Less is More

Posted by suevenman on Jun 13, 2013  

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” ~Hans Hofmann

A while ago I was working with a young mom whom I’ll call Linda. Linda asked me a question which I hear at least every week, if not every day, “How much stuff is the right amount?”

At the time, we were talking about her 3 year old son (I’ll call him Timmy).  Toys, craft materials and children’s books were taking over the kitchen, the living room, the dining room, the den, as well as Timmy’s bedroom. You couldn’t walk through a room without stepping on a Lego or a stuffed animal. It was making the whole family pretty cranky. These young parents wanted to provide as rich an environment as possible for their young son, but knew that something wasn’t working.

After discussing the situation for a bit, my answer came in the form of two questions, “How much stuff can Timmy realistically manage at his age?” and, “What does he really love?”

Working with these questions as our measuring sticks we sorted through the toys and books and divided them into categories:

  1. Things Timmy loves.
  2. Things Timmy might grow into.
  3. Things Linda wasn’t sure about.
  4. Things to donate (anything in good shape that didn’t fall into categories 1, 2 and 3).
  5. Things to throw out.

Our next steps were to box and label stuff from categories 2 and 3, put the box of donations in the car and tie up the throw-aways in a black garbage bag (so that Timmy wouldn’t be able to see what was leaving the house).

We then did a deeper sort of the Things Timmy loves box, deciding how much stuff Timmy could realistically manage. We provided him with enough variety of toys books and games to keep him stimulated, but not overwhelmed. By boxing and storing the rest of the Things Timmy loves into a “library” box, we created a stash of alternate toys which Liinda could periodically swap out for the current stash. This allows for fresh engagement without overburdening the family with the Too-Much-Stuff syndrome.

These questions have become keys to helping folks decide how much stuff is the right amount. It boils down to:

  1.  Are you able to do what you want to do without clutter getting in the way? If yes, then you don’t have a problem.
  2. How much can you manage well?
  3. What do you really love?

How much is the “right amount of stuff” for you?  Remember that less is (almost always) more. And by following the guidelines above, you’ll create more room in your life for what truly matters.

Here’s to more of less!



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