Opting For Less

06/25/2015 04:55 pm ET | Updated Jun 25, 2016

Every once in a while I like to splurge on the pleasure of reading More Magazine. It's along the same lines as my frivolous desire for maxi dresses. Not gonna lie, I own five of these dresses, but each one passes Marie Kondo's test of sparking joy. I've stopped looking at new maxi dresses because most of them spark joy in me. I want all the maxi dresses. I notice them everywhere. I compliment strangers on their maxi dresses. I think there is something beautiful yet carefree about them. They are feminine and comfortable. They can be worn with flip flops or sandals. The one piece and unicolor lengthens a body, and they can be worn at any age. It's one piece, people, no figuring out what goes with what. How simple is that?

But anyway, I digress.

The magazine. This month there is an article called "The Joy of Wanting Less," written by Susan Gregory Thomas (and now I want to read her memoir, In Spite of Everything, which I have ordered from my library). I never tire of reading or writing or thinking about simplifying. And if my maxi dress fetish is any indication, I could still learn a thing or two about letting go and having less. Here are some highlights from the article:

*Only 3 percent of the world's children live in the U.S., yet American families purchase 40 percent of the world's toys. We are toy pigs. I don't think all these toys are making our kids happier. If we used the sparks joy test I mentioned above, we'd probably own a small fraction of the toys we do. Sure, a few toys will spark joy in kids. But we know what really sparks their joy: playtime. Love. Attention. Joy. Joy sparks joy. Happy parents spark joy. Buried in toys does not spark joy. It sparks overwhelm, for kids and parents alike.

*Experience makes us happier than things do. Quiet time, family time, peace, reading a book, taking a class, traveling, hobbies, pursuing a dream, etc. How we spend our time has a much greater effect on our happiness than what we own does. This is probably not news to anyone, but it's a nice reminder.

*Across the U.S., more and more women are downsizing. They are shedding possessions, moving into smaller homes or apartments -- yes, even women with families. Why the focus on women? Well, for one thing the article came from a women's magazine. But in addition, apparently women feel more stressed and burdened by clutter than men do. There are theories on why, and I could name a few, but in the end, decluttering benefits both men and women. It seems that women, though, are the ones taking initiative to act on their desire for less.

Nothing sparks the desire to simplify more than the feeling of overwhelm or of not having enough time. Who doesn't wish for more time, nearly every day? Everything we do replaces something else that we cannot do at the same time. We have the ability to tune in and figure out what feels like an intrusion, or a leech, on our life's energy. Do we want to clean two showers instead of one? Do we want to own things that require maintenance if they don't bring us joy? Do we want to hang on to outdated friendships or be indiscriminate with new ones? Do we really want 20 invitations per year to baptisms and graduation parties? I don't. Do the social engagements on our calendar spark joy?

These are all questions that we get to ask ourselves if we want to. And women are asking them, more than ever.

Speaking of less, I love Ernest Hemingway's quote: Don't confuse movement with action (similar to don't confuse activity with progress). We can run around exerting energy our whole lives, but what are moving towards? What are we gaining? What are the results? Our time and energy are such valuable resources (money is too, but that's a whole different blog post). They always run out. What are we spending them on?

Alas I am reminded myself, I have more than enough stuff. I surely have more than enough maxi dresses. I will always want more time. I want to be a time hoarder, to gather it up and to remember to breathe in the moments and just be where I am. But there is always the releasing, letting go of the moment, the minutes, the hours, and knowing we are left with just a little bit less.