I like stuff. A lot.
In fact I’ve spent most of my life trying to accumulate more of it.
I’ve got hobbies that require stuff. Kayaks (different ones for different situations), paddles, spray skirts, helmets, glove like things, bikes, climbing gear, camping gear, hunting gear, climbing gear, camping gear. Hell, I’ve got a shed full of gear of different kinds. But the truth is I only use a fraction of it on a yearly basis. The same is true for the stuff in my garage, and the stuff in my kitchen, and certainly the stuff in my closet, and my junk drawer. It turns out that I don’t use 80% of the stuff I own.
But, having stuff is the point right? Stuff brings happiness. Doesn’t it?
I remember as a young boy lusting after some new toy. If I could just have a set of walkie talkies then I’d be happy. As a man the objects of my affection just became more expensive . . . if I could just have an iPad, that new watch with GPS, the list goes on and on.
But stuff has baggage. If you’re not patient, and I wasn’t, stuff brings with it debt. I’ve realized that for most of my adult life a large part of our monthly budget has been used to make payments to credit cards that were used to buy stuff. Tens of thousands of dollars of stuff, most of which I don’t even remember buying. Sure, some of the debt we’ve accumulated over the decades was emergencies like groceries and house payments, but if I didn’t have so much stuff I could probably have afforded to pay cash for those necessities.
I’ve been addicted to stuff. I’ve got my self worth from stuff. I’ve thought of success as having stuff. But it’s all a farce.
Too much stuff just gets in the way. It’s clutter. It’s a distraction. And it certainly doesn’t bring happiness.
I’m sick and tired of being ruled by stuff. A wise man once wrote, “where you’re treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Whatever you treasure, is what your heart desires. I don’t want to treasure stuff above people. I don’t want to treasure stuff above experiences. I’m sick and tired of being ruled by stuff and having my budget ruled by my payments for it.
It turns out that the less stuff I have the less distracted I am. I gave away half my clothes. My closet looks cleaner. I feel relaxed there now. And I can find the clothes I actually want. I’ve sold a bunch of my gear and now I can actually find what I need when I need it. We cleared bags and bags of stuff out of our kids rooms and the same is true. Less mess, more joy.
The same thing is true of my calendar. When I look at my calendar and it’s not full I’m able to relax. When I have back to back appointments I feel the tension of busyness.
I want to find a way for our family to live simply. To not be ruled by stuff and the desire for more. To love each other and the experiences that we have together.
I think we’re just beginning this journey. The journey to contentment. A long time ago a guy named Timothy said, “True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.” It seems to me that godliness with contentment is the opposite of the American Way. We’re ungodly and never content. I want to be content. I want to be satisfied with what I have for today. It’s not that I don’t want to achieve or have goals. But I don’t want to have them at the expense of living in the present. I want to be present with my wife, kids, friends and coworkers. I want to be engaged with them in their worlds and invite them into mine. I want our family to share adventure together. To share passions. To love life together rather than always be longing for something we don’t have yet.
I want less stuff and more joy.
[HT Joshua Becker]