What does it mean when someone says less is more…what is less more of? Find out the less is more meaning, plus examples of less is more.

family wrestling playfully in grass, text overlay "what does it mean when someone says less is more?"What if I told you that going through your closet and choosing twenty items to donate, sell, or recycle/trash would make a difference in your life?

You might be hesitant to do so, even after devouring Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

What is the big deal of keeping things in your closet if you have the space anyway?

Purging your closet of just twenty items may not be enough to see a huge effect, but it could start a snowball of change in your life. This is because less is better.

Less is more.

But what is less more of?

Learn Less is More Meaning, Using an Extreme Example

Anyone who has watched the show Hoarding: Buried Alive will easily come to the conclusion that less is more. You watch in horror as the homeowners meander through what appear to be World War II underground bunker lanes carved throughout their impacted homes.

In many episodes you learn of the huge financial ramifications of leading a life of collection, such as people who have whittled away their retirement on trinkets that they can no longer find.

The energy of these homeowners is getting sucked out of them each and every day, starting when they wake up and hobble off of their makeshift beds into the kitchen for anything they can find to eat.

Their day day must seem insurmountable by 8:30 a.m.

Even more than the financial and health ramifications of leading this sort of life, what practically screams from the television screen is stunted potential. There is no physical space in these homes. A cluttered home leads to cluttered thoughts, and without space there is little potential for creativity.

No energy, no room for creativity, and depleted money are huge effects of a cluttered lifestyle. But the overarching finding from watching this show is that: more (stuff) equals less time.

So, less (stuff) means more time.

Less is more…time.

Less is more…energy.

Less is more…money. 

Less is more…everything.

Less is More Meaning in Life (My Own)

It doesn’t take hoarding to see the potentially negative effects of more stuff in your life.

Moving makes you very aware of your belongings, and I have moved a lot in my short lifespan. At times I've felt like a hermit crab. First I moved from a room at home to a college dorm, then to multiple apartments in multiple states and countries, and then finally into my own home. At first my belongings first fit into a few duffle bags that I schlepped between my parents’ homes. Then I could fit everything into my 1997 Chevy Cavalier. By my first apartment outside of college my life fit into my Chevy Cavalier and my father’s 13-passenger van.

Then in our last move into our home, it took a Moving Truck with two men working for two hours to unload our belongings.

While we have built up a suitable level of comfort in our lives (we still have one room with no furniture and are entirely okay with this empty space), I am very wary of introducing more things into our home.

Why?

Everything we choose to bring into our home adds time onto our lives’ upkeep. Stuff requires cleaning, situating, organizing, decluttering, figuring out, playing with, choice-making, etc.

Coming to this realization has shaped my philosophy on things. If something doesn’t have a purpose of being in my life, then I shed it. And purpose for me has become much more utilitarian over the last few years. Perhaps something’s purpose is in the future—say five years from now—in which case I will take the space to store it for the time being out of sight.

But if it has no purpose for us, then it is easy for me to get rid of it {or not introduce it into our lives at all}.

The Zero Sum Strategy

There are many people who tout the benefits of what is essentially a zero sum strategy: if you bring something into your home, your closet, your cupboards, etc., then you choose to take something out of it to donate, trash, sell, or give away.

This will create a sort of stasis in your life, ensuring that your home stays at its current, manageable state. Of course, if you feel it is entirely unmanageable at the moment and your life feels off-balanced, you will then need to purge a large chunk of things before instituting the zero sum strategy.

I love this idea, and though the last few years has been spent accumulating basic things for us (couches, bookshelves, fireplace tools, etc.), I feel that I am either at stasis in our own household, or a little over the edge towards excess. To counter this, over the last year I have begun making several donations throughout the year from our closet, garage, bookshelves, and any other overcrowded area in our lives. Every time I comb through another room, closet, or area, I feel more at peace.

Benefits of an Uncluttered Life

The obvious benefit to maintaining a more minimalist lifestyle is the financial savings in doing so.

  • You can sell some of your belongings and/or donate with a potential tax deduction (if you itemize) to recoup a little of the amount that has been spent.
  • By not introducing lots of new things into your home from here on out, you are preserving some cash flow for future months that you can use to experience life, pay down debt, or save for future needs and wants.

The not so obvious benefits are an increase in your time, energy, focus, and creativity. While it may seem at first that you simply have given yourself less choices for what to wear in the morning, purging some of your closet actually feels liberating. Less things means there will be more space in your home.

Who knows what potential lies there?

Physical space oftentimes leads to mental space. Less time spent thinking about the things in our homes also leads to more energy for other areas of our lives.

I have truly begun to grasp this concept after quite a few transitions in my life. In a world where time has become just out of our reach, paying attention to the things that we bring into our home and into our lives is of the utmost importance. On top of the time that it can open up for us, it will save us money in the future, and hopefully bring more balance into our lives.

What has less meant more of in your life? 

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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 10 years, her money work helping people with how to save money and how to manage money has been featured in Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here.
19 replies
  1. Crystal says:

    We moved in about 18 months ago, and it’s time to organize and declutter again. We are pretty good about not buying “stuff”, but friends and family give us bags and bags of stuff so that we can handle it (I enjoy it more than them), but it takes me a while to go through everything. I pretty much doubled my wardrobe from my one friend’s leftovers from her closet. Recently, we finally went through all of the bags of clothes and our own and donated 88 items like jeans, tshirts, blouses, etc.

    Reply
  2. Aurora says:

    Great post! I’m always trying to declutter when I can but often get stuckin the “what if I could use/wear this in the future” rut!

    Reply
  3. Jack @ Enwealthen says:

    Nothing like moving your stuff to give you an incentive to get rid of things you don’t use or need.

    Now that I’m a homeowner, I don’t move as frequently as I used to, so every year we do a spring cleaning to get rid of the excess weight. But no matter how aggressive we get, it’s never as good as a move. If you don’t have to physically lift it for a move, it’s too easy to look at something and find a potential future need.

    On the plus side, since I’m recently married and we had to combine households, that has been a great incentive to downsize. Craigslist, Good Will, or Freecycle. For everything we no longer want, there’s someone out there eager to have it.

    Reply
  4. Carlos @ TheFrugalWeds says:

    Moving is so great because it forces you to stare every item in the face and really think about if you want to take it with you to the new place. The wife and I moved into a pretty cozy apartment about 2 years ago and it fit everything perfect at that time. We have slowly added little things here and there and we are beginning to accumulate too much for the apartment. We recently started talking about maybe starting a family and all I picture in my head is the impossibility of fitting baby items in our already small apartment. It is about time we each shed 20 items from our closets which I think is very doable. To go a step further, each room in our house should really need to shed items, especially the kitchen.

    Reply
    • FruGal says:

      That’s funny, Carlos–I’ve had the same thought about moving! It’s the perfect opportunity to really overhaul things. Good luck with shedding some items to make room…

      Reply
  5. Dana Twight, CFP says:

    Great post, Amanda. I like the suggestion of identifying twenty things. That should be an achievable number for many people. Although I am enamored with the book, The 100 Thing Challenge by Dave Bruno, I don’t see myself getting down to 100 personal possessions. What really bothers me now is to look at all of my music CD’s and realize how much those cost. (not worth much at Half Price books, either!)

    Reply
    • FruGal says:

      Ooohhh, 100 things! I’m not sure that we could do that either. Intriguing question though!

      Reply
  6. Jesse @ BP says:

    I love discovering clutter because it means I have things I can sell! We don’t sell things around our home enough, but sometimes things just pop out when there is a cluttered area, and we just sell everything. Sometimes more is more, when it comes to earning from selling junk 🙂

    Reply
  7. novel investor says:

    Less is more can go both ways. The less money you have the more value you place on the things you’ve attained.
    I remember my mom going through the grandparents stuff and couldn’t believe how much “junk” was there. To them there was a monetary value to everything and couldn’t picture tossing/giving away that hard earned money.

    Reply
    • FruGal says:

      Good point–and when we value our things we take care of them more.

      Reply
  8. Squirrelers says:

    I have seen people, as they get older, become more and more into hoarding. They just don’t want to part with things, “just in case” they might need to use them eventually.

    It takes time and energy to account for such items. Also, it costs money to move things – why pay to move things that you don’t need or haven’t used in 5 years?

    Change is constant in life. I can get sentimental about some things, so I do get that aspect of saving certain things. But most random junk items could be purged. It’s a big step on the way to simple living.

    Reply
    • FruGal says:

      The older I get, the more I think simple living is the way to go. But I am sentimental as well! I find that scrapbooking is great for this–organizing photos, tickets, and trinkets in a book.

      Reply
  9. Jon - Free Money Wisdom says:

    I can fit all my belongings into my car. Now that I will be getting married in May I think this will be an impossible feat. I began to realize the improbability of my future wife wanting to live the minimalist lifestyle while registering at Bed, Bath and Beyond a few weeks back. haha….oh well. At least I can say I did it for 24 years 🙂

    Reply
    • FruGal says:

      Jon I still don’t know why you end up in spam jail every time, but I keep fishing you out!

      Registering is a lot of fun, and I think you will definitely accumulate more with the upcoming wedding. But I also think you guys will find a great new balance with belongings together.

      Reply
  10. Money Beagle says:

    I always find it very enriching to declutter a closet or a room or part of the basement. Problem is, that as you get more space, you inevitably fill it!

    Reply
    • FruGal says:

      It is definitely great when you can declutter…and then not introduce new things into the space. A challenge, but I think it’s a worthy one!

      Reply
  11. Kylie Ofiu says:

    We have been drastically decluttering here and just getting basic, good quality items (including a classic, versatile wardrobe each) as needed.

    We feel so much better with less stuff. Our house is easier to clean, more organised and life in general less stressful. I am still clearing out more, as we have a garage full, but each time somethings goes I sigh with relief. It feels so good to be getting rid of pretty much everything.

    We have a list of everything we deem essential and are getting rid of everything else.

    Reply
    • FruGal says:

      HI Kylie!

      I am glad you feel the same way. Also with kids I am sure comes a lot more clutter.

      Reply

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