Monday, August 9, 2010

Does Living Simply = More Happiness?

In the wake of recent financial difficulties, as many of us our finding ourselves in these days, I have begun the difficult journey to revamp my spending and living habits.  I have struggled for many months now trying to let go of the emotional strings attached to so many useless material items that I have acquired over the years, as well as those items that I have every so slyly brain washed myself into believing that I must have them in order to bring more joy into my life.
With these changes I discovered that I am an emotionally driven and compulsive spender!  It is quite embarrassing to admit it.  But it's true!  I found myself considering a $120 purchase with only half that actually in my bank account.  I literally tried to rationalize that it was OK.  A reel of pathetic thoughts replayed in my mind: I needed to buy it, it had many great uses, it will make me happy, I can overdraft and pay the bank back in a week when I get paid again, no big deal.... I need it....I want it.  And yes, I actually bought it.  Soon after I was tormented with buyers remorse.  The guilt was so overwhelming, it brought me to tears.  I was guilty that I not only had wastefully spent money I didn't have, but even more guilty that I was actually thinking like this.  I was a responsible mom and partner, an upstanding citizen, and yet at that very moment I could have sworn to you that this purchase was life or death.  How much more pathetic could I be.  Is this the type of person I want to be?  No wonder I never had any extra spending cash, I was wasting it away all the while complaining about how broke I was.   I decided then and there that this twisted relationship with shopping was over.  

Little did I know at the time how difficult this break up would be.  A real emotional roller coaster set into over drive.  Still feeling quite overwhelmed by the urge to shop, I started with baby steps.  If I felt an overwhelming urge to spend I would go online and do a little window shopping, actually putting items in my cart.
Then I would review my choices and truly deliberate if I really needed it.  I would compare it against other things that were more important to me.  For example,  I would say do I really need these lovely comfy sandals for my long work days (see the rationalization kicking in there), or would I much rather use that money to go out on a date with my honey, or buy something useful and educational for my daughter?  I would then slowly and thoughtfully empty my cart, as I determined each item was unnecessary.  It helped me to gain a real perspective on what's important.  What would really bring me joy.  I had to accept that I didn't have the same cash flow I did five years ago, and that deciding what to do with an extra $20 took some real heartfelt thought.

The struggle still exists daily, however I think my train of thought has begun to transform enough that I have found a renewed sense of strength in having control over my spending habits, and a new sense of multiplying the joy in my life by creating a life that is much more simple.  It may sound cheesy but waking up extra early with my family on a Sunday, enjoying a quick breakfast followed by some delicious coffee (for the adults), hitting some local yard sales with only $10 on hand and extra family and friends in tow, followed by a cool down at a local park, makes for such a satisfying a fulfilling day!  Who would of thought trading in shopping sprees could be so good for me! 

P.S.  After I wrote this I found this very interesting related article.  Do you think that you could cut down to only having 100 material items in your life? Sounds like a hardcore challenge... 

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