Less Space. Less Things. More Life.

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I would like to claim credit for such a profound, simplistic saying as the title of this post claims, but such is not the case. Only a person from the land that is home to the happiest people on Earth could utter such a spectacular phrase. That land is not known as one of the world powers, nor is it referred to as the ideal destination for many. However, this land is the home to simplicity and a complete understanding of the important aspects of life. That land is Denmark and it is now at the top of my ideal destinations list.

I saw an ABC News special, here in the United States, a few months back discussing the happiest places on Earth. I think I kind of zoned out during the showing, though I did hear the mention of places like Denmark and Iceland being home to some of the happiest people in the world. Today, I caught a 30 second commercial spot for the Oprah Show teasing their special on the happiest place on earth. I decided to try and catch it and when I did, I was surely not let down. I have embedded the video clips from the show highlighting Denmark. They are about 8 minutes each, but well worth your time. Following the videos, I will provide my reflection…

LS. LT.ML. Part 1

LS. LT. ML. Part 2

Are you as amazed as I?

I am in no way currently a mirror image of the Danish though I now desire to be. I think I probably say I am happy 10 times a day, but, honestly, I am not nearly as happy and appreciative as the Danish.

Simplicity, now more than ever, has become a major part of my excursion through life. I have developed ways to allow for more time, enjoyment, and appreciation for the finer things in my life (i.e. family, friends, hobbies, travel). The Danes have realized that stuff is not that which makes you happy and, in many instances, is the reason for unhappiness.They have captured that which we all desire to have…complete happiness.

Quotes from Clips

I want to recap a few of the quotes I think truly depict Denmark as a nation I am strongly considering spending a large block of my life in…

  • Less Space. Less Things. More Life. – Kim Saether
  • You think of it as civilized rather than socialist. – Oprah Winfrey
  • Happiness is considered a big success. – Nanna Norup
  • I believe in humanity. – Nanna Norup

Other than the obvious one I used for the title of this post, I think Oprah’s wording of how the Danish view their lifestyle is amazing. To think, here in the USA, most Americans pay a lot less in taxes than the Danish, who pay roughly 50% taxes and upwards of 63% if they make over the equivalent of $70,000 USD, yet, most Americans I know are not very happy. Most Americans I know who claim to be happy or have heard say they are happy are saying this because they have been told to say so or feel society will look down upon them for not setting themselves up to be so. You can obviously disagree with my take on the happiness level in America, as I am running with my own perspective and experience, but the hundreds of thousands of interviews, polls and surveys that were done to define who are the happiest is proof otherwise. To be fair, here is one take by the New York Times from December 2007 as to the loss of skilled labor due to such high taxes. In my perspective, I have always viewed many socialist-coined countries as being more civilized than socialist in the poor connotation many people I know have placed on the word.

I am not going to sit here and politically argue for higher taxes or lower taxes, but when considering the health care situation, personal and government debt situation, and limited resources situation here in the USA, these types of lifestyles need to be brought into the conversation.

The Reasons They Are Happy

Obviously, Oprah was astonished at the lifestyle these people live (as well as the bread they have), but the key to the entire segment boils down to why they are happy. The following are my conclusions I came to from the clips as to the reasons for their happiness…

  • Appreciate family, friends, and life
  • Do not carry much (if any) debt
  • Do not have stuff or things
  • Enjoy living
  • Focus is on life and not work
  • No Fears
  • Stress healthy living
  • Priorities in order
  • Community Perspective
  • A True One for All, All for One Outlook

My Minimalist Outlook

As the founder and editor of The Minimalist Path, I strive to simplify my life to the necessities so that I can live the life that I choose. Just seeing the homes of the Danes that were featured in Oprah’s special made me realize even more how little we all truly need to sustain a happy life. I look around and see stuff I 1) spent money on that I didn’t need or couldn’t afford to, 2) don’t use very often if at all, 3) could have easily done without. Why is that? Because I allow an unhappy society tell me what will make me happy. This is a major issue for many people and such can be addressed by implementing many of the Danish lifestyle practices.

Simplifying our lives is a necessity these days. Resources are dwindling as I type this sentence. Our morals and values are compromised daily by the stuff we consume. We are more unhealthy than the day before. We do not focus on the truly important aspects of life. Even if you disagree with the political aspects of Denmark, ignoring their positive and simplistic principles would be arrogant and ignorant. All I ask is that you sit in a peaceful place and ask yourself if you are really happy. I hope that you are, but I can’t say I am optimistic many people are as happy as the Danes.

In closing…

I have never been to Denmark, but I now have the same desire to go there as I always had for Australia prior to going there. And you all know how that worked out. Would I give half of my income for complete happiness? In a heart beat. Would you give half of your income for complete happiness? The way you answer that question could possibly guide you towards a Life Excursion that is more fulfilling and focused than ever before.

Well wishes my friends….

David Damron

25 Responses to Less Space. Less Things. More Life.

  1. Jesse says:

    Good on ya Dave! Go, spend time there. That’s the only way to decide for yourself what you think of a people and their culture.

    I did spend some time in Denmark a decade ago. Loved the people I was staying with, loved the country, not a fan of certain other aspects of the culture…but that’s neither here nor there for this post.

    Thanks for sharing, needless to say I would never have watched an Oprah special if not for your clips!

    • Dave says:

      What can I say Jesse regarding those Oprah clips….other than…..I am quite persuasive….

      Thanks for commenting!!!

      David Damron

  2. Thank you for putting together this article Dave. It’s 4:30 am here in the States and my wife and I were feeding the two boys as we listened to the video clips. It really seems like a dream place to me and I would gladly pay the extra taxes for that…of course money cannot buy happiness, but the Danes just have this wonderful culture and I loved the clean lines of their homes.

    I’m hoping that this is one more seed plant so that my wife comes around to the concept of simplicity.

    Thanks again,

    - Charley

    • Dave says:

      Hey Charley—

      I am glad you enjoyed my article. I had a great time researching and writing it. I think the Dane’s have a great perspective on life that I hope to follow wherever I live.

      Thanks for commenting Charley!

      David Damron

  3. [...] it’s a Friday morning in 2010, the snow is gorgeous, the sun is shining and I’ve just  found this wonderful article about the happiest people on earth. Welcome to [...]

  4. Steven Ponec says:

    This is a great article!
    I watched the Oprah video and actually took some notes haha. It was that interesting.
    I love the focus of that country. The way they said it just makes sense.
    Also, the interior design of the homes was FANTASTIC! It makes lots of the kitschy stuff in american homes look downright idiotic.

    • Dave says:

      I agree Steve. I love simplicity, like you, and their lives seems to revolve around everything except knick-knacks, stuff, tv. I love that. Hopefully, one day I will check it out for myself and make a call.

      Thanks for commenting!!!

      David Damron

  5. Mneiae says:

    You might want to read the take of a Dane on this whole thing before you catch a plane over there.


    • Dave says:

      Thanks for the link!

      I am sure there are people that don’t feel like it is the best place in the world as with anything. I don’t think the USA is the best either and that is why I strive to be more of a ‘fly your own flag’ individual. However, just as your article pointed out, we mustn’t just take on or two perspectives. From all that I have read over the last day and the previous studies on happiness, it seems like a fairly great place to live.

      Thanks again for the link though. I am all about getting multiple perspectives.

      David Damron

  6. Rose says:

    Thanks for your comment, i appreciate it. I tried not to replicate yours, especially since I linked to it so everyone could gain from both articles.
    I appreciate the heads up, I’ll have a look at the opposition article; I love to have both sides of the story before making a decision.
    Thanks again and keep writing,

  7. Barb says:

    The point that really struck me is that they believe that “Happiness is a big success”. I don’t think that’s true for a lot of people in Canada and the US. We seem to think that success means stress and worry and lots and lots of complaining.

    Are we afraid of happiness? Afraid of acknowledging when we are happy? Do we see it as a sign of weakness?

    I wonder if, more than simplicity, more than universal access to healthcare and education, if just admitting that happiness is important and worth having leads to greater happiness?

    Thanks for sharing this, Dave! Love your blogs!

  8. Hugh says:

    Stellar post, Dave. Your timing is ironic. My fiance records Oprah daily and usually watches it at night after I go to bed (early to bed early to rise for me). Last night I caught a bit of this and it was intriguing. I haven’t watched the whole thing, so I’ll be sure to go check out the rest.

    Without having seen the whole segment, it sounds like Denmark is one of those places I would love to spend time in to gain perspective on my own life here in the States.

  9. ElleGee says:

    Happiness is what you make of it no matter where you are. It’s a matter of doing and spending time with what you love (family, friends, outdoors and travel for me) and you could do this wherever you are.

    To be fair, of course, you could easily and effectively do this in places like Denmark. Great post though and thanks.

  10. Christine says:

    I want to thank you for posting this article, along with the links. It was a wonderful thing to share!

  11. Erin says:

    I loved this. The video was worth the few minutes to watch. Thanks.

  12. Nathan says:

    Thanks for posting–great clip. I think the key is, “I allow an unhappy society tell me what will make me happy,” so very well said. I’m going to have major surgery in a couple of weeks and I’ve been resting from a lung condition, reading a lot, and realizing how much I was doing wrong. Designed minimalism is the way to go.

  13. Kirsty says:

    Great post. What you said about allowing an unhappy society to decide for you what will make you happy sounds bizarre, but it is true for so many people.

    I didn’t realise the Dane’s were such a happy people! Thanks for the vids.

  14. [...] Oprah: Happiest places on Earth 20/01/2010 Rik Plaats een reactie Ga naar commentaar Dit bericht is naar aanleiding van een stuk uit een show van Oprah & deze post daarover op LifeExcursion [...]

  15. [...] not the only traveler effected by Oprah’s take on Denmark. Here is another longer take: http://lifeexcursion.com Share and [...]

  16. k says:

    I lived in Denmark last summer, and had studied it extensively before I went there, and actually wrote my thesis on their lack of institutionalized religion as being the tie to happiness. The reason for that is that within Denmark, equality and spirit is key, which leads to equal respect of all races/genders. Men get paid parental leave, and share equally in housework, child rearing, and women are expected to do work they love. Higher education on birth-control, women-friendly medicine and body respect is tantamount. In the us, the institution of religion really discourages equality of women, and instead encourages consumption. It creates imbalances and abuse. Also the majority ride their bike everyday and are more grounded in who they are as people, and less about the rat race. NY times just came out with an article linking institutional and marital equality to happiness- among all genders and races… common sense.

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