More(+) Equals(=) Less(-)

If “less is more,” then it stands to reason that conversely, more is less. From my perspective, that extols a simple lifestyle, but don’t take my word for it!


As a simple living enthusiast and research for a new book, I took a diverse sampling of 12 people from my client base and asked, “What does it mean to live a simple life?” Here’s what they said:

  • “Slow down and enjoy small simple pleasures.”
  • “Live more with less.”
  • “Embrace opportunities and experiences rather than material possessions.”
  • “Get back in touch with nature.”
  • “Buy quality in the first place—less consumption means less load on the environment.”
  • “Less clutter—body, mind, and spirit.”
  • “Paring down to what’s essential in my life — not deprivation, but healthy balance.”
  • “Need-based living rather than want-based living.”
  • “Create and honor empty spaces in my life—small crevices of silence and pockets of stillness.”
  • “Live up to my own expectation, not society’s.”
  • “Live within my means.”
  • “Get back to basics: engage with real people (authentic), real food (not processed), real work (contributes to society)—the meaningful real fabric of life.

For you, “What does it mean to live a simple life?”


98 thoughts on “More(+) Equals(=) Less(-)

  1. one thing at a time, to have singular depth and focus for the task at hand knowing that my mind and body are well equipped to take in all the information I need without me getting in the way

  2. My favorite thing in the listing from clients: “small crevices of silence and pockets of stillness.” Then in your Wabi Sabi photo gallery – loved the clown shoes and husband hug. It is obvious you have lots of love and humor in your life, a very blessed one indeed!

    • Marian – Isn’t that client quote wonderful? It’s my favorite, too. Yes, the outcome of intentional simplicity in my lifestyle has been an abundance of blessings. And my cup definitely bubbles over with laughter 🙂

  3. “Need-based living rather than want-based living.”

    One of numerous sobering thoughts in this line-up. Some us unwittingly violate some of these surefire routes to happiness and fulfillment by unnecessarily complicating our lives, but as you note in this magnificent post the simple things are what endure and what are suffused with purity and authenticity.

  4. To live in awareness. It makes everything so simple. Following the mind’s constant yowling back and forth keeps us from the knowing that this moment is “enough”.

    • Kathy – I’ve known you for years now and your awareness statement couldn’t be more accurate. If I had to go on national television and sum you up in ONE wore, it would be AWARE. The second word would be OBSERVANT (I see that all the time through your photography), and the third word would be GRATITUDE. It’s a beautifully repeating theme in your writing.

  5. Kind and caring relationships where we both continue to grow. Dogs. Nature. Sharing more of myself (I don’t do this naturally.) Letting go of old beliefs that no longer serve me. Cats. Writing. Humor. A “me” trip once per year to evaluate if I’m moving in the right direction. Knowing no one is perfect–especially me! Using the “do I really love this?” test before buying something. Respecting others. Giving thanks to those I appreciate. Supporting positive energy. 🙂

  6. Such a great post, I thought of more: Know when to reevaluate or move in another direction. Listen to others you respect, but make your own decisions. Everything is personal…but you don’t have to take it personally. Don’t use energy on haters and soul-suckers. Be silent in a room of people and just observe. Be kind to strangers.

  7. Well, life became a whole lot more complicated for me when I had my little daughter, Carys, and discovered she had a rare syndrome (CFC). That said, living with her, and loving her, has made me realise what’s important in life, and what isn’t. It has made me less materialistic. It has made me grateful for what I have. I feel lucky and honoured to have her in my life. And so therefore, I guess in many ways she has simplified my life for me by teaching me what matters, and what doesn’t.

  8. Simple life? 12 Steps helped me see I am the primary cause of my problems and complications and once get out of my own way most turmoil evaporates. Learn to turn off the self destruct mechanism . Address problems immediately, seek resolution and closure and accept what the results of effort present. Do the best I can with each matter reduces negative blowback. A simple religion enhances the simple life – never be the source of anyone’s misfortune and never pass up the opportunity to perform a charitable act – that’s it, that’s all.

  9. Perhaps I am naive to the subject matter but, I see nothing wrong with wants so long as there is a balance.

    I watched as growing up, my father had as many as three jobs at one time to insure his family’s needs were met, and they were.

    When I have the means to be a philanthropist, I will cater to wants for those like my father as they are so busy taking care of the needs.

    For one, I enjoy watching tv. I mean I really enjoy it but, the balance is not necessarily having the biggest, the latest or, the greatest television. Mine works. I’m happy.

    Perhaps the real trick is not living without your needs but, dressing them up once in awhile with a want.

    Did I need a new cat? Not necessarily but, I wanted one. She has become the ‘Princess of the household,’ and therapeutic to some degree. A want or, a need?

    Really how many of my needs are on your want list, and vice-verse?

    • David – I like the way your heart/mind works, and the articulate way you shared it. I would absolutely agree that BALANCE is vital. A personal example from me on what you just articulated…

      …I just purchased a bonsai tree. Did I NEED it? No. Did I want it? Yes. She (I named her Merry) will “earn her keep” in our home by contributing oxygen, while simultaneously using our carbon dioxide. It’s a pretty good exchange. If I take exceptional care of her, she will outlive me. The thing here is the JOY factor. I’m going to ENJOY taking detailed care of her. In fact, I expect it will be somewhat therapeutic. Another bonus. Hey, maybe I did NEED her after all! 🙂

  10. It is snowing this morning here makes it easy to think about Voluntary Simplicity. We have spent 35 years practicing simplicity in our lives and commitments. 2 of our children have embraced this way of living also. ( we have one Material Girl for balance !). Other than our huge medical debt for Cleft Palate and no ear tubes repair (not covered until 3 years ago). And my inability to have health ins until 2014. We have lived it in every way. There is a satisfaction and a sence of well being

    Then last night in-laws called to share their news about their recent European adventure. We both had a severe bout with jealousy until it started to snow and we found contentment once again

    I still wish my partner had the option to retire, and that my work had contributed more funds to the pay off.

    My depression era parents always said, “leave each place better than you found it.” I believe we have accomplished that in buckets
    Good questions Laurie. Good questions. Thank you

      • Yay! Snow. I do not care to drive in it but it always centers me onto what is important. In the movie WIDE AWAKE. The Grandfather tells his worried grandson that snow reminds him about God. It does slow us down ! Happy snow to you Sam

  11. I love this post Laurie,and for me, it couldn’t have come at a better time . It’s crazy in the U.K. at the moment with Christmas mayhem ( I don’t know if you celebrate it in the U.S. like we do ) believe me it is crazy . I love the statement ‘ Live up to my own expectation and not society’s’ . That is exactly what I do every Christmas …I spend very little and share it with those who mean a lot to me . We walk , read and watch the world go by . I refuse do what is expected of me …little has to be more in my book .
    Cherry x

    • Cherry – Yes, I’m fully aware of the UK (and US’s) ginormous spending habits during the holiday season. We purchase one gift during this season — for our son. That’s the end of it. My hat is off to YOU for not being held hostage by the opinion of others! 🙂

  12. Ah Laurie such a fine post that resonates close to my heart. To live simply is mindfulness and noticing when the earth turns. It is counting blessings and honouring our physical gift of life. It is sharing with others. It is giving the best we have of our inner selves knowing that is an infinite well. It is remembering stories. It is remaining detached and accepting. It is love, persistence, hard work and hope. It is greeting each day with the best we have to offer. It is ending each day knowing that this is enough.

  13. Laurie, to me living a simple life is remembering one of my mantras… “If you’re aware the gifts are there!” We may not like the appearance of the gift and how the gifts is wrapped. The paper may be ugly and the ribbon worn, but there is a gift inside if we take the time to explore our thoughts and feelings.

  14. Hi Laurie

    It seems to me that we are all different, and there are as many definitions of simple living as there are people.
    It seems that I am one of those in whom the boy scout motto of “be prepared” has taken root with a vengeance.

    In some senses I do simple living, my normal attire is jeans and T shirt, and I don’t much care about style or fashion, I’m more into functionality; and I do have attire for most situations. I have an:
    Antarctic jacket for cold;
    Fur line salopettes and mittens also for cold;
    Heavy PVC waterproof jacket;
    Inflatable life vest for on the boat;
    Neoprene chest waders for working in water;
    Gumboots for yard or farm work;
    Steel capped boots, chaps and gloves for working with Chainsaws
    Hiking boots;
    Running shoes;
    Cycling shoes;
    Crocs for general use;
    Crampons to go on boots in ice conditions;
    various weights of woollen jerseys;
    Heavy long gloves for welding;
    lighter gloves for woodwork and gardening;
    several weights of socks to work with footwear;
    ….. and on it goes.
    My workshop is stocked with woodworking and metalworking and electronic gear that allows me to fix most things, or make things I can’t buy easily but need.
    We have backup generators in case of power failure (a rather common occurrence here), and are very close to installing a solar power system on the roof.

    We have our trees, our gardens, our “glass house” – which is actually a plastic half round tunnel house, for extending the growing season and protecting plants from the very strong winds here.

    It seems to me that most people who consider themselves minimalist simply hide the infrastructure that is actually required to keep them alive at the other end of a set of financial transactions. I like to expose as much of it as possible and make it visible and local.

    So I am minimalist in some senses (I don’t do fashion, don’t do new or flash cars, etc), and yet in other senses I am usually prepared for whatever happens. I have a very active imagination and I scare easily. We are prepared for flood, famine, pestilence, earthquake, fire, tsunami, and most disasters I can think of. We have 4WD, boat, etc.

    So our little house, and our garage are full of stuff, and all of it has possible uses, much of it gives me a sense of security (and I am sure there is some of it that I could throw out, and it simply isn’t worth the effort of sorting it, yet – maybe soonish).

    • Ted – I sure hope that Len and I are visiting you and Ailsa if there’s ever a global disaster. We’d be happy to bunker in with you guys! I’m not sure if I’m using the word in the right way, but I think of you as utilitarian — someone who chooses to use their resources wisely. Kind of like MacGyver — the television character in year’s past who could troubleshoot and fix anything with bailing wire and gum.

      • Yep – always got my MacGyver knife with me,
        If there ever is a global disaster, Kaikoura would be one of the best places on the planet to be. Smallish close knit community, lots of food locally, hard to get to (surrounded by high mountains and rugged coast), easy to defend.

      • Ted – We ARE going to make it there one of these day. The photographs that Ailsa posts on Facebok make me drool! You live in quite possibly the most beautiful location on this planet 🙂

  15. I’m so impressed with the answers that your clients gave to what it means to live a simple life. I strive for this philosophy every day, and in this culture of more, bigger, and busier, it’s not easy to do. When my guy and I downsized from our large house to a small space, I was amazed at how much lighter and freer I felt. Simple, to me, is more time to laugh and love (and write and read), and less time of wanting and searching for more.

  16. Laurie, I knew we were kindred spirits, but this post confirms it. I have written on simplicity also. I think the reason a lot of people are interested in my memoir is the same reason they are attracted to anything with Mennonite and Amish themes. Modern life is noisy, confusing, and distracting. We need a center that holds. Your list is an excellent beginning. Thank you for inspiring me. From a Wabi Sabi Mennonite. 🙂

  17. A simple life for me is living in balance. The parameters of balance are constantly changing for me but I try to be very aware of what I need to remain balanced in a given point in time. Sometimes I need more time with loved ones to feel balanced and other times I need solitude. What I don’t need is outside influences telling me how to live simply. It just doesn’t work for me.

    • Becwillmylife – I oh-so agree that balance is essential, especially on an ever-changing terrain. And each of us knowing what works for us specifically is equally critical to actually DOing and/or BEing whatever that is.

      I’m glad that you pointed out solitude — that’s a big one for me.

  18. You mentioned an important thing “not deprivation, but healthy balance.” I think one of the most important things that help to simplify, is choosing HOW we trade our time for money. (which leads to quitting draining jobs) and also HOW LONG do we trade our work time for things. Once we look from this perspective we tend to buy less. (“do I really want to work a week for this handbag”?). My road to simplicity is also a road to more and more bliss.

  19. A great post. To me–I equate simple with discipline. When I am in control of my urges–the ones we need to gird against?–then I feel simple. Less mind clutter–raging moral debate, I guess.

    What really stuck out to me here was that quote you ended your post with: Whatever you’re not changing–you;re choosing….something i have been thinking about lately.

    • Charron – I’m glad my quote (the tag line for my business) resonated with you. It came to be years ago when I was in New Mexico on a hermitage. It’s the single most important thing I’ve learned in my life thus far.

      Thank you for sharing what simple living means to you.

  20. I never thought about this before but I’m a living enthusiast too, considering the alternative. Heck, I’m excited thinking about all the advice I feel licensed to give now. I can see folks beating my door down now. I’d better stop while I’m ahead though since less is more. Thus, the foot will start to fill open mouth.

  21. All good! Mine is develop your intuition and then… which is a big step… actually trust in it. My brain is constantly trying to undercut my intuition but the latter–in my opinion because it comes from a divine source–is always right.

    • Sheryl – From my perspective that’s extremely wise! Even if we can afford bigger, better, newer, faster, shinier…if the original one is still functioning just fine, why add to the earth’s already over-flowing landfills!

  22. A simple life: be happy without the superficial things like planned holidays 3 times a year, or one has to experience this … // make time for my own creative life // enjoy morning walks, small things where i feel the awe and inspiration // enjoy the faces of people in a train and the crowd in a trainstation // … why not enjoy life and every moment of it … (is the last thing simple enough 🙂 )

  23. … now read most comments: what is this fascination with balance? Life doesn’t know balance. Balance is like death – nothing unexpected, everything balanced, even my bank account 🙂

  24. Thanks for liking my Sonnet to a Cabbage. I still can’t type that without laughing. Anyway, I like your living simply dialogue. To me, it’s about concentrating on harmony with nature, being peaceful with my kids, learning and playing music and eating chocolate. Not necessarily in that order. And laughing. As much as possible. 🙂 Glad to have met you, virtually. 🙂 Brenda

  25. For me, the first steps into living a simple life is to consciously adjust my perspective, so that I re-define what is a need versus a want. When I focus on whether my needs are being met, then I am faced with an unexpected truth, in that I have more than I need, and am living a life that is filled with abundance. For me, to live a simple life is to appreciate what you have.

    • Ntexas99 – I love what you shared about shifting your perspective and finding that not only do you have enough, your life is “filled with abundance.” Wonderful! “Blessed are they who realize it.” — Laurie Buchanan

  26. Thanks for visiting me and being a devoted follower, despite my inconsistency this past year. I love your post about stars and us. I just heard that recently.
    I have to ponder my wishes.
    One- Corporate giants of the world will wake from their coma and realize we are all one & treat others, their employees and the planet as such. Let it sink in that every action has a reaction and a ripple effect.
    Two- No one goes hungry & basic survival & sustenance will be abundant for everyone.
    Three- My last wish so I have to think really hard. I’ll get back to you on this. In the interim, God Bless. Happy, safe and joyful Holidays.for you Laurie and everyone else reading this..

  27. To me, a simple life is all about authenticity and claiming your own, whole self. I don’t think it has to do with a certain ‘amount’ of anything– just owning your divine humanity and loving yourself as you already are. Simple, right?

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