Many of us have ideas in our head of how we are supposed to live - big house, nice car (at least two if you are a married household), new clothes whenever you feel like it, nice dinners out a couple times a week...and the list goes on and on. I am not saying that any of these things is necessarily a bad thing if you can afford it and that is where your priorities are. But we shouldn't just expect that we should have these things and should instead accept the fact that we can't have everything in life. Just as we are told as kids - life isn't always fair!
No, scratch that last idea. We shouldn't just accept that we can't have something; that implies that we still want it and do not feel that what we have is adequate. Instead we should learn to be truly happy with less and with what we do have. This is a simple task, but again, it can be so difficult! We are almost trained by society today to place so much value on things and stuff. The result is us feeling like we have to have more of this and the latest of that in order to be important and valued as a person. We can sometimes feel like we are going to be looked down on and judged by others if we don't try to impress with our belongings.
And sometimes we will be. There will always be that person that tries to make someone else feel like less of a person for not having it all (and if you want me to go back to lessons learned as a child, these people may very likely be insecure themselves and trying to make themselves feel better by hurting others). But who really cares if we don't have everything? The answer is: not us and not anyone who truly cares about us!
So how do we become happy with less?
- Stop comparing yourself to everyone else.
We all have different resources and priorities in life. And that is fine, even how it should be. Once you have decided what your priorities are and what you can and can't live without, stop looking around at the belongings other people have and the choices they make. In fact, don't even look at what they have when you are decided. Make your decisions based on what works for you and your family. I have made the decision to live with less stuff, but sometimes I catch myself thinking that I need more stuff because someone else around me has it. If I were to let this thought consume me it would end one of two ways: 1) I am going to be bitter that I don't have a house full of stuff; or 2) I am going to have a house full of stuff and an empty bank account and full garbage can (because stuff generally produces waste).
- Look at what you do have.
For those who are religious, think of this as "counting your blessings." Though it may not seem that we have a lot, if you take the time, I bet you could come up with a huge list of things in your life that you do have. Make sure to include non-monetary items, such as health and a supportive family, as well as monetary items, such as shelter and transportation.
- Change your wording.
Instead of thinking "this house isn't big enough," think "I am so happy I have a roof over my head." This kind of thinking will help you to appreciate what you came up with in #2.
- Decide what you do need and forget about the rest.
There is a big difference between needs and wants. Learn to differentiate. Nobody in my household needs 20 different outfits. I also don't need 8 spatulas or a small appliance for every task in the kitchen. I used to always be rearranging closets and cabinets trying to find a better organizational method for all my stuff when it occurred to me that I didn't need more space, I needed less stuff. So now I am always looking for what I can get rid of and do without. While the throwing things out doesn't necessarily save me money, it does make me appreciate simplicity, which saves me from spending money later on when I do not need anything.
- Get creative.
This goes along with #4. When a need does arise, take a look around at what you have to see if you can use something else in its place instead of immediately running to the store. You may want new baskets for storage in your home, but do you have boxes already that will work just as well? The same goes for activities and entertainment. You do not have to go to the movies every week or take your kids to an amusement park every weekend. Instead make your own fun, seeing just how much you can have without spending a dime.
What about you? Have you made peace with less? If so, what did you do?