The Gift of Less


What do you want for your birthday? Loved ones want to celebrate your special day with something (a material gift or an experience) that matters to you. It’s a generous act of love. And we’re very fortunate to be in a position to celebrate and share our lives with wonderful people.

My choice is mostly a simple experience with family—a home cooked meal and a scrumptious dessert. This year I wanted to experience something different: less commitments. I hope you can adapt the ideas below to work for you.

My birthday wish this year is to have a week of solitude so I can sit quietly and sort through the files and papers I’ve been meaning to clear for years.

I’ve started and stopped so many times. I have made progress, but there is still more. My office closet that’s meant to house a few books and reference material has turned into a storage area that gives me hives every time I think about it. I’ve organized the space before, but somehow it keeps getting messy again. Whatever I’m doing is not working.

I know from experiences that when you do something right, keeping the space clear and neat becomes effortless. The struggle in the case of the office closet has to do with two things:

  1. Unclear vision: I can’t seem to envision what the space needs to look like. In the past I worked on eliminating stuff, but I didn’t clarify what I’d like to keep in there. Now there is a vacuum cleaner, a space heater, and many little things that don’t belong anywhere else.

  2. Holding on to the past: Most of the papers I reduced didn’t matter. The papers that remain represent painful and nostalgic reminders of the past. I’m holding on to them because I haven’t made peace with and let go of the past. I need to reflect on the experiences so I can let go and have closure.

My week hasn’t started yet. But I’m cashing in this gift soon. I’ll spend a week, with no other commitment, and will give the office space my full time and attention. Once I’m done, I’ll share any useful insights.

The best gifts are the ones that mean something to you. I invite you to look within and reflect on what matters to you most. You can then ask your loved ones for what you want and spare them the guesswork.

In my example, my desire is to clear my office so it can be a place of calm and focus. The gift I want is free time to simplify and organize the space.

Choosing less

Less can be attached to anything—fewer commitments, less work, fewer distractions, or fewer possessions.

Less commitments: Loved ones can let go of certain commitments and expectations, and give you time to do whatever you want to do. Or they can assume the responsibility for a commitment so you can do your thing. Free time is the gift I appreciate most.

Less effort: Alternatively, you can ask your loved ones to help you with certain projects. If, for example, you’ve been meaning to paint your garage but haven’t gotten to it, they can pitch in and make it a party. Any project can be turned into a memorable and fun experience.

Less stuff: You can also ask your loved ones to help you reduce the clutter in a certain area of your life—clothes, books, or items in storage. They can also help you with donating or selling the stuff.

The gift of less

Every less of something means more of something else that matters. When we consciously choose less, we give ourselves these priceless gifts.

More time: Having fewer commitments, distractions, or things to do means we’ll have more free time. This is a precious gift that we can use to do what we truly desire.

More energy: The less effort we have to exert the more energy we have to do other things.

More space and peace: Having less stuff, or fewer things to do will expand our physical, mental and emotional space. We’ll feel expansive and more at peace.

The gift of less is not about appearances or validation. Simple giving is about authentic connections and experiences that will be cherished for years to come. If I get to clear my space, I’ll remember this generous gift every time I use the office.

Try and ask for something different this year. Look for deeply personal experiences that can be as simple as time alone to read, or listen to music, or learn something new. Or ask for help in doing something that’s important to you. Your loved ones will be more than happy to be part of your joy.

The beauty of the gift of less is that it’s always affordable, and can be given and received by anyone. We don’t need to worry about how much money we’re going to spend, or how others are going to perceive the gift. There is no room for ego when we’re connecting heart to heart.

Let’s bring gift giving back to its true purpose—an expression of love and kindness.