Your Beautiful Life Will Expand When You Eliminate the Excess


Eliminate the Excess

For many people, a good life is about more.

More stuff. More things to do. More friends. More of everything.

For me, a good life is about less.

I moved from a big house into a small apartment. In the process, I donated or threw away many of the things I owned. I even donated my car – my wife and I just share one together.

I’ve cut out a lot of media. Other than a few shows, I don’t watch any cable TV. I’ve tried to cut time spent on my smartphone, especially to check Twitter and email. I deleted my Facebook app completely so I rarely check it.

This year I’ve even experimented with cutting out alcohol; I haven’t had a single drop since the beginning of the year – I actually really love it and I’m considering making this a permanent change.

But it’s more than that.

I’ve cleared my mind of negative thinking and excuses (I’m working on complaining).

I’ve also cut toxic friends out of my life. Some have been friends for years which made it quite a difficult decision despite their negativity and destructive behavior.

Each step of the way, I made a conscious effort to cut out something that no longer fit what I wanted my life to be about.

The funny thing is that as I’ve continued to make these cuts, I’ve noticed quite the paradox:

The more things I cut out of my life, the bigger and grander it becomes.

If Less Is More Than More Is Less

Our lives are essentially built around limitations.

  • There are only so many things we can focus our attention on.
  • Our mental capacity and information-processing is limited.
  • We have a limited amount of tasks we can do every day.
  • Our discipline and willpower isn’t endless.
  • Then there’s time: we only get 24 hours a day – no matter what.

I’ve started to treat these limitations as they should be: valuable resources. If something is wasting one of them, I want to cut it out.

If it doesn’t improve life and isn’t important in some way, it just takes up valuable energy or time as excess – that’s space you could be using on something that truly matters.

Think of it this way.

Your life is like a cup of water. You can keep filling it up and up as much as you want, but eventually it will start to overflow. Whether it’s time, energy or focus, eventually your limits come into play and you can’t add any more to the cup – something will spill over and get lost in the process.

By trying to fill your cup with more, you’ll actually end up spilling some off the sides and getting less.

The trick is to look at the contents of the cup directly. Is all the water in there necessary?

Some of it might be dirty or tainted (things like negative thinking or toxic friends)

Some of it might be easily taken out to make room (time-wasting activities and tasks)

Some of it might be another liquid other than water (unnecessary distractions like checking email and Facebook or general clutter around the house)

Little by little, the excess water is taken out to make room. The cup can’t get larger, but you can make it seem larger simply by getting rid of the excess.

A Life Weighed Down With Excess

Some of the most successful people on the planet have already been adopting this idea of getting rid of excess to get more out of life.

For example, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Barack Obama and Einstein all cut down their wardrobe to one or two outfits so they had one less decision to make every day. Einstein argued that his brainpower and focus would be better spent elsewhere.

As it turns out, our decision-making ability can be weakened in a process known as “decision fatigue”. We may start off making good decisions, but if you make too many, you start to get bad at it. By cutting out excess decisions such as what to wear, you increase your ability to make better ones elsewhere..

It’s for this same reason that successful lawyers and businessmen delegate tasks to junior associates. They want to get rid of the excess tasks so they can focus their valuable time and energy on the things that matter most.

You Decide What Excess Is

Don’t get me wrong about this post. I’m not advocating that you should move out of your home or eliminate alcohol or TV. Just because these are things that I don’t want anymore, doesn’t mean that you don’t want them.

The point of this post is to get you thinking about what you’re filling your life with and deciding if it’s excess that could be eliminated. Start asking these questions:

Are there some things I can cut out to make room for the life I want?

What low-value tasks or activities are taking up my time that I can eliminate?

Are there toxic friends or thoughts I could get rid of?

What you decide is excess is up to you.

But by filling our lives with unnecessary busy-ness, distractions, tasks and clutter, we’re expending too much of our personal resources. That’s space we could be using to live the lives we actually want.

The best part about it is that by getting rid of the excess, you’ll find a renewed focus to your life. There will be more time and energy to spend on the things that matter most to you.

Many of us are already living a good life, but it’s covered up with a lot of unnecessary junk. By getting rid of the excess, you allow the life you want to expand.
photo credit: Chechi Peinado

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  1. I like this concept a lot, Steve. I’m doing the same with my marketing efforts for my business – rather than trying every tactic under the sun, I’m being more methodical and trying 2 only. If these work well – awesome. If not, I can move onto others.

    The trouble with noise is that it takes so much effort to cut it out.

    How has cutting out alcohol impacted you in social situations?

    • Cutting out alcohol hasn’t impacted my social situations much. I’ll still go to bars with friends, but I just won’t have any alcohol. It doesn’t seem to affect any social interactions. I don’t think I would have been able to do this back in college, but now that I’m older, drinking really isn’t as big a factor in my social life.

  2. A very refreshing look on life. Thank you and I am going to take this in.

  3. Hey Steve,

    I’ve been moving towards less also. While I still have a lot of items I do spend less time in front of the TV (and don’t care to watch anymore) and less time on my phone.

    It’s also easier for me to let go of things, like household items. I’m enjoying the more open space and not feeling the need to collect a bunch of stuff.

    Decision fatigue makes sense and I feel like I’ve suffered from it before. When being bombarded with them it can become overwhelming and increase stress.


    • Kawalpreet says:

      hey Steve,

      Thank you so much for this kind of concept, I really appreciate for this amazing approach to life.I’m not a businesswoman so being a housewife many decisions of life are beyond my reach but definitely this will help me a lot. So thank you so much!!

    • Yeah, decision fatigue is real. Apparently it happens to judges a lot which makes sense because they make decisions all day long. When you have to make a lot of decisions all day long, you want to cut out the unnecessary ones.

  4. Oh man, this is exactly what I’ve been doing lately. I had to figure it out the hard way though. Moved from an apartment into a house, into another house, then into a condo. The time came when we realized we don’t actually *like* mowing the lawn or shoveling the walk, and we don’t need all the rooms a house has. A small space keeps our possessions small which is awesome. Thanks for your post, it made me feel good about what I’m doing.

    • I thought the same way about mowing the lawn and shoveling the walk. I just didn’t like doing it and those chores took a lot of time to do it right. And after I finished I would clean all the spare rooms that weren’t being used for anything. I didn’t see the point of having so many tasks to do when there was just no need.

  5. Great post as always. I’ve tried to place processes or have habits which allow me to quickly pick/chose when it comes to my daily routine. I don’t have a lot of time to get held up with the mundane or something that should not take a lot of time to chose or decide on.

    • I’ve been trying to place processes into my daily routine too. I have a list of things I want to do and when I want to do them. Every once in a while I try to tweak it here and there in order to get more out of my days.

  6. Hi Steve, I think I’m a pessimist by Nature.Your Article was Very Intriguing, it made me Wonder how you got rid of all the Negative thoughts. I have read its Possible but it like an Elastic band which with great difficulty I try to stretch and maintain but then something happens and snap!! I’m back to my usual Pessimist self again. I’m starting to think its easier said then done. But I haven’t left hopes yet, I’m still trying.

    • I think you described negative thoughts perfectly. They do act like rubber bands and snap back into place when you try to get rid of them; that’s what makes them so tough to get rid of. It takes persistence and bit of re-framing perspectives, but it can be done. I come from a long line of worriers and over-thinkers, but I’ve gotten better at getting out my negativity over the years.

  7. “I’m not advocating that you should (…) eliminate alcohol or TV.”
    I’m advocating. I live without them for years.
    BTW, if anyone can be called “toxic,” cannot be simultaneously called my friend.

  8. With you 100% on this one Steve. I didn’t actively go out trying to eliminate things in my life. When life did send me on a roller coaster ride, I got shaken up and had to let to of a lot of things. Witha jolt of inspiration, I started letting go even more. I’ve notice the more I simplify my life, the richer the experiences I have. I think when we simplify we get to the things that bring us the most joy and enjoyment. For me – that’s been creativity, family and service. When I had everything going on in my life, I was kind of lost and didn’t really know what I wanted. Excellent post as always!

    • It’s great to let go of things that I don’t want or care about so I can focus on the things that I want in my life. Many choices were tough – for instance, getting rid of some toxic friends – but they’ve enriched my life in the long run.

  9. Great post, Steve! I’m a big believer in less is more philosophy. Glad to see you’re still blogging positivity after all these years!

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