The size of our containers dictate the size of our lives

Above is a photo of my wallet. I intentionally chose it as it fits a small amount of cards and a few coins.

With my previous wallet I found that I was otherwise carrying around unnecessary cards, receipts, ticket stubs, loyalty cards because I had the space. But now I’m forced to carry only so much due to the size of it.

This is but one of the containers in my life.

Think about them for a moment. All of the containers in your life.

Your house. Your car. Your bag. Your wardrobe. Your cupboards. What are you putting in them?

We put furniture inside of rooms and boxes inside of furniture and more boxes inside of those boxes to the point where our houses are like giant Russian dolls.

Where there’s an abundance of containers and an abundance space within them, it can be all to easy to put something in a draw and forget about it rather than think about the harder questions. Do I need this? Is it useful towards my long-term values?

Where we see space in our lives we rush to fill it.

A silence in a conversation. An empty mantlepiece. A walk in wardrobe.

There’s nothing wrong with using the containers in our lives but we need to understand that the size of our containers dictate the amount of stuff in them.

Parkinson’s law is the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” and so does our stuff expand to fill the space available for it.

Think about the last time you went on holiday. Did you take a big suitcase? Did you fill it to the brim because you had the space?

The bigger our houses the more compelled we may feel to fill them with things. The bigger our wardrobes the more compelled we may feel to fill them with clothes. Furthermore, research shows that we are more likely to overfill our plates if they are bigger.

Intentionally owning smaller containers in our lives is a fail-safe to keeping a simple, minimal life.

What containers might you be able to downsize?


Clearwing says:

I could feel myself wanting to argue with this post and say that I could equally get behind a large space intentionally left empty, but I think you are right in terms of our basic tendency to try to fill the space anyway. A smaller space forces the difficult decisions that only may take place with more space.

That said, an empty mantelpiece scares the living daylights out of me.

Thomas says:

I agree with you that it is possible to keep a larger space empty but not everyone has the willpower required. Keeping things small is a simple tactic.

True – a completely bare mantlepiece would probably be intimidating!

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