As I watch my daughter jump in the air, wave around her arms, and make silly noises just to make her baby brother laugh, I’m filled with inspiration to write a post on how fortunate our little family of four truly is. This post is both a thank you to all of our family and friends and an important reminder for me to take a few minutes out of every day to celebrate our many blessings.
While my blog’s tips on free shopping, debt reduction, and budgeting might certainly help one get out of debt and manage finances, I believe the only real way to become rich is to learn to be content. Happiness only comes with contentment. I believe contentment is born out of identifying all of the blessings in our lives, no matter how small. Living simply can help do this along with freeing up a lot of our time, thoughts, energy and money for things of real value.
I once read somewhere (I can’t remember where) that if you own a car, you are one of the wealthiest people in the world. In all of my moments of driving, filling my gas tank, washing my car, and getting angry at the huge SUV that cut me off, I had never looked at my vehicle in that light. My little dinky car was a luxury that most people of the world would never experience. In America it’s really considered kind of weird when someone doesn’t have a car, isn’t it? It’s most certainly a major inconvenience when you don’t have one. We just jump in our vehicles, start them up, and head to our destination. We only really give them a thought when something is malfunctioning. I’m not saying that we need to think about how wonderful it is to have a car all day long, but it’s kind of nice to sometimes think “I’m thankful that I don’t have to bike/take a bus with 2 children to go to the grocery store” as you sit down to buckle up. My car is just one example of the many blessings I take for granted every day.
Our culture today is hyper-focused on what we don’t have. This is largely due to successful advertising. It has actually molded the way we think. Everything, everywhere is telling us we’re not happy or we haven’t made it to where we need to be until we have something else. There are some real geniuses out there reworking our thought processes and most of the time we don’t have even a moment to consider what we’ve processed.
Don’t get me wrong, “things” are definitely needed in our lives. We absolutely must have “stuff.” I’m not saying that it is wrong to own and want possessions. There are necessities. But for most of us fortunate Americans it would be a challenge to walk around our house and come up with something that we truly needed. It would probably also be a challenge to come up with 10 things we could give away without thinking about it. Do you really need more than 1 pair of tennis shoes? How many dish towels would it really take to get you through to the next load of laundry? As I look around my house, it overwhelms me that most of what we have has been given to us in some form. We are extremely blessed with family members who truly spoil both our children and ourselves on every major holiday. We also have amazing friends who have given us many meals, clothes, toys, cloth diapers, etc. We don’t want for anything and I’m ashamed to admit that I still definitely have those days where I am just itching for something else. On those days, I find it helps to clean something out-whether it be a basement shelf or our entry closet. It feels great to donate, sell, or repurpose stuff that has just been lying unused for a while and miraculously that itch is usually soothed!!
But back to advertising and how it affects our thinking- my daughter doesn’t watch television commercials. I’ve always especially loathed advertisements specifically targeted toward children, but my feelings on this matter were completely solidified this past Christmas when Santa came to our neighborhood. Ingrid sat very wide-eyed on his knee and very much in awe of the big jolly man in the red suit. When he asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she really didn’t know what to do. She sat there for a few moments and then said in her sweet, small voice, “pinecones.” Just the thought of it warms my heart. If we could all have that complete innocence. I know that, despite my best efforts to shield her from the ploys of Mattel and Fisher Price, it will not last much longer. But I do hope I can help her preserve at least a small part of that love for the simple things in life.
America’s Ultimate Cheapskate, Jeff Yeager (I highly suggest you check him out) frequently says that material possessions lose their value over time but experiences seem to do the opposite. For me, this is absolutely true. I don’t remember much of what I received as gifts for Christmases and birthdays but I do remember going to my grandparents’ houses and slumber parties with my friends. I guess that means that a lot of us are just filling landfills with meaningless junk and not focusing on the real moments of our lives. These memories are where contentment lies. These experiences help us build happiness and wealth.
At the end of the day, what makes me the happiest is when my children are sound asleep with full bellies, my house is uncluttered and cozy, and I can recall at least one thing I did for another being in the past 24 hours. It’s easy for me to become wrapped up in what still needs to be done but I feel so much better when I focus on what is already accomplished. This also holds true when I think about our journey in becoming debt-free. I am rich beyond measure and if you’re reading right now, you most likely had something to do with this. :)