Why less is actually more

A couple months ago I posted about Resting in the Mess as well as my Pseudo-Capsule Wardrobe. These past few months I’ve been learning that less is often better and actually produces more life and creativity. Someone recently shared a TedTalk with me about The Paradox of Choice. Essentially, Barry Schwartz, a psychologist, argues that our Western culture is so overwhelmed with choice we are less happy and more dissatisfied.

I decided to put this to the test with my kids. I have seen a few other bloggers do this and was always curious about how this would play out in my house. Two weeks ago, I emptied their bookshelves and then restocked them with a few library books and a few books from their own stockpile. Every week when we go to the library I swap out the books for new ones. This is what their shelves look like (once I’ve gone in and arranged them – believe me, they never look this organized 99% of the time).

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Edith’s bookshelf. She is actively interested in half the books set out, but will read those books non-stop for an hour.
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Frederick’s bookshelf is filled with half library books half books from his collection. He’s been captivated by all of them and we’ve been reading Charlotte’s Web to him at night before bed. Before this he was almost never interested in reading and would often just look through all his books without ever settling on one.

I’m not an expert by any means, but what I have noticed is that both kids have been far more engaged with the smaller choice of books than the overflowing shelves previously available to them.

Moving to the rec room downstairs I slimmed their options down a ton. Where the shelves were once packed with toys, they now have fewer choices and they actually play with the toys for longer with more intentionality.

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Disclaimer: the room is almost never this clean when the kids are playing. I felt self-conscious and did a quick pick-up before snapping photos.
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The top two shelves on both sides are storage for books and puzzles that I’ve been swapping out once a week. The right hand side has different types of animal collections (Noah’s Ark, farm animals, and zoo animals).
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On the left hand side are three different puzzles – each are a different level of difficulty. On the right hand side are trains and trucks, which I rotate with bigger trucks and cars every so often.

Upstairs I put two different types of blocks and will probably swap these out with some other toys in a week or two.

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Edith doesn’t really know the meaning of playing with blocks yet, and spends most of her time crawling into and out of the cupboard.


I am definitely not an expert in anything besides my own kids and even then, everything is always an experiment. Here is what I’ve learned. More often than not this is what I have noticed about my kids:

  • They prefer to play with me rather than toys
  • They usually end up in the kitchen emptying cupboards and drawers
  • We end up with all the cushions and pillows on the floor while the toys remain untouched
  • They almost always find ways to create toys out of everyday items like old calculators, cords, papers, etc.
  • Building machines out of chairs and stools entertains longer than any toy ever created
  • Doing anything outside always beats playing inside
It's all about the kitchen tools most of the time.
It’s all about the kitchen tools most of the time.
Or the couch cushions.
Or the couch cushions.

Basically, what I’ve come to realize is that less actually is more. While the 5 o’clock dinner meltdowns still usually happen, the rest of the day it seems that with less options there is more play and creativity.

Let the journey of living a more minimal, yet full life continue! Next stop, my massive book collection. Marie Kondo, what have you started?

 

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