OCCAM’S RAZOR AND THE CASE FOR A SIMPLE LIFE

May 6, 2016 · 2 minute read

By: Colleen Valles

Occam’s Razor states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. That is to say, All things being equal, the simpler explanation is generally better than a more complex one.

William of Ockham, an English Franciscan friar, came up with this brilliant revelation way back between 1287 and 1347 (the years he was alive).

Basically, he was advocating simplicity, and while his idea is mainly applied to scientific explanations — simpler theories are more testable — it’s relevant to everyday life.

Another way I’ve heard Occam’s Razor said is “It is vain to do with more what can be done with fewer,” which is pretty relevant to what we’re talking about on this here blog, and which means that you don’t need lots of stuff to do something you can do without lots of stuff. That’s the way to say it if you’re going for a total lack of elegance.

The point is paring down just to what you need to get the job done.

For instance, do you really need a bread maker, a soup pot and a roasting pan? How many times have you made bread, soup and a roast all at once? Exactly never. Amiright? All three of these items can be replaced with one Dutch oven. Make it a pretty one in a color you like, and you’ll use it all the time, and you’ll be saving yourself a bunch of space.

Simplify, get rid of the extraneous items in your life, and you’ll find that everything else gets easier. You find things more readily. You clean up quicker. You spend less time finding places for stuff, cleaning and taking care of it, and more time doing things you enjoy, like eating soup or bread or roast.

This is also a good case against single-use tools. For instance, a breadmaker, or one of those sandwich presses. Be honest, how often do you really eat panini? Go through your house, but particularly your kitchen – kitchens are often a hive of single-use items – and see what single-use tools you have. Assess them: Have you used them in the last year? Have you used them ever?

If not, now might be a good time to donate that or start a pile of things you want to sell. Make a few bucks off that panini machine, and you can use that money to buy yourself a panini the next time you’re in the mood.

In keeping with the general application of Occam’s Razor to testing scientific theories, why don’t we try our own test?

I hypothesize that if everybody got rid of at least a quarter of their stuff, they would find their lives better off, with more space to breathe, more time to create, and more money to spend on fun things. I’ve already done this to some extent, but I could do more.

Why not give it a shot, in the name of science?

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Colleen Valles
I'm Colleen, a writer, mother, knitter, pet mama and tiny house enthusiast who truly believes that everybody should slow down and simplify to make room for the things that are most important in their lives. I'm on a journey to do just that, to be able to spend more time with family and friends, riding my bike and working in the garden. Sign up to get awesome content right in your inbox, or follow me on social media.