Saturday, March 28, 2015

Does Less Equal More?

by Janet M. Shlaes, Ph.D.

Does Less Equal More? Does having less stuff always equal more in terms of living a happier and richer life? I propose that the answer to this question depends on several variables. Let me explain……

Proponents of minimalism advocate for a better life via less stuff, less consumption and essentially leaving a smaller carbon foot print. Graham Hill presents the case for this type of minimalism in his popular 2011 Ted Talk, Less Stuff, More Happiness. I regularly show this video to my graduate students in counseling and organizational development and find two main reactions: some students find the video to be inspiring and soothing and others, after viewing the video, become increasingly agitated. Both types of responses serve to generate deep and powerful conversations regarding values and individual differences in terms of life narratives.

Individuals who tend to be drawn to radical simplicity in terms of aesthetic and function usually find this Ted Talk to be highly engaging and comforting. They report valuing the ease and simplicity of minimalism, as well as the intentionality behind living a life where everything in their home serves an essential function. Although they may choose to have expensive technology and other “stuff” in their home, they fully utilize everything that they own, including their furniture, appliances and clothes. If they don’t use something on a regular basis, they get rid of the item. Their chosen way of being in the world from a more minimalist perspective fully aligns with their current life situation, values, developmental stage and desire to simplify their world and responsibilities.

Individuals who tend to get agitated by Graham’s Ted Talk, detail their need to be surrounded by objects that are personally meaningful, even if these items don’t necessarily provide a concrete function. They like to be surrounded by “stuff” that evokes positive memories of the past and a sense of tactile richness that provides a physical and psychological soothing function. These individuals often comment on how they may not use most of what they carry with them or have in their home, but can’t imagine parting with most of their possessions.

Does having less always equal more happiness and life satisfaction? The answer for each of us provides critical information regarding core values, needs, life narrative, personal meaning and aesthetic. I invite you to explore this question in your own life.


For related topics to explore, check out the following posts:

Learn Something New

Embracing "Good Enough"

Breakdown to Breakthrough

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