The 4 Pillars of Too Much

When our blessings become a burden, it's time to take stock
By Mollie Donghia
Mollie Donghia
Mollie Donghia
Mollie (and her husband, Mike) blog at This Evergreen Home where they share their experience with living simply, intentionally, and relationally in this modern world. You can follow along by subscribing to their twice-weekly newsletter.
October 24, 2021 Updated: October 24, 2021

Most places we look, our culture is promoting a model of “more.” Many of us live in a flourishing society, where financial growth, professional achievement, and material possessions are highly regarded—for obvious reasons.

We seek more spending to satisfy our constantly growing desire, more information so our minds are always stimulated, more novelty so we’re never bored, and more speed to maximize productivity and minimize downtime.

Since entering the “adult world” upon graduating from college and getting married, I realized how easy the desire for more had become. Our first year of marriage was characterized by a very limited budget from all our college debt. That forced us to walk to the library to get free wi-fi every day, eat out at restaurants only for very special occasions, and shop at discount grocery stores to keep our food spending low.

This year of limited spending felt so good. However, once college debt was paid off and we purchased our first home, I remember feeling the pull of wanting more–even if our annual incomes and new mortgage payments didn’t support that kind of spending.

I think many can relate to this feeling of wanting to “keep up with the Joneses.” It is a main culprit of why we desire more in the first place.

When More Becomes Too Much

For the last month, I’ve been immersed in a wonderful book by Kim John Payne, called “Simplicity Parenting.” It’s taught me valuable ways to nourish children’s souls, simplify their home environment, and create healthy rhythms and schedules.

I’ve taken countless notes and already thought about ways to implement Payne’s teaching in our parenting habits. I’ve also realized that what holds true for children can be true about our lives as adults as well.

Payne says, “Our world is characterized by the 4 pillars of too much.”

The 4 Pillars of Too Much

  1. Too much stuff
  2. Too many choices
  3. Too much information
  4. Too much speed

We’ve made our lives so full—of things, commitments, choices, and rushing from one thing to the next.

I believe that to avoid the modern-day trap of having too much, we need to learn how the power of less can truly simplify our physical and mental spaces. It’s also important to know our weaknesses when it comes to the four pillars.

For me, this is having far fewer clothing choices in my closet. It’s also leaving more margin in my monthly schedule to devote to homeschooling my daughter, writing for our blog, and spending quality time with my family. It can even mean choosing to shop at a grocery store where there are limited choices of each item, which allows me to make quicker decisions and limit my impulse buying.

I realize that having too much is a dilemma that people in some countries would find unfathomable. I don’t take this matter lightly. How privileged we are to have such needs met, comforts satisfied, and the ability to declutter an entire home and still have enough.

But when we can recognize the areas where we’ve gained “too much” and learn to simplify our habits, spending, and consumption, what we gain is not only more money in our pockets but also more freedom from the overwhelm of clutter and busyness.

So how can we find ways to avoid the problems that come with too much?

How to Avoid Too Much Stuff

Apply the 48-hour rule. Being the gatekeeper of our home, I try to apply the “48-hour rule” as often as possible. Hold off on purchasing an item (unless it’s essential) for 48 hours to see if you still feel the same need to purchase it after that time is up. Chances are you’ll change your mind and decide you were able to manage just fine without it.

Pare down your wardrobe. Take a deep look at your closet. Aim to keep only what you actually wear and love. Discard anything that has holes/stains/needs mending or you haven’t worn in the past year.

One in, One out. If you keep adding without discarding, your home will be filled beyond what you can keep up with. When a new item enters your home (a piece of clothing, a new toy, a book), consider choosing an item that you can donate or discard to make room for the new one.

Too Many Choices

Stick to a meal schedule. Thanks to Pinterest, we have more than enough options of what to make for dinner each night. But why do so many people (including myself) struggle to make dinner planning easier? There are too many choices, which actually overwhelms our decision-making process. Try making a list of your family’s favorite 8 or 10 meals. Stick to making only those meals for a season. It’s more decisive and less costly since you’ll use the same ingredients more often.

Rotate your children’s toys. When our kids have fewer options of what to play with, they’re able to stay focused for longer periods of time and become more creative with their play. We use large plastic tubs to store toys in for a few weeks or months at a time. When the kids need a change, we grab those bins and cycle them in while putting other toys away for a duration of time.

Keep simple routines. Don’t try to add dozens of new routines to your day in hopes that it’ll magically transform your life. Instead, choose a few habits or routines and take those simple ideas seriously. Once those are mastered, feel free to move on to a new routine. The real task is staying focused on just one idea and taking it seriously until you’ve learned it well.

Too Much Information

Fast from social media. During seasons that I need a break or feel more overwhelmed, one of the first things I do is take an intentional fast from social media. It’s refreshing not to feel pressured to keep up with others’ lives so that I can be more present with those around me during that time.

Limit your news consumption. Staying up-to-date with local and world news is important, but our culture has turned to so many sources of news that it often becomes a source of unneeded stress. Instead of using 3 to 4 different news sources (TV, newspaper, online, social media, and so on), stick to one reputable source. My husband, Mike, reads the newspaper every day. He finds a less dramatic portrayal of events and a finite number of stories to grab his attention this way.

Too Much Speed

Leave more margin. Are your evenings so full that it’s hard to find time for a family meal or an after-dinner walk? If possible, aim to leave a few evenings free from obligations and activities. Limit the number of extracurricular activities the kids are involved in. Make designated time to enjoy life’s free pleasures, like visiting friends and relaxing in nature.

Stop trying to multitask. When we try to accomplish too many tasks at once, we’re more likely to become distracted, overwhelmed, or inefficient. I’ve found so much success in creating a 3-item to-do list. I’ll do one task at a time, stay focused until it’s completed, then move on to the next one on my list. Life isn’t solely about productivity, but also enjoying the journey.

Having a lot of something isn’t always a bad thing, but when having too much becomes a source of stress, or we lose contentment for what we have, or it causes us to keep desiring more and more, then we will find more benefit in taking steps toward slowing down, reducing, and limiting what we have.

This article was originally published on This Evergreen Home.

Mollie (and her husband, Mike) blog at This Evergreen Home where they share their experience with living simply, intentionally, and relationally in this modern world. You can follow along by subscribing to their twice-weekly newsletter.