lowest common denominator

i have heard minimalism referred to as “reducing life down to the lowest common denominator.”  it’s about reducing life to the essentials – to the minimum.  one practical way to accomplish this is to “cut things in half” and see if they still allow you to function properly.  if they do, cut them in half again.  as soon as you reach a level that prevents you from living a desirable life, go back to the previous level – that is your lowest common denominator.

take shampoo for example.  the next time you wash your hair, cut your shampoo usage in half.  does your hair still get clean?  if so, cut it in half again…  you get the picture:

here are some places to start:

  • shampoo/shaving cream/toothpaste/make-up/perfume
  • laundry detergent/dishwasher soap
  • food serving size
  • clothes in your closet
  • checking your email/surfing the internet
  • soda intake
  • number of glasses in your cupboard/figurines on your shelf

here are some places not to try this experiment:

  • the number of times you kiss your spouse/child – actually, double that.
  • the number of bills that you pay – better stick to 100%.
  • the amount of clothes that you wear – you’ll still need top and bottom.
  • the amount of homework that you do – getting a D is not “desirable.”
  • holes of golf that you play – 4.5 holes doesn’t sound much fun.
  • the number of times in a week that you check this blog.


Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  2. di says

    With liquids, I use a small portion of the original solution, then dilute the remainder with water. I do this with rice milk, shampoo and conditioner, laundry and dish detergent, etc.

  3. Barrette says

    You can actually cut shampoo altogether. Our family has done so. It took about 3 months for my hair to recover from years of shampoo assault, and 6 months for my wife’s longer, thicker hair.

    Our hair is now cleaner-looking, cleaner/lighter-feeling, and I no longer have dandruff, which I did for the 15+ years I used dandruff shampoo.

    I use water only, and sometimes (1 or 2 times a year) use shampoo after a particularly arduous wilderness trip. My wife uses a baking soda wash also once or twice a year.

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