When Less is More in Life and Family Finances

When I moved into my first house years ago, my mom took me to Pier 1 Imports as a housewarming gift. My parents bought me flatware and dishes to furnish my new kitchen. A drawer of new flatware and an automatic dishwasher meant I could use a new utensil for every task. A spoon to extract my tea bag, another spoon for my cereal, a fork to pierce the yolk for my over-hard eggs, another larger fork to eat the eggs. There was always clean flatware waiting for the next job.

When Shannon and I married, we combined kitchens, and we now had even more flatware, drinkware, and dinnerware. Additionally, we had an assortment of water bottles for biking or hiking and to-go mugs for the car; all of the accessories of the good, convenient life.

Along the way, to keep everything clean, we invested in a new dishwasher that cleaned better and ran quieter. We ran a load at least once a day. We had kids and dishes exploded. Our collection was complemented by milk bottles, little cups, and all sorts of other kid dishes.

This was the good life, right?

Convenience or clutter?

Seemingly, yes, but why couldn’t I find a water bottle for my bike ride when I knew we owned at least five of them? Where is a clean travel coffee mug when I need one? Ah, we must need a few more travel mugs so there would ALWAYS be one on hand. More is better.

When our second son, Jude, turned two, he taught us an important lesson. Despite the abundance of flatware, he only wanted to use his monkey spoon and froggy fork. Only. Ever. He had a favorite cup and plate too.

His insistence on using these utensils resulted in tantrums when the special monkey spoon and froggy fork were in the dishwasher, but not yet clean, or worst yet, lost in a clutter of dishes on the counter somewhere. He needed those implements for every meal, and the abundance of other shiny flatware meant nothing.

As this developed, Jude realized he needed to take things into his own hands. He’d start to track his monkey spoon and froggy fork. They were important, so he’d make sure they were clean and back in their place; ready for the next meal. Jude realized the more we have, the more we have to take care of each day. I’m challenged to find a clean coffee mug for breakfast, even though I know we have many, and I can’t track five sport water bottles, but Jude can track the location of his froggy fork and monkey spoon. Always.

Can we really buy the good life?

So why do I need three cell phone chargers, two pairs of sunglasses, five sport water bottles, and so much of everything in my life? We spend so much of our money on all this extra stuff, but is this really the good life and does it really make life more convenient? Jude would disagree. He wants a few cherished things that he diligently cares for each day, and phooey to everything else. (Except raisins. More raisins are always better.)

When is more definitely more? And when is less actually more? Share your thoughts on Twitter or drop us a note on Facebook.

-Peter Polson, Tiller Founder