“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”

– Henry David Thoreau


Simplicity is about getting more satisfaction from having less complication and clutter.

Our modern lives, especially in the western world, are often too complicated. By keeping it simple, by doing and having less, we can often get more satisfaction.

In his book ‘The Paradox of Choice’ author Barry Schwarz describes the way that the proliferation of choices robs us of satisfaction. In the prologue to the book he makes this statement recommending simplicity:

“I believe that we make the most of our freedoms by learning to make good choices about the things that matter while at the same time unburdening ourselves from too much concern about things that don’t.”

In the same vein, Richard Koch in his book “The 80/20 Principle” talks about the ‘vital few’ and the ‘trivial many’. He is saying that we complicate our lives by focusing too much on trivial things when it would be much more rewarding to simply focus on those vital few things that really matter. This approach can be used in all parts of our lives and effectively leverages our energies and resources so that we can do more with less.

A simpler wardrobe

The 80/20 principle predicts that you will wear 20% of all the clothes in your wardrobe 80% of the time. These are the ‘vital few’.

The corollary of this prediction is that you will wear 80% of your wardrobe only 20% of the time. These are the ‘trivial many’. There will be a number of reasons for not wearing the other clothes as much – perhaps they don’t fit any more, they were bought on a whim, they are not fashionable any more or they were bought for a single purpose – whatever the reason there will be ways to minimise this excess.

The point of the 80/20 principal is not just to minimise the trivial many but to also maximise the vital few.

Coco Chanel (or, for men, think Giorgio Armani) was renowned for the simplicity of her wardrobe and yet she was a fashion maestro and was considered to be the epitome of a stylish dresser. She knew what looked good and what worked for her and just stuck with that. Chanel and Armani are both renowned for their eye-for-detail and they both profess to a preference to designs that will stand the test of time. As well as ‘keeping it simple’, quality, durability and longevity are also factors that will allow you to do more with less.

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Voluntary Simplicity

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