Tips  on spiritual growth, emotional health, and relational healing.


How to Start Living with Less, Not More

Aug 29, 2017

We have problems, my friends.


According to a few sources, things may be worse than we think.

-There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).

-The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years (NPR).

-1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage—the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades. (New York Times Magazine).

-25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle. (U.S. Department of Energy).

-British research found that the average 10-year-old owns 238 toys but plays with just 12 daily (The Telegraph).

-3.1% of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40% of the toys consumed globally (UCLA).

-The average American woman owns 30 outfits—one for every day of the month. In 1930, that figure was nine (Forbes).

-The average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year (Huffington Post).

-Our homes have more television sets than people. And those television sets are turned on for more than a third of the day—eight hours, 14 minutes (USA Today).

-Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education (Psychology Today).

-Women will spend more than eight years of their lives shopping (The Daily Mail).

-Over the course of our lifetime, we will spend a total of 3,680 hours or 153 days searching for misplaced items. The research found we lose up to nine items every day—or 198,743 in a lifetime. Phones, keys, sunglasses, and paperwork top the list (The Daily Mail).

-The $8 billion home organization industry has more than doubled in size since the early 2000’s—growing at a staggering rate of 10% each year (Uppercase).

(To read the full list of these items, read the article, 21 Surprising Statistics That Reveal How Much Stuff We Actually Own.)


More or Less?

Last week, I wrote about how we avoid the process of simplifying and focusing. In exploring our resistance of more and our embrace of less, I quoted Dr. Sheena Iyengar. In reflecting on her research on this topic, she noted, “The study raised the hypothesis that the presence of choice might be appealing as a theory, but in reality, people might find more and more choice to actually be debilitating.”

While we continue our endless pursuit of more, we cost ourselves engagement, appreciation, presence, peace, and rest.

Think about your calendar – one of the places “stuff” tends to accumulate. If we could embrace less instead of more and more, we might find ourselves more engaged, appreciating more, with a greater sense of presence, peace, and rest.

I believe we’d create the mental real estate to address the bigger challenges we’re facing. But we’re too busy and too concerned with finding our lost keys that we can’t deal with the other stuff – which matters a lot more. Isn’t that crazy that we will spend 153 days in our lifetime looking for lost items? That’s the length of the NFL season and post-season combined!

I hope you’re getting a sense of the challenge in front of us and the potential losses we’ll face by choosing the path of more versus the path of less.


Next Steps Away from More and Towards Less

Last week, I mentioned that I’d be sharing a follow-up article regarding practical ways we can embrace the simplicity and refining process.

I have three questions, three disciplines and three dreams to share with you to that end.


3 Questions

First, I think we need to ask three questions.

-Is this a want or a need?

My wife taught me this question as we weeded our possessions after we got married and then as we worked our way out of credit card debt. With something you already own, “do I want to keep this or do I need to keep this?” With a new purchase, consider “is this something I want or something I truly need? Why is it a need?” If you have trouble answering this question, talk about it with something else and try to justify your answer to them. Or wait a week and then come back and ask the question again.

-Does this bring me joy?

I know one expert on minimalism encourages her tribe to pick up every time in their house and ask this question. “Does this bring me joy?” And if they answer “no,” she encourages them to get rid of it. I think it’s a fascinating question, considering how what we use can bring us greater joy. How many times do we own things which own us in an unhealthy and destructive way, robbing us of joy?

-How well could I live without it?

Imagine your life without the thing in question. Think about what opportunities you’d no longer have, what you could no longer do. If you can live without it and still thrive, it might be worth considering, if you’re really trying to follow the path of less is more.


3 Disciplines

Second, if you’re trying to make progress in this area of “less”, consider these three disciplines.

-Fast from the thing.

Whether you take a weekend, 7 days, 14 days, or a month, step away from the thing(s). This fasting is for a purpose- to reset your relationship to it.

-Put it in a bag and set it out of sight.

Create distance with the things you wonder if you can live without. If you don’t pull it out of the bag after 30 or 60 days, then think seriously about ditching it. If you have seasonal clothing, do this as the season begins. Allow yourself a while to move through this process – many of us are drowning in more. We didn’t get here overnight and lasting change will take time.

-For every new “yes” you say, say “no” to two or three things.

This isn’t just a one-for-one process. You’re trying to ensure you say “no” more often than “yes” because you’re looking for the meaning in less, not diluting it in more. In his best-selling book, Love Does, author Bob Goff shared how he quits something every Thursday. It’s a fun habit! Remember, every yes dilutes your commitment to everything else you’ve already committed to thus far. With every yes, you have less to give. With every no, you get more back to share.


3 Dreams

Third, consider these three dreams or possibilities that emerge when you start moving towards less.

Bless others.

Don’t just throw items in the trash. Look to redeem their value. Share those with friends or family who genuinely need what you already have. Host a garage sale or sell your unnecessary items online. Give the proceeds to your church or favorite charity.

Minimize your stress.

Think about how much less you would have to worry about or concern yourself with if you go through this process. With less stress, your mind and heart are free to be more creative, imaginative and intentional. Who knows what could come from that freed up emotional energy?

Spend more time on what matters most.

Instead of maintaining, searching for or cleaning up your unneeded stuff, you could be spending time on what matters most. Just last week, I was reminded of the fragile and uncertain nature of our lives. We aren’t guaranteed even one more day. Reading those stats I shared earlier sobered me and gave me an urgency to share these words with you.


What Matters Most?

Jesus famously asked his followers, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” We can think we’re winning when in fact we’re losing.

I pray you take some steps forward to today to reframe your perspective, change your reality and make sure you succeed at what matters most.





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