It’s not Having What you Want…

We enjoyed a fish dinner at our neighbors this weekend. The walleye fishing has been great on Bull Shoals Lake. We haven’t been out on the water yet this spring (rainy weekends, a boat that needs batteries, expired fishing licenses). We catch and release but our friend, Fred, eats his bounty.  We were lucky enough to have been invited to their home on Saturday night to celebrate his good fishing and our good fortune for Dale’s job.

I read the fishing will be good on Bull Shoals for at least three years, as the fish have had plenty of time to replenish due to mass flooding in 2008 and The Great Recession in 2009 that kept locals from buying gasoline for their boats and “outlanders” or “Yankees” (as the true locals call vacationers) from visiting the Tri-Lakes region last year.

During our visit to Fred and Rae’s we started one of those hypothetical conversations about money. You know the “What would you do if you had xx $$ or won the lottery.”

Our conversation was focused on having enough to just be comfortable, not a $25 million lottery win.

I said we would definitely finish Dale’s garage into his dream man cave and I might splurge on a couple of Dutch doors, the kind I’ve always wanted, but were way above  the door budget when we built The Little House. Finally, we would definitely replenish and pad our retirement fund so we could spend our days floating on this beautiful lake.

That’s it. I couldn’t think of anything else.

“And put your addition onto the house, right?” Rae added.

That had been our goal; first it was adding a large addition to accommodate a family room upstairs and an office area downstairs. We then scaled back our wants to just adding six feet to the front of the house, extending the bedroom and living room.

Now I realize that isn’t even a blip on the radar, which is a pretty far leap from three years ago when I insisted I could never live full-time in 480-square-feet.

“No. I don’t think so at this point. We have what we need and I have what I want to have to maintain,” I replied.

A wave of happiness washed over me, as it was at that moment I realized that I’m truly content.

In the song, “Soaking up the Sun,” Sheryl Crow sings, “It’s not having what you want.  It’s wanting what you’ve got.”

When you truly realize you do want what you’ve got – and that it’s enough – it is like soaking up the sun. Now if the 7-day rains would stop here (rainy days and Mondays have been everyday here and it feels as if we could float away), I could physically feel it too!

Do you think our society, which always seems to be striving for more and bigger, robs people of that euphoria of contentment?

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20 Responses

  1. I think this applies to actions as well as $$. People love to talk about how busy they are, like busy is the new rich, but most days, especially now with dueling eldercare worries and other real-life things, I’m trying hard to focus on “enough” and not much more.

    Sometimes, you can only do what’s in front of you and need to forget the rest … at least for a spell.

  2. As to your question at the end of the post — yes, yes, yes. American society idolizes people who are hard workers, ambitious, always wanting more, etc. And that’s not all bad … but it also means there’s no “enough,” and life without enough is awfully draining and unsatisfying.

  3. Bec says:

    After getting married in 2007, my husband and I bought a 700-square foot house. It was our starter home or so we thought. Three months later, I was unexpectedly pregnant with twins. Then the economy collapsed and selling the house was simply not in the cards. My husband lost his job and found a new one nine months later, just three weeks before I lost mine. We’ve really adjusted the way in which we live, much for the better. We love this lifestyle.

    I love your blog and writing style. 🙂

    • Welcome to Living Large, Bec! Isn’t it great when you realize you don’t have to keep striving to “Keep up with the Joneses?” by going larger? Would love to hear more about your life in your little home, especially with those twins!

  4. Bj says:

    My parents don’t understand why I ever bought my little cabin and acreage. Yes, I plan on adding one room (hopefully this summer) to make it a bit bigger, but no where near the “small houses” my parents love. Their idea of small was downsizing last year from 9200 sq ft to 3000 sq ft. There is only myself and my wonderful companion (four legs and furry!). I surely don’t need anything that huge. I find I am happiest when I have simplified life. When I have excesses, I tend to expect more of the same, yet when I go to the extreme of simplicity, then I am happy and content. So currently I am good with the 290 sq ft cabin. After this summer, I hope to have it nearly 450 sq ft.
    As for money, riches? Nah, someone else take them please!

    • Wowsa, 9200 square feet? That’s larger than some manufacturing plants around here! 🙂 I don’t want to be famous and I don’t want to be greedy. But to have enough money to be comfortable in our Little House, to do whatever we like for the rest of our lives. I’ll take it. 🙂

      • Bj says:

        My parents are depression era babies, and they saved and scrimped all their lives. The 9200 sq ft was the largest…each one they moved to got bigger even after we were all grown and gone. Dad is retired AF Officer, and as such has enough to see them through retirement in complete comfort.
        I am happy for them, but growing up in the big is better lifestyle set me up for some problems as a young adult. I married a two striper whose monthly pay equaled my mom’s monthly shopping trips….LOL..BIG adjustment! After divorce, more adjustment, and like I said, I have come to find simplicity is where I am the happiest.
        Counting the days til I get to my lil cabin this summer! 7.5 days left til school, then two weeks of mandatory physical presence in grad school-the rest will be online, then off to the cabin I come! WOOT!

  5. MarthaandMe says:

    I feel happy in our home, but my mother thinks it is tiny and can’t imagine how we stand it. Buying this house was a dream come true for us and I’m still in love with this house, so I feel pretty happy with it.

  6. mollie bryan says:

    I grew up in a tiny mobile home and yet now that I live in 1,000 square feet with my husband and 2 children, I am always wishing for more space. I find it’s a constant readjusting and remembering who we are, what we want to accomplish for ourselves and our children.

  7. Phillis Godwin says:

    Loved the article. As I age I find I’ve had just about everything I could have ever wanted and more. Now it’s all about down sizing.

    • I agree, Phillis. I just spoke with a certified financial planner about getting back on your feet after unemployment for an article I’m writing. she said if one good thing comes out of this recession it is that people will remember that they learned how to live with less. I know that’s a lesson we’ve learned! 🙂

  8. Tami says:

    I absolutely believe that societal pressures have robbed people of contentment. The ball seems to really have started rolling after WWII. Recently I was touring Cades Cove (Smoky Mountains) with my little ones. I immediately was humbled at the size of homes that families lived in. We’ve been living in a 1200 sq ft house for 2 1/2 yrs and then 2 yrs prior to that. It’s always been more than enough for us and yet I’ve caught myself in the “well, when they get bigger I’ll have to seperate them (boy and girl) and then what do I do? Just 1 more small area would be nice.” I had convinced myself that I was still not like “them”. Consumers. I’d compare myself and our home to the mass size of others. In the world of today 1200 sq ft is small. In days gone by it would be quite comfortable. I’ve changed my thinking. It’s all a matter of being completely content and thankful for that which I do have. For realizing that happiness, euphoria, contentment doesn’t come in the amount of stuff I have, the size of stuff I have or the price of the stuff I have. It comes in the thankfulness for the blessings of what I have. Thankful that I’m blessed to have a roof over my children’s head. Thankful that I have an abundance of food. Thankful for the beauty of nature that is shared with me. With all of this, I find contentment. I let out a big, cozy sigh.

  9. kerri says:

    I think those of us who had Depression era parents and were treated to stories of that being some of the best times of their lives, really couldn’t comprehend what they were talking about, Alexandra. To know that true feeling of being content with not only what we have, but appreciative of the love in our lives. At least I couldn’t until just recently. I think we spend our lives striving for bigger homes, more stuff, faster cars, etc. I wish I could tell my mother now that I understand what she meant.

  10. Alexandra says:

    Our consumer society, you mean. Yes, of course. We don’t need all the stuff we are made to feel as if we cannot do without. My nephew, who grew up with less “stuff” than my kids, seems way more content with what he has.