Subtraction

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I love the life metaphors I discover when I substitute teach.

Like how we prefer addition over subtraction.

For children, it is more literal. When I sit down to help young children with simple math problems, the first question I ask is, “Is it add or take-away?”

If the math problem is adding, the children are usually relieved. They quickly do the problem with ease.

If it is subtraction, or “take-away” as I call it, they usually tell me how much they hate “take-away” problems. They struggle to subtract the numbers.

I think for adults we have this same dilemma.

It is very easy to add things.

We add stuff to our carts, commitments to our calendars, and monthly payments to our budget with ease.

But when tasked with subtracting, or “taking-away,” we struggle.

We dislike letting go and often see subtraction as a fun-killer or a loss.

But subtraction doesn’t need to feel like losing something. It can be a gain in many ways.


Subtraction Adds Freedom

With less stuff and commitments our lives are less tethered.

We are nimble.

This can allow for easier movement and bigger leaps.

We experienced this firsthand with our decision to move last year.

Because we were renting a small space and had very little stuff, we were able to move back to our hometown 2,000 miles away fairly quickly and inexpensively.

Our simplicity gave us the freedom to make that choice.

Subtraction Adds Clarity

When I own less my mind is clearer and my goals and ambitions are more visible when my life is simpler.

If I sit down to write and my room is a mess or cluttered, I cannot clear my head to write.

When I subtract distractions and excess stuff I am left with clarity.

Subtraction Adds Money

This one sounds so simple but is still worth mentioning.

When you subtract monthly payments and all those little financial commitments, you will have more money.

Yes, $10/month on Netflix (or whatever it is) doesn’t feel like much. But you add in a few other monthly subscriptions, and all of a sudden you have $50/month committed.

I also believe removing stuff adds money as well.

Sometimes money is added from selling items, but more often I find that removing stuff removes my desire for more things.

And without that desire, I spend less.

Subtraction Adds Purpose

When you subtract the things in your life that aren’t adding value, you are left with only the things that do add value.

You are left with purpose.

One purpose that adds value for me is being a stay-at-home mom/wife. As old-fashioned as it may sound, I love to cook, clean, budget, meal plan, etc. I feel very fulfilled by this purpose.

The second purpose I feel strongly in my life is to pour my energy into young children. I love substitute teaching for this reason.

By living on one income for the last 10 ½ years, I am able to take a sporadic job like substitute teaching.

I subtracted a lot of things from my life over the years to make this lifestyle work for our family.

I have said “no” to many things so I can say “yes” to these jobs that bring me purpose.


I love the way children teach me.

When children express their opinions and feelings to me, I am often amazed at how similar we are.

I want to do the easier thing sometimes too.

But even though adding might feel easier in the moment–I love the joy that subtraction can bring.

-Brittany

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