When Plenitude Is Less, Not More

By Richard Asa @RickAsa
April 08, 2016

Life’s simple pleasures can fill your emotional and psychological tank.

In just one example of how you can find pleasure in smaller packages, consider the “tiny house” movement. 


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People just like you are building and living in homes that are as small as 120-square-feet – and enjoying it. 

“When life seems too complicated, some people advocate this solution: Move into a small home to have a bigger life,” says a report in U.S. News. “For some, the tiny house movement has become a way of life, adjusting to a smaller space and fewer possessions, with a goal of saving money and focusing on relationships and experiences.”

“It's just a tool to do what you want to do and get done in life," says Ryan Mitchell, who lives in a 150-square-foot home he built himself in Charlotte, N.C.

In “Plenitude,” by author Juliet B. Schor, sustainability is a recurring theme but not a matter of sacrifice. 

A blurb by her publisher says pockets of likeminded people are popping up everywhere. These are people busy “creating lifestyles that offer a way out of the work and spend cycle. These pioneers' lives are scarce in conventional consumer goods and rich in the newly abundant resources of time, information, creativity, and community.”

They’re not only saving increasingly scarce resources, Schor argues, but radically changing the way they look at consumer goods, incomes, and jobs. Less is indeed more for these pioneers of space and time. 

More isn’t always better. The changes you make in your lifestyle to downsize your outlook challenge traditional views of human nature and how we define well-being. It’s not necessarily true that the more choices you have, the better off you are, Barry Schwartz writes in the Harvard Business Review.

The relationship isn’t that straightforward. “Choice is good for us, but its relationship to satisfaction appears to be more complicated than we had assumed,” Schwartz says. “There is diminishing marginal utility in having alternatives; each new option subtracts a little from the feeling of well-being, until the marginal benefits of added choice level off.”


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Plus, more choice requires more time and effort, which can lead to anxiety and self-recrimination if you make what you believe was the wrong choice. 

“Plenitude suggests having desires to fulfill and you having even more than you possibly need to make you happy,” says psychologist Jeffrey Santee, of Wheaton, Ill. You could substitute that pursuit of (supposed) happiness for the enjoyment of the pleasures of everyday life. You could work on the concept of mindfulness.

“The American way seems to be consuming more and more. But that kind of avarice isn’t fulfilling,” he adds. “Finding fulfillment through simple pleasures means taking stock in what we have. It’s about gratitude. And often the things that bring gratitude are about the kind words that were expressed to you, someone doing you a favor.” 

Blogger Brad Aronson, like so many people expressing their views these days, is a list maker. When it comes to plenitude, he breaks it down into personal development, finding a purpose, building relationships, being kind, showing appreciation, and finding opportunities in everyday living. 

Within those broad categories he includes not sweating the small stuff, living your values and being true to yourself, living for today (and in the moment), teaching someone something, staying in touch with friends and family, talking to someone, helping other people, volunteering, forgiving other people, forgiving yourself. His list goes on. 

What it amounts to is nearly 50 simple things you can do every day, any time of the day, to find pleasure.

You’ll probably be less likely to camp outside a phone store for the latest model or get the absolute best deal on anything you buy, and more likely to buy less in general. 

The Holstee Manifesto, a group of thoughts originally pulled together in poster form to help its originators move on if they got stuck, has become a phenomenon for its simple yet profound messages. The first one is “this is your life.” A little further down it says “life is simple.” You might find you already have plenty, and that what you have can bring you more than enough pleasure. 


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April 02, 2020

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN