The Power of Less

In this day and age of more is better and more is more, I think there is a world of power in the principle of less. 

Let's think about it.  First there's the basic principle of budgeting.  You should always spend less than you earn.  That literally means, as my husband is so fond of saying, "If you make $200 you don't spend $202."  He's quite right.  In the tightest of budgets the ideal is to spend no more than $200 if that is all you have.  If you're very wise and highly motivated you figure out a way to save a portion of that $200 and live on less

The ideal is not to accumulate more debt but to decrease debt so that you can live better with less.  Yes, it might well mean less car than you think you'd like to have, and less home than your contemporaries might have, but in exchange for having to earn less, you have more of a rather precious commodity: time. 

One of the wisest decisions we made many years ago was to buy less house than we needed at the time we made the purchase.  We had three children living at home.  Despite some rather vehement family objections (not within our household but outside), we chose not to buy a four or five bedroom home.  Instead we opted for a three bedroom home, which was one bedroom smaller than we'd been living in.  Why?  Because we recognized that our family was changing.  One son had already left home, our oldest daughter was nearly the age to leave home as well.  We saw the long view ahead of us and now, when many of our empty nest acquaintances are downsizing, we find that our home is just perfect for the two of us.  Yes, it does seem to bulge at the seams a little when we have a house full of guests, but it seems to fit us all despite the smaller size.   We've had children move in and children move out, the most recent being Sam and Bess extended stay with us.  It meant adjusting ourselves to not having a dedicated craft room, or being able to access our deep pantry, or having a music room ready at any moment for John's desire to play, but we managed just fine.  We recognized that it was a short season.

Many years ago I had two shirts and two pairs of pants and that was my wardrobe.  I thought the ideal was a closet filled with clothing pieces, so that my choices were greater.  In the past couple of years, due to circumstances of health and finances, I've had to make do with less clothing, but oddly, again, I found I had more choices in how I might use those few pieces.  It convinced me that a few good basics and some fun inexpensive accessories have far more mileage than a room sized walk-in closet could ever give me.  I am always amazed at how infrequently I wear the exact same outfit. There's always a new combination to try that makes me feel I have a far more extensive wardrobe than I do.

Recently I came across a new concept of a limited pantry with which one might plan what was referred to as a 'capsule menu plan'.  Meals were repeated at a regular interval.   Minimal groceries were purchased for what was a minimal menu.  While this ideal does not necessarily appeal to me, since I do so enjoy cooking and trying new recipes, I do have to fall back on a piece of wisdom a friend and fellow blogger shared when she revamped her pantry.  She discovered that she had many expired items but when she examined the wasted ones she noted that they were always 'special' items and never good basic pantry items which were routinely used and replaced.  She noted that she needed less ingredients to make most of her menu plans when she relied upon those basics.  When I read this statement on her blog the ring of truth in her words was so clear that I had to acknowledge that it was true wisdom.  I've since enjoyed reading many recipes, but those which call for ingredients that are not normally in my home are generally passed over. 

A few years ago, I prepared a dish here at home for myself and Sam.  It was a simple rendition of an Almond Chicken dish I'd had in a Chinese restaurant.  The ingredients were basic: carrots, onions, celery, chicken, almonds, garlic, soy, rice.  We amused ourselves during that meal discussing what other dishes we might make from some or all of the same ingredients:  Chicken Rice soup, chicken pot pie, a roasted chicken dinner, a Fried Rice dish, Chicken egg rolls, a dish I had several years ago that called for chicken and celery in a sherry based sauce with a dash of soy sauce, a chicken casserole dish we often enjoyed.  All of these dishes required only one other ingredient, if that, to make it a wholly different meal.

Several years ago I ran out of multiple cleaners at once.  Our budget did not allow me to replace them all in one shopping trip.  I was shocked when I priced the total number of items I thought  needed.  I came home and availed myself of  a Heloise book with many suggestions for homemade cleansers using basic ingredients normally in my pantry.  My house was as clean if not cleaner.  I spent far less, needed fewer items and experienced a second side benefit in finding I had less allergies when at home once I decreased my usage of all those specially scented cleaners.

What has this power of less done for us?  We live in a home that is mortgage free.  We have no outstanding debt beyond our monthly expenses.  John has the freedom to work overtime, or not, as he chooses.   I have learned how deeply creative one might become when there is not always finances to purchase something new.  We feel comfortable facing retirement though we've no big retirement funds to see us through the years ahead.  We have time to enjoy our family and one another now and don't find it necessary to look longingly for that some day somewhere ahead of us.

And that is the true power of less.


Kathy in Illinois said...

Well said, Terri!
God bless, Kathy in Illinois

Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

So very true Terri.. Less can definitely be more..
We too, down sized... we owe no mortgage , and it feels wonderful.
Having all the stuff, just weighs you down.. Simple living is the best.

Living on Less Money Blog said...

Living under budget is a lifesaver when living on less income. I'm so thankful that we bought a small home in an older neighborhood because it has allowed us to save money for repairs and other unexpected expenses. Great post!

Lana said...

We are definitely finding that we need less stuff as we clean out in preparation for downsizing. But, I am glad that we bought the big house that we did 22 years ago because our children were 3-14 at the time and we home schooled for the first 15 years. Also, my husband worked at home for 6 of those years. We had come from 1475 sq ft and were so blessed to be able to not be in each other's space all day long. I think it would have been different if we had all been gone to work and school all day. Our house is paid for and we live on only about 70% of our income. Yes, we could afford new cars but we choose to drive our older ones that are paid for and put a 'payment' into savings each month for when we actually need another vehicle. Not having any debt gives us freedom and peace.

I have been working on downsizing our pantry for months. I had no idea how much was here until I saw I would have to move it all and no house that we looked at had enough storage for my stockpile. I have been really spoiled with tons of cabinets and a huge pantry in this house which has led to me thinking I needed to keep all of that full. We really only eat what is perishable around the perimeter of the grocery store plus oats and cereal and baking supplies. That is not much. Every so often our DIL will put a picture of what she has on hand and ask what her Facebook friends would make with it. It is interesting to see the comments.

I am so glad that more and more Americans are realizing that all the stuff and debt does not equal happiness. It has taken way too long for the pendulum to swing back.

Lana said...

Praying for everyone in the path of the storm including you and your family. Be safe!

Crystal Hankey said...

Yes, the basic ingredients are what you need in a pantry. Plus I try to keep everything on hand for several dishes I know we love and eat often. (in the pantry, freezer, refrig)

When I want to try a new recipe I do tend to shy away from the ones with lots of unfamiliar ingredients. Occasionally I'll need a spice I don't have and we are lucky because our Winco store has bulk spices and they are always fresh since the turnover is high. I can get just a few cents worth of something I don't regularly use.

As for clothes less is more. I get more creative in what I put together. Still a work in progress as I weed out my closet several times a year and bless others.

I enjoy your blog so much. Take care.

Rhonda said...

What a pretty photo❤️ I recognize your kitchen towels.

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