Learning to live with a little less

In Thinking it Through, Tony Watkins asks

What do you give to the person who has everything? Probably the greatest gift would be the ability to live with a little less. Far more than any consumer addition, they will treasure the ability to be free.

A single plum ripening on my plum tree.

A single plum ripening on my tree.

The quote is from a piece called “Living with a little less”, and it’s stuck in my head for the last week or so; becoming  a lens through which I see more clearly the things that are going on in my life at the moment; from de-cluttering my house, to planning meals around what’s ripe in my garden, to the way I am looking at tv advertising, politics, the environment … even trying to improve my health can be understood as living with a little less … of me.

Much of Watkins’ piece is about the process of design, suggesting that good design can be either additive—beginning with the core of form or function and adding what is needed to achieve that; or subtractive—starting with the outer limits and taking away everything that isn’t needed to achieve the design goal. (Thinking it through, p. 16)

One of the things I relish about Tony Watkins’ writing is the way ideas move so fluidly—from comment on architecture to the observation that:

The powerful philosophy of the consumer society moves us into an additive mode of thinking, but even the wealthy reach a point where they feel the need to have a garage sale.

In global terms, I am one of the wealthy—and now it’s time for my garage sale.