Sometime during the early 1900s a young architect named Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, applied the phrase “less is more” to a building design he drafted, and turned his mentor’s advice into an adage for the ages. He scrapped the frills, simplified the drawing and found that the building’s core elements spoke louder that way. Our physical spaces and personal to-do lists can also benefit from this kind of streamlining.
When was the last time you looked at the stuff in your house and examined what pieces were truly essential (or what pieces you even truly like)? What’s bogging up your to-do list that you don’t actually need to do yourself? Through releasing some of the excesses present in our lives, we can gain clarity and free our energy for what we truly want to spend our time on. Here are a few ways you can do more with less.
Adopt a Capsule Wardrobe
Think of all the time you’ve spent digging through crowded drawers in search of your favorite pair of shoes or shorts that’s somehow nowhere to be found among the chaos. Adopting a capsule wardrobe is a great way to streamline your closet, making organization a breeze and saving you time throughout the week. Whether you cut back to 40 pieces or slash and burn down to 15, the goal is to revisit everything in your closet and reduce your wardrobe to essentials that you can mix and match. Think black pants, brown pants, solid color shirts, a few simple prints, and a blazer, work shoes, play shoes, etc. (Of course, you can cater your rubric for the style of clothing that most makes sense for your lifestyle or line of work.) Feel free to store seasonal items while you arrange your current collection, or reduce down to season-specific capsules all at once that live in storage until you need them.
Pro tip: For the moments when you want something a little different or extra special, borrow it from Rent The Runway. You can rent an affordable yet stunning outfit for your best friend’s wedding, your work trip or Friday night out on the town, and simply return it when you’re done.
Thinning your closet rescues you from the textile overflow many of us shove away behind closed doors, meaning you’ll spend less time deciding what to wear each day. Not to mention, the average American throws out roughly 80 pounds of textile waste each year. That alone is reason enough to step back from our tendency to live in excess and, instead, cut back to a few pieces that you love and will wear all of the time.
If the bottom of your to-do list seems to be eternally beyond your grasp, see if you can automate or outsource any of your tasks. If you love cooking but are tight for time, try having ingredients for dinner delivered via Blue Apron. You can schedule recurring deliveries of items from toilet paper and dish soap to dog food and other grocery staples to arrive at your door through Amazon. (See my list of other tech that can streamline your day-to-day). If you always spend much longer than you’d like doing your taxes, budget for an accountant. Hire the high-school kid down the street to cut your grass every other time it needs doing, just to give yourself a break. Doing it all comes with a high cost — time. If you can find a way to remove things from your plate and know they’ll still get done, do it.
Embrace Functional Minimalism
A 2011 Princeton University study found that our minds focus more easily when less excess visual stimuli are around to derail our concentration. Clutter can overwhelm our brain. Pair that with the frustration that arises when you can’t find what you’re looking for — again — and you’ve drawn a picture of a stress-triggering home driven simply by the objects within it. A similar study showed that homes perceived as cluttered led to higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and higher rates of depression.
Reducing what you own down to the things you need not only simplifies your environment, it also impacts your mind. Unlike aesthetic minimalism, which is defined by simplicity in design elements (colors, textures and lines), functional minimalism is all about cutting back to the essential objects — the design and style are up to you. Take time to examine the objects you’re surrounded by. Keep the ones that are still serving you and donate the rest. You’ll spend less time organizing and cleaning, and make it easier to unwind and focus if you reduce the amount of stuff in your life. Read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo, or check out her Netflix show, for inspiration. Dive into the wealth of minimalist living blogs for tips on what might work best for your space.
In the clean, clear absence of excess, and with a newly refreshed mind, you’ll unlock more space and time. You can finally dive into that hobby you’ve been daydreaming about, find clarity on the project you’ve been mulling over, get more time around the dinner table with your family, or take a few moments of stillness to care for yourself. You deserve it.