Secrets of ‘Less is More’ Living
From Around the World

Three international mantras you could apply to your lifestyle.

Living in a multicultural world, it's only natural that we find ourselves drawing upon the many philosophies and ideas from different countries across the globe. And many of the lifestyle trends that have entered the public zeitgeist are rooted in wellness, self-care or a desire to do better for the planet.

Back in 2016, the Scandinavian notion of hygge was perhaps the first homeland lifestyle philosophy to catch on in a big way. Taken from the Danish word for sublime cosiness and comfort in ones surroundings, the hygge craze had us rushing out to buy scented candles, plush cushions and textured blankets. For the Danes, hygge continues to be a fundamental idea that helps them make the most of their long winters. Collectively, however, we appear to have moved on. Climate change has got us thinking about the bigger picture rather than merely our own personal comfort.

More often than not, lifestyle trends are now led by a desire to do good for the planet and generations to come. Here, we explore the secrets of ‘less is more’ living from around the world – fascinating philosophies that can help guide our efforts to create a sustainable future.

Sweden: ‘Lagom’

In many countries around the world, sustainable living isn’t just a discussion point – it’s a way of life. In Sweden, the word lagom is an ethos that helps warn against material overindulgence, roughly translating as ‘not too little, not too much, but just right’. The root of this Swedish mindset is all about the search for balance, and it’s a code that can be applied to just about everything – from your home décor to your food or finances. Lagom doesn’t mean striving for perfection, but creating a measured sense of equilibrium in all that you do. This can mean making an active decision not to overwork yourself – to limit your screen time, or to choose to break up the day with a home workout instead of powering through your emails. Perhaps you might recycle items that you don’t use that take up space in your house and donate them to charity. Similarly, making time to cultivate healthy eating habits that you can comfortably sustain and maintain is the very essence of lagom. Try to buy what you truly need, and be mindful of overindulgence.

Japan: ‘Mottainai’

Japan shares Sweden’s appreciation of simplicity, functionality and sustainability. In 2020, Marie Kondo picked up on this shift and took the world by storm with her KonMari Method. The idea of clearing out your household possessions category by category rather than room by room proved revolutionary, inspiring thousands of people to upcycle and recycle their unwanted goods. A big part of the KonMari method focuses on thanking items of sentimental value for their purpose, before lovingly parting ways. After decluttering your space, you’ll be in a good positon to adopt the ancient Japanese philosophy of mottainai. This concept encompasses the idea of respecting all resources and not wasting them, inherently recognising their value and importance. Choose high quality products and look after your possessions to make them last, from the clothing you wear to the household appliances you use on a day-to-day basis. By extracting maximum value from the things you own, you can ensure you make a minimal impact on the environment.

Greece: ‘Meraki’

In Greece, the concept of meraki means taking great pride in whatever you do. The idea that labour can give us pleasure and a sense of joy has prevailed in Greece for centuries. Appreciation and care for fine details is a big part of the meraki philosophy. You can add a sense of meraki to just about any activity. Undertake work projects with gusto. Try to actively enjoy cleaning your house, as opposed to seeing chores as drudgery. Make delicious meals from scratch, taking care to use up all the leftovers. Based on self-reported behaviour, Greeks have a long-established positive attitude to food waste prevention, intrinsically linked to the meraki concept. Planning food shopping in a multitude of ways and mindfully purchasing fresh, local and organic food supplies whenever possible is a way of life. By approaching all your personal endeavours proudly and taking care of the fine details, you’ll feel a sense of achievement, and this will have a knock-on effect on the external world.

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