Before you flip farther into the pages of the magazine, I want to align around something: “Less is more,” the theme of the issue, applies to many situations — but not all. And it means different things to each of us at various points in our lives.
The phrase is definitely more relevant in certain times, places, and circumstances than others. In relation to our home, for instance, it makes sense: My husband and I take a minimalist approach to our decor and surround our family with thoughtfully curated items. It brings us comfort, peace, and joy to approach our living space in this way — and I’m excited to take that a step further with the “need, use, love” criteria that author and Afrominimalist Christine Platt offers on her cover story from the November 2021 issue.
Less is also more when it comes to my exercise routine: By opting for programs that take less time but are proven to be effective, I reserve more time to spend with the people I love and on the activities I enjoy. And I really try to embrace the philosophy when it comes to social-media and media usage, and the consumption of sweet and salty foods, caffeine, and alcohol.
These words don’t apply, though, to other lifestyle factors like sleep, relaxation, self-care, and time spent with family and friends. More is more — and, in fact, more is better — when it comes to these body- and soul-nourishing habits and behaviors.
But I must confess: For the last several months, I have been conflating many of these “ -is-more” situations. I’ve been coping with the stress and pressures that life has presented (as well as all the accompanying emotions) by reverting to choices that distract me, numb me, and allow me to tune out.
In early September, for example, one of our daughters was hospitalized because of a nasty, but non-life-threatening gastrointestinal infection. As we sat in the ER, initially waiting for results and then for her to get admitted, I found myself scrolling my social feeds. For hours. I had tossed a book in my bag that first morning, just in case she ended up in this situation — and so I wouldn’t do precisely what I ended up doing.
In the three days she was in the hospital, I didn’t open that book. Not once. But I did scroll through endless social posts on various platforms.
After later returning that unopened book to my nightstand, I had to admit that I’d been skipping too many of the habits that are good for me — and help me feel so much better: getting plenty of sleep (I might have binge-watched a few shows late into many nights), drinking my coffee only in the morning, taking baths to unwind at night, and connecting regularly with loved ones. The result of that neglect? I was more physically exhausted and mentally drained than ever.
Yet here’s where another “more is more” opportunity presents itself: gratitude. I’m grateful to be aware of this and to have the ability to adjust some pretty simple things to change course. I recently logged out of Facebook to cut down on mindless (and anxiety-producing) scrolling. I set a goal to get at least seven hours of sleep, even when that means having to do my workouts later in the day. I’ve stopped drinking coffee past noon, and I’m making a point to connect more regularly with family and friends, near and far.
Life is full of changes and surprises that can disrupt our plans. It can wear us out. Yet there are always opportunities to become aware, to adapt — and to find our own right balance of less and more.