When Less Becomes the Preferred Reality

Less is more better

Post by Monica Gaylor.

New Realities

It is amazing to me how quickly a new reality can become the preferred reality.  For example, in Japan I realized how wonderful taking a most awesome system of public transportation could be.  It was clean, safe, convenient, reliable, less expensive, and just plain easier and less stressful than driving.  Plus I got to walk as part of my daily activity.  No planning of the walking was necessary.  It was seamlessly incorporated into the day.

If you follow my blog and you recall, I recently wrote about the “snowball” and how it came through town and took all of my stuff.  Well, most of my stuff.  I wanted to get rid of a few things, but ended up getting rid of almost everything (we’re talking large furniture here).  I decided to live with the “nothingness” for a while – (1) because it was nice and refreshing, and (2) I didn’t know what I wanted to replace it with.  I’d had my old stuff for the better part of my adult years.  I needed to think hard about what I wanted my new style to be…

After effects of the “snowball experience” have included a “holy tear” – as my mother would say – of sorts.  I went through my small house and purged like a mad woman.  Most likely this is due to the fact that I no longer had places to put stuff and when it’s out and you have to actually look at it – one begins to ask themselves, “Why do I still have that?”  I had no good answer and so the things went to Goodwill.

I did try to re-decorate the place, but it has not gone well.  After some futile shopping experiences: hauling furniture upstairs, back down stairs, and then back into the stores – not once, but 3 times – I have come to the conclusion that less is now my preferred reality.  I really liked everything I bought and eventually returned; I just couldn’t live with it in my house.  It was too big and messed up my house’s new found feng shui, my “nothingness”, and my simplicity.”

The experience of going from a middle-of-the-road minimalist to a more extreme-minimalist (I use the term loosely, as I don’t think that I am) and a recent trip to Target got me thinking of all the times (some are new and some are as old as 30 years) when less has become the preferred case:

Less: On Life Philosophies

Less debt, more responsibility.  After paying off accumulated-debt several times: college, world travel, etc., over the years I have developed  a much more responsible and holistic approach toward my money.  My “mini-money manifesto” is very easy to remember.  Live within my means.  Have no unsecured debt and as little secured debt as possible.  Have several contingency options available for any number of emergencies that may arise.  Save, save, save.  This was difficult early on when one feels like they are denying themselves at every turn.  But, later it pays off big time in knowing that you can handle any emergency that should arise and having established more healthy relationships in regards to spending money, planning ones future, and instant gratification-resistance skills.

Less expensive, but still good quality.  I know that some minimalists are of the variety that figure since they buy less, when they buy they buy the best.  And, I am fine with that.  But, I am of the mindset that – I want to put my hard earned money in the bank.  So, I buy the least expensive item with a quality that I like or can simply live with.  In some cases I buy the cheapest store brand, in others cases I am brand loyal to a mid-range price point, and in still other cases I go for something a little pricey (this is very rare).  For example, I buy Suave hair spray and lotion because I can’t tell the difference between them and the other brands, but I buy a higher quality shampoo and conditioner or I get an itchy scalp.  I buy the cheapest mustard I can find, usually a store brand, but I am brand loyal to my mayo and buy in the mid-range price point.  I actually prefer cheap candy, but I am a snob about chips and salsa.  I go for the locally made chips and organic salsa, which I then bring home and doctor-up.  Last time a bought a car it was in the mid-range price point, but the next one will be on the cheap end.  I would really just like to be done with the whole driving thing.

Self-reliance.  DIYer mostly, White Glove-r (ish) occasionally.  I am almost always a DIYer.  With the advent of the internet, I have been able to put this into action much more than in pre-internet times.  I can now do some minimal electrical and plumbing jobs around the house.  It is nice not to be completely in the dark about such matters.  I also prefer to hunt down the cheapest option, like furniture, and then hack it into what I need.  My whole “less” mindset actually goes all the way to what is better for the Earth.  What creates less waste?  Should I remodel the kitchen in order to keep up with the Joneses or should I just paint the cabinets?  Why, paint the cabinets of course.  I would rather buy something at Goodwill and come home and paint / fix it into something beautiful.  First, I like doing things like that, probably because it exercises my self-reliance skills.  Secondly, I am an artist and have the skill set and supplies on hand.  And last, I do not like cookie cutter anything.  However, I take my car to the dealer to have the oil changed, as I would never consider doing it myself.  Cars have become too complex and I don’t have a garage / carport.  They also wash it for me…

Less: On Everyday Issues and Stuff

Less friends, more real friendships.  Although this happened around the high school / college years.  One could also call this less drama, more sincerity.  Today I would add to this less – or in my case, none – social media.  I have email, a blog, and an Etsy shop.  That is enough for me at this point in time.  I see on the internet that a lot of people are trying to scale back the “social media monster” as posts abound on the results of their efforts.

Less books, more going to the library.  It started as an in person thing, moved to managing tangible books, CD’s, and DVD’s online, and now it is mostly via e-library.  Currently, I own about 13 physical books and about 10 ebooks.  Several years ago (after purchasing my ipad) I made the plan to only purchase e-books, when and if I actually had to purchase a book.  I became a library connoisseur long before the physical book ban.  I pay taxes and so I consider the library my warehouse of personal books that I don’t have to organize, dust, house, and insure.  I am also trying a new thing – where I only read one book at a time.

I completely gave up perfume.  One day it ran out and I never went back to get another.  It was after I read about what chemicals they put in perfume and just decided that I could let it go.  Nobody ever said I didn’t smell as nice as I used to.  Nobody ever said, “Hey, you should try perfume.”  In fact, in went completely unnoticed by the world at large and at small.  Except for the other day when I was in a store and I got the notion that hey, there’s the perfume section – I should buy some perfume.  I sprayed some on one wrist and didn’t care for it.  I sprayed a different kind on the other wrist and liked it even less.  As I went about my shopping a headache developed and grew at an alarming rate.  I quickly bought my few items and raced home to wash off the perfume.  I had the headache for several more hours, but came away with an idea for this post.  Less is not more because it is still less, but it is more better.  I can say the same for nail polish.

Less make-up.  Girls know how this quickly adds up.  I only have what I wear on a daily basis, no special occasion make-up.  No, I want to try this product / color / process etc. make-up.  If I don’t use it regularly it’s gone.  Here it pays to be brand loyal, but also understanding that change is a constant in the universe – so there will be some waste as products are tried and don’t work out.  I can’t wear the same colors and types of make-up that I did in my 20’s or even my 30’s.  One must still work with nature’s bounty in all her glorious stages…  As I approach the half century mark at light speed, I have found myself having to rethink products, colors, etc. and there is a certain amount of waste involved with that…  For example, the eye area now requires lighter, muted, matte colors and only working with the upper lid – no eyeliner below, etc.  In my make-up box I have the following items: foundation (formulated for my age category), powder (same), one quad eye shadow (of which I use only two – grrrrrr, but those are the right colors), one single eye shadow, one eye liner, one mascara, one lipstick, and one combination eyebrow brush / eyelash comb tool.  

Less clothes.  I resisted the capsule wardrobe idea for a long time.  It became popular among the minimalist blogs and I shunned such posts thinking it was too much trouble and I am not going to count my things, much less my clothes.  But, I am now into the tiny wardrobe.  I still refuse to count things.  You can read part 1 here and part 2 here on that topic.  Furthermore, I am thinking about adopting a uniform?

Less art supplies.  It used to be a goal of mine to attain every kind of art supply known to man.  That quickly became unattainable, not to mention stifling.  I now have what I need.  I can be more creative with less.  Think of Picasso’s Blue Period.  

Less eating out.  I am almost done with year 3 of being a part-time worker.  I love being part-time and I realized early on that if I wanted to do it permanently some things in my life would have to change.  I used to eat out almost all the time.  However, when I became part-time I could still afford it but at the cost of not having any money to save.  So, I decided that since I was part-time anyhow that would give me the time to shop and cook.  It was hard at first because I really liked eating out.  But, I stuck to the plan because I liked being part-time more.  Recently, I got bored with my eating habits and decided I would start eating out again.  Well, it isn’t what I remembered.  Now, when I go to a nice place to eat I feel that I’m not getting my monies worth.  I could make the same thing at home, just as yummy or better, for a quarter of the price.  What was it that I liked about eating out so long ago?  I realize now that I would just rather eat in.

Less groceries into the house.  More trips to the store.  Less waste.  I abhore food waste.  It makes me sad to throw things away that didn’t get used or eaten.  I have been tweaking it for almost 3 years now, but I finally have the food buying / eating problem worked out to as little waste as possible.  I buy the most nutritious items that actually have a real chance at getting eaten.  It is great to be altruistic that one is going to buy and then actually eat that broccoli.  But, if you find that every few weeks you are throwing wilted broccoli in the garbage, then maybe you should buy a vegetable that you like and will eat.  For example: I like spinach.  I like it cooked best.  I find it gets old (and there is much waste) after a week as my salad lettuce.  So I only buy it for salads every couple of months.  I have learned that I would much rather have romaine or butter lettuce for salad making and save the spinach for my Mother’s spinach casserole, which is an excellent use of spinach and none goes to waste.  I have also learned to plan better when shopping for the next few days.  I ask myself:  Will I have the time and energy to make XXX item or am I too busy in the next few days?  Do I need to buy something simpler or ready (or almost ready) made?

Honorable Mentions.  Less plans to do this or that and more plans to relax and paint.  Less kitchen stuff.  Less cleaning stuff.  Less TV watching.  Less couch-potatoing.  Less junk food.  Less chemicals.  Less shopping.  Etc.  Feel free to add your “lessers” to the list in the comment section.

Conclusion

< ph + < pr + < st = > mei

(< philosophies + < practices + < stuffs = > more everything important*)

*More happy, more peace of mind, more time for yourself and others, more opportunities, more moving around, more organized, …. etc.