27 Real-Life Examples Of How Less Is Often More

Sometimes, subtraction proffers gains.

Does that sound contradictory?

We get it — because, technically speaking, more is more. 

However, less is better a lot of the time — and that’s what we’re talking about today.

So grab a beverage and pull up a couch.

Let’s dissect how eliminating things from your life can lead to a healthier, happier, and more mindful existence.

Where Did the Phrase “Less is More” Come From? 

Poet Robert Browning penned the phrase in his 1855 dramatic dialogue entitled “Andrea Del Sarto,” in which one of the characters, Lucrezia, declares that “less is more” when discussing a painting.

However, revered Bauhaus architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe — commonly known as Mies — popularized the saying in the early 20th century.

Known for his modern design style, Mies believed in using natural light and open space.

Fashion designer Coco Chanel also advocated for a “less is more” approach and once famously said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off.”

Today, “less is more” is a catch-all phrase to describe pulling back or toning down.

What Does Less Is More Mean?

When people use the phrase, they’re usually evangelizing for a simpler approach to life. It’s a clarion call to scale back — slow your roll.

Adopting a less is more lifestyle is a form of minimalism, which fosters: 

  • Better emotional control
  • Less stress and anxiety
  • Decreased overanalyzing
  • More financial freedom
  • Better mental health
  • More meaning and purpose in your life

27 Less Is More Examples To Adopt in Your Life 

1. Less Clutter = More Serenity

Clutter does a lot more damage than many people realize.

Surprisingly, it triggers the release of cortisol, a stress hormone, which leads to increased anxiety, abnormal sleep, and slow metabolism issues.  

Studies also show that clutter is less conducive to working and studying because it decreases focus and encourages us to engage in unhealthy avoidance strategies.

Granted, some people have “systems” that may seem cluttered to others, but generally speaking, most people do better in clean, tidy spaces.

2. Less Comparison = More Joy

Venerated statesman Theodore Roosevelt was the first to point out that “comparison is the thief of joy” — and he could not have been more on point.

Comparing your life to others often generates feelings of inadequacy, and it can make you feel behind the ball even if you have everything you need. 

In short, “keeping up” will run you ragged. So if you want more joy, stop comparing.

3. Fewer Commitments = More You Time

Do you say “yes” to everything? 

You know you don’t have to, right?

If you find yourself without a minute to yourself because of this committee and that club, maybe it’s time to step back and shed some…stuff? 

minimal kitchen less is more examples

There’s nothing wrong with taking time for yourself. No rule says you must be everything to everyone.

As an exercise, pick three things most important to you. Then think long and hard if everything else on the list is truly a must. Apply Marie Kondo‘s method and ask of each: Does it spark joy?  

4. Less Furniture = More Space

Are you drowning in furniture? How often do you use most of it? Are they just artifacts collecting dust?

Please don’t read us wrong. We’re not suggesting you ditch Aunt Emma’s 200-year-old chest — or that chair you adore and display as art. But what about the rest of it? Why do you have it? Do you use it?

Consider each piece in your place. If it doesn’t hold sentimental value, make you happy, or provide little to no practical use, perhaps it’s time to part ways.

Just think of all the space you’ll have for yoga, stretching, and living. Besides, well-appointed decors are always more welcoming — because less is often more.

5. Less Time in the Past/Future = Increased Presence

Picture yourself 10 to 50 years from now. Is that version of you someone who wasted their life by dwelling on the past or fretting about potential futures that never materialize?

Learning from the past is great, but letting it hold you captive is destructive. 

6. Less Advice = More Clarity

It’s not terrible to ask friends and family for their advice. Sometimes it’s precisely what you need to see things from different angles.

However, learning to trust your intuition and reasoning skills is an essential part of developing self-esteem, confidence, and self-awareness. So sometimes, absorbing less advice affords more personal clarity.

Moreover, remember that other people never have the whole story. And even if you think they do, their interpretation may differ from yours.

7. Less Anxiety = More Peace of Mind

Dealing with anxiety is like having your right arm strapped to a wet blanket and the left one to an electric current. So how can you lessen disquietude and prevent yourself from getting stuck in catastrophizing quicksand?

Research reveals that distracting yourself is an excellent way to extinguish flare-ups. It’s one of the reasons why people who focus on goals and fill their lives with enjoyable hobbies and relationships are generally less high-strung.

You can rewire your brain, and eroding anxiety will give you more peace of mind.

8. Less Digital Clutter = More Space and Speed To Create

A streamlined computer is a happy computer. They run faster and don’t crash nearly as much.

Moreover, having more space on your machine makes room for programs, like video and photo editing, that allow you to engage in hobbies you enjoy. 

A clean inbox can also be a godsend. You can find critical messages faster; plus, it’s another form of clutter elimination, which decreases stress.

9. Less Clothing = More Closet and Storage Space

Do you ever open or walk into your closet, and a wave of angst rushes over you? Everything is smashed together, and truth be told, it’s impossible to remember or even see what you have.

Plus, there’s a good chance you haven’t worn most of the clothes in your closet for over a year.   

Take a day to go through your closet and make decisions. Make a donation pile of items you haven’t worn in 14 months but are still in good condition. Discard worn and tattered things.

And though it may be difficult, it could also be time to say adieu to clothes that no longer fit. Don’t worry if you lose weight; you can get new duds then.

woman decluttering clothes less is more examples

To maintain a clutter-free closet, consider wearing a capsule wardrobe, where all the pieces mix and match to make several outfits. Or, if you’re not a fashion maven and work from home, consider finding a sweat suit you like and get it in seven colors.

They’re comfortable at home, “fashionable” enough to hit the supermarket, and you don’t have to spend time figuring out what you will wear.

10. Less Judgment = More Compassion

We refuse to shake a scolding finger at judgmental people. Because, in truth, making snap impressions is part of the human condition; we all do it; it’s part of our “reptilian brain” and often serves us well.

To wit, if someone is running after you with a knife, you’re going to think negatively of them — as well you should!

However, excessive or mean-spirited fault-finding is a terrible quality. Gossiping and talking trash about other people’s mistakes, misfortunes, and missteps is almost always cruel.

Plus, we’re never in possession of another human’s whole story and subconsciously fill in the blanks with implicit assumptions.

Ultimately, less judgment leads to more compassion, and more compassion leads to more serenity and less anxiety. It may sound somewhat self-centered, but being kinder to other people also makes you happier and calmer.

11. Fewer Bad Habits = Healthier You

It may sound cliche, but it’s true: We are what we think and eat, and it clearly follows that fewer bad habits lead to a healthier life.

So if you want more out of life — if you want to feel better — do your best to think and eat well.

We’re not saying you need to live a pristine life. Treats and “cheats” are necessary. But moderation is the key!

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12. Less Talking = More Listening

If you want to become a better communicator, learn to listen better.

People who engage in conversations and don’t spend the whole time formulating “comebacks” enjoy better relationships and problem-solving skills. Also, try to put yourself in another person’s shoes. It helps.

13. Less Cortisol = More Physical Comfort

Cortisol is a stress hormone that profoundly affects how we feel, look, and sleep. Generally speaking, the less cortisol raging through your body, the better.

Lower levels translate to less stress, lower blood pressure, and more effective metabolism.

14. Less Quantity = More Quality

Less quantity allows for more quality is an age-old adage. For instance, instead of spending money on 20 fast-fashion items, why not get two quality pieces that will last much longer?

Quality clothing fits and looks better — plus, it’s healthier for the environment.

The same theory applies to dating and vacationing. Would you rather go on three so-so dates or one great one? A fabulous vacation or three weekend getaways that are more obligatory than rejuvenating or fun? 

15. Less Waste = Healthier Planet

Several recent studies show that between 91% and 99% of scientists believe that human actions are dangerously accelerating climate change. 

One way to do your part to help slow down the catastrophic change is to waste less by slowing your consumer roll. And don’t forget to use reusable shopping bags. It may seem small, but little things add up.

16. Less Planning = More Action

Have you ever heard the phrase “analysis paralysis?” It refers to thinking so long and hard about something that it prevents you from taking action. Of course, it’s wise to plan things out, but it becomes a problem when you let it weigh you down. 

Ultimately, “analysis paralysis” is a form of fear. Don’t be afraid to give things a shot. If you fall short, that’s fine. Some would argue it’s good because we learn from our failures. Plus, your effort may help you discover something new for you!

17. Less Social Media = More Self-Esteem

In moderation, social media can be fun and help you stay connected to friends and family. But it often goes sideways because a lot of social media is about backdoor bragging and, as writer Laura Turned brilliantly explained, “curated imperfection.”   

We all understand that people only put up their “best” stuff — or the stuff that makes them look the best depending on the current cultural mood. All those highlight reels can make us feel inadequate or like we’re not measuring up. 

So if you want to boost your self-esteem and decrease anxiety levels, try taking a step back from social media. Many people who try it question why they waited so long.

18. Less Screen Time = More Intelligence

You don’t have to give up all television. After all, there are dragons to watch and fiances to gawk at! But decreasing the time you spend in front of the screen can make a huge difference in your life.

Doing so gives you more time to reach your goals, exercise, and spend quality time with friends and family. 

19. Less Driving = More Exercise

Do you drive places you could easily walk or bike to? One way to save money (gas) and improve your mental and physical health is by putting down the keys.

Nobody has time to walk an hour each way to the supermarket; we get that. But there may be a healthier and cheaper way to make a jaunt to the corner store.

20. Less Them = More You

This one is for all you readers out there who are living with an overbearing presence in your life. Maybe it’s a parent, spouse, friend, sibling, or colleague.

Whomever the culprit, the bottom line is that they’re domineering and expect you to serve and respect their every whim.

Learning how to tune these people out will increase your quality of life.

21. Less Spending = More Savings

Money is beyond stressful — especially if you have very little! (#LotteryPrayers)

But as desperate and hopeless as it may seem, you can bounce back from financial hardship.

Try doing a no-spend challenge, where you don’t buy anything that’s not absolutely necessary. Many people are astonished at how much money they can save in a month. 

Tracking spending is another excellent way to maintain a minimalist budget. When you realize you’re spending a huge chunk of your money on take-out, it’s easier to change your habits.

22. Less Doubt = More Faith

We’re not talking about religious faith, but instead faith in yourself. When you eliminate self-doubt, self-confidence grows. Consider trying mindfulness activities aimed at boosting your self-awareness and self-esteem.

closet full of clothes less is more examples

It works! And always remember that you are enough. Dismiss the nay-sayers. That’s a “them” problem, not a “you” problem. 

23. Less Stress = More Optimal Sleep

They’re not exaggerating when they say, “stress is a killer.” People carrying around gobs of stress are more at risk for various medical problems, including cardiac arrest. Stress also disrupts sleep patterns, which can lead to serious conditions. 

So if you want more in the way of healthier, restorative sleep, work on eliminating stressors.

24. Less Alcohol and Drugs = More [Insert Goal]

Do you sometimes think about cutting back on alcohol or other vices? If so, don’t feel embarrassed. You’re not alone. Many people discover that they need to cut back.

If you fall into that category, first try a 30-day sobriety challenge. The reset gives many people a fresh outlook on life and allows them to develop a healthier relationship with alcohol and other recreational vices.

And if you decide to stop drinking or cut way back, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much better you feel and how much more you get done.

25. Less Mopping = More Achieving

Whining and mopping take energy — lots of it. Learning how to curb your complaints will put you in a better mindset. 

It’s perfectly acceptable — even encouraged — to acknowledge, feel, and think about life’s bumps and inequities. But if you let it eat you alive, you won’t have the juice to achieve your goals.    

It’s okay to feel emotions, just but don’t let them smother you.

26. Fewer Expectations = More Contentment

Expectations can be wicked things. We all hold ourselves and others to general standards — like being polite in public, respecting personal space, et cetera — that maintain civility.

Then there are the goals we set for ourselves, which come with sets of built-in expectations that must be met to achieve them.

But expectations set by society or other people that don’t serve our lives or objectives can lead us in directions that render us miserable. 

Deliberately setting expectations that serve us augments our contentment.

27. Fewer Options = Less Stress

Have you ever opened a streaming service with thousands of options and declared, “there’s nothing to watch!” Studies show that too many options overwhelm us.

Ideally, our minds prefer to have about three choices. So if you want to tamp down stress, try limiting the number of choices you give yourself for everyday things.

How to Adopt the Less Is More Philosophy in Your Life 

“Consumenators” may have a bit of trouble adopting a minimalist lifestyle, but if you want to clear out the muck and decrease the amount of stress and anxiety in your life, it’s worth a shot.

How do you do it?

  • Start small: Changing your lifestyle all at once rarely works. So start small. Eliminate one thing at a time, live with it for a month or two, then add another thing.
  • Be kind to yourself: If you mess up, don’t beat yourself up. Minimalism doesn’t require perfection, just effort.
  • Leave room for treats: Don’t eliminate everything you enjoy. Again, the goal is not to deprive yourself completely.

Less really is more, and learning how to internalize the sentiment can help get you where you want to be. Instead of focusing on the more or more, consider “the more of less.”

Living a minimalist life has a big impact on your quality of life. See some less is more examples in this post.

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