I’ve realised that having everything I want is within my reach. I don’t need more money; I just need to want less.
Simple living, sustainable living, voluntary simplicity, minimalism, or whatever you want to call it, isn't about deprivation. Living with less is about deciding what you really want and foregoing the rest. In the wise words of Henry David Thoreau, “I make myself rich by making my wants few”.
I’ve been questioning my wants: a new camera, tablet computer, slow cooker and so on. When I consider these wants against my greater life goals – get out of debt, have minimal impact on the environment, live in a clutter-free home – these wants become secondary. My greater life goals seem more important and all of a sudden I no longer want these things. They may move back onto my list of wants one day, but for now I like the idea of feeling like I want for little.
Little Eco really wanted a skateboard for Christmas. I'd have preferred to have bought her something ethically made in Australia from natural materials - but buying her something that she didn't truly want, just because it is ‘eco’, would have been wasteful. So on Christmas morning she received a skateboard from us and safety gear from Santa.
I momentarily questioned our tradition of only giving her two gifts when she sadly whispered “I thought I’d get more”. My heart sank and I regretted not showering her with gifts. Thankfully, her disappointment soon disappeared among time with extended family, gifts from relatives and learning how to skateboard.
Rather than depriving her, I believe that we are helping her learn how to want less and teaching her to appreciate what she has. I hope that by wanting less, she will always feel rich. That said, we have realised we were probably being a bit extreme, and will be reintroducing a Santa stocking next year, filled with thoughtful small gifts.
Perhaps having everything you want is within your reach too?
Question your wants against your greater life goals. If you decide that something is really a want, go ahead and buy it. Cherish it, use it, look after it, and if it becomes something that you no longer treasure, pass it on.
Fill your life with things that are truly important to you and don't clutter your true wants with stuff.
Originally published in my Newcastle Herald column 'Less is More' 11th January 2014.