At some point, we started believing that having more of something was a good idea. Maybe it's a natural tendency we're born with; many of us don't like sharing when we're toddlers, so our innate ideas take root in us as adults and our desire to own begins to own us. Maybe it's because we buy increasingly larger houses and we feel compelled to fill each nook and cranny with something from Ikea or Wal-Mart. Or maybe we're filling our lives with stuff so we don't have to do the hard work of figuring out what we really value.
Seth Godin points out that clutter leads to decline. The remedy is as old as our selfish wants: quality is always better than quantity. We need more of the right stuff and less of the distractions. But, even when we find what it is we love, we don't need too much.
I love my wife and I love being married. But being married to another person would be tricky. One is just the right number of wives for me.
Same goes for kids. Sure, I'm a new dad and I'm told that when you're figuring everything out as a parent that everyone says they don't want any more children. But we really feel good about how Lindley turned out and one may be enough for us.
I own one home, one car, and one cat. That's what works for me. I've started two companies and I respond to what feels like hundreds of emails a day. I've just released one book and am busy working on another. The fight for quality in each of those areas must stay at the top of my mind. Otherwise, I'll fall victim to the empty quest for quantity and churn out inferior texts and products. And that helps no one.
If you feel like you've got too much in your life and you're trying to wean yourself off of "more," here are three ways to get started:
- Cut out the free - Everywhere you look, free samples, free music, and free prizes beckon. If it doesn't cost you anything to acquire, why not own it? Before signing up or picking up, ask yourself, "Do I really want this?" Will it add value to my life? Would I be willing to pay something to have it? If not, then why bother? Pass on the freebie and keep your life simpler.
- Cut out the cheap - Groupons, coupons, and special offers tempt you to buy stuff you normally wouldn't. Whether it's a hell of a deal on a belly dancing class or a discount on high end knives, the same rules apply as do to free samples. No matter how much money you're saving, if it's something that isn't valuable to you, then why own it? Just because you can buy something never means that you should. A cheap piece of crap is still a cheap piece of crap.
- Cut out the extras - In our world where you can super-size anything for an extra quarter, the desire to get something that's bigger often fools us into thinking that it's somehow better. Studies show that bigger houses don't make us happier. Bigger cars are just ways to spend more money. Extra features in gadgets or extra bells and whistles on toys may only distract us. Let's cut to the chase: get what you need to get the job done and pass on everything else.
The trick with the above three rules is that you've first got to figure out what really matters. Otherwise, you'll be aimlessly cutting and slashing without any true purpose or reason. What do you love? What do you value? What matters most? What excites and thrills you? What challenges you and makes you get up early? What's worth doing?
These questions are deep and can't be answered within the time it takes you to read this post. They must be lived with. My new book, 50 Things Your Life Doesn't Need, can help you answer some of these. It'll also help you get rid of "more" in order to find what's truly better.
Photo credit: Tacit Requiem