Are You More Drawn to Simplicity or to Abundance?

I love dividing the world into categories. Abstainers and moderators. Radiators and drains. Leopards and alchemists. Marathoners and sprinters (formerly known as “tortoises and hares”–I like this terminology better, how about you?)

I’ve come up with a new distinction, but I’m still turning it over in my mind. I’m not sure it works out…I would love to hear your response.

A conversation between two friends, at my children’s literature reading group meeting, inspired me to notice this.

One friend said, “I always want to feel empty,” and a friend responded, “I always want to feel full.” (They were speaking metaphorically.)

I thought this was just about the most interesting pair of remarks that I’d ever heard. I wasn’t able to pursue this conversation at the time, but I plan to.

In the meantime, it got me thinking: is this a distinction?

Does one group–I’ll call them the simplicity lovers–prefer to have less, subtraction, emptiness, bare surfaces, few choices, spare supplies–one tube of toothpaste? Does this go with a love of stillness?

And does another group–I’ll call them abundance lovers–prefer to have more, fullness, overflow, collections, many choices, ample supplies–five tubes of toothpaste? Does this go with a love of buzz?

What do you think of these two categories–agree or disagree? If it strikes a chord with you, what group do you identify with? I put myself in the simplicity lovers category.

  • I would put myself in the abundance category BUT I don’t always want that. It really depends on the domain. I feel anxiety if I don’t have a full fridge (i.e. an overabundance of food… as if a famine is coming), I have an abundance of books but never feel like I have enough (despite having more than 1,000) and I want an abundance of information. But I hate clothes and want to have as little of it as possible. I also hate having too many typically “female” items such as purses and shoes and make up. I reduce those to the bare minimum to feel less anxious.

    • gretchenrubin

      Interesting! So a mix of both.

  • MomVee

    If this is a distinction, I’m a mix: I love having an abundance of supplies, but I hate buzz.

  • Molly

    That’s interesting Julie because I like a somewhat empty fridge. I’ve always wondered about this in myself because in other areas, I think I prefer “more”. Actually, maybe its clutter I don’t like. Collections are fine. Clutter is not.

    • I understand it… I do think it depends on domain, which is different for everyone. An empty fridge freaks me out but an empty closet makes me feel pretty good, like I’m on top of the clutter.

  • Nancy Man

    This resonates with me. I’m very much in the “empty” camp.

    I love bare surfaces. That’s what I aim for throughout my house — tables, counters, walls, etc., all totally bare.

    I just like not having a lot of “stuff.” I feel like it weighs me down. The more “stuff” I have, the more I’m responsible for, the more I have to think about. Less stuff = freedom, in that sense.

  • Brenda Neblock – Story

    I am definitely an abundance type person, but it has to be organized abundance. My stocked shelves of supplies for food resemble a finely run supermarket, as are my collections and art supplies. (Maybe it’s my own way of dealing with living in a small town of 104 people after growing up in a large city that surrounded me with supplies.) The funny thing is that I relate strongly to the simplicity lovers in the fact that all of my collections, art supplies, and food storage are scrutinized periodically to weed out any unnecessary items as my interests change. Since there is no clutter or static as I call it, I find my home to be simplistic in nature. I cannot even work on my art until everything is in its appropriate place. It is unnerving to me to feel crowded. 🙁

    • gretchenrubin

      A simplicity approach to abundance.

  • KcN

    I would also be in the “empty” category. If I am “too full” then I get overwhelmed and I start to shut down.

  • Susan

    I’m somewhere in the middle, I could go back and forth I’ve been in houses that have so much stuff in them I’m speechless, I don’t know where to look. I’ve also been in a home with nothing on any surfaces, very minimalist, and I didn’t like that either. Nor do I like too many choices, like standing in front of the toothpaste aisle, if I didn’t already have a favorite brand, I wouldn’t know where to start.

    I can’t imagine always feeling the same, like “I always want to feel empty”. Don’t people change from day to day………depending on what’s going on?

  • I don’t like to have too much of any one thing, certainly I do not overstock my pantry, but I like a motley abundance of various things. I invite company over to motivate me to create a bit of order of my chaos, but then don’t feel comfortable until it is a bit chaotic again after they are gone.

  • Kelly

    I think it depends on the context! I hate having extra supplies, or even extra food, hanging around–it feels so wasteful, and in the context of food, it often literally leads to throwing spoiled things away. So I tend to buy food for just a few days at a time. And I love the feeling of finishing a tube of shampoo, or toothpaste, or whatever, and being able to get rid of it. But in the rest of my life, I live for abundance–lots of friends, lots of activity, lots of ideas, lots of energy. Having too much stuff feels like it literally weighs me down and keeps me from channeling my abundance feelings into the things that matter most to me.

  • HL

    Oy. I used to be an abundance lover until I had children. Now I am a simplicity lover.

    • Alissa Ripley

      Me too! I grew up an abundance lover, we had two varieties of mayo and one miracle whip in our fridge, it was crazy! I crave simplicity now, and I love it!


  • Grandma Honey

    My first thought was schedules. I love empty days, where I can wake up and not have to go anywhere or do anything specifically. Those are rare days, but they feel better than the ones that are already filled up and planned out.

  • Michele Zacks

    Yes, I am a simplicity lover and my partner is an abundance lover. These categories help me see why his ways sometimes cause me stress. I am going to send this link to him right now.

  • Joey Clifton

    Great topic Gretchen. I’m definitely a simplicity lover. Like someone else on the feed I only have 1 key on my keyring, I hate my purse being full of receipts, we only buy things when we are close to needing them – food, toothpaste etc and clutter drives me potty – especially ornaments. It’s interesting to link it to a love of stillness…I definitely need the calm of nature and peace and quiet but there is a part of me that loves the hustle and bustle of a city from time to time…:)

  • It seems to me that this distinction is related to the prevention-promotion one. If you are promotion-oriented, you like full days, at the risk of being late/not doing things properly etc. If you are prevention (aka preservation)-oriented, you might prefer empty days, where you can have everything under control.
    As for the prevention-promotion distinction, one can check, within this blog, this link (and its further links):

  • Cynthia Miller

    I prefer simplicity with some bare spaces, minimal amounts of fabric/window “treatments”/pillows…..but I also find simplicity in having a stash of my everyday basics. When I open the second container, that item gets added to my grocery list. For me, there is nothing simple about running out of tooth paste and having to make a dash to the store.

  • Indianjoey

    just noticed this morning that my toothpaste is getting hard to squeeze; I know this will get more difficult by the day until I’m finally standing on it trying to get that extra dollop. I’ve put it off because I’m thinking of changing to a salt toothpaste but when I went online to buy it, the shipping charges cost as much as the paste, so I looked for a nearby store, but the closest one is Walmart’s and I don’t go there on principal, so maybe Target except the gas to get there will use up the shipping charges and I’m not even sure I should be putting that much salt in my mouth every day……so I guess I’m a very confused minimalist…..maybe

    • Maiasaura

      LOL, confusion! When my toothpaste gets hard to squeeze, I cut the tube in half with scissors and scrape it out, toothbrushful by toothbrushful. I’m that frugal, yep. But also, two thoughts: 1) Why isn’t shopping at Target rather than Walmart the same? They’re both big box. And 2) I bet you can make your own tooth powder really simply and cheaply. I am thinking baking soda, maybe salt (or not), a bit of peppermint EO?

      • jennifer

        A metal paint crimper would serve you well. I use it on my paint tubes to get the most out of them (that paint is expensive) but it works well on any tube.

  • MimiManderly

    I find that the simpler I make my life, the more abundant it feels. I don’t have collections. I don’t keep books I have read unless I plan to read them again or use them for reference. My closets are not crammed full; I just have basics that I actually wear in black and beige instead of things I hold on to “just in case”. If I haven’t used something in a year, I get rid of it. That being said, I also like to keep back-ups on my shelves of things like shampoo, toothpaste, coffee, broth, etc. Running out of a basic in the middle of one’s routine or while making dinner is neither simplicity nor abundance. It’s just a big pain in the butt that necessitates an unplanned trip to the store.

    • Cindy

      This is me! Maybe stocking up on necessities is related to preferring simplicity, because we don’t want to make extra trips, which waste time, energy, and gas.

  • Single Mom

    Think that whether you are a simplicity lover or an abundance lover changes depending on your life circumstances. When I was married without children, (and had a lot of extra time and energy), I was an abundance lover. Now that I am a single mother, (and feel there is never enough time or energy), I am a strong simplicity lover.

  • Elizabeth

    I think this is less about “stuff” than it is about a deep-seated preference (that may moderate over time). I don’t equate the original comments (“I always want to feel empty” or “I always want to feel full”) with possessions! I think they were referring to a more basic component of their personalities, i.e., preferring quiet, stillness, and Zen “emptiness” or hustle, bustle, and activity. Is there an introvert/extrovert connection here?

    • gretchenrubin

      Very astute…a very rich subject. I can’t wait to ask my empty/full friends to expand on what they meant, originally, by those comments.

  • Lesley

    I know I’m a simplicity lover, because when I start thinking smaller, cleaner, and simpler, I have a physical reaction to it. I relax, I breathe. I love that feeling. BUT, I think I am still drawn to abundance and that “full” feeling, because I associate meaning with that. A closet full of clothes I feel good wearing, a schedule full of friends I feel good around– that excites and engages me. There are things on both sides I could do without, sure, but I think for me not wanting to let go of some of those “full” feelings is about fear. I think sometimes we associate a have-not feeling with simplicity, even if subconsciously but after trying out simplicity we get to realize we already have everything. I am practicing this.

  • tracy

    Does it count that I am both? I dream of owning just 12 things, of simplicity, of serenity and yet am a bit of a packrat who can barely rearrange the furniture cz “that’s where it goes”.

  • Naomi

    I love all the deep thoughts on toothpaste! I am most definitely a simplicity lover. I like things clean, clear, simple, and straightforward. It doesn’t matter if they are tangible or intangible. I live with lovers of abundance (food, things, noise, people, etc) and I often find myself feeling frustrated when their abundance overflows into my simplicity. On the other hand, it makes me appreciate and enjoy simplicity so much more.

  • Holly

    I’m a prepared simplicity lover. I have several bottles of shampoos and several tubes of toothpaste. With one trip to the store, I have a closest full of what I need–when I need it. Having a few extra on hand makes me feel like I can spend more time doing what I want to do–instead of shopping.

    I like empty surfaces, neatly-organized, uncluttered drawers and closets. I’ll spend time decluttering to feel refreshed and recharged.

    • Lindsey Hinkle

      I second this exact sentiment! This is me as well.

    • Lisa

      This is me, too! I’d rather buy all of my toothpaste for the year at one time, or only go to the grocery store once a month.
      As far as non-consumables, I would happily rent a dumpster and throw half of our crap in it to free up space and time to do things we enjoy more.

  • Carrie

    Interesting that this came up today… and that I am not the only simplicity-lover married to an abundance-minded spouse!

  • Less stuff (tubes of toothpaste), more connections (conversations, friendships, events). I’m an extrovert who gets the willies at the thought of Costco…whatever that means.

  • opinionovator

    It makes sense that people would gravitate in one of these directions.
    My first instinct is that for me it depends on what kind of item, but I
    think I am just a hypocrite. I want to think that I am a simplicity
    lover. I want to have as few material possessions as I can. But I also
    can’t bring myself to throw things away, so stuff accumulates anyway. I
    don’t even know where it all comes from half the time. So am I an
    abundance lover, or just a cheap simplicity lover???

  • Marie

    I like the concept of simplicity, but I seems to be unable to fully achieve it. I guess I’m in the middle between the two.

  • Caroline Roberts

    I think it can be more than just abundance/simplicity of material things. Someone once asked me “are you a Simplifier or a Complicator?” She was talking about the painting process, but it applies to much of my life. I’m a Complicator. If you asked me to pick just one book to read at a time I would panic. I have to continually resist the urge to add things (interests, activities, volunteering) to my life.
    Except when it comes to my schedule: then I want to see plenty of unscheduled time. That, I think, has more to do with being an introvert and valuing stillness and thought-time.
    “Be regular and ordinary in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” Flaubert

    • Lisa

      This quote is amazing – what wonderful perspective for giving room and margin in one’s life to do what is most enriching!

    • Nina

      I think that this describes me pretty well. Thank you!

  • Megan Gordon

    Simplicity. I am working at simplifying my life and my possessions. I want less so I can do more.

  • Jennifer

    I love this idea! I’m definitely a simplicity-lover, and it’s only recently that I realized this and came to accept it as a legitimate preference (as opposed to something wrong with me).

    For the longest time I thought I just had no sense of style because I could never find artwork that I wanted to put up on my walls, or decorative objects to put around my home. People would describe my apartment as “austere” or “spartan”. And then I finally realized that the problem wasn’t a lack of style on my part, it was that having minimal stuff and almost no decoration actually is my style! I love seeing open spaces, empty surfaces all around me – it gives me a feeling of peacefulness and serenity. When I stumbled upon the idea of the traditional Japanese room design of “Washitsu” (, I finally realized that minimalism and emptiness actually *are* a style and something clicked in me. Suddenly my resistance to surrounding myself with stuff and decorations made sense and I decided to embrace this aspect of myself, rather than continue on my fruitless quest to find the right objects/decorations/furniture to fill my home with to make it more conventional. Much happiness ensued!

  • This American Wife

    I think there’s something to this distinction. I love the idea of simplicity and find that I really want every single thing in my home to have a place it belongs – but in actuality, I buy multiples of everything because I like having a supply (we have a large family) and I like to have, for example, scissors upstairs and scissors downstairs.

    • HEHink

      Agreed – although I have yet to make a place for everything in my home. It’s something I’m aiming for. But I like the scissor comment. Sometimes having a few more of the right possessions actually makes life simpler. Less time running around to get what you need, fewer trips to the store, etc.

    • HEHink

      Agreed – although I have yet to make a place for everything in my home. It’s something I’m aiming for. But I like the scissor comment. Sometimes having a few more of the right possessions actually makes life simpler. Less time running around to get what you need, fewer trips to the store, etc.

  • Peninith1

    I know I am an ‘abundance’ person–I always want to have lots of choice of sounds, textures, smells, sights, and tastes to enjoy. This of course can lead to physical overcrowding and mental cacaphony–I am constantly working to pare down to something more serene. I am sure this attitude is also a contributor to my weight problem–I would never want to simplify to the extent of eating almost the same breakfast and lunch every day, as I have observed some of my simplicity loving friends do. And minimalist environments make me feel uncomfortable, even though I recognize their elegance. The Zen or monastic beauty of emptiness is appealing to me, in very small doses, but I doubt I would ever be able to achieve or enjoy that in my home.

  • Something to consider asking your empty/full friends, too, is WHY they choose one or the other. I choose simplicity in some areas (e.g. one really good pair of leather walking shoes) because it frees me to be abundant (in time and energy) in others.

    Conversely, I chose abundance (e.g. having a good stock of basic supplies or food) because it frees me to be abundant in time and energy not spent gathering the basics.

    This kind of efficiency gives me options. I like having options — whether to be still or busy, empty or full, on any given day, able to respond to changing circumstances.

  • LizCat

    I think one’s background has an affect as well. I love simplicity in theory…but having grown up with little, I tend toward abundance in practice.

  • I have two different takes on this. TAKE 1: When going on a long (charity) bike ride, I see both types. The guys with stuff strapped on every part of the bike so they could survive months (even though it is a day ride and we’ll end up at a place where our bags will be waiting for us) and the other guys who have the clothes on their backs, no spare tire tubes, no rain jacket, nothing. I think the middle approach (what I learned in the Boy Scouts) is best. “Be Prepared” which means equip yourself for what’s expected or needed. TAKE 2: There’s a saying I cannot quote correctly about when one dies, they want to be completely used up and be at peace with the thought of having left nothing behind. This resonates with me as life should be well spent and completely spent. With this mindset, one is hopefully present and fully engaged. The opposite (being full), makes me sad because there would be so many things left behind that were not used and so many good deeds and experiences which were left undone or not done…

  • I am a HUGE lover of order and simplicity (although not to the exclusion of beauty and comfort). For me it’s all about sensitivity and overstimulation – having things around me neat and uncluttered reduces visual input, and having a feeling of control over my environment keeps me calmer and more productive. This is partly a personality issue, as I’m an INTJ, and that’s a type that tends to be neater in general.

    It’s also a sense of not wanting to be tied down by my possessions, if ever I move, or just lose everything for some reason. I feel a lot safer having less, because then I have less to care for, move, upkeep, and potentially lose.

    But the result is that everyone comes over and falls asleep in my rooms, because they’re so ridiculously soothing! I’m amazed that I can stay awake in them myself. 🙂

  • Kate

    Much in keeping with my overall ‘ambivert’ personality, I go back and forth on the full/empty continuum. (Ambivert means someone who is between an extrovert and an introvert.) I test precisely in the middle of the extrovert/introvert range on all the tests I’ve taken. In fact, my workplace recently did a training based on a sort of Meyers-Briggs extensive test, and the professional leading it even pointed out to the group how “unique” my results were, she’d never had anyone with a profile similar to mine in her years of leading this training.

    An example: I recently went on vacation with my sister to stay with a friend of mine. Part of me was longing for the company and the fullness of sharing a home for a week with two people I love and of course all the activities that go into a vacation, including a dinner party for 20 that was thrown while we there! And while I was there, I literally felt myself soaking up all the busy connectedness like a true extrovert.

    But at some stage on the trip, there was a tipping point and I found myself just as sincerely longing for my quieter, emptier home where I live alone and starting to feel, an introvert, a bit overwhelmed by presence (no matter how loving) and attention and fullness and longing to feel still and empty.

    But I know this about myself and although sometimes I may mystify others with my back and forth needs, I know that for me to be happy I have to balance between the full and the empty. Not with a “middle” ground, but with a pendulum between the two states.
    Reading other comments, I think this might true for a number of us readers here!

    • Marie

      Blimey! Did you read my mind?! I like the pendulum idea – I see absolutely everything as a continuum and in shades of grey (NOT the book of the same name). Interesting concept of a pendulum, it makes perfect sense that people aren’t static.

  • HEHink

    I’m wondering if the originators of these two statements want almost the same thing…but are wording it a different way. Perhaps one wants to be “empty” of what weighs her down, while the other one wants to be “full” of what buoys her up. I’m picturing a helium balloon. It appears to be empty, light, weightless. There is nothing heavy to hold it down. But in reality, it’s full of helium, which is what allows it to float. Interesting paradox.

    • Karen

      I really enjoyed your view on that comment. It made me smile and feel peaceful to think of an abundance of lightness. Thank you.

  • AnneL

    This is fascinating – I like the idea of a simplicity/abundance dichotomy but from reading everyone’s notes below, it seems that there are multiple takes on what that might mean. And there is a tendency (in myself as well) to see simplicity as the more virtuous option. Having said that, a quick look around my living room suggests that I’m definitely in the abundance camp as regards objects – I want the physical reminders of the experiences of my life around me. I always want to make more food than my dinner guests can eat. I wonder if the question is more: Are you afraid of not having enough or of having too much?

    • gretchenrubin

      I agree, I think simplicity is often held up as the ideal and yet there is so much to be said for abundance as well.
      Really, a matter of self-knowledge, what is more comfortable and pleasing to each individual.

      • DancingBrenda

        Gretchen, I agree simplicity is the model. I grew up in a house so clean and organized it could go on the market at the drop of a hat. Through my 20s and 30s, I rebelled by buying stuff, piling things up, essentially making a big mess. Two things changed it: I realized I missed order. And, after the recession, I couldn’t afford to go on shopping binges any more. I have weeded out at least half of my possessions. will never be as neat as my mom, but I am finding a middle ground that suits where I am now, mentally and financially.

  • Rushi Shah

    Hi Gretchen! I think I used to be abundance lover when I was young but as I grew up, I somehow started liking the simplicity of having minimal things. It is like you tend to feel open and happier when you do not have much things to lose. You are just happy with your bare minimum things.

  • Marfta

    Abundance! The toothpaste example, it’s just so true. If there’s something I use often, and it runs out, I always have a back-up. True wether it’s yarn, nailpolish, sanitary towels, shampoo. But only for things that run out.
    This post somehow made clear to me that there’s a distinction between this and hoarding (which I definitely have in my family). Thank you. I feel much more healthy and normal now.

  • Sharon

    My husband and I are both artists. When I make work, I add / attach things to the surface, but when I keep house, I want to release clutter. When he makes work, he carves / removes things from the surface, but he’s a magpie around the house and likes to keep everything. For us I would say it depends on the area of your life.

  • Sally

    One similar concept is the idea of maximizing, where people who maximize like options, choices, and seek to maximize their experience by picking the best choices. This involves making sure they have plenty of choices.

    As a long-time maximizer who wanted to make sure I was taking advantage of all my options, I’m now seeking simplicity in most areas of my life. Still like to have my options when it comes to long-term purchases though! (That’s what the internet is for..)

    One major finding is that maximizing everything has detrimental effects on your happiness (I know that firsthand). It causes regret because you can’t possibly access and choose from every choice, plus it’s overwhelming to deal with all those options. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with abundance and having things if they don’t hinder your life, but I would advise against maximizing too much.

  • Anna Pham

    For me it really depends, when I am at good mood then pretty much I will be in the abundance category, but when I am down, I probably want to feel nothing.

  • Katie

    I actually know people who feel happier when they are hungry and those who feel happier when they are full from eating.

    I hate making decisions, so I prefer simplicity…although I am not always very good at it.

    Another thought…Doesn’t it seem that most elderly people prefer abundance? Cluttered cupboards, shelves, and rooms.

    • KT

      I think that is because many elderly have accumulated stuff over their long lives. Those that grew up in the Depression era also learned a fear of not having enough which makes it difficult for them to let go of things. However, I had an elderly aunt who, later in life, opted for simplicity. She pared down to only her favorite things (like a book of poems by Rumi), her favorite jewelry, and things she needed to use. Her reasoning was that she did not want someone else to be burdened with having to let to of her things when she left this world.

  • Angela Kiwi

    When I read this, I thought ‘that sums up the difference between my husband and I’. Reading comments below, obviously there are thirty shades of grey on this subject, but it does sum up a basic urge. More or less. I like to have plenty of options with: clothes, books,movies, music, shoes and stuff the cupboards full of them (but try to leave the
    benches clear as that pleases my chap enormously) and he likes
    the opposite: empty shelves. And, in thinking about this I am a glass half full type and he is a glass half empty.

  • Heather N. Paxton

    My mother, Millie, and I had a similar conversation often in the last years of her life. Millie would say, “Time is the enemy,” and I would say, “Time is all we have.”

  • Diet Schmiet

    I crave simplicity… but think I perform better in times of abundance.

  • Becky Holston Fleming

    I think it CAN be a distinction, but not a clear one.

    I love simplicity. I regularly clean out my closet to get rid of unused or underused clothes, I try my hardest to keep my house clean and ordered, I get rid of stuff frequently. I would rather get rid of something and later wish I had it rather than hold onto something forever and never need/use it.

    But. I also get trapped with stuff. I always find something that I “need” whenever I go to target or thrift stores. I want more things, different things.

    For me, though, the simple/abundant thing is about MORE than stuff. It is about my mind and my schedule. I like to keep my life uncluttered, slower, and more simple so that I can enjoy the good and abundant things in life. So, this means I tend to spend less time doing things that don’t really make me happier or a better person, like watching tv, partying, Facebook, etc.) than I do with things that make my life better (like friends, outdoors, reading, baking, and family).

    Essentially, I like my life to be simple so that I can enjoy the abundance. My life can be full because it is simple.

  • phoenix

    I love this distinction. I am an abundance person. In thinking to my response to “is this time different” when I realized that often with goal making, my problem is that I shift to another priority, I wonder whether abundance or simplicity approaches have an affect on goal keeping?

  • lu

    I think i like both, it depends on the time. Sometimes i like to acumulate, collect, open my options, when I feel that there is too much, then I start to get rid of what I don’t need, but just to make space to mooore good things enter.

  • Kimberly

    Dichotomies overly simplify concepts. That simplification makes me feel uncomfortable. I can think of too many exceptions to the category. So does that put you in the camp of simplifiers (maker of dichotomies), and me in Camp Abundance?
    Oh dear, doesn’t it all go round and round!

  • Grace

    I would like to be in the simplicity group, but I think that an abundance of stuff that I am working on getting rid of in the month. My major problem is paper and where it should go. I toss junk mail, so the mail I keep needs to be acted upon and I am not always able to find them when I need them.

  • Mardur

    I knew an elderly widow, with post-polio syndrome. She removed lots of ‘stuff’ from her house, moved her washer and dryer from the basement to an upstairs closet, made up packets of photos to give to her children, etc. The result was that her home had a lovely feel, and it alsow as without dangers–nothing to knock into or trip–and it was now easy to maintian.

  • Michaela

    I’m always in a conflict between my desire for space and simplicity, but at the same time, my need for abundance. For example, I always have at least two different shower gels in use.
    But I’m getting better, using soft restraint and taking baby steps. Simplicity makes me feel calmer.

  • Norma

    I’m definitely a “simplicity” person. I retired a few years ago and we sold our huge house and moved to a small 2 bedroom cottage. We sold most of our furniture and other stuff. I cannot even begin to express how wonderful it is to have less stuff! We are in an active adult resort community now and love the activities and being with others who share interests with us much more than we enjoyed our stuff.

  • Leah

    When I met my husband, I realized how wise he was to always have extras of certain things: toilet paper, paper towels, light bulbs, batteries, toothpaste and even toothbrushes. This was so much less stressful than the way I did things, which was to try to remember to either write these things down on a list or just remember them on the next trip to the store when I was about to run out (or in the case of batteries and light bulbs, when things had stopped working).

    My point is that your division of simplicity versus abundance is really interesting, but I wonder if your example of toothpaste (one tube versus two or more) is not the best to really get at the difference. As Don Murphy said, that is just about being prepared. You did describe it in other terms, but it was easy to latch on to the toothpaste example!

    What about using things such as clothing, books, furnishings.

    (Also, there seems to be assumption that abundance means messy and cluttered while simplicity means neat and orderly. I think to really get at abundance and simplicity, you need to take the other dimension out of it.)

    Just for fun, I looked for some examples on Houzz of living rooms could be a good examples of abundance and simplicity, while still being neat and orderly.



  • KT

    I am an under-buyer, so I am more likely to have 1 tube of toothpaste. I find I vacillate between simplicity and abundance depending on my life circumstances. If I am overwhelmed with major circumstances or decisions for a long period of time, I get the desire to move to the desert … clean lines, bare surfaces. When my life calms down, I feel more comfortable with stuff – have less fear of losing what I may have – and imagine a cozy home with my collection of books and framed family photos…. a place to nest.

  • Anj

    I don’t know if people are generally abundance or simplicity lovers across both lifestyle AND environment. I like simple surroundings and an abundant lifestyle. These help me to feel simultaneously empty (clearer headed and in the moment) and full (of a rich and varied life). I like the concept though, it’s an interesting way of looking at things.

  • I’m a bit of both… I love an abundance of experiences but crave simplicity when it comes to objects.

    New adventures energize me but more objects drain me of energy.

    Interesting point to ponder…

    Elizabeth Grace Saunders

  • Nina

    I think that I like the feeling of emptiness that I get when alone, when sitting outside stargazing or listening to the rain. I like that feeling, but it is a different kind of full- a sort of being inside out and being full not of what’s in you, but of what is around you.

  • More and more, I enjoy simplicity. Not an easy feat with kids. So many toys, projects, papers, schedule-related emails. I’ve started paring down just a little bit every day. I’m loving the order and the (relative) minimalism. And, boy, did I need it — I cleaned out the pencil drawer in the kitchen and found THIRTY-NINE pens/pencils/markers and SIX rulers!

  • Janice

    I’m not so sure this is a dichotomy between people, instead of within ourselves. At least, that’s how it is for me. I want simplicity in most of my life: decluttering my environment and decluttering my mind from worries over money, etc. by living simply, and most recently, shifting from abundance to simplicity in work, by retiring to focus on writing and volunteer work. But I want abundance in a few parts of my life: social connections, good food, books! Maybe the question is really, where do we want simplicity and where do we want abundance in our lives?

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  • ng

    I am a simplifier. I like cozy minimalism and I am very intention with ‘stuff’. It allows me to feel free.

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  • There is an amazing book titled Simple Abundance that has helped to shape my perspectives. I often feel so completely full and empty at the same time, simply abundant.

  • whatever1959

    i like for things to be simple and minimal but i like to have what is necessary to make things efficient…for example, my kitchen counter tops are pretty sparse with a lot of open space yet, in the kitchen i have 3 drawers with a pair of scissors in the very front of the drawer so that there is always one convenient…i also have a pair in the bathroom drawer and one in a bedroom drawer…i have 14 boxes of tissues all over the house so that no matter where you are when you need one, there is one within reach or at the most within a step or two or on your way from place to place in the house. so i am not sure how i would fit into these catagories…

    • P Seth

      It’s clear you like to be well stocked – having enough and more, so you NEVER run out of anything; but you can’t stand clutter. My wife is very similar. Surprisingly, my daughter is the exact opposite – she always buys in small quantities (often daily and at much higher rates) but her kitchen, her drawers, her fridge (especially the freezer compartment) is always crammed. But, she’s a free soul; and nothing seems to fluster her. What about you – can you brush off the greatest calamity or do the smallest irritants get you all uptight?

      • whatever1959

        it depends on the situation…if it’s something i don’t feel is necessary, if others make things harder than they have to be, or if their lack of planning/preparedness falls on me, i have no patience. ..and that is especially true if i am tired, then it’s really a struggle. i have been known to be very effective in times of real crisis…but my idea of a crisis is not someone’s self created drama or self created consequences that they don’t want to deal with.

        • P Seth

          Sounds so familiar!

  • Janeen Daftary

    I am a simplicity lover. Love things sparse and free of clutter. I also am an opener, not a finisher. But I only want one thing open at a time, so I would not have a collection of toiletries for example. Guess that goes hand in hand with my simplicity nature. I love thinking about the categories you come up with. It really helps in understanding my self 🙂

  • Rebecca

    I love these categories, but I struggle to conclusively put myself into just one of the two. I don’t think that’s a problem – perhaps it means I sit in another category altogether: the suffuser?

  • I think I like both. I love cleaning out my closet and making space. I love having a clean kitchen counter. But it also is very important to me always to have a full stock of basics like toilet paper in the house.

    Is it possible to be a hybrid of the two?

  • Char

    Funny, I’d say I am a simplicity lover, but also a maximiser, and an underbuyer… wonder if this makes sense as a whole, as I see some resemblance between all these!

  • Deb

    I dount that people fit neatly into two categories. I like simplicity in some things and abundance in others. I like my house to feel warm and abundant but simple and uncluttered at the same time. I like to just keep the clothes I wear, but for those clothes to be special and colourful.

  • fred

    hoarders / clutter ?

  • Ltpar

    Depending on the economic times and resources available, I worked under both catagories. Most of the time was as a simplicity lover where we were trying to get the most bang for the buck. I was always very creative in managing my budget and moving funding around to meet the needs at hand. This philosophy carried over to my personal life where our family always had what we needed, but never indulged ourselves in excess. We invested rather than spend and today have a very comfortable retirement lifestyle thanks to that foresight.

  • Beth

    I like simple unrushed times. Don’t like being pushed and rushed all the time. Want to be busy in my day, but not crazy. I am an old fashioned type of gal who enjoys the simple life. I like classic looking, simple looking things. The less clutter I can have in the house the best!~

  • Liz Maythenyi

    I’m chiming in on the issue “abundance lovers–prefer to have more, fullness, overflow, collections, many choices, … Does this go with a love of buzz?”
    For me, the answer is No! I am an abundance lover who’s uncomfortable with buzz and hubbub… I craves emotional and mental tranquility. I need to know that the tissues and scissors (and lighter and nail file and coffee mug coaster) are present in every room, and that my cupboards hold a remedy for every imaginable medical or cosmetic need, household repair or flavor craving (ooh… condiments!) … but because that’s what gives me PEACE of mind!

    • gretchenrubin

      So interesting to hear…I’d come to this conclusion myself, that they weren’t related.

  • Amaury

    I have a tendency against dichotmoy and other forms of perceived dualism. This perceived sense of ‘this or that’ seems to have caused so much suffering throughout human history that I come to an abrupt hault and exceptional wearyness at contemplating material in that light. One thing I did read once that felt less strict and/or threatening when I read it, and reminds me of what you’re doing here, was the section in the Teachings of Don Juan where he begins to elabaorate about the female and male archtypes, specifially breaking up aspects of the female charcaters in North, South, East and West (winds or directions); “The first is the east. She is called order… The second is the north. She is called strength… The third is the west. She is called feeling… The fourth is the south. She is called growth.” but by the end of the passage you’ve read through it and all and realize that depending on the point at your life (age, linear time) and circumstances (space), we all embody some combination of each wind, or direction. I found this notion more comforting- he basically writes, you can chanel any wind or direction as long as you are present in the moment.

  • The Threelegged Duck

    a) I prefer tortoises and hares, it’s more fun and clear as an imagery for me, brings me back to Aesop’s fables. Marathoners and Sprinters just makes me feel bad I don’t exercise enough.

    b) I believe in artificially simplifying life for the sake of interesting conversations so I like that you divide the world into categories. Beatles or Elvis? Trekkie or Star Wars? When you divide the world in two categories like Simplicity or Abundance, it’s implied that you end up with three categories: Simplicity, Abundance and the people in the middle who don’t have a definite adherence to either or to whom it doesn’t apply. Elvis or Beatles or I don’t listen to music. Star Trek or Star Wars or I’m not into SciFi.

    c) I definitely strive for emptiness, Zen, lack of belongings, a bare closet, a uniform wardrobe, one pair of shoes, absolute minimal makeup and beauty products, one comb, bare surfaces, white walls. Silence. Quiet. Too much noise, too much choice, too many things makes me uncomfortable and I’m forever giving clothes away, paring down my possessions.

  • This is super helpful in helping me understand some of the conflicts between me and my husband. He has a high need for simplicity and I have a high need for abundance. As you can imagine, each need steps on the other’s toes on a regular basis. Your post helps me understand my husband and my marriage in a new way!

  • Dawn Campbell

    I believe I was trained in simplicity, by parents and family. However, natural growth, curiosity about life, makes me pursue abundance. I think I radiate back to simplicity generally.

  • Lovely just what I was searching for.Thanks to the author for taking his time on this one.

  • Sihui

    I think this category might be related to one’s need for control/security. At least when it is about home supplies. Like with the overbuyer/underbuyer category: If I overbuy I avoid ever running out of soap and therefore I can feel safe in the knowledge that I will never have to improvise/go to a store at a late our. It helps me as a person anxious not to have enough soap/be well prepared for every situation to stay in my soap comfort zone.

  • Love this idea. I’ll be sharing on my own blog to see what responses I get! I would definitely categorize myself as an ‘abundance lover’ but it’s definitely not about a ‘buzz’ –quite the contrary: being surrounded by abundance is grounding for me. Open, bare, white, etc. spaces make me feel uncomfortably disconnected. It feels like a dangerous free-for-all, as if my internal sparkle is being sucked into a million different directions into a massive Void. Wow, realizing I have lots of thoughts about this. I’ll link to my own blog post on the topic once I write it! 😉