I am not a minimalist.
I run a shopping blog, I can’t seem to stop buying shoes, and I have two dining room tables and two china cabinets in my home. Granted, I’m working on getting rid of dang near everything I own, but that’s mainly because I want to be able to travel full time. No, I am not a minimalist in the true sense of the word.
I can, however, appreciate how choosing quality over quantity consistently makes me happier.
The idea of choosing quality over quantity is not about having less, but about having more of what matters most. When you stop racking up numbers and start looking at substance, you’ll find a life that’s deeper and richer and, yes, happier.
But those are vague statements. Purposefully so, in fact, because “quality over quantity” is a concept that can be applied to many facets of your life with similarly positive results.
That’s the idea. This is how it works.
3 Places Quality Over Quantity Brings Happiness
Let’s start right off with the tough one. Thinking about people in terms of “quality” or “quantity” makes me uncomfortable, and many people have told me it was difficult for them as well. But the end result of that awkward mental struggle is worth it.
Focusing on fewer relationships leads to more meaningful and satisfying relationships.
The concept is simple enough. Maintaining relationships requires time, attention and energy. Each of us only has so much time, attention and energy to give. Obviously, there is a limit to how many relationships we can manage well.
But what is the limit? And how do we go about enforcing it?
Do we divide the weekly hours required to maintain a friendship by the number of free hours we have left after work and family time? Do we keep a list of Top 5 Friends and rotate names in and out as necessary in order to make sure we don’t go over our limit? Do we send a mass emailing letting the world know that we are closed to new friends? Sorry, all full up here! I have enough friends!
Um, no. That would be weird.
Focusing on quality relationships over numerous relationships is not about closing yourself off to new people or doing complicated math. It is about recognizing your limitations, learning to let go, and nurturing what you have.
For me, learning to let go was the most crucial step.
I let go of the guilt I had about not nurturing friendships that didn’t grow organically. I let go of the guilt I had about not being closer to people I thought I “should” be closer to. And, most importantly, I let go of the need to keep pushing relationships that were just not working.
As soon as I let those hang-ups go, the most rewarding relationships in my life blew up like inflatable bounce houses to fill up the space that was left behind. It also made room for healthy new relationships to grow.
Make room in your life for the people that encourage, inspire and enrich.
The bulk of what I read about minimalism is focused on getting rid of stuff. Some minimalists will even set a limit on how much stuff you can have. In the near future, I’m going to have to think long and hard about the exact amount of stuff I can have, but that’s an unusual situation. Most of you probably won’t find yourself living with a family of four in an RV. Therefore, setting some random number on how many things you can own is a cool but not wholly necessary exercise.
But there are still plenty of benefits to having less stuff. There are even more benefits of having less crappy stuff. The less you have, the less you have to:
- pay taxes on
Cleaning, fixing, storing and paying taxes do not make me happy. At all. Cleaning, fixing, storing and paying taxes also costs money, which I would much rather spend on things I actually enjoy.
Having stuff means maintaining stuff. Having crappy stuff means spending valuable resources maintaining crappy stuff. Stop doing that.
Instead of focusing on having less stuff, start by focusing on having less crappy stuff. Resolve to only spend your time and money on really great stuff. The pickier you are about what constitutes “really great”, the less stuff you’ll have and the happier you’ll be.
Of all the resources we have at our disposal, time is the most finite. We can’t make or buy more and we can’t save it. We all get the exact same amount every single day.
How do we apply the concept of “quality over quantity” to our time?
Think about how you spend it. It’s fascinating how differently we each spend our equally allocated amount of minutes. Some people seem to do so much more with their time, while others do remarkably less.
But remember, this isn’t about quantity or how much you can get done in a day.
Being super productive is not necessarily the key to happiness. Sure, tearing through a long to-do list might give you a temporary sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. But is that enough for you? Is that happiness, or a short-lived high?
Choosing quality over quantity does not mean getting a lot done.
What it does mean is spending as much of your time as possible doing what makes you happy. There are two ways to accomplish this.
- Be more efficient. By more quickly completing tasks you don’t love, you’ll have more time left to spend doing things you truly enjoy.
- Doing less of the things you don’t love. While this is the path less traveled, I think it’s the most rewarding.
Take a closer look at how you’re spending your minutes. Are you operating under the myth that completing more tasks is the same as a day (or life) well spent?
Choosing quality means challenging your norms.
The concept of “quality over quantity” is a simple one and I don’t know very many people who wouldn’t at least profess to believe in its value. But in reality, it’s quantity that is consistently rewarded in our society. More money, more bedrooms, more horsepower, more years, more accomplishments. We have been conditioned to strive for more.
But time and time again, we prove to ourselves that more does not bring happiness.
Challenge yourself to rethink how you measure success each day. Consider the energy you have invested in avoiding less. Have more relationships, more stuff, or more time made you happy?
Perhaps it’s time to try better instead.