I recently came across some staggering statistics in a book and was literally shocked by what I read. Of the nearly 6 billion people on Earth, did you know that 1.2 billion people live on about twenty-three cents a day?! And the wealthiest 1 billion individuals survive on roughly seventy dollars a day.
What does that mean for you and me? Assuming you are earning $35,000 dollars a year, you are in the top 4 percent of the world’s population economically speaking. And if you make more than $50,000 dollars annually, you are actually in the top 1 percent!
I am going to go out on a limb and assume that the majority of those reading this blog are probably in the top 5 percent. That means that to 95 percent of the rest of the world, you are stinking rich! Wealthy! Have you ever thought of yourself that way? And what does that mean about your level of satisfaction with what you have and your overall happiness?
Money Doesn’t Equal Happiness
If most people equate happiness with finances and materialistic belongings, then we should be the happiest 5 percent of the population? Guess what? We aren’t. Not even close.
If you’ve ever travelled to a developing country and had a chance to observe some of the local children, you likely found that they were running around in bare feet, happily engaged in a game of soccer with a ball made out of dried mud. By our standards, these children were dirty, hungry, and perhaps even orphaned, and yet they seemed to have more joy than our Gap wearing, cell-phone carrying, constantly demanding children back home.
Could it be that happiness and contentment are about more than money and possessions? Perhaps, with more things comes more stress.
More Stuff = More Stress
The more you have, the more you worry about taking care of, paying for, and potentially losing what you have.
We so easily get caught up in “keeping up with the Joneses” without stopping to realize the rat race that we are involved in. We already have more than 95 percent of the population and yet we are never satisfied.
If only we had that nicer car (the one that requires premium gas), if only we could have that wardrobe (dry-clean only mind you), that motorcycle (don’t forget life insurance), that sixteenth generation of the same phone (but oh, it has a better camera right?), a bigger house (more to clean and a bigger mortgage too).
Slaves to Our Stuff
And how about the things that you do have?
Do you have “junk drawers” full of the last 15 generations of your phone or i-pod?
A shed full of sports equipment and tools you haven’t touched in ages?
A basement of storage bins full of clothing too big or too small?
A bookshelf of books you’ll never pick up again?
A cabinet full of china you don’t dare touch in fear of breaking something?
And is any of it making you even a little bit happier?
I know for me, the answer is a resounding NO! In fact, just thinking about it all makes me feel anxious and overwhelmed.
For the longest time I told myself I would get around to organizing, selling, giving away, etc. But life has a way of being just as chaotic and cluttered as our closets, and the time to tackle these tasks just isn’t a priority! So the junk just keeps piling up, and in turn just weighs us down more and more. And before we realize it, we literally become slaves to the things that we have!
Think about this…the average household now has more televisions than people…most homes have two car garages and yet they can’t even fit one car in because of how much stuff they have…and my favorite…one of the fastest growing industries right now is storage facilities!
We all have so much junk that we have to lease a separate unit from our home just to store it all in! WHY?!
Have you ever had a yard sale or donated some unused clothing to charity? Do you remember how good it felt to purge? It is literally like breaking the chains away and finding freedom! It may have only bought you an extra 12 inches of space in your closet, but somehow that experience is the most liberating thing!
Over the last year, our family has been trying to embrace the idea of simplicity and have been selling, donating, and trashing large amounts of things in and around our home that we previously were clinging on to with all our might.
Do we use it? Do we need it? Can we live without it?
We started to realize how much our material belongings were weighing us down and how good it felt to get rid of those things that we didn’t truly want or need!
We applied this to our schedule too. We decided to prioritize the things on our agenda that really mattered (mainly quality time with our family and friends, as well as time for activities we really enjoy), and started cutting back on things that only brought us more stress and anxiety (time spent on Facebook, watching excess television, time working at jobs we didn’t really enjoy).
Simple living is something we are brand new to in our household and is something we are only starting to embrace. Stay tuned for more posts on this topic to follow along with our family as we learn how to simplify and be satisfied with what we have. I can’t say we will fully become minimalists, but at least we can learn to minimalize!
What is one thing you can do to embrace simple living?