Less is More: How a Pared-Down Lifestyle Can Lead to Greater Happiness

For centuries, humankind has been fascinated with the idea of having possessions. While the specific items have changed over the years, the desire to accumulate and indulge hasn’t.

The underlying motivation for collecting possessions is a simple one: We believe that these things will make us happier. This happiness may be tied to consumption, comfort, control, or even ego. But somewhere at a cellular level, we equate happiness with having lots of stuff.

But this isn’t necessarily true.

While people who have shelter, clothing, and other basic necessities are certainly happier than those who have none, this relationship does not continue on indefinitely. It peaks at a relatively moderate level.

Research shows that just 10 percent of a person’s happiness is tied to work, money, and possessions. The other 90 percent is determined by how you think. It has nothing to do with owning more things or having better possessions.

All of this begs one simple question: Could paring down your lifestyle actually lead to greater happiness? Let’s explore.

More Things, More Stress

There’s ample research to suggest that more stuff brings more stress. You can go down a Google rabbit hole reading studies, surveys, and insights into this relationship. But is the opposite true? Does less stuff make you happier? Well, kind of.

Perhaps the best answer to this question is found in the minimalist movement – a lifestyle that’s very misunderstood by the general population.

“What minimalism is really all about is reassessment of your priorities so that you can strip away the excess stuff—the possessions and ideas and relationships and activities—that don’t bring value to your life,” says Colin Wright, one of the leaders behind this movement.

When you pare your life down to the items that are useful and/or meaningful, you alleviate all of the excess stress and burdens that weigh down your emotional well-being. You spend less energy stressing over things that don’t matter, which gives you more time to focus on the things that do. This leads to greater happiness.

Less is More (Happiness)

There’s no singular method for obtaining happiness by paring down possessions. The challenge is that we must each, individually, identify what’s important and what’s not. However, there are some general tactics that tend to work in most cases. Take a look:

1. Downsize Your House

You don’t need a big house to be happy. As a matter of fact, a smaller house tends to yield greater happiness. According to Green Residential, there are three major benefits to downsizing your house: less stress, the ability to buy in a more desirable area of town, and fewer possessions.

But if you’re going to live in a smaller house, there are some things you’ll need to do to make it an enjoyable experience. For starters, you must be willing to organize and clean on a regular basis. Clutter is magnified in a small space and will foster feelings of frustration. You also have to be intentional about getting out of your house and spending time outdoors.

2. Practice the “1-In, 2-Out Rule”

It’s okay to buy things – just make sure you actually need them. It’s also a smart idea to implement the “1-In, 2-Out Rule.” This rule states that for every new item you bring into the house, you should get rid of two existing items. Under this approach, you actually shed possessions over time (rather than accumulate more).

3. Focus on Giving

Most people are laser-focused on accumulating more, more, more. They spend all of their time, energy, and money thinking about how they can acquire that next car, house, toy, tool, dress, watch, or electronic. And while purchasing these items might provide a momentary surge in adrenaline, the lasting effect is minimal.

Science shows that giving to others actually makes people happier than getting. Thus, if you want to see your happiness skyrocket, earmark money in your monthly budget for giving to others. It’s a positive outcome for everyone!

Invest in Your Happiness

Happiness is proprietary. However, the data shows that people who have less tend to be more satisfied. So why not make an investment in your happiness by paring down, cutting back, and embracing only the possessions that truly breathe life into you?