I was looking around at my house and thinking back to my college days. I got married in the middle of my college experience, and we lived in a small, not so beautiful apartment. The first apartment was literally the size of my now living room and kitchen combined. Actually, it may have been just a bit smaller than that. It was a one bedroom place, technically, but in truth it was actually a studio that had a convenient wall smacked up in the middle.
That tiny apartment housed us well. We had very little, and we were happy. The majority of our days were spent out of the apartment. I was in class or at the library all the time, and my husband was at work. When we had time off, we would go out and explore the town. We lived on very little income, but somehow made it manage.
About a year after living in that tiny apartment, the owner of the building approached us and asked if we would be interested in managing the complex for him. In return, he offered us a bigger apartment… two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and even a small dining area. It felt like a palace! We took the offer and that is where were lived until I finished out my college career.
We still had very little, and we spread out the little we had to make it look as nice as possible, but there wasn’t much by way of possessions. We did buy a new couch for the living room, but that was pretty much it.
And we were happy. We didn’t really care about what other people had.
When I graduated from college, we packed up our small amount of belongings into a tiny moving truck and headed to a new state. When I say the moving truck was tiny, I mean we got the smallest rental available and we couldn’t even fill it. We didn’t have a lot by anyone’s standards.
We had found a nice place to live in our new town and started settling in.
We got jobs.
And, to use a modern term, we started adulting.
As luck would have it, the husband and I both took jobs at the same company. Working together seemed like a pretty neat thing. The company owner asked us to work on a special project for him. We were delighted to do so. Not only was he paying us our normal wage, but as a bonus he asked if there was anything we needed as we were still somewhat newlyweds and in a new location. We talked to him about our new place (this time a much bigger duplex!) and how we didn’t really have the furniture to fill it.
And like some sort of magical movie moment, he – the company owner – handed us the company credit card and told us to go buy whatever we needed to make the place home.
I think that’s where it all started.
I’m not blaming him for our clutter-filled existence… not at all. But I’m saying that in that moment we were able to get whatever we wanted and rather than looking at what we actually needed, we got what everyone else had.
We filled up that duplex.
And when the bonus of the company credit card was over, we didn’t stop.
It was like some sort of switch had been flipped and suddenly all of our previous happiness disappeared. All we could see was what we didn’t have.
We continued working in that company for quite a while; and as it tends to do, our pay increased. As our pay went up, our purchases went up.
Eventually, my husband took a job at a different company. His pay increased even more.
Lifestyle creep is a real thing, and we experienced it. More pay meant more stuff.
The computer I had always loved suddenly wasn’t good enough. The television we enjoyed suddenly wasn’t big enough. We needed new dishes and gadgets in the kitchen, new clothing in our closet, and new tools in the garage.
And then we had kids.
We moved out of that duplex into a bigger rental house and filled it with even bigger things. Our lives exploded with stuff… so much stuff.
We were buying things we didn’t need, cluttering up the house because it was what we figured people did when they grew up, and we were living far beyond our means.
And we were no longer quite as happy as we had been.
But we bought a house. It was bigger than the rental.
And we kept filling it… because we needed all that stuff, right?
Well, no, that’s not right. Most of what we filled our home with was completely unnecessary. Oh sure, we needed certain things for the kids. But I’m not talking about that. It’s the excess that we didn’t need. It’s the bigger and better, newer and greater, keeping up with the Joneses-type stuff that we didn’t need. And we learned that the hard way. We filled our home with so much stuff that it became suffocating.
Because somewhere along the way, we bought into the lie that we needed all those things to be happy.
Looking back, realizing where all of the excess and discontent started, I can see just how far we’ve come. But we aren’t fully where we need to be yet. There is still more clutter to get rid of, there are still old habits to break, and there is still a world of consumerism that we must live in.
Minimalism is a journey we have to intentionally set out on, and the path isn’t always straightforward.
But it’s worth it… it is all worth it.
The more intentional we are about our lifestyle, and the more we remove what doesn’t matter, the happier we become. We are finding our way back to that place of being content. No, we aren’t going to go back to that tiny apartment, but we also aren’t going to crowd ourselves out of the home we built just to adult the way others are adulting. Our aim is more simple, and our lives are improved by that.