Guest post from Sarah of The Jelly Jars:
I never thought I would struggle with the desire for more clothes or a bigger house, the comparison trap with neighbors or friends, the belief that bigger is better.
You see, my husband and I had spent the last year living in a 900 sq. ft. apartment with three young children, we gave away 1/3 of our possessions, and I became an expert at living off of a bare-bones budget as he completed his graduate degree and worked part-time at a church.
If anything was going to teach me how to live simply, it was that year… or so I thought.
But there is a difference between living simply and being CONTENT with living simply.
What I noticed in myself is that as soon as we were able to move out, move into a single-family home and my husband started making a salary again, my old thought processes so easily returned. It’s like I had just put band-aids on the symptoms without actually working on my heart issue of needing, wanting, desiring more.
Here is how I am actually, truly, completely becoming content with simplicity:
1. I limit how much I shop in stores.
I have learned that when I actually go into stores (Hobby Lobby and Target are my biggest problem places!) I see things I want and think that I need. This either causes me to covet and become discontent with my actual life, or to make impulse purchases to fill a perceived need in my life and spend money unnecessarily.
Until I am able to go into Target and buy the one thing I actually need without throwing unnecessary items in my cart and have to explain a $100.00 surprise purchase to my husband, I buy my mascara off of Amazon.
2. I reorient my thinking through gratitude.
This is such a simple practice that has revolutionized my days. It is so easy to look at the things we wish we had — a bigger house, a bigger yard, different neighbors, a bigger paycheck.
If I dwell there though, I’m not living in my present moment, I’m only becoming more jealous and dissatisfied, frustrated with my perceived lack. If I push back against those thoughts though and instead point out what I can be grateful for, I’m no longer restless.
Instead of wishing for a different neighborhood, I see the neighbors I have on this street and how glad I am to live near them. Instead of wishing for a bigger house, I remind myself of our old apartment and how spacious this house is compared to that.
Gratitude changes everything!
3. We pay for items with cash.
Paying with cash gives me an objective barometer for spending.
Instead of pulling out the credit card and buying anything I want, cash limits me in the best way. It keeps me within my budget boundaries and I can’t argue with the envelope if there’s simply nothing more in it left to use.
4. We only keep what we actually need.
About every six months, we go through our house and evaluate if we actually need an item. I ask myself if it actually serves a purpose in the home or if it is valuable (either sentimentally or monetarily), and if it doesn’t do either of those, we donate it or put it in the garage-sale pile.
5. I engage with my people in real ways.
I pull my daughters onto my lap and we read a book or we find leaves in the front yard and trace them with sidewalk chalk or we make pancakes for dinner and I let them crack the eggs. We build a fort with sheets from the closet or we have a tea party or we bake cookies to hand out to neighbors.
I have found that as I dive deeper into relationships with my “right-now people”, my heart is full and is less inclined to need material possessions to fill any emptiness. Actually being in relationship with people in my right-now life fills my life more than any $10.00 shirt from Target ever could.
Rather than seeing simplicity as limiting, it is possible for simplicity to instead be a pathway to freedom.
As I look at life through the lens of gratitude, limit temptations I encounter, only keep what we need, and fill my life with relationships rather than possessions, little by little I am learning how to actually become content and it has changed everything.
Sarah Sandifer is a mama to three rambunctious little girls and is married to her college sweetheart who now serves as an Army Chaplain. She writes about grace and bravery and how it all helps us to become more deeply who we are over at The Jelly Jars.