Appreciating the Things We Have

I think a lot of our problem with stuff, and the accumulation of stuff, partially stems from an unhappiness with the things we do have. Bigger and better things always seem so wonderful, so shiny and new, so filled with potential promises for what our future could be like with that better thing (and not the similar thing we might already own). Because Americans have so much stuff, we are unable to appreciate it all – or even remember it all. I imagine a young family in some poverty stricken country, where they own one bowl for each person and barely a roof over their heads. When there is bread or rice or even a bit of meat to be put in those bowls, they are so grateful and feel so rich for having so much.

Everyday we throw so much away. Perfectly good food goes in the compost bin, paper with plenty of room left to write gets recycled, hardly worn clothes get donated to Goodwill, usable furniture gets sold at yard sales to make room for something more comfortable that better suits our self-image. We have so much that when some of it goes away, we may hardly even notice.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t get rid of stuff. Getting rid of stuff (via methods like donating, recycling, etc) that clutter our lives is liberating. We become less weighed down or owned by our stuff, and instead realize more in the value of the things we do have.

Take for instance my car. Sure I would love to be driving around an Audi TT Convertible, but our 10-year-old Pontiac Sunfire runs fine (except when it doesn’t). I feel lucky (or know I should feel lucky) to even have transportation. Most of the time I take it for granted and don’t think too much about it. But when its clean, freshly washed and vacuumed it feels a hundred times better. I feel prouder to drive it, and the whole commute is more enjoyable.

I guess what brought on these thoughts is that I’ve veered off the path of consuming less and saving more. I want to be more conscious of where I’m trading my money. Sure, there are still things I expect to buy fairly soon, things I don’t need, but would like to have – a new jacket, a pair of convertible pants for hiking and camping, and someday a new sofa to replace the one we have, but hate. I will likely spend way more than strictly necessary because there are certain styles, and therefore brands, with the quality that my husband and I prefer. Despite my desire to spend less, I like to buy nice things when I do.

I know its a little hypocritical to write such things. But its really a reminder to myself and maybe others, that it is important to appreciate and take care of the things we own now. When the house is clean for instance, I feel happier. When my desk is organized or my clothes are neatly put away, I become free to appreciate the space, and how lucky I am to live this way. Alternately, when my clothes (or David’s clothes) are strewn about the bedroom or bathroom, I think it doesn’t really bother me and maybe I won’t pick them up right now. But then I get more careless, and more clothes make their way on the floor instead of in the hamper, until finally the mess is so overwhelming that it really does bother me a lot. I am not a neat person by nature, and when it gets overwhelming to a certain point I simply cannot deal with it. I either try to ignore it and pretend I’m not suffering, or it eventually wears me (or David) down until I finally find myself in the right mind to tackle it.

Basically, the best rules for me are as follows:

1. Spend less. Occasionally buy the things I want, because life is better when punctuated with a few luxuries (because a new jacket can be both useful and a pleasure to own…because occasionally eating out can be entertaining and a delicious experience).

2. Save more. Continue to plan for the future by automatically contributing that woefully small amount to my IRA, because something is better than nothing.

3. Remember its okay to have a mortgage, the newer car payment, and my student loan. The house provides comfortable shelter and is building equity. My husband needs a car to drive, too. And I wouldn’t have my career without my education.

4. Get rid of stuff that uselessly hangs around. I’ll feel better once its gone, and if done responsibly (donated or recycled) someone else might benefit – which is better than simply contributing to landfills.

5. Appreciate the things I have. Take a little time to keep things clean, mended and organized. If its broken, fix it. If I don’t want to or can’t repair it, or it doesn’t fit me, see rule #4.

And finally, making conscious, thoughtful, educated decisions is better than letting life live me, instead of the other way around.


3 Responses to “Appreciating the Things We Have”

  1. 1 Liza Feldkamp July 1, 2007 at 8:36 pm

    Hi Emily,

    Sandy just reminded me about your blog, and I’ve just been perusing it. You have some incredible photographs! What camera are you using to get those awesome close-ups of the snail, for example? Our camera seems to always focus on the wrong items, so that the background is in focus, while the intended subject of the photo is frustratingly blurry. This could also be due to my ineptitude for all things technological.

    Anyway, your blog is great, and makes me want to start one, but I am nervous about publishing my thoughts… Teachers are under such scrutiny, (don’t know if you caught wind of the scandal in our district this year), so that deters me as well. That and a couple of times my dad read my journal…

    Eric has started one, though, at the above site. It’s small yet, but pretty darned sentimental so far. You might think it’s obnoxiously so, so consider this my disclaimer.

    Looks like you guys are doing great! Have fun with Alan and Sandy! They are pretty great to have around. Ciao!


  2. 2 paperseedblog July 2, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    Hi Liza!

    It is so good to hear from you! Yes, David showed me Eric’s blog and I’m so glad to see that he’s doing it. I loved that video he took of you surfing, and thought it was so touching the way he wrote “the most beautiful/crazy hair I’ve ever seen” under that picture of you. And Paolo had grown so big!

    I definitely think you should start a blog of your own. Blogging is not only an easy outlet for thoughts and creativity, but also a great way we can share in a little bit of each others lives, especially since we live so far apart. I do understand your concern though, but you can always use a pen name, and just reveal it to those you trust.

    Thanks also for your nice comment about my photos. I use a Kodak EasyShare V550 digital camera, basically just a point and shoot. Here’s a link:

    It does have a “close-up” option, but I took a lot of photos of that snail to ensure one would be in focus. It doesn’t always work well at close range.

    Thanks for reading!


  3. 3 amethystlune July 19, 2007 at 6:29 am

    great points/tips you have. being that i am in the process of moving, i am fully aware of clutter. and have vowed to not buy so much stuff after i move… however, just like you, i’m torn. sometimes i just want that organizer to have a better organized space. sometimes i want that new shirt or that new purse. i want those shoes cuz they match with at least two other outfits. i want new linens. i want a bookshelf. i want more dvds. i want… and then, i remember all the sh*t i had to weed through when i was packing. and i soooooo don’t want to go through all that again.

    my mantras as i was packing:

    1. keep things i absolutely love
    2. keep things that are priceless
    3. throw out/give away/sell anything that is replaceable
    4. pack only the things i need need need

    unfortunately, that added up to 16 boxes and 2 suitcases. how do you part with gifts, you know? it’s a touch choice….

    i’m glad you are decluttering and appreciating all the things in your life. more people should declutter. it IS refreshing and exhilerating.

    good luck! and keep it simple, clean, and clutter-free. ;p

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