Here is a thing I am struggling with: contentment.

Although discontent happens in every aspect of my life, right now I will focus on “stuff” contentment.

I am decluttering in a really big way. Clothes, books, papers, kitchen stuff. It is all going the way of the minimalist.

But here is where I keep getting trapped

I want to replace things. Or get different things. Things, but better things.

For instance, I spent a couple afternoons decluttering my bathroom to a pristine space. To get it to a space I liked, I went to a few thrift shops and found containers of wood and blue glass that make the space look much more cohesive and pretty. And now I want to buy a new shower curtain and a picture for over the towel rack. Or better light bulbs. Perhaps towels that match. And you know, that rug that I love doesn’t quite fit the space….

For another example, we are considering whether we will stay in our current house for a few more years. And if we do that, I will want to add some things to the yard. And maybe get a more comfortable car for the commute….

I was at my sister’s house recently and she has this cool magnetic soap holder and we want to switch to bar soaps, but I hate the gunk in the dishes and guess what kind of tabs I currently have open in my browser? (Even a DIY one).

Where is the line between complacency and unfettered consumption? I think that line (which I want to find) is contentment.

I do not wish to live the life of a monk and I know that my level of possessions is nowhere near even the mainstream American adult.

My current car is 15 years old and my current phone is 6 years old.

Boy talking on old cellular phone

And yet… I want to find contentment.

I don’t want every niggling little thing hanging around my heart and headspace.

My inner shopper is complaining at me because for so many years, we have delayed so much. Grad school doesn’t pay much. We bargain shopped, made do, and purchased things that would do in a pinch instead of what we really wanted. So I want now to be the time to make up for some of that. But what if I stepped back and got off the consumer rollercoaster?

The stories of people who lived in centuries past are ones of frugality and contentment. If they were nomadic, everything they owned could fit on their bodies, their animals, and maybe a small cart. Those who were stationary held on to what they had, mended what was broken, and passed things down to the next generation. Now I have heard enough stories about dishes and pianos dumped along the Oregon Trail to make the load lighter over the mountains to know that there is a certain romanticized tinge to these tales. But I also know there were folks who lived this way and some that still do.

Inner work

How does one overcome the feelings of dissatisfaction with the things they currently own, or the consistent desire to own more? Our entire nation’s economy (and that of most of the world, really) is based on this dissatisfaction. Telephones used to be 25 year purchase, not we buy a new phone every 18 months. Technology updates and there is a planned obsolesce, but we consumers are okay with that. Telephone used to be 25 year purchases, now we buy a new phone every 18 months. Technology updates quickly, and companies build for obsolescence, but we consumers allow for it. How does one step off?

I notice that people who take zero spend challenges or go zero waste are still OK buying used, buying sustainably, or making their own products. What about not buying at all? I know things need replacing and things are not made as sturdily as before, but so many times, things are just replaced because we are unhappy with the one we have. When you DIY, there is still the raw product to purchase.

I want to get to a point where I walk in my bathroom and I am content with the perfectly functioning, frosted glass shower door that greets me, and I want to view the white space above the towel bar as a blank space that allows a spot for the eyes to rest on nothing but white.

White wall with mini blind slat shadows
Photo by OVAN from Pexels

Because we have been somewhat nomadic as a family, and because I obtain things cheaply and tend to live in spaces that are smaller than average, I have a very light grasp on my stuff. When I look around my house, everything I see has been with me for a decade or less. Even furniture and appliances fall into this timeframe. My brain is always craving the new and novel. How do I stop that? I have been thinking about meditating. (No, I have not meditated on whether I should start meditating). I know that is a path to inner peace for many. Maybe that is a step in the near future.


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