What will you limit to make room for something awesome?


I’m deep in the Minimalist Parenting conceptual zone, so I’m thinking a lot about constraints. Constraints aren’t popular in modern American culture where “you can do anything you want” and “the sky’s the limit.” Translation: LIMITS BAD.

In Part 1 of this post, I argued that, after basic needs are covered, constraints encourage creativity and resourcefulness. When you have to think about how you’re spending your next seven dollars or days, you bring more intelligence and care to the choice. Children aren’t the only ones who thrive when given limits.

But there’s more to it. In her Blissdom conference talk called  Do Less as a Life Strategy, my co-author and Wonder Twin Christine Koh said something that hit me right between the eyes:

When you get rid of the things you don’t love, there’s more room for the things you do.

A hush fell over the room as the statement hung in the air — followed by a collective WHOOSH of recognition. Heads nodded wildly as 150 people took in this essential truth.

Embracing constraints is as much about recognizing the value of your attention as it is about getting rid of stuff.

Your attention is precious. It’s up there with your family and your health. When you embrace constraints, you’re putting a bouncer at the door of your attention. Only the most important stuff gets in.

Here are some examples of embracing constraints:

  • Doing certain types of work in specific places or using specific devices. Examples: Cleaning one’s purse while waiting at stop lights. Tweeting only from one’s smartphone.
  • I’m only eating sugar and processed grains on Saturdays, and I’m getting reeeeeealy creative about satisfying my sweet tooth. I’m also trying foods I never would have tried otherwise.
  • The natural time constraint that comes with parenting (not voluntary, and not always pleasant, but definitely leads to creative thinking and prioritization.)
  • Every time you bring a new toy into the house, donate three old ones.
  • Handling email for 15 minutes per day. With a timer set. And a smart email strategy.
  • Doing anything for 15 minutes per day with a timer set. (Exercise, housecleaning, decluttering, chipping away at an overwhelming project…)

Update: This line of thought, along with writing Minimalist Parenting together, led to our podcast, Edit Your Life.

Photo credit: Jill Krause, author of Picture Play