your word of the day: less

Minimalist Art on canvas, by Alan Salabert
Minimalist Art on canvas, by Alan Salabert

For over two months, I have been home-free, car-free, and phone-free by choice. Admittedly, it’s not a path that’s for everyone — though it offers rewards that show up only when we are willing to strip away preconceived notions of security, comfort, and wealth.

As I am gifted with the opportunity to spend time in other people’s homes, sleeping in their guest rooms or on their porches or (yes!) even on the trampolines in their backyards, I am struck by the sheer weight and volume of “stuff” that fills the spaces and lives of so many.

Not necessarily well-chosen, beautiful things that create a sense of home as sanctuary, but dust-covered stacks of unread books and magazines, piles of unread or un-dealt-with mail, boxes bursting with “important” things that haven’t seen the light of day for decades, bits and pieces of unfinished projects of every stripe, or small mountains of clothing that no longer fit, no longer appeal, or are otherwise deemed unwearable.

When every nook and cranny is filled, there is precious little space for the workings of Creation. Plus, if I may be so bold, objects usually referred to as “inanimate” yearn to have a life, too!

Is it any surprise that these cluttered and chaotic spaces often reflect lives filled with unfinished emotional business, lingering regrets, congenital fence-sitting, lack of focus, scattered intentions, and unexpressed desires? I often assist people with clearing away excess and bringing order to their surroundings — not as an exercise in housekeeping, but in service to the quest for wholeness. As a result, these folks often find they can breathe easier, uncover a modicum of peace, unbury the living and/or bury the dead, take baby steps toward clarity, and generally lighten up.

(If minimalism intrigues you, visit the blog, “becoming minimalist,” which chronicles the journey of a young Vermont family – ages 33, 29,5,2.)

As without, so within. Backward or forward, it’s all the same. Without fuss, here is your word of the day, taken from my out-of-print book, 365 Words of Well-Being for Mothers (McGraw-Hill/Contemporary, 2003).


Yes, you can get by with less. Less work to do if you share it with others. Less time to do it when you’re having more fun. Try eating less food that’s less likely to leave you less nourished. Let yourself be less than perfect, and discover that others will criticize you less. Less television and everyone’s a bit less lethargic. Fewer mindless hours surfing the Net breeds a lot less contempt. Less stuff. Less clutter. A lot less mess. Fewer trips to the mall and you’ll bring home less of what you don’t need. And you really do need so much less! Less rush. Less worry. Less fear. Less stress. Working less. Dressing less. Lunching less. Crunching less. There’s so much more to do with less. Time expands greatly when you fill it with less. Space is serene when it’s asked to hold less. There’s untold abundance at the center of less. All around, less is more — more or less.

3 thoughts

  1. There are many things I need less of: worry, stress, consumerism, being plugged in to cell phones and computers 24/7.

    But I adore clutter, the messy desk, files spilling out as rivers of paper across the carpet. It does not close me in any more than the very-non-minimalist extravagence of nature filling a mountain meadow with flowers from east to west or storing away more than we know in the natural file cabinets of rainforests and oceans.

    Yet, when it comes to ego and other such things as men and women often adore, I do believe with you that less is more.



  2. I have had the experience of serenity in simplicity, and later, minimalism as a result of despair. I don’t think it is easy to tell which is which just by looking, but I’m sure you can tell by feeling the space between the spaces.

    It is easy to let things pile up when aspects of living become distracting. The debris indicates what is happening in other dimensions of life. There is freedom in ditching stuff, but there is also peace in a simple balance. Some roots, some precious connections, some arms to catch and comfort. This too can be freeing rather than confining.


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