How’s your gratitude-meter these days? Closely connected to our discussion on contentment is the idea of gratitude. When we are grateful for what we have, it magically becomes enough. However, when we compare and complain that what we have isn’t good enough, we convince ourselves that more is the answer. We believe that more will change our disposition and make us happy, when in truth, it only leaves us more unsatisfied. As Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist says,
Gratitude, I have found, is a discipline. I train myself to be thankful for what I have, even when it’s not exactly what I want. I learn to appreciate function (usefulness) over form (beauty). I adapt, discovering the versatility of one item in place of another.
For example, I use my butcher knife to cut my pizzas now, instead of the perfect pizza cutter (by Pampered Chef) which was lost forever in a pizza box over a year ago. I am thankful for that butcher knife and its ability to stand in for the seemingly indispensable pizza cutter (which, of course, did turn out to be dispensable after all). I re-purpose instead of buying new.
By disciplining myself to be grateful for what I have, I see how what I already own both serves me well and helps me to be patient, while I wait for the right time to upgrade or purchase new. Our things are meant to serve us; we are not meant to be enslaved to them. But, greediness makes us a slave, often putting us into debt and holding us in a constant state of dissatisfaction.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4:12
One way I steel myself against greed is by not shopping. Shopping is the recreation of choice among Americans, whether you go to Banana Republic, Target, or Goodwill. It’s so easy to stop into a store to “look around.” It’s only when I enter a store that I am suddenly reminded of all the things I “need” when, really, I do just fine without them on a daily basis. I wrote more about how to avoid unnecessary spending here.
So, for today, let’s do an exercise in gratitude. Look around your home with thankful eyes. Instead of noticing what is missing from your home or not up to par with what you wish you had, find 5-10 everyday things that help you function in your daily life, and express gratitude for them. Be sure to share one of them in the comments. Here’s my list:
- The lamp in my living room. I got a pair of secondhand silver lamps for $20, one of which I keep in the living room. It casts a warm, golden light on these cold, dark evenings.
- Our coffee table. It is a cast-off from my neighbor, and my friend Ashlee and I spray painted it to match the trim in my home. Round-shaped, it accommodates our family of seven for games in a way our previous table didn’t.
- Our portable dishwasher. This thing is ancient and unattractive, but it has been a lifesaver for our large family. Until we are able to remodel our kitchen and make room for a built-in model, I am so grateful this one keeps chugging along.
- Our Target chairs. I love these chairs and was able to get all of them for 30% off during two different purchases. They are full-size chairs that fit my tall family (what is with the short, undersized chairs everyone sells these days?) and sturdy enough to withstand their abuse. We have six of them scattered around the house, they are so versatile.
- The bookcase shelving unit in our garage. My husband took three tall hand-me-down bookcases and attached them together to make a storage unit for our outdoor items. Everyone has a shelf for their hats, gloves, etc. as well as a shoe shelf. Extra shelves are used for giveaway items. He also put up a series of hooks on the opposite wall, so everyone has room to hang up their coats and backpacks. I don’t know what we’d do without this set up.
Okay, what’s on your list? Statistics say that if you have a car and a home, you are in the top 10% of the world’s richest people (or something to that effect). We have so very much to be grateful for, and a little less wouldn’t hurt us at all, either.