During the holidays, less truly is more | Jan's Journal

“Less is more” is a quote learned in college, made famous by the architect/designer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

It was made in reference to designing human spaces in a minimalist way: Function first with extremely simple aesthetic appeal.

Personally, I struggle with that concept in my daily life. Obviously, Mies van der Rohe wasn’t American. That phrase is permanently imbedded in my brain, and yet, it’s amazingly difficult to grasp. Food packaging companies, however, have fully embraced the slogan.

Holiday bakers crowd the flour and sugar aisles searching for ingredients. Recipe cards are whipped out and analyzed while scanning the shelves. My recipe demands two cups of chocolate chips. In my head, I assume 16 ounces is the correct amount needed. (Don’t confuse me with volume vs. weight!) However, obtaining one pound of chocolate chips is impossible because they only package 12-ounce or behemoth 10-pound bags. Curiously looking around at the shoppers, I speculate on whether they’re frustrated too.

Bearing in mind that “less is more,” I use less, and hope it tastes like more. The cookies will be edible minus that missing 4 ounces because I refuse to buy two bags. Besides, teenagers will eat anything with the word “cookie” attached. “It’s a marketing scam!” I shout in my head. “Shoppers beware!”

It may well be my imagination, but when comparing shopping price per pound, there is total chaos. For example, one price point states 15.2 cents per ounce, the next price per pound, with the occasional price per piece. Perplexed, I just fling items into the cart and “humph” while wheeling away. Really, it’s not rocket science, I grouse to myself.

A watchdog for confusing pricing information would be helpful. Regulations on signage would consistently note price-per-pound so that we, the shoppers, could quickly assess a good deal without using a calculator. Our kids are being taught the metric system (like the rest of the world uses) in school. I’m sorry, but I’ve already learned cups, teaspoons and ounces and am perfectly content; also, please consider the fate of current cookbooks if we switched over. My smarty-pants son tries to convince me how much more logical the other system is. Wrong, I state.

I’m also lucky that I learned such a difficult language as English as a child, but that’s another topic.

Last Saturday night, I theorized silently about where all the shoppers hide the rest of the year, while semi-patiently trying to find an elusive parking spot at Southcenter mall. The so-called sales motivated us to flock to the stores, but I vow: Never again on a Saturday night or with all three children, alone. My 17-year-old daughter couldn’t possibly be seen with her siblings — or me (unless, of course, I was paying). So we disappeared. My son discovered that kiosk vendors will completely ignore a kid with questions. Too bad for the rude vendor; he aced himself out of a sale by assuming my son was just looking. Well, that’s technically true, but he was going to put it on his wish list.

The atmosphere in the mall felt relatively calm, even though Christmas is close. (Panic mode in full motion now.) We all have a common goal: Seek that perfect gift while buying more for less. My minimalist husband is a finicky present receiver. Nowadays, I just give him the plastic bag with the receipt still in it, gift unwrapped. It makes it easier to return. Sometimes less truly is more!


Federal Way resident Jan Hallahan is a writer and mom:

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