You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’
You make a mistake.
If you are not content with what you have,
you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.
–Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Last year when I was introduced to this Lenten challenge, I really ransacked my house. And I found that at the end of it all, I was a bit disgusted in myself. I really thought that I, who was someone who liked to keep a simple, uncluttered home, could never find 40 bags of “stuff” to get rid of. But I did easily. And it really got me thinking.
This year I’ve had it much easier because of all that thinking. I have really changed my ways, and it has NOT always been easy. It’s about discipline (no matter how bad you think you might “need” that new book, frame, pair of shoes), accountability (it’s easy to fritter away your pennies if you don’t keep track of them), and just plain old contentment and gratitude.
Sure, with a family of 7 (now 8), there is bound to be things to throw away, things that are outgrown, or just little pieces of junk here and there creeping in. But I found the main culprit in the accumulation of all the this STUFF was ME.
I started thinking:
1. How many times have I thrown something in my cart at Target or Michaels or wherever, either because I didn’t really think about if I “loved” it…I just wanted it at the time?
2. How much of our hard-earned money (the money my husband makes working his days away!) did I fritter away easily on things I didn’t need? I started thinking about “instant gratification” and what I was teaching my children. Needs vs. wants and waiting, being patient, really thinking about something…and buying something special, not some junky thing made in a factory that means nothing to me. And taking care of what I had, instead of just wanting something new to replace the old.
3. The whole contentment issue again. Looking through some magazine or seeing an idea on a blog and thinking, ” I really need (ha!) a new purse like that, or a new look to this room, or this fancy pan in the kitchen.” Consumerism, materialism….yuck. It’s like this endless cycle of in and out. Just like that quote at the top of the page…if you are always wanting more, something else, something different, you are never appreciating all you have right in front of you. And this may seem cheesy, but I have read so many great books this last year, set in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s. They lived so simply, saved their pennies for things for YEARS…a new fry pan, a doll, a dress, a pretty vase. And because they had waited for them, made sure they were well made, and would last forever, they took care of them, and treated them as precious objects.
4. Once I was a nanny in a mansion. Like really…MANSION. The couple spent SO much of their time on stuff…not just time spent earning the money and then buying all these fancy things, but then having to turn around and spend even more money on the things they bought just to care and protect it all-the maintenance, insurance, fancy confusing alarms. And their daughter sat lonely and neglected among it all. I walked away with a lesson from that job, I’ll tell you. All these possessions, all this money…wasn’t adding to their life, but taking away from everything that is truly important. And whether or not it’s that extreme, the truth is, the more you have, the more you have to care for, and the more time you spend on the things you have. How freeing to have less! It’s getting to the core of the good life…where the “real happy” exists.
5. And most importantly, in the end, if I wanted to show my children where the “real happy” is, then I had to model the behavior I wanted them to see. I had to say “no” to myself, even with little things, to teach them they could say “no” to themselves also, or hear it from me or Jeff, and the world wouldn’t end. Soon that little thing will be all forgotten about. And you know, all our children want is US anyways. They want to play with us, be with us, have us listen to them, more than any toys or gadgets. And that costs absolutely nothing.