A Little More of Less
“Organizing is well-planned hoarding.”
Inside Minimalism, Vol. 1
Based on our exclusive subscription series, Inside Minimalism Vol.1 is a collection of 50 short and relatable essays on simple living by a small team of writers from different backgrounds, but who all share a deep appreciation for minimalism as a way of life. Enjoy a curated collection of beautiful writing with a single one-off purchase and support independent creators.
Words by Andrew Rocha
Before being a minimalist, I was a productivity-ist. I was always wondering how I could do more, be more, and accomplish more.
Want to read twenty-five pages every day? Yes, please! Can you wake up early every morning? I’m on it! Interested in walking 10,000 steps every day? Sign me up!
My list was unrealistic, and yet I thought I was the problem. As a result, I read every productivity book I could and tried all the apps. By doing the right thing, I thought I could fix this problem. On the rare instance I finished everything or had extra time, I’d look for another thing to do. I was running to a finish line that didn’t exist. I was pursuing an everlasting chase for more.
Productivity is great, and there is nothing inherently wrong with walking, reading, or waking up early. The problem is I thought adding more was always better, without even questioning what or why I was adding.
Minimalism helps us question the desire for more.
Why do we want that new phone?
Will that new shirt make people like us?
How is that new watch going to make us complete? (Spoiler alert: It won’t.)
We can buy all the organizing tools in the world, but the best way to organize is to get rid of things first. We don’t have to organize, maintain, or clean the things we don’t have. It’s a simple truth, but it can free us from hundreds of items if we understand this message.
Similarly, the best approach with a to-do list is to let go. Life gets less busy when there are fewer to-do’s, commitments, appointments, and demands on our schedules. When we have the time to do what matters, we don’t make our priorities compete with trivial tasks.
Better yet, letting go allows us to breathe freely, live vibrantly, and laugh loudly. Living a life of less allows us to let go of the pressure and the self-imposed expectations that make life miserable.
We can jettison the possessions, but if we’re overwhelmed with calendar clutter, we won’t be able to appreciate our simplified space.
Letting go allows me to find joy in reading, waking up early, and walking, without a checklist by my side.
Words by Leslie Watson
A student stood over our classroom’s recycling bin on the verge of tears. “But I chose that for you!” she lamented as I followed her gaze to the purple envelope I had discarded after we read her card together that morning. It was my first Teacher Appreciation Day as an instructional aide, and clearly there was a lot to learn about the etiquette of receiving elementary schoolers’ presents.
One crucial lesson was that everybody’s day goes smoother when I avoid using the trash cans on campus to dispose of anything related to students’ gifts. I also realized that if I didn’t conquer my shyness and speak up about my minimalist lifestyle, the children and their families would feel obligated to continue the status quo of gift giving.
I’m passionate about my choice to live without excess. Simplicity benefits my mental health, productivity, and financial security. Plus, minimalism conserves finite environmental resources. Discussing those gains used to be outside my comfort zone, but with years of practice I’ve grown more confident talking about my values at work.
Now the children and adults in my classroom community know I cherish heartwarming experiences that can’t be bought and will encourage students to do the same. Despite my introversion, I’m convinced that one of my core purposes is to share the belief that living our best lives requires precious few material items. By mentioning voluntary simplicity to the families in my network, I’ve given them an opportunity to share their own wisdom about sustainability or ask for decluttering tips.
Our school administrators started providing a questionnaire for classroom staff which is shared with students and parents. Some of the topics are favorite stores, fragrances, and monogramming initials. Because I don’t shop recreationally and I consider deodorant my signature scent, I always find myself with plenty of extra space on the form to summarize my minimalist mindset and explain that I already own all the tangible things I want.
My survey answers reduce pressure on students’ families to spend their valuable time and money buying consumer products for me. Any friendly and honest communication prior to special occasions could fulfill the same goal of eliminating material presents. A spoken message during back-to-school night or a few sentences on a class website can make holidays easier for everyone.
While I have high regard for the compassionate spirit of gift giving on Teacher Appreciation Day, tangible presents pale in comparison to the gifts my class gives me throughout the year. I frequently acknowledge intangibles that make me feel appreciated as a teaching assistant, such as the warm welcome I received returning from an absence or how excited a student was to show me their new Boston Terrier puppy and have me guess his name (spoiler alert: Oreo). My gifts include the pride I experienced when a child responded respectfully to a classmate who cut in line or decided to take a deep breath and ask for help instead of throwing a tantrum over a challenging math problem.
Minimalist teachers and parents should still encourage children to practice generosity, it just takes on a more practical or experiential form. I maintain a wishlist of basic classroom supplies and am exceedingly grateful when we have construction paper through the middle of the school year and enough Play-Doh to replace what is discreetly ingested. Video thank-you messages are an experience gift that brighten my day. I treasure email updates from former students as well. I always enjoy homemade snacks and artwork.
The cards and craft projects I receive on each special occasion are arranged on a table together for a single photograph, which I save digitally. If I kept all of the original art I was given, my husband and I would have enough to wallpaper our entire home, but that wouldn’t provide the serene environment we’re aiming for.
Although I continue to receive some material presents from students, sharing my beliefs in advance prevents any guilt about passing along candles, vases, and makeup palettes to interested friends and charities. Even if I temporarily acquire enough mugs and potholders to open a coffee shop, I think those gifts served their purpose by expressing generosity, and I served mine by cherishing the giver’s compassion.
I don’t want to offend anybody by treasuring meaningful experiences instead of tangible products. If a student sees someone else wearing a scarf that was intended for me, I hope they will understand that I’ve hung onto the very best gifts from them—those that will last a lifetime.
A Little More of Less
A few other articles we think you might enjoy…
→ “Stuff” Hides the Most Important by Joshua Becker
→ 3 Simple Ways to Reject Productivity Culture by Courtney Carver
→ 5 Ways to Simplify Your Life by Leo Babauta
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