The value of less

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In 2019 we started planning for a new house. I started sketching layouts because I didn't know what our needs were. It's kinda hard discussing budget with construction companies if you have no idea what you want to ask from them.

A field of clouds with an opening in the center, showing a single mountain peak.

Drawing houses was fun. With every iteration I felt like getting closer to an ideal living space. With every iteration, it's also really easy to add something. A bit of space here, another room there... when you're not paying (yet), it's easy to dream big.

What I discovered is that I didn't want big. I went for as little space as we needed. Every bit of space you add to a sketch doesn't just add construction costs (which is plenty already). It also means you have to heat (or cool) it. You need to keep an eye on it, and maintain it when necessary. When it's broken, you probably want to fix it.

With everything you add and gain in your life, you become bigger and less flexible. You gain responsibilities and have more to lose. It's like the real life version of technical debt.

It made me realize that keeping my house as small as possible, would make me the happiest. Upfront costs are a front.

It also gave me a new mindset to think about choices. Let's say you want sustainable energy and can't pick between wind, sun or nuclear. Now I'm no specialist on sustainable energy. I don't know what the long term impact is. I'm not even sure if I can be sure. What I do know is that whatever I pick, I always have control over one factor that improve sustainability. I can consume less energy. That's always better.

Organic food. Is it better for the person consuming? Is it better for the planet? I don't have the energy to find out exactly what's the smartest choice. There are so many factors. I do know one thing. It's always good to eat less. To waste less. That's one thing that lessens my impact on earth's resources for sure.

I believe this mindset transfers to many choices and technology is not excluded. I also think it aligns with what Jeremy Keith writes about how he works, in his book Resilient web Design:

Make that functionality available using the simplest possible technology.

We might not always be able to make the best choices from a set of options. But we can always aim for less. Stay agile and flexible.

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