Three years ago - one year into our life as a single-income family - I stopped and reflected on the obstacles we faced that had in fact become boons, and I am in awe that this is still the life we love today. We had just dipped our toes into the idea that less was fuller and happier and I am thrilled to report that hypothesis holds true. I want to share this because it's such a durable, relevant, essential concept. Are you ready to be fuller and happier with less?
Here is what was on my mind in June of 2013...with the exception of the addition of Milo, I may as well have written it yesterday.
"Full and less are two things I want more of in my life, and it's funny how they can correlate: less = full. On the surface, wanting "more less" seems silly - contradictory, at least - but maybe it isn't. Ever since we became a one-income family life has been steering us in that direction anyway, but being aware of it and wanting this lifestyle is something else.
Truth: it was hard. We went from two comfortable incomes, no debt, and apartment-living, to one-income, a mortgage, and a baby. I was used to having a ridiculous amount of money to spend on fripperies and fine things and now I have $50 a month. (This is not a complaint, merely an illustration of the difference - really, honey.) I cringe to think of all that I spent and didn't save for this moment I knew was coming. While on some levels it is nice to see the lovely clothes in my closet to get me through the next 5+ years, I could just kick myself at the thoughtless purchases I've made. And that's just it - I didn't think twice. I had the money, I spent it. My personal budget was at $0 at the end of every month. Gah! What was I thinking?!! I wasn't.
JD is an ant, though. Smart man that one. Glad I've got him for a partner to make our finances work! (And he's a great husband and father.) He's the natural saver which has done more to buoy our marriage than just about anything, short of Jesus. He is the caution to my risk. The brains to my impulsive nature. He keeps me grounded. And he has also kept me from buying some very silly things. Because of him I never bowed down to trends like Uggs, bedazzled jeans, etc. The thought of him shaking his head upon seeing them was enough to shame me right then and there and stop whatever nonsense was about to ensue via credit card. Yep, I need him. That man's wisdom is worth gold.
With these new limitations I have found myself investing much more care and time into making purchases. I actually think it over - sometimes for months - before deciding on buying something. Sound silly? I have already saved myself from half a dozen bad purchases by mulling it over, waiting for it to go on sale, or waiting for the desire to ebb. Most of the time, it does. That Target maxi dress my heart was set on in March? It was recently on sale and I. Didn't. Buy. It. I felt like I deserved a medal! Or a Starbucks. I got neither. And that made me feel like I deserved even more! And that's the vicious cycle of entitlement.
Now that I have less and am striving for less, I find myself so much more satisfied with what I already have - a very counter-cultural concept. I am content. I love and enjoy the things I have instead of lusting after all the things I don't have. I banished my "wish list" - a document I would look over and maintain on my desktop. And forgoing needless browsing online has also helped to eliminate objects pulling at my heartstrings and wallet.
In addition to less shopping, I've been downsizing. I probably spent 3 hours having a fashion show in my closet a few weeks ago, deliberating over who stays and who goes. I couldn't go by the usual "have I worn this in the last couple of years?" because I was huge and pregnant last year and gained 20 pounds in Argentina the year before that. Now that I'm back to my normal size I was ready to make some cuts. The thing is, even if it fit me, I went a step further and pondered "am I really going to where this again, or am I just holding onto it because I spent money on it?" and "is it versatile enough?" If not, I let them go, and it felt great. I also took a few items to the tailor to be mended instead of buying new ones to replace them. Now when I look at my closet I see only the things that I really love and can wear easily. Less feels better.
This critical eye has moved through the house, editing every room and cupboard. Books, kitchen utensils, home decor - all of it - were on the chopping block. It feels so good to have less! Heck, if we were doing it all over I would have bought a smaller house and made due, but as it is we have a beautiful big home that God provided us for our growing family. While I fantasize about moving to a small loft in Spain and selling everything but a few suitcases of belongings, I will be content with and grateful for what I have.
Since having a baby, our movie theater adventures are much less frequent. We don't even own a TV. But you know what? That's liberating, too. The hot tub that the former owners left us is something we enjoyed all winter long. I tend a garden. We go for bike rides. I make bouquets with flowers from our yard. We cook from scratch. We eat ice cream with fresh strawberries on our porch swing. We enjoy each other and a "slower" way of life. And it's awesome. I worried when we were transitioning into this lifestyle last year that we would be missing out on so much, but it was all for naught and I wouldn't have it any other way. For us, we are living the best life.
So even with less, I am full. I am satisfied and content and revel in my life. I've embraced our change in finances as a challenge and good stewardship practice, not a burden. I love the time we spend as a family not watching movies or in front of a TV. I love making delicious and healthy meals instead of going out. And I look forward to finding out where else I can do with less."
Are you ready to live a fuller, happier life with less? Are you ready to let go of those things in your life that do not contribute to the life you want?
This is not about owning x number of things or living in a tiny house - this is knowing the life you want and going after it. This is about being able to pursue the things you love, and if your home and belongings are not helping you get there, then it's time to say goodbye. It's time to sift.