None Equals More

The name of my company, Less Equals More, was the three-worded vehicle most apt to describe how less material items and unnecessary activities can help us get to whatever “more” we are looking to achieve: more time, more freedom, more meaning.

It’s tricky to use the word less because it comes with a not-so-great connotation. U.S. culture lauds more, bigger, and unrestricted growth of all sorts. So less feels undesirable, at some level anyway. It presents as lacking rather than making room for something. It appears to be almost at a loss for something, certainly not a gain. Less hurts a little, until you unpack the context and shake off preconceived notions.

What happens then, when we talk about none or nothing? A completely empty spot where something could or did reside. It challenges us more. We may feel empty too. Or we wonder how it could be that something that we assumed must take up space, in fact, does not. Maybe it never did. This causes a certain tenderness. We avert from that which gives us any pang of discomfort. Try staying with it this time. If less is hard, none is harder, but it is a greater release toward freedom.

If this sounds abstract, it is, by design. When we become too close to things, to objects, we lose focus on the bigger picture and our collective sense of tunnel vision emerges. First, we need to look at the language we use and the breadth and depth behind it.

The challenge of none means that there are entire sections of your life that can be cut out. Instead of spending time and effort weeding through belongings, consider whether you need that type of belonging at all (or the activity to which it belongs). Instead of trying to determine the best version of an item to buy, don’t buy such an item; time, effort, and money saved. Rather than including practices in your life that you think you should experience (a book club, running, certain people), delete them entirely if they don’t serve you well. Negotiating with yourself is a tiresome effort with minimal payoff. Saying good-bye to things can be painful but that pain is fleeting. Staring into emptiness can be painful too. But it is also fleeting because you end up filling the space, time, and energy with that which you actually care about and enjoy. 

Let’s turn to the practical. Look at the large categories of items in your life: clothing, shoes kitchenware, sporting goods, technology, papers, furniture. Can any of these categories go away wholesale? Probably not, though it’s always worth making the case for why to keep them. Then, move on to the second tier. Within shoes do you have high heels that always feel uncomfortable or dress shoes that require polishing? Say good-bye rather than negotiate why you should keep them just in case. In your kitchen, do you have rarely used baking equipment? Say good-bye to it all wholesale. Buy your baked goods and, if needed, borrow a cake pan once a year when you’re in mood to bake a cake. Do you have barely used fitness gear? Focus your time and money on your gym or specialized studio membership. Donate your equipment because you are just not the type to do this at home. All of these are mundane examples that may or may not apply to you. But the logic is the same and can be applied to everything you own and do. You can pick through stuff, employing the less strategy, but always first consider the none of the above option. 

Look for areas in your life to eradicate. Be an exterminator of the unpleasant pests of your mind and space. Be honest about what actually provides you with happiness and fulfillment. And if you are lacking the connection with your true self to understand what does, make that your focus instead. Something isn’t always better than nothing, unless that something is yourself.