use in terms of both objects and space.

So (for example) while some conveniences like a hand mixer might make life a little easier for baking, I find other solutions to get the job done, and even greater satisfaction in the lack of clutter. But, I know that this may not be a popular point of view and would like to hear from you.  What do you think?

Comments

  1. Couldn't agree more! Absolutely LOVE the feeling when my apartment has had a spring clean, and my car too! Too much stuff = stress. And, no one ever stated on their death bed how thankful they were for an item- only relationships with others and life experiences. So ya, let's focus more on those! :) Emma

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  2. Absolutely! Although you’ll never find a hoarder among the poor. They recycle and find uses for everything. However, my parents came from the war era and communist regime where they had nothing and now save everything although they may not need it. I think my mine had the first compost in Brampton (to the chagrin of our neighbours) without realizing they were pioneers in recycling and going ‘green’. In reality they considered themselves practical and thrifty. So if I’m ever missing something that I need, I’m sure to find it at my mom’s.
    :) Gordana

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  3. Great post and thanks for sharing the link with me. I love reading about how others create simplicity and the thoughts and challenges that go along with it. I really like the feeling of getting rid of things and the cleansing feeling it provides, but sometimes I resist cleaning certain things up because I feel I may need them one day....which usually doesn't happen.

    Thanks for your inspiration on this.


    Darryl

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  4. The goal of simplicity is an honorable one and yet for most of us it's a life-long goal to achieve. Inevitably it seems we must go through the cycle of big house, bigger house and much stuff, much more stuff before we find the motivation to scale back. I note how your trip to another country allowed you the opportunity for self-assessment. I had a similar experience 2 summers ago in the Italian countryside. I was absolutely enchanted with the lifestyle there which was far far less pretentious than what most of us have here in the US. I applaud you for helping lead the way to our own self-examination.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment psashworth. It is interesting what comes to mind when we are distant from home with time for quiet reflection. Sometimes the insights come from our observations, and other times simply from slowing down the pace. Seems I could have the subject of another blog post on my hands. :)

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