Hello hello hello. It’s been a couple weeks since I was writing an update on our More Than Enough Stuff challenge. We are still on track! Heading into our fourth month without buying any non-consumable goods, and actually very few of those. I am excited to write a little challenge update today, as well as some thoughts on gratitude.
We were out of town for two weeks in March, which was a true break for me. We visited family in Utah and also spent a week in Cuba. It was a unique and incredible trip, and I am hoping to have some posts about it up later this week. There is a lot to share, and I also found that so much of our experience there reinforced my enthusiasm about this project.
Since returning, I have been focusing on giving myself a little more flexibility in my schedule so that I am able to really enjoy the present moments. I find that focusing on mindfulness and being conscious of the beautiful experiences that are around me every day is a great practice (laughing at jokes with my kids, the delicious smells of making dinner, fresh air while I dig out my weeds…) It does require some releasing of those nagging, sometimes continual to-do lists that can run in the background of our minds.
I love this article by Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD, that explains how our brains can really only focus on one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is not only inefficient, but also feels so stressful and overwhelming because our brains get overloaded and as a result do not accomplish any of our tasks or experiences thoroughly. In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle talks about this on an emotional level, and how when we engage mindfully with our environment, we don’t have room to feel either anxiety about the future or sadness about the past. We feel the beauty of the moment, and are more fulfilled overall. Isn’t that an incredible idea that rings so true?
With those ideas, and having listened to an episode of The Lively Show podcast recently about how self-imposed, arbitrary deadlines are a bad idea, I have been striving for mindfulness and gratitude in the seeming minutea of my life. All of these ideas surrounding living in the moment and focusing on mindfulness tie in really beautifully with our family challenge to focus on the many things we have rather than keeping a focus on what we lack and looking for more. Our house, furniture, clothing, dishes, cars, toys, and electronics have all taken on a new sparkle as we have rediscovered them. Somehow, eliminating the option to upgrade, add, and acquire more and more has allowed our brains to recognize the great about what we already own.
This unintentional gratitude has been an interesting and really beneficial side-effect of not buying stuff. I see the things I have as enough.
One of my favorite quotes that I have seen around lately is by English writer and poet G.K. Chesterton:
“There are two ways to get enough, one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”
I feel that in my day to day. As I focus on gratitude, recognize all I have, strive for experiences and moments over stuff, I desire less. One additional resource that I have been loving lately is the book The Gratitude Diaries, that my ninety-nine-year-old grandfather gave me for Christmas. The author, Janice Kaplan, takes one year to focus on gratitude. Each chapter covers one month that she works on a different area of life to be grateful for, and the practices she uses. The book is brimming with research studies on happiness, and how being grateful is one of the single highest indicators of well-being. She also touches on how once we own things, we naturally stop recognizing them as new, so we go on the search for something else. Basically, all of the feelings that I have been experiencing and the theories that I suspected are all outlined and proven. I’m loving it.
We have the whole first quarter of the year behind us, and have not yet experienced any real crazy challenges yet with not buying new stuff. That tells me that we really do have enough stuff. We haven’t felt a lack, haven’t gone naked or hungry. I am thrilled with the harmony in my heart and our home brought about simply by the paradigm shift towards gratitude and finding solutions in creativity.
Yesterday, we were all at home watching our semi-annual church broadcast. When it ended I had an itch to make Plum a dress for Easter, and some ties for the boys. I grabbed this beautiful brown linen I had bought last year and not gotten around to using, yet. In a few minutes I whipped them up some simple outfits, so we could head over to a local bluebonnet patch and take photos.
As the sun set across this stunning field of wildflowers, I watched my kids run wild and felt such profound gratitude for them. Even as incredibly hard as it is to take a single photo with all three of them looking and smiling (500 photos and a bribe of milkshakes later we sort of got one) I felt the peace of contentment. Our life isn’t perfect, we go through hard things, and yet we can be thoroughly happy today. Remembering that is reason enough to take on a challenge like this. It feels really good to realize that enough is abundant.
If you are new to this challenge, or want to read more about it, find all of the More Than Enough Stuff challenge posts right here.