Doing More With Less

The topic of doing more with less is on my mind. Every time we’ve added a child to our family, my instinct is to clear out our space, to get rid of gear and simplify wherever possible. It probably has something to do with making mental space for this new person in my life.

Last week, I was packing for our trip to San Jose and thinking about what I should bring for June’s meals — she’s still mostly nursing, but she’s also eating 3-4 meals a day of solids. At first I was thinking several bibs, 10+ jars of baby food, a bag of rice cereal, utensils and bowl for preparations, utensils for feeding, etc. But finally decided it was a short trip, to a town with every convenience, and that all I would need was a baby spoon.

For breakfast, I found plain yogurt and oatmeal among the offerings and grabbed a ripe banana for when we were out and about. And I was able to find similarly soft foods wherever we were. During feedings, I kept a napkin handy to keep her clean and I was good to go. While I appreciate the helpfulness of things like bibs and lots of food choices when we’re at home, it was nice to be reminded that it didn’t take much to keep June happy and fed when we wanted to travel as light as possible.

Another example that comes to mind? The giant table we built after moving to Colorado. It is the most used piece of furniture in our house. We use it for entertaining, for homework, for art projects, for sewing projects, for building things. And when we’re not using it, it does its duty as a piece of furniture that’s nice to look at and that compliments the space.

What about you? What are your thoughts on doing more with less? What’s an item you have that you get the most use out of?

410 thoughts on “Doing More With Less”

  1. One way I try to do more with less is to think of multiple meals that can be made using similar ingredients; not so much so that we are eating the same things every night, but more so that we can maximize our groceries to get the most yummy dinners per week possible.

  2. For me, it’s just constantly being aware of what we have. If I think I “need” something, I consider: Do I have something I can substitute? Do I have the supplies I need to make it? Can we live without it?

    We joke about our family motto being “less is more” but it’s so true!

  3. While my husband was in medical school and I was a low-on-the-pay scale teacher, I learned to do more with less with our monthly income. Determined to cover all our normal monthly expenses on my pay check, the area I was most creative with was food. I learned to cook an extensive variety of largely vegetarian (meat is expensive!), nutritious meals, while also learning how to make a little flavor and various spices go a long way. Now that he has graduated and our budget has a little more wiggle room, I still appreciate the lessons I was “forced” to learn in our time of less, because they have made me a better steward of our resources.

  4. To do more with less in our tiny house, we decorate only once in the fall. A few pieces – a pretty wreath, pumpkin candles, and preserved leaves in a glass hurricane – take us all the way from late September to late November. I’m sure the kids will want Halloween decorations when they get old enough to care, but for now, the simplicity is refreshing!

  5. I’m also trying to pare down to what we REALLY use. I read recently about a couple in Seattle (Portland?) that got rid of nearly everything. Each of them only has 100 things. I’m not ready to go that far, but somewhere between my house and theirs is a happy medium. I’m especially trying to keep from going overboard with holiday decorations and just keep it to what we already have or can make ourselves.

    On this note — please don’t pick me — I don’t need another gadget!

  6. I resonate really well with this topic. Since 2009, the Hubs and I are constantly asking ourselves this question. We left Seattle feeling fat with material. We gave everything away and kept just what we could drive with…then when we left San Diego…we kept only what would fit in an RV. Now we sold the RV and have furnished our Austin apt with Good Will and Craigslist items and I love it. Less stuff around helps us fill our home with more love.

    Great reminder!

  7. One way that I do more with less is I have turned into a major coupon clipper. I am amazed at how much you can get for your money when you shop smart!

  8. The lessons learned in graduate school did not only happen in the classrooms, the small stipend taught my husband and I to be frugile. One thing we do, it all our own construction…it really makes renovations our own! Although I love kitchen tools, I have started to purge and am back to cooking in a cast iron pan, 1 small, 1 larger pot using wooden spoons and spatulas. It feels good to not have the clutter of cabinets. We have also purged the kids plates and they just use the regular ceramic or thier “makeIt” Plates!

  9. we definitely do more with less. my husband is currently in grad school and we are on a tight budget with 2 little ones. i actually have enjoyed having less. it helps me focus on the more important things in life.

  10. Before I buy something, I ask myself if I really need it. For clothes, I love a good bargain and hunting through thrift shops! Our family eats all of our meals in, so when we do go out, it is a special treat.

  11. I would like to not give into the temptation to buy and believe the “scare tactics” used to make new moms feel like they have to buy a bunch of new things for a first baby, and be content with what we have for our nursery: used rocking chair and changing table, re-purposed chest of drawers, silk cushions re-made from old pillowcases, a new quilt and old afghan, etc.

  12. Jennifer Brailsford

    Lately, for doing more with less has been the thought for the purpose of coupon cutting and always on the look out for deals. Even though it can be exhausting at times, the benefit always pays off.

  13. What a great reminder, I’ve been fully embracing the “less is more” and trying to share it with our young children in an effort to teach them appreciation and to respect of the things we’ve been blessed to own. “Less is DEFINITELY more” when it comes to toys – we try to purchase well-made, quality pieces that will last instead of simply filling our home with toys. Now my latest challenge is to hold to buying only 2-3 gifts for each of my young ones this Christmas! Please keep the ideas rolling!!!

  14. I’m in the mood to go through my possessions and severely pare down. I need a solid chunk of time to devote to it but it has been difficult with a 3 year old. I don’t know how you do it with 6 kids! The things I couldn’t live without, though? Children’s books! Just taking a quick moment, a few times a day, to sit down and read to my girl and boy makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something really important!

  15. I seriously feel the exact same way and I only have two kids. I do live in a tiny 2 bedroom apartment though, so i need to de clutter constantly. I’m convinced that plastic toys procreate in the middle of the night.

    Last week I had an interesting experience. Before baby Maria was born someone gave us a glass bottle. We love it. It’s the only bottle we use because it’s safe to go in the microwave. So for the past year we’ve been using this one and only bottle. As soon as she’s done drinking we wash it out so that it’s ready for her next feeding. Well, last week I went to target and found the exact same glass bottles on sale. 3 bottle for $4. I bought a pack. Now we have more bottles which also means that I’ve enabled us to be lazy so we don’t wash it out right away and by the time we get to it the milk is so nasty and encrusted it’s hard to wash.

    I wish i had never bought the additional bottles. I should of just stuck with one. I often feel this way with lots of things that I buy and then regret. Seriously, how many t-shirts does a boy need? How many onesies does a baby need? Much less than we think.

    1. Wow! This is such a good example of the way I find my life cluttered. I think I am making my life easier when in fact, I become encumbered by my stuff.

  16. Fabulous topic (and fabulous giveaway)! In this house (where we’ve lived for 5 years now) we have a big playroom area and a big master closet. While this is nothing to complain about, we end up accumulating too much stuff in these large areas, the thought being “why not; we have the space.” I have been trying to simplify and in fact prior to this Christmas I have plans to go through the playroom with the kids and get rid of a LOT of toys/games/etc. And, given the state of the economy, I’ve had to entirely re-think the notion of presents for the kids… it will definitely be a “less is more” year for us but I have a feeling nobody will feel that they’ve missed out on anything.

  17. Living in a city in a small apartment, I decided to just get one stroller for my new baby — I only use a jogging stroller and we go everywhere with it! How great to only need one!

  18. I only buy something if I LOVE IT and can’t live without it. I also have a 3 day rule that if I see something I love, I have to wait 3 days and if I still need it, I get it.

    I also buy everything cash. There is nothing I need worth going in debt (except for my house)

  19. Nothing (appliances) comes in my kitchen that does just one thing. I don’t have a breadmaker, rice cooker, indoor grill, etc. My food processor does it all and, even though the other things would be nice, they’ve all be given away or said ‘no’ to because of the mental or actual clutter they cause.

  20. For Christmas we are doing more with less by getting the kids 4 presents only.
    Something to wear
    Something you need
    Something you want
    Something to read.
    It is very freeing to know I have 4 presents to buy for each and that they have a specific purpose.

  21. ugh…I really wish that I could figure out ways to do more with less. I’ve tried a lot of things (such as being frugal with groceries etc..), but none of it has really stuck. I like to de-clutter and donate/purge toys, clothes etc…but I wish that I could avoid bringing it into the house to begin with.

  22. This is something I think about all of the time. I love Damaris’s comment! Sometimes more is just more, and it actually makes life more complicated.

    Here is something that helps me do more with less: I’ve stopped subscribing to e-mail updates from retailers. If I don’t see it, I ‘m never tempted to buy it, and now I find I rarely make impulse purchases.

  23. I use coupons whenever possible, but stopped trying to stockpile so much. The space that it took up in my home and the “mental” clutter wasn’t worth the savings for me.

  24. I tend to go through my clothes every few months to get rid of items I’m not using. I also do this with all of my things. Even my sewing stash gets picked through to make sure I will use what I have.

  25. Even though we just moved into a bigger space (from a tiny 1br apartment to a small 2br/1ba rental house) my husband and I have been downsizing our belongings. The furniture that we have now is almost all multipurpose…I love the look of clean lines with just a few precious items and artwork out for display.

  26. I’ve done a lot on less with my current flip phone, but it is definitely time to upgrade.

    We also live in a smaller, old home and are advocates for kids sharing rooms, not needing their own desks in each room, and living with one, well-used family room space. When did our generation convince themselves that we needed 1000 sq ft per person?

  27. I try to do more with less…stuff. In general. My husband and I have this reputation among both our families and all our friends as being really frugal. This whole economy-is-down-so-frugal-is-posh attitude is new to us. When we bought our house, we garage-saled like crazy. But we found that it was so easy to fall into the “deal” trap: It’s a crazy-good price, so we must need it. Or someone else must. We love a deal, but try to keep ourselves in check by asking whether we actually need that item, no matter the price.

    Another thing I’ve done lately is create “pantry” meals: Using only what’s in the fridge and pantry to create meals for a week days or a week. It helps jog my memory so I’m not picking up brown rice every other week without using it up first. Use it up, wear it out, that sort of thing.

  28. It was so funny to bring up your blog post today. Last night I returned from a weekend of working away from home, and I came back to clutter of every kind. This morning I spent it picking things up and instead of putting them away where we had even more, I put them in a bag and took them to the Goodwill. My kids have ENOUGH puzzles, ENOUGH games, ENOUGH toys. Sometimes I feel the stuff gets in the way of what we really want; which might be love, attention, acceptance, clarity, so many things. Thanks for this post, and so many of your other posts that come just at the right time.

  29. we moved into a smaller house this summer and got rid of a lot of stuff.

    with three kids we still have plenty, and nobody misses what we got rid of!

  30. I think there’s something in the air. Just this weekend I decided we’re going to find at least 100 things this week to get rid of. And they can’t just be baby stuff (I already have a huge stack of those – we’re done with the procreating, so bye-bye ittybittybaby stuff! I hope someone else enjoys you as much as we have!).

    Next up – organizing my freezer (I need room for thanksgiving leftovers), and whipping up meals for the next week and a half based on what’s already in there. A deep freeze is great, but stuff gets lost if I don’t clean it out every other month or so.

    And finally – I’m working on a shopping reality check. This is the time of year I could easily take retail therapy to unseen heights. So I take photos of what I’m tempted by. If, at least a week later, I’m still envisioning said item in my house, then I can put it on my wish list. And only 1 new wish list item per paycheck (um, that’s 2 a month).

    Thanks for the chance to have a fancy new phone!

  31. For me it’s the humble potato. I’ve even joked in the past that I should compile a book on the subject. I can do countless things with it, even entertain kids. They are amazing! (Is it weird to gush about potatoes?) On a side note, I totally adore that table of yours. It’s perfect in so many ways!

  32. We live in an older home. We were in the middle of a significant remodel when we found out we were pregnant with twins. We had a house designed for us and our current 2 children, not 4 children! We decided to live with this situation for a while and then tackle later, maybe another addition or a new house. Since then the bad economy hit us like everyone else. I have decided I am proud to live in a 3 bedroom house. Everyone doesn’t need their own room and bathroom. We have a happy family who likes to be together and that is more important than how much living space we have. When you don’t have a lot of extra space, then you cant have a lot of extra stuff!

  33. We are hoping to adopt.

    We recently moved from our two bedroom house, to a two bedroom place with a walk in closet. We are happily converting the extra space in the walk in closet into a delightful nursery!!

  34. So excited to read all of the suggestions and ideas that everyone has. I am constantly de cluttering a bit here and a bit there. There are so many unnecessary things that are wants, not needs and I think it is more relaxing to have a non cluttered home with just the things that make you happy.

  35. I just now am taking a break for sorting thru the piles of toys in my kids play room. Who needs all this stuff? Not them, they are the most happy outside with sticks and rocks.:)

  36. Wow is this post timely.

    This morning I sat our two children down to discuss the idea of ‘simple living’ and the gratitude that we should have about living in a country with so much. However, as I am expecting our third child in February — and feeling very much the way you do, Gabby, about simplifying where possible.

    We have decided to go through our home as a family and donate 1,000 things to our local Salvation Army, ARC, and local schools. So far this morning we found 37 markers (all multiple duplicates), a couple *extra* winter coats and scarves, and 4 picture frames. Going through our tool collection alone we will probably come up with another 100 items. Does it all add up quickly…

    It embarrasses me that we have so much superfluous stuff, but I am hopeful that the kids will see this as a way to give to our community — especially good for the holidays. (oh, and my head will be a lot more clear as I, too, make mental room for our newest addition. I guess having to sort and clean less is a huge bonus as well!) ;)

  37. I think that I do more with less by not buying impulse buys. Yes, that new chair I spotted at anthropologie is awesome, but after I went home and thinking about it I figured that we were doing just fine with the chairs we already have. This principle applies to everything I buy, except groceries.

  38. I’ve been thinking about doing more with less as well, with Christmas coming and the new toys we will be making room for. I try to think like my grandmother did. She and her little girl went to visit my Grandpa when he was training to serve in World War 2 and she didn’t have room to take suitcases full of clothing, so for her daughter she packed one nightgown and one little dress, and every night she’d wash the dress out and hang it up to dry, then put it back on her the next day. When I remember this I feel like taking everything out of my closets and just putting back the essentials. We really can live and be happy without a lot of things.
    Great post (and giveaway)!

  39. I am all about reusing; from reusing spaghetti sauce jars for glasses and storage, to reusing fabric from worn out clothes. There are so many great ideas out there about how to simplify your life. We need so little but want so much.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  40. We have three kids in car seats in the back of a compact car! There is absolutely not another inch of space in that back seat but somehow we have made it work to have just one car for most of our marriage. My husband is in med school, he did a masters before this and so did I and we have had to make do with less for quite some time. Even now that we live in a home (thank goodness for cheap Texas houses :) we are really good at keeping things simple.

  41. Our ultimate do more with less is our modest 2 bedroom/1 bathroom home . We thought long and hard about “building on” including a master suite etc but decided it was much better to commit to living within our means. Instead we just re-did the backyard which has hugely expanded our playing and entertaining space.

    Next stop, Gabby’s table.

    How about for everyday use each member of the family having only one plate/bowl and one glass? That way the few items you have get washed each time, not smelly dirty dishes and no loading and unloading the dishwasher all the time.

  42. Letting go of my mother’s formal dining room concept, helped change the way I entertain. Dinnery Party for 10 in our 1 bedroom apt? No problem w/ 2 rubbermaid bins, a closet door & a tablecloth. Happiness abounds when you share what you have, without being embarrassed about what you don’t have.

  43. Doing school at home and on a budget is helping me to get really creative about crafts and outings. We’ve discovered so many free resources in our community that I never would have known about!

  44. Every time I buy something (besides groceries) I try to clean out something. So if I buy a new shirt I know I must get rid of one as well. If I buy new decor I must find something that I do not need any longer.

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