The Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel Principle

March 17, 2017

Photo courtesy Jennifer Pallian

Sometimes this world is too much for me. Too many activities. Too much noise. Too many expectations. Too much stuff in my house. Too much stuff in my head. More than once I’ve written about my attempts to banish busy or do less, and yet I still wind up searching for ways to make life more manageable and thus happier. My newest discovery is the principle of “less, but better.”

The phrase less, but better comes from the design philosophy of industrial designer Dieter Rams, but it’s easy to see how we can apply it to our overcrowded lives.


Less seems pretty self-explanatory. Do less, have less, embrace enough and avoid excess. Of course, excess looks different to every person. What is excess to me could be just right for you. I hate being rushed and I get anxious when stretched too thin. To maintain my personal happy balance, I need to commit to doing fewer things, whether that means trimming my to-do list, or saying no to activities I’d like to do but that will put me over the border into Crazytown.

No matter what our personal less/excess level is, we need to be clear in our own minds about what we truly want and need. Less, but better is the way of mindfulness, intention, slowing down to think rather than diving in heedlessly. It’s the way of becoming more thoughtful with time and energy.

Instead of throwing a ton of stuff (activities, food, clothes, possessions) at yourself, ask, what do I need? What do I long for? Would one gourmet dark chocolate sea salt caramel be more satisfying than five grocery store candy bars? The answer is almost always yes.


Getting rid of excess, or not buying into it (or buying it) in the first place, is just the start. Once the excess is pared away, we’ll have time and space, and probably money, to go deeper, to enjoy better. Since deeper is my word of the year, I really appreciate this. When a new something-or-other catches my attention, I remind myself that this is the year I want to go deeper into the things that I love and that I’ve already committed to such as my writing, my horse, and sketching. Instead of reading more books this year, I want to read better books, and absorb more of what I read. I’d rather put my heart into a few things than spatter my attention across a multitude.

I don’t say this is easy. I still find it remarkably hard not to run after the first shiny object that attracts my eye. But I am getting much better at choosing that single dark chocolate sea salt caramel.

What is one area in your life where you can experiment with the principle of less, but better?

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