By Megan Gunnell, Special to the Daily Tribune - Sept. 13, 2009
In these times of economic strain, we are reminded of what’s really important, of needs vs. wants and what we can and cannot live without. Through these fiscally challenging months, we may have been blessed with the reminder that sometimes less is more. Having “more” can be complicated. “Less” is simple. “More” can feel chaotic, “less” is focused. “More” feels unattainable, “less” more realistic.
At times we are paralyzed by choice saturation. We are completely overwhelmed by the number of options. Aisles in grocery stores are devoted entirely to salad dressings. Menus have turned into overly descriptive short novels with chapters dedicated to soups, salads and starters. In turn, having too many choices has created a high-maintenance culture. Multiple small daily decisions overwhelm or cloud our thinking, and we find it difficult then to make larger life decisions.
There is no better time to be simplifying our lives. Living in a simple way feels like lifting a thick fog that surrounds our thinking and judgment. Minimizing and streamlining our lives helps us prioritize and think more clearly.
When we focus on the concept of “less is more” we begin to shift our attention back to the things that really matter. We spend more time with families - but we spend less money making those memories. As a psychotherapist, I work with parents who often feel a tremendous sense of guilt that they cannot, especially during the recent financial downturn, afford the Disney trip or luxurious family beach vacation. However, when you ask a child what they liked best about their family vacation, most likely they’ll answer “time spent with my parents.” Less is more.
Living with less helps us return to a simpler way of life. Perhaps as we make cuts to our family budget, we’re cooking more at home, walking more instead of driving, hosting potlucks with friends rather than expensive dinner parties. These simple lifestyle changes can make our lives richer and more complete. Because at the end of the day, it’s our relationships that truly matter, not the things we’ve accumulated, the wealth we’ve earned or how we spend our money.
When we cut back on material wants and focus more on needs, we decrease clutter and distraction. Since we don’t have to have all the things we’re learning to do without, our stress level goes down. Let’s remember, too, from a more global perspective that even though budgets are tight and our finances are limited, we are still living a “rich” life compared to most worldwide.
There are some things that a bad economy cannot take from us. It cannot rob us of our freedom. It cannot take away the importance of deep and meaningful relationships. It cannot rock our spirituality and it never changes who we are inside. Let’s recognize that economic challenges are also temporary. The economy has peaked and crashed many times over the years. Perhaps we can help alleviate anxiety through reframing the way we think and feel. Maybe the answer is in adapting to a philosophy of “less is more”.