Less is More

Seeking God’s abundance through downsizing.

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful time of celebration. We revel in God’s abundance with huge turkey dinners, trips to the apple orchard, and pretty pumpkin displays on neighbourhood porches. We give thanks because we have so much food and because we have so many friends and family. Except in my house. We are celebrating having less, not more.  

A year ago our family made a drastic change. We got rid of almost half of what we owned, sold our 3,300-square-foot home and moved into a 1,200-square-foot rental. 

And it was one of the best things we’ve ever done.

We were living, as most people do here in the suburbs, soaked in debt: mortgage, student debt, credit card, car loan. With two incomes we could manage it all, but we had to keep a careful eye on our bank balance. We were frustrated that we couldn’t offer more financial support as our kids went to post secondary school. We could see changes on the horizon, including shifting real estate values and rising interest rates. And there was always a subtle sense of anxiety lurking under the surface.

At first we just talked about imaginary scenarios where we sold everything and moved to P.E.I., our mid-life version of running away with the circus. But then we watched Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, on Netflix. We discovered Joshua Becker and started following his “becoming minimalist” page on Facebook. I read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. We had some important conversations about money, jobs and success.

And then we took baby steps. We started to get rid of things in kitchen cupboards that we didn’t need, and went through boxes of keepsakes we hadn’t looked at in years. Then one day, we wandered into a local open house. 

“That house exactly like ours will sell for HOW MUCH?!” my husband asked the realtor. And that was it. We called an agent and the ‘For Sale’ sign went up. The hardest part was leaving behind my garden.

Making the Leap
Quite accidentally (providence!) we bought low and sold high, which meant that we could pay off the mortgage and all of our outstanding debt, and still have leftovers to put in the bank. We looked at our monthly income and chose to move into a more modest neighbourhood where we could easily afford the rent.

We sold or donated a huge amount of furniture and we pared down our wardrobes, our pantry, even our Christmas decorations. We got rid of sentimental items that were broken or useless. We gave away old costumes and prom dresses, shared craft supplies with a summer camp, and found a home for the bicycle no one was riding. All six of us sifted through books, clothes, photos, instruments and old notes from elementary school. We kept only those things that, as Marie Kondo says, “bring us joy.”

I know some people would say we have taken a step down the ladder of success because we own less now. The world is always telling us that more is better. But we know that we have taken a huge leap into freedom because we have less to insure, less to clean, less to worry about. We use less energy to heat and cool our home. We spend less money on interest payments, less time mowing the lawn and are less worried about our grocery bill. Less, we are learning, really is more.

There have been a few surprises in our lifestyle of “less,” and we are acutely aware of them at Thanksgiving. Our new house has a much smaller dining area and when all six of us gather for a celebration, it’s downright crowded. We are elbow-to-elbow and there isn’t enough room on the table for turkey as well as all the trimmings. Since our guest room doubles as the laundry room, our daughter who is home for the long weekend doesn’t quite have the privacy she’s used to. And there’s no point in picking a bushel of apples anymore – we don’t have a cellar to store them in.

Giving Joyfully
One of the best surprises is how much fun we’re having being generous. As a musical family, we had a cello we no longer needed, so we found a teacher just starting out who wanted it for a student who couldn’t afford an instrument of their own. Our family’s much-loved church camp held a fundraiser and we were able to write a cheque with wholehearted joy. Because we have more time now we are more relaxed, and even though it sounds corny, we notice that we are more kind and attentive to one other on a daily basis.

Thanksgiving is a time to notice God’s abundance and to give thanks for the way our world is created and our needs are met. God’s world is amazing and we are right to be grateful. For those of us who live comfortable lives, however, the season of harvest is also an opportunity to think more deeply about the resources we have and how we are using them. How does our constant drive for more effect us? Our neighbour? Our planet? 

Some days I still miss my lovely garden. I worked hard to make it beautiful and have such fond memories of the time spent there. But I don’t regret our move toward less. Not even a little. Because our journey, which continues today, was so much more rewarding than I ever imagined. We might have less stuff this year, but as we squish together around the turkey, we are more thankful than ever.  


  • Kristine O’Brien

    Kristine is executive director at Crieff Hills Retreat Centre in Puslinch, Ont. Visit them at crieffhills.com. Crieff acknowledges the traditional territory inhabited by the Chonnonton people, and other First Nations neighbours including the Haudenosaunee, the Anishnaabe and The Métis nation.

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