For most of my younger life I had too much stuff. Mostly too many clothes and too many things crammed into my kitchen cupboards. What is too much? It’s such a subjective concept! I realised that I had too much stuff when it became super annoying to have to pull something out when I wanted to make something. And I had SO many clothes I’d never worn, making it hard to see what I DID have.
And guess what I did? I bought more. More! I thought I NEEDED more. I felt it in every cell of my body. And buying more was fun. Until I tried to cram it in and had to rearrange everything. But I rationalised it, thinking to myself that everything had potential.
Then I moved into a tiny apartment and everything changed. But that’s another story.
Now I’m older, I’ve realised something. That need was a faker! It was a tricky fake feeling when it got to the level of having to keep dust off clothes that I hadn’t worn in 2 years. That’s a sign. A sign that I was not content with my life. I was filling it with Things I didn’t truly need.
And I didn’t like that feeling. I wanted to be content. I wanted the good feelings that I felt when I bought something new, to last longer than a few hours. I really wanted to feel content and happy with the things in my house. To stop the Needing and Wanting.
I’m not talking about contentment in relationships, wealth & abundance or settling for less than ideal circumstances.
I’m also not going to bang on about gratitude… you can Goggle that, it’s a whole thing. I’m going to tell you what I’ve learnt about being content with the things you have.
Mostly I’m going to talk about –
It’s literally EVERYWHERE we look.
Subtle and so, so Basic. As in the Urban Dictionary definition of the word basic, not the kind of dictionary that can cause a nasty bruise on your foot if you drop it.
How to appreciate stuff.
Remember when you wanted something, really badly? Something you’d never owned before. Like your first car or first pet?
Whether your coffee machine is worth worth more than a secondhand car, or instant is your beverage of choice (or necessity), you can Savour.
So you can enjoy what you do have more. Bleurgh! Did you just stop reading? Don’t worry I’m not going to tell you can never shop again.
TV, Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, radio, your favourite news source. They’re free right? SO generous! Out of the sheer goodness of their heart, they give us access to a universe of connectivity, information and entertainment. And we don’t have to pay a cent! Neat huh?
But the truth is, the majority of media – social, news, magazines or any other kind you can think of – is trying to make money. They’re after clicks, viewers and readers. And they have worked out very clever ways of getting them (see The Social Dilemma on Netflix.)
Their sponsors and advertisers want your attention. One of the most popular ways of doing this is to make you feel bad about yourself and your life. Make you feel bad about your home. Make you feel like You Too, Could Live In A Home Like This AND Look Like This Perfect Family. Or look like this 21 year old in an ad for wrinkle cream.
Or You MUST Have The Latest Look! Look – Here It Is! Buy It Here, With Just One Click!
Awareness is your greatest defence.
Awareness that you own more than a huge proportion of the humans on this planet could ever dream of owning, is powerful. You know that you already have enough. Look around you. Compare what you have with the poverty you know about. Compare it with what your parents or grandparents had. Remember that comparison.
Now look at what The Media is telling you. It’s telling you that you have a Need. Where none exists. You have a choice to value what you already have, not what you are told you must have.
Roll your eyes at their manipulations, scoff at their motivations. Then buy what YOU decide you want to buy. Don’t let them decide what you should buy. YOU make the decision using your most thoughtful judgment. Weigh up the full benefits and drawbacks of having this thing in your life.
Sometimes we mix up The Media and society. Easily done when The Media influences everything about the society we live in. We think that it’s reflecting our society, and it sort of does, but now we know the truth is – The Media is all about Selling. And most ads and a lot of TV shows show completely unrealistic lives.
Think about some of your favourite TV shows. Do they have unrealistically thin people with perfect skin? Women that never get wrinkles? How is it possible that NO-ONE has pimples? That their homes are always tidy, gorgeous and perfectly arranged? They have fabulous clothes and cars and huge fridges!
This is what we think is our society. And we try to copy it, consciously and subconsciously. And we often fail. Or we feel a vague sense of dissatisfaction about our lives. Or feelings of envy at all the things we can’t have or be.
Have you ever seen the making of a TV show? Or an ad? The artistry and money that goes into the appearance of an influencer? There is a HUGE amount of work and money invested in everything you see. From the hovering makeup people to the strict diets and hours at the gym every day.
Set designers, lighting, craftspeople, fake food, actors performing the script of a perfect relationship…
All of which can make us feel bad about ourselves, our family, our home, how we live. It can make your neighbour, sister, parents and boss feel this way too.
It’s human nature to want to be better. Better than your rival at the office. Better than your friends. Better than yourself yesterday. Wanting more has always been the way we humans roll. And comparing ourselves with others is too.
It’s a great way to feel unhappy. Discontented. Jealous. Angry. Which is why it’s dealt with in most religions and some philosophies. To try to help to ease the suffering of us humans. (For a non-relig philosophy that advises a happier way of life just Google The Desiderata poem written in 1922.)
It’s ok to want more happiness for yourself and your family. Breaking the habit of comparing yourself with others is key though. It’s a tough one. We’ve been doing it for millennia, let alone that time you burst into tears because your friend at kindy had a prettier dress than you.
Try to catch yourself doing it. The tell-tale signals are usually feeling a bit crap about yourself or something in your life. If you’re feeling negative feelings, poke around in them a bit. What were you just doing?
Looking at a catalogue and knowing you couldn’t afford anything? Listening to your friend talk about their new… whatever… Flipping through your wardrobe and realising you couldn’t possibly compete with… whoever…
Stop it. Flip that thought. Stop looking at crazy expensive things. Avoid those shows that make you feel fat and seem to lead to you eating a king-size block of choc. You might suffer from withdrawal feelings because you miss that show, but be strong. Do something else. Watch something else.
Free yourself from those crap feelings, stop comparing yourself, your circumstances and your stuff with other people, and businesses that want to sell you things.
How to appreciate stuff.
Some things are super easy to appreciate. A random snuggle from a super independent child, your first sip of wine, your morning caffeine hit or just lovely cold water on a hot day. Or maybe winning something, saving up hard and finally buying that thing you’ve always wanted or just a lovely sunny day after a week of rain.
It’s not so easy to appreciate your vacuum cleaner right? But do you remember getting a new vacuum cleaner? When you first plugged it in and it was SO sucky you could barely move it until you worked out the power levels thingy?
Did you ever do the dishes with really awful dish soap then get a much better brand that was lovely and foamy and make everything squeaky clean? Or have you slept on an old lumpy bed then got a wonderful new one? Connect that memory, every time you use or see that thing.
If you don’t have a good memory to attach, try imagining not having what ever it is. Or having something much worse. Imagine, in detail, not having an automatic washing machine. Watch a video of someone washing clothes in an old copper
Imagine not having a flushing toilet. Remember the last long drop you used? Or notice the fact that your car starts, first time. Remember NOT having a car?
When you reach for your favourite pair of jeans, the ones that fit just right… Appreciate the heck out of them. They are treasures.
Make it a habit. I’m a shocker at doing this one. Being a busy person makes this little ritual easily missed or forgotten. Use sticky notes, phone reminders, your diary, what ever it takes.
You could start with easy stuff. Chocolate, cakes, wine, bacon frying. Then it starts to be about remembering to savour ordinary things, like the smell of your first morning coffee, the coolness of your pillow as you slip into your tidily made bed. The feeling of a warm patch of sun or a hot shower when it’s cold.
The next level is savouring small things like the softness of your cat’s fur, or your favourite blanket. The beauty of a single flower growing through the fence (look at it up close), the small patch of blue in a cloudy sky. The way that tree grows in such a satisfying shape or the avocado you just cut open that has hardly any brown bits.
You can start to savour seemingly boring things, like the smoothness of the wooden handle of your dad’s old spade. The glossy surface of your kitchen bench when it’s gloriously clear. Or your favourite painting brush that cuts into the corners just right and the sturdy case of your dependable old sewing machine.
Enjoy the light that comes through your window at different times of the year, the memory of your mum or gran when you bake a cake, the cosy comfort when you put on your slippers or the blessed relief when you take off your bra.
Look for things to savour. Search them out, often, every day.
In the past I’ve struggled with too much stuff and an Op-shop habit! I learnt about decision fatigue, where you’re staring at your wardrobe and you’re actually feeling a bit stressed because an outfit doesn’t quite come together, even though you have LOADS of clothes.
We’ve been led to believe that having less means Not Having Enough. That More is Good and Old Things Are Bad. But I’ve learnt that it’s hard to appreciate and savour and be content with something if it’s in a great big pile of other stuff. Even if it’s hung up or put away tidily, it can be hard to see what you truly have when you have a LOT.
Have you ever excavated the back of a deep cupboard and been amazed at what you found? So many other newer things pushed it all to the back. Or have you discovered a pretty blouse that accidentally slipped off its hanger. You barely noticed it, for years, until it fell off, because it was at the back of all the other blouses that same colour.
And somewhere in that huge basket of scarves is a lovely silk one you bought back from your trip overseas. Maybe. Or it might be in that drawer… or in that bag… Whew, you’re getting sweaty just thinking about turfing everything out to find it. Maybe you even give up. Maybe you go out and buy another one just like it. But you just can’t quite match the colour. So frustrating!
Imagine that gorgeous thing was placed in it’s spot, with your other absolute favourites. Just your besties. No just-ok, no meh, none that might-come-in-handy. Just the things that make you happy, the ones you always reach for. The next time you need it, it’s SO easy to choose. In fact you’re out the door faster. You used less energy making a decision.
And you’re happy with your choice because you love it.
Practise being content with the things in your life. Practice enjoying other peoples happiness and contentment. Imagine and enjoy the experiences and happiness of other people. Ask them to describe it in detail so you can share their joy and excitement. Know that you don’t have to have the exact same thing, or better, to feel that way.
Touch your favourite things. Get rid of your least favourite things. Life is too short to not enjoy the little things (and big things) that truly give us pleasure and make our lives easy.
The Tidy Lady | Declutter & Life Coach | Tidyness Expert.