Illustration: Belinda Xia

Less Is More: The Case for Buying Fewer, Better Things

The idea that “Less Is More” is almost an affront to America & its ideals. The legend goes that The United States of America were founded on a hunger for more: more freedom, more space, more opportunity. As such, it can be a battle to have or be enough in The Land and Age of Plenty, no? There is always a way to make become wealthier, always a new kind of shoe you could you put on your feet, always a more prestigious job. This surplus of possibility is as exhausting as it is exciting, as anxiety-provoking as it is liberating.

Many of us bounce back and forth between the siren song of simpler times and the promise of being/becoming/having more every hour on the hour. It’s a delicate balance, but one that becomes a little bit simpler when we shift the conversation to our possessions, the physical things that we own or keep around.

Universe & its black holes aside, there is a limit to the amount of space we can take up with our things. For some of us, that space is a home with a yard on every continent, for some it’s a shoebox apartment or what we can carry with us on our bodies. In all cases, our walls don’t grow wider, our ceilings don’t grow taller, our backpacks don’t grow bigger & our lives don’t grow longer with each new thing we buy. There are only so many drawers in a dresser, and since that’s the reality, it makes a whole lot of sense to be discerning about the items you purchase.

Get Serious About What You Buy

You have full permission to take your spending seriously; in fact, seriousness & deliberation is encouraged! Each purchase you make is an opportunity to choose. It’s an opportunity to support a business or business owner you connect with, a chance to add a color or shape that’s worthy of compliment to your wardrobe, an occasion to prioritize all that matters to you.

“Less Is More” Means More Space

Think about what a treat it is to walk into a well-designed hotel room, where each piece of furniture serves a purpose & all manner of details have been attended to. In this dream hotel room you’re imagining, there’s probably not much clutter, not much that you don’t need. There probably is as much closet space, floor space, air space & brain space as you need, and not much more. Hoteliers have this enough-but-not-too-much deal figured out. They’re in the business of imparting ease through physical spaces, but there’s nothing particularly inaccessible about how they design their rooms: they cover the necessities plus some storage, some space & some decoration. And then they (literally) bank on your feeling less overwhelmed than you do when you’re at home. Coincidence? Probably not.

“Less Is More” Means More Sustainable

It’s not only our space that is finite, the Earth & its resources are also limited which means we have a responsibility to ourselves, our planet and everything/everyone living on it to be considerate. Being “choosy” about what you buy is one obvious way to demonstrate care for the planet & its inhabitants. Supply and demand is a very basic market concept. If everyone who hangs a Christmas stocking had a high-quality favorite stocking that they looked forward to hanging on their mantle each December, they wouldn’t go out and buy the flimsy kind from Walmart, and if Walmart has no stocking customers, they’re definitely not ordering a big batch from their supplier, and no supplier is going to continue spending precious resources on a stocking that nobody wants to buy. Think of all of the synthetic red fabric we just saved! (Or even, all of the synthetic red fabric that was never made.) Being “choosy” is one more way to thwart the cycle of waste.

Being “choosy” forces you, the customer, to consider your wants and needs. With some thought, most of us are fairly logical and would choose quality, durability and beauty every time. It just doesn’t make sense to go buy socks that you don’t like and that won’t last when you have your favorite pair on standby at home. Why would we buy what we don’t want, what we don’t need?

“Less is More” Means More Punch

The act of choosing what you buy with care is an opportunity to refine your wardrobe or your interior design scheme or your beauty regimen. Choosing carefully is an opportunity to clarify your style or create a signature. It’s a matter of making a decision that you can stand behind, a matter of putting thought into what visual cues you want to send. It’s a matter of consistency – it could be a shade of lipstick, a cut of suit, a winter hat or a pair of earrings, but regardless a signature something that instantly reminds others of you & only you. A person with a wardrobe of only signature pieces? That might just be the epitome of style.

Do you have more reasons for buying fewer, better things? Leave a note in the comments section!