I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all of the things we have chosen not to buy in our new house. I’ve started posts in my head about the benefits, funny things like how I’ve learned how to reheat food in an oven for the first time at 32 years old. But it isn’t the creative problem solving that encourages me not to make purchases that I once considered routine. It’s not a fear of clutter or a desire to reduce cleaning time. It’s not even about my rebellious inclination to question everything.
My acts of minimalism – or frugality, as the case may be – are about cultivating a life of gratitude.
I decided not to buy a microwave when we moved into our new place. It was actually not the microwave I feared as much as the microwave cart or table that we would need to hold it – a piece of furniture that would provide empty storage and additional counter space that needed to be made not empty. When I’d signed the lease on our tiny kitchen, a room with only one drawer, I’d just assumed we would be buying that extra storage space, but then I unpacked our stuff and everything fit.
“Let’s just see if we can manage with what we have,” I said.
And we have managed just fine. More than fine. With the exception of wishing on occasion that I could eat Thai leftovers RIGHT NOW instead of 15 minutes from now, I haven’t suffered at all because of our lack of microwave or extra kitchen furnishings.
By not making that compulsory purchase, we learned we had more than enough.
Jared and I have had fun hunting through thrift stores and estate sales the last few weeks. I think he has Craigslist bookmarked on his iPad. It is fun to see what trash you can turn into treasure and what space you can fill for pennies. But, I have also tried to be careful during our expeditions to only pick up things I’d already decided I wanted before I left the house and to stick with my monthly budget (something that is easy to do because we only use cash.) Jared gets frustrated by these restrictions sometimes.
“It is such a good deal!”
“But we don’t need two more couches.”
“Man, I can’t believe I am out of money. Those jeans are awesome!”
“But you were completely happy before you saw those jeans – and remember all the great stuff you bought with that money you no longer have?”
He is just as committed to living within a budget as I am, but he still wishes the budget was bigger. I tried to explain to him this morning why I didn’t while he was gushing over the new iPhone 5.
“I love my phone,” I said. I have an iPhone 4S, so this is not a difficult statement to make. “I loved it two days ago before the iPhone 5 came out, and I love it still.”
Like I told my husband, not buying the latest and newest isn’t about saving money or working towards sainthood, it’s about remembering to appreciate what I already have. It’s about not letting outside forces create a hole in my life where there wasn’t one before.
And, for me, living within our budget is about living with integrity. It means dealing with the consequences of the principles I professed when I created my budget. It means saying “yes, I am willing to live my values even when it is uncomfortable or annoying. Even if those jeans are on sale.”
Of course, I can play these gratitude games with myself because I am blessed. Going with or without is a luxury I can choose. Learning to live with an iPhone 4s or a 3 bedroom/2 bath duplex without a microwave should not in anyway be construed as a sacrifice.
And that is what I want to never forget.
I already have so much. I have the means to acquire more. I have what I need and what I want, and I can easily provide my children with both. What a gift! What a rare, precious gift in a world where so many people make do – and sometimes don’t – with so much less.
What a tragedy it would be to forget to be grateful in the face of all I already have.
Simply put, buying less forces me to hold onto gratitude and remember just how much I have already been given.
Plus, I’m saving up for a trip to New York in December.