Having enough — not too much, not too little — is kind of a foreign concept in this country. In the three hundred odd years that we’ve been around, we seem to swing between the extremes of not having enough (as colonists, pioneers, Depression survivors) and having far too much (roaring twenties, materialistic 50s, and everything that followed). It’s like we’re cultural bulimics with a consumption disorder on a national scale.
Somewhere in this mess, the idea of having enough seems to have gotten a little lost. It’s not just about having enough money to cover your basic needs and some of your wants; it’s also about having the time and energy and space to enjoy being alive. The equation is simple enough: the more things we want, the more money we have to make, the more hours we have to work, and the less energy and time we have for relationships, hobbies, experiences, and perhaps even our own health and sanity.
This is not my idea, by the way. It’s one of the founding principles behind one of EcoCatLady’s book recommendations, Your Money or Your Life, and it’s such a nice, intuitive idea that I’m amazed we have to read a book to wrap our heads around it. Buying too much stuff is expensive not only to the planet, but also to our own very finite resources of time and energy and money.
I heard the other day that the average wedding dress now costs $8,000. My first reaction was to wonder how many feral cats I could save with that much money. My second was to retort that I got married in a pretty shirt I picked up at the thrift store and a skirt that I had bought over five years ago. Neither Kevin nor I cared. Our marriage isn’t doomed because we didn’t spend thousands on a wedding. Our lives are not poorer because we don’t have smart phones, new cars, designer sunglasses, or granite counters. Quite the opposite, actually. Those things come at a price we’re not willing to pay.
Surprisingly enough, when I think about my life in terms of enough, I’m almost there already. I’m not wealthy, but I have more than I use. I have a thoughtful spouse who puts up with incredible amounts of eccentricity (trust me, I’m worse in real life) and a companion kitty who reminds me every day of the rewards of a little patience and kindness. A quiet home in which I feel comfortable and safe. A hobby that leaves me feeling centered and fulfilled. A job that I don’t love but leaves enough space and money for the things I do.
Maybe it sounds naive, but I like my life. I find the world endlessly interesting. I enjoy being alive. And it has absolutely nothing to do with how many pairs of shoes I have. It’s true that I would eventually like a small country house with a garden and a potter’s wheel. And I know I can’t count on enjoying good health for the rest of my life, so it makes sense to have savings and safety nets for the future. But they don’t seriously challenge my gut-level conviction that I have enough.
I imagine that everyone’s version of enough will look a little different, since happiness is so subjective and individual. Mine is especially low budget because I am unsociable (no keeping up with the Joneses), don’t have kids (no college funds to save up for), don’t have a television (less advertising), and hate the piped music and fluorescent lighting common to most malls (shopping limit: roughly 30 minutes each month).
I don’t blame you if my choices don’t sound appealing, but I do invite you to spend some time thinking about what you have, what you need, and how much is actually enough. Isn’t it time we started shopping less and living more?