Happiness, as far as we’re concerned, is achieved through living a meaningful life—a life that is filled with passion and freedom, a life in which we grow as individuals and contribute to other people in meaningful ways. Growth and contribution—those are the bedrocks of happiness. Not stuff.- The Minimalists
I read this article by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus on Revolution.is. It so closely mirrored a conversation I had just had with a friend that I gave it a closer look, and felt the need to bookmark it for future reference. In this blog post, two men are talking about a life over-haul that they took on after realizing that they were basing the value of their lives on the things that they owned. Taking on a minimalistic life approach seems to have helped them to pursue true happiness rather than chase after status symbols and shallow outside appearances of success. They have even created a blog about it called The Minimalists.
Living a minimalist life is a topic that has been floating around the philosophical circles for a while. The financial crash from which the world is still recovering was stimulus enough to make people examine how they live their lives and where they place their values. For me, the stimulus has come over time: living in Africa, lack of access to stuff, and my nomadic-suitcase-driven lifestyle (read about that in "Luggage Allowances") has created in me a desire to keep it simple and live with less. I don't feel that I am living in lack, and I enjoy knowing that what I do have is of quality and is meaningful to me. My son, on the other hand, has a different idea of how we should be living our lives.
Minutes after opening the train in the above image, my trainaholic was asking for another train that he did not yet have. 'Seriously!?" I incredulously replied, "You JUST opened Gordon! You haven't even played with him yet!" Unfazed, matter-of-factly, his comeback: "I don't have Rosie..."
By constantly asking for MORE, MORE, MORE, my five year old off-spring has, as of late, been challenging my minimalistic values. I am trying to in-still in my little man the idea that we don't need to have more stuff (in his case, every Thomas train in existence) to be happy- we have to take care of and enjoy what we have before we take in more. He isn't buying in, and it baffles me. Where did he get this idea that he has to have STUFF??? He has a mom who keeps her carefully weighed out, intentional purchases to a minimum, who keeps clutter at bay, and who does what she can to use what she has before bringing in new items.
So that my son doesn't feel as if my choices come out of lack, I am careful to use phrases such as: 'We have to take care of what we have before we get more;" "We are not choosing to spend our money like that;" "Be grateful for and enjoy what you have before you look for more." "A lot of children don't have ANY toys!" He just looks at me like I am crazy and turns up the whiney-production that grates on my every nerve. "BUT I DON"T HAVE ROSIEEEEEEEEE!!!!"
So what do I do? Right now, I have the buying power, which means that my values ultimately run the show, but that doesn't mean he values my choices. Is it every kid's job to ask, ask ask, and the parent's job to quell (or give into) these wants? I ask myself if I would give him more if our financial pot was bigger, and maybe the answer to that is yes, but I hope my "No-s" are not just financially driven. I truly hope that we maintain a lifestyle in which the value of minimalism reigns as our financial pot grows. Because there is one thing I do know for sure: a room full of stuff isn't going to make you happy. You cannot buy away the blues or overly-decorate away dissatisfaction. Competing with the Joneses isn't going to increase your self worth. Now, how do I translate that into five-year old speak??? If only he could read; I'd make him read this article. Maybe as a bedtime story.
If you struggle with the game of stuff in your home as well, please use the comment space below to share how you keep the gimmes at bay.
Yours in Thoughtful Parenting and Purchasing,
Erin Michelle Threlfall
Theatre Artist, Activist, and Educator, Erin is the mother of a budding genius in his 7th year of study. Erin and her little man, Edem, have a plan to investigate world theatre and influence education one continent at a time. Ghana, South Korea, Togo and Bali have been checked off the list of places to live; these days they call Brooklyn home.