This I Believe

Susan - Covington, Kentucky
Entered on December 19, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: humility

This I Believe

I believe that less is more – less time, less money, less stuff, less words. I’ve been trying to simplify my life for 40 years and it’s not easy letting go, but I believe it’s worth it. I started in college with a passion for time management – trying to fit more work into less time. Laudable as this was, I accumulated a lot of “to do” lists and tricks for multi-tasking. I thrived on getting things done in less time, but I grew in unholy pride. I still believe in efficiency but my family keeps me humble by reminding me that accomplishing more is not the highest goal – presence is.

And then I moved into the world of work. Being a social worker, counselor, and family life minister by trade, I quickly took up the mantra of a simple life-style. It was the 60’s, it was in style. I had lots of poor friends. We happily relished our old cars, used furniture, and bargain hunting. I still find satisfaction in living frugally but I’ve also learned that the temptation to be self-righteous and judgmental can accompany the overly zealous thrift-fiend. Yes, consuming less consumables like plastic, paper, gas, and even junk food makes for a healthier person and planet, but it must be balanced with a love of beauty, quality, and humanity.

The social service careers my husband and I chose exemplify our less is more approach to life. We traded income for time to raise our children, time to travel, and time to experience nature. So far the lack of income has not kept us from sending four children to college and traveling the world. We just do it with creativity and on a shoe-string and meet the most interesting and generous people along the way.

The final sphere of downsizing may seem like the easiest, but for me it probably has been the most challenging – and that is less words. As a professional writer and speaker on marriage, parenting, and spirituality, one would think that words would be my strength. One would be wrong – at least to listen to my children. Yes, children can bring even the best of parents down a notch or two. I thought I was a good communicator, but my children became “mother deaf” to my explanations and nagging. I’m getting better at using fewer words but it’s an ongoing struggle to remind less, smile and laugh more. Kids are self-correcting, however, and they let me know when I’ve said too much by giving me the silent treatment.

The most enjoyable part of less is more for me, however, is writing. I’ve discovered the delight of finding the shortest, cleanest way to write something. Being an editor with the power to strike redundant words with a key stroke is a joy – perhaps a joy even greater than getting a discount at the local thrift store.