Less but Better: A Way of Life

Leaf drops

“The composition of these rooms represents the basic intention behind my design: simplicity, essentiality and openness.” ~Dieter Rams, Less But Better

Less but better is one of the guiding design principles of Dieter Rams. The idea of eliminating all the noise and focusing only on the essential aspects of a product revolutionized the design of the record player back in the sixties, and many Braun products thereafter.

Marrying artful simplicity in design with optimum functionality influenced other companies, including Apple.

The idea of focusing on the most important elements and letting go of everything else works, not only in design, but in life.

Less but better as a way of life means:

  • Becoming aware of what’s truly important,
  • Having the courage to eliminate as much noise as possible, and
  • Focusing on the essential and giving it our best effort.

Redefining abundance

When I think of abundance I think of things that can be measured or quantified—money, resources, possessions, or time. Which makes one think choosing less is a sacrifice. But it’s not.

It’s an awakening.

Embracing less but better shifts our attention from quantity to quality. Abundance in this context is experiential—deeper connections, honored commitments, meaningful conversations, focused work, more enjoyment and better use of possessions.

Life design

Less but better can be applied in any area of your life. Design a life with intention, focus on what matters, and let go of everything else.

Today I invite you to embrace less but better in one aspect of your life. The following guidelines might be of help.

Where and how to start?

Start now. If you want to adopt less but better, start with one thing after you finish this article.

Do it your way. What matters to you is personal. It may not matter to anyone else. And that’s okay. Work with what you feel is right for you. Make the choices that reflect your priorities and values.

Your life, your design.

Start small. It’s fairly easy to want to reduce everything at once. It’s a trap. You’ll feel overwhelmed and won’t know where to start.

Try removing one app from your phone, or an old software from your computer. If you have a wish list of 50 books you’d like to read, remove one or more.

Practice daily. Before you start anything, ask yourself: Is this the most important thing? Can I eliminate it? Or can I eliminate parts of it? Focus on the most basic thing you can do, and give it your best.

Rethink additions. If you need to add something to your schedule, workload, or possessions, think about it for a while before making a decision. Is it helpful? Can you let go of something else before you add something new?

A personal example: my computer

I started applying less but better to my computer setup. I’ve been eliminating unnecessary programs, shortcuts, files and folders, and working with only a handful of programs.

Essential Desktop

This is my computer screen at the moment (click here for a larger image). The background image is a reminder to focus on less but do it better.

I have one folder on the desktop for the files I’m still cleaning up. Documents are saved to Dropbox and photos are backed up to Mega.

I keep four things on the dock (browser, finder, downloads & trash). For other programs, I use shortcuts to load them (command + spacebar to launch spotlight). I still have a few programs that I intend to uninstall. It’s a work in progress.

When you choose less, you clarify your needs, and find intelligent ways to meet them. Your life opens up and every experience intensifies.

Less but better can be a way to do anything you can imagine.

There is beauty in a meal well savored, a book well read, a cherished memory, a genuine connection, or a profound insight, in the space created by less.

A life well lived is a life of purpose, with less choices but better depth and quality.

This is the perfect time of the year to shed the excess and embrace the very few things that truly matter.

This article is purposefully shorter than average. My intention was to introduce the idea of less but better. I hope you get a chance to try it.

A few other articles that might be of help:

On less:

On doing your best:

I highly recommend reading the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less if you have the time and desire to expand on the idea of less but better.