Less Stuff, More Happiness

Published: 7.26.2017
Level 4   |   Time: 5:49
Accent: American
Source: TED Talks

Graham Hill discusses if having less stuff can lead to more happiness.


triangle Directions

  1. REVIEW the vocabulary / background.
  2. WATCH the video.
  3. ANSWER the questions.
  4. CHECK your answers. (Show Answers)

triangle Vocabulary

  • three times the amount [exp] - 200% more
  • plenty [n] - a lot
  • an industry [n] - a business type
  • triple the space [exp] - 3 times more space
  • an environmental footprint [exp] - the impact of your actions on the environment
  • flat-line [v] - go to zero
  • I bet [v] - I think
  • at some point [exp] - at some time
  • rig up [v] - to make quickly
  • among other things [exp] - just one example
  • further something [v] - continue/add to something
  • crowd-sourcing [exp] - making a group project
  • kite surfing [v] - [image]
  • entries [n] - ideas
  • jewel box [n] - box of expensive jewelry (ideas here)
  • utilities [n] - bills (gas, electric, etc)
  • edited set of possessions [exp] - selected possessions
  • approach [n] - method
  • ruthlessly [adv] - roughly with no kindness
  • arteries [n] - pathway for blood (life)
  • let it go [exp] - throw it out
  • extraneous [n] - extra stuff
  • stem the inflow [exp] - stop getting new stuff
  • by all means [exp] - of course
  • 200 grand [exp] - 200 thousand dollars
  • efficiency [n] - using all of it
  • the vast majority of the time [exp] - most of the time
  • nest [v] - gather together
  • digitized [adj] - electronic; not material
  • multifunctional [adj] - more than one purpose
  • a scheme [n] - a plan
  • a render [n] - a model
  • transformer [adj] - can change shape

[n] - noun,  [v] - verb,  [phv] - phrasal verb,  [adj] - adjective,  [exp] - expression

triangle Questions

  1. What do we know about the box?
    He has taken it with him wherever he moved.
    He has traveled with it.
    It must be important.
    It's not that important.

  2. How much space do Americans have?
    three times more than 50 years ago
    less space than 50 years ago
    900% more than 50 years ago

  3. What is true about the new industry?
    It is worth $22,000,000,000 US.
    It is 2,200,000,000 square feet.
    It is in one town.
    It is the industry of personal storage.

  4. What is different about America today from 50 years ago?
    loss of credit card debt
    lots of credit card debt
    huge footprints have been found in the desert
    there is more happiness

  5. What does Graham suggest?
    less stress
    less stuff
    less spending
    less space

  6. How much money did he save by getting a smaller apartment?
    200 dollars
    20,000 dollars
    200,000 dollars
    2,000,000 dollars

  7. What did he do to his possessions?
    edited them
    kept everything
    threw some stuff away
    kept his favorite stuff

  8. How should we design our stuff?
    for normal use
    for unique use
    for a rare event
    for highest value

  9. What furniture combinations does he mention?
    sink and shower
    toilet and shower
    table and bed
    small and big table

  10. What is Graham saying?
    Everyone should live in a tiny apartment.
    Everyone should live in a hotel.
    Everyone should edit their lives.
    Everyone should own less than 3 bags.

triangle Discussion

  1. Are you more of a minimalist (keep few things) or a packrat (keep everything)? Why?
  2. If you are a packrat, why do you have trouble throwing things away?
  3. Would you rather live in a house with a yard or an apartment in the city? Why?
  4. How often do you "edit ruthlessly"? (i.e. find your useless things and throw them away.)
  5. Think of three things that you could throw away when you go home. What are they?
  6. How many t-shirts/skirts/pairs of pants do you own? How many do you need?
  7. Do you prefer collecting CDs and DVDs or just storing your media on a hard drive or your phone?
  8. How do you feel about his sink/toilet? Would you want it in your home?
  9. How would you feel about living in a single room (sleep, cook, eat, study and relax in the same room)?
  10. If you lived alone, how many rooms would you need? (a separate bedroom? a separate kitchen? a separate dining room?)

triangle Script

What's in the box? Whatever it is must be pretty important, because I've traveled with it, moved it, from apartment to apartment to apartment.

Sound familiar? Did you know that we Americans have about three times the amount of space we did 50 years ago? Three times. So you'd think, with all this extra space, we'd have plenty of room for all our stuff. Nope. There's a new industry in town, a 22 billion-dollar, 2.2 billion sq. ft. industry: that of personal storage. So we've got triple the space, but we've become such good shoppers that we need even more space. So where does this lead? Lots of credit card debt, huge environmental footprints, and perhaps not coincidentally, our happiness levels flat-lined over the same 50 years.

Well I'm here to suggest there's a better way, that less might actually equal more. I bet most of us have experienced at some point the joys of less: college -- in your dorm, traveling -- in a hotel room, camping -- rig up basically nothing, maybe a boat. Whatever it was for you, I bet that, among other things, this gave you a little more freedom, a little more time. So I'm going to suggest that less stuff and less space are going to equal a smaller footprint. It's actually a great way to save you some money. And it's going to give you a little more ease in your life.

So I started a project called Life Edited at lifeedited.org to further this conversation and to find some great solutions in this area. First up: crowd-sourcing my 420 sq. ft. apartment in Manhattan with partners Mutopo and Jovoto.com. I wanted it all -- home office, sit down dinner for 10, room for guests, and all my kite surfing gear. With over 300 entries from around the world, I got it, my own little jewel box. By buying a space that was 420 sq. ft. instead of 600, immediately I'm saving 200 grand. Smaller space is going to make for smaller utilities --save some more money there, but also a smaller footprint. And because it's really designed around an edited set of possessions -- my favorite stuff -- and really designed for me, I'm really excited to be there.

So how can you live little? Three main approaches. First of all, you have to edit ruthlessly. We've got to clear the arteries of our lives. And that shirt that I hadn't worn in years? It's time for me to let it go. We've got to cut the extraneous out of our lives, and we've got to learn to stem the inflow. We need to think before we buy. Ask ourselves, "Is that really going to make me happier? Truly?" By all means, we should buy and own some great stuff. But we want stuff that we're going to love for years, not just stuff.

Secondly, our new mantra: small is sexy. We want space efficiency. We want things that are designed for how they're used the vast majority of the time, not that rare event. Why have a six burner stove when you rarely use three? So we want things that nest, we want things that stack, and we want it digitized. You can take paperwork, books, movies, and you can make it disappear -- it's magic.

Finally, we want multifunctional spaces and housewares -- a sink combined with a toilet, a dining table becomes a bed -- same space, a little side table stretches out to seat 10. In the winning Life Edited scheme in a render here, we combine a moving wall with transformer furniture to get a lot out of the space. Look at the coffee table -- it grows in height and width to seat 10. My office folds away, easily hidden. My bed just pops out of the wall with two fingers. Guests? Move the moving wall, have some fold-down guest beds. And of course, my own movie theater.

So I'm not saying that we all need to live in 420 sq. ft. But consider the benefits of an edited life. Go from 3,000 to 2,000, from 1,500 to 1,000.Most of us, maybe all of us, are here pretty happily for a bunch of dayswith a couple of bags, maybe a small space, a hotel room. So when you go home and you walk through your front door, take a second and ask yourselves, "Could I do with a little life editing? Would that give me a little more freedom? Maybe a little more time?"

What's in the box? It doesn't really matter. I know I don't need it.What's in yours? Maybe, just maybe, less might equal more. So let's make room for the good stuff.

Thank you.