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Re-writing the Myth that More is Better

Updated: Feb 28

Most of us living in WEIRD countries (western, educated, industrial, rich, and democratic) associate progress with the accumulation of more. This is one of the dominant narratives of success that we’re exposed to from the moment we’re born. We quickly learn that the markers of a life well-lived are a big house, nice car, good paying job, and a lifestyle marked by abundance and ease. More is better. That’s the promise of American consumerism.


We inherit the belief that more is better as if through osmosis - it’s the water we swim in. It’s all around us and yet we often aren’t aware of its presence. This story is deeply embedded in our subconscious mind, influencing our daily decisions, beliefs, and behaviors. Sometimes, accumulating more does improve our lives. But not always. In a time where the average American consumes more goods and services than they did a decade ago, research by the Gallup Organization suggests that more than 1 in 4 people in America will experience depression during their lifetime. Maybe this story isn’t working as well as we think it is. Maybe this is a story worth re-examining.  


When something isn’t working for us in our lives, we often attribute the problem to lack or deficiency. Seen through this lens, the natural solution in the process of addition.


If we’re lonely, we look to make more friends.

If we’re feeling cramped in our homes, it’s time to move to a bigger place.

If we’re worried about our financial future, we start applying for higher-paying jobs.


Social scientist Leidy Klotz finds that the human instinct is to solve problems through addition,  but that many times, the most powerful path to innovation and progress is actually subtraction. We tend to overlook the benefits of removing, streamlining and simplifying as solutions to our problems. This paradoxical finding has been shown in the fields of engineering, urban planning, and in psychology, too.


What if instead of looking for more friends, we trimmed down our calendars to strengthen the important relationships in our lives?

What if instead of moving to a bigger house, we donated possessions we haven’t used in 2 years to free up space?

What if instead of taking a higher-paying job, we looked at our budgets and found patterns of overspending that we could adjust to save a little more each month?


There are many reasons that subtraction might offer us more psychological benefits than addition when we face challenges in our lives. Subtraction can help us notice and appreciate what we already have instead of focusing on what we lack. It helps us invest more of our precious time and energy into the few things that truly matter to us instead of spreading ourselves thin in the relentless pursuit of more. And subtraction can help us simplify our lives instead of layering on unnecessary complexity, stress, and responsibility.


Re-writing the story that more is better might be one of the most powerful steps we can take to increase our happiness and well-being over time. This is the counter-cultural promise of minimalism and the guiding ethos of the tiny house movement. We’re starting to wake up to the insight that less can be more. We’re learning from the social sciences that old scripts and formulas for happiness don’t always work. And we’re given an opportunity to pick up the metaphorical pen to re-write the stories about success that we were handed from birth. In a culture obsessed with more, we can learn to embrace a lifestyle of less. We can remember that addition isn’t the only pathway to greater health, success, and well-being. Let’s remember to practice subtraction, too.



About The Tiny House of Happiness

The Tiny House of Happiness is a tiny house vacation rental on a mission to help people live more meaningful and fulfilling lives by experiencing the benefits of living with less. Located in a scenic arboretum in Philadelphia, PA, we provide guests with a peaceful environment to rest, spend time in nature, and reflect on what matters most to them. All of our guests receive a custom well-being workbook based on the latest science of positive psychology to learn and practice 6 daily habits shown to support greater well-being in life.


You can find us on Facebook and Instagram @thetinyhouseofhappiness and book a stay on our website:

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