Sunday, July 29, 2012

How Much is Enough?

What makes us want more, more, more? What do I want more of? What do you want more of?
“More” can encompass many areas of life; more love, better health, more friends, more knowledge, more quality time with family, and so on.
But let’s think about tangible things. Taking a guess, based on five decades of life, I’d say that money is number one on the list of wants because it can buy the things on the rest of the list – the list that contains things that, supposedly, make us more comfortable and happier.
Oh yes… the never ending search for the elusive happiness; the emotion that gets written about in books, magazines, blogs, and all the other social media; discussed on TV and radio talk shows, sold via motivational speakers, prayed for in churches and places of faith, meditated on in Yoga classes, and ultimately, pursued with money.
We buy larger houses; or smaller, chic houses in the “right” neighborhood. We buy club memberships, collectibles, vehicles, time shares. We get cosmetic surgery. We dine at restaurants that are the best we can afford. Jewelry, clothes, golf clubs, computers, furniture, cookware:  all continual “step-ups.”
There is an article in the 7/7/12 New York Times Sunday Review titled, “Don’t Indulge. Be Happy.”  In it, the benefit of having money is acknowledged, generally speaking, saying that people with money tend to be happier than those with less. (No surprise there.) More specific, it said that once you reach $75,000, you’re sort of “there,” happiness-wise, and that any more than that doesn’t increase it.
I’m sure a lot of people beg to differ. Do I? Hmmm…
I was raised on the equivalent of much less than $75,000. Sure, I wanted an occasional new toy and more clothes as a teen, but I wasn’t miserable when I was denied; oh, except when I was denied the 1969 motorized mini-bike when I was 11. I begged mercilessly for it until Mom said, “Don’t bother me about it ANY MORE.”
Before my career ended in 1994, I made “good money;” more than my parents, more than a seasoned teacher. Thankfully, I had been taught to save which resulted in my good money not "burning my hands,” as they say; and was able to buy the house, the car, blah, blah, blah.  Like most people, though, I wanted a higher salary (or a winning lottery ticket). Wasn’t that what I was supposed to want; to compete for promotions and more money?
Nowadays, when the enormous salary of a celebrity (especially an athlete) is reported, my husband is sure to express his opinion. “That’s nice,” I say. What am I supposed to say? Guess I’ve grown to believe that a person’s life isn’t better than mine because he or she has more money.
For me, more money means security. It means not having to borrow beyond the house and car, having enough for needs and a few wants, charity, and some to save. I know that money can be here today and gone tomorrow, but I seldom worry about it. While my husband is concerned about the cost of college and weddings for our three daughters, I’m not (yet). Perhaps I’m naïve. If we can’t afford it; we just can’t afford it.  Worrying isn’t going to make money fall from the sky. Planning isn’t either, however, that works better for me.
And stuff… Things…
When I think about my day, the comforts granted by material things, I realize that I have enough. If you are young, you probably don’t think that yet. And if you are older and still want more – well… good luck.
I have a friend who reminds me of the burden of stuff.  “We could have more: bigger house, fancier cars, nicer clothes,” she says, “but have always felt that there are diminishing returns on each new thing and that having less means greater financial (and even physical) freedom.  A bigger house means more to heat, cool, maintain, furnish.  More stuff means more places to put/store it, dust it, maintain it.  More consumption means more direct and indirect pollution... and so it goes.”
I agree with her. However, I’m probably not the best example. While I am content in my already-spacious home and with my new Mommy Van, I can’t say what the future will be. I don’t want a bigger house, but decorating a few rooms “in” the house is on my list of things to do that will cost more money. Getting rid of the so-called stain resistant Berber carpet in my den/office for hardwood ain’t cheap. And, it will be time consuming and possibly, stressful. Where do you draw the line? How much is enough?
Did you see the news reports of the tiny New York apartments that are the size of two parking spaces? Obviously, some people are turning to simplification and the minimalist lifestyle; or are they just desperate to live in New York City by any means necessary?
I had another thought on this topic while in the car on the way to Myrtle Beach. One of my daughters (Girl #3) complained about not being able to get comfortable. She had the whole back seat of the van (3 seats), but because she had to find a comfortable position for her head, she whined. (Not for long, though. She was told to “be quiet.”)
Four hours into the trip, Girl #2 asked one of those standard traveling questions, “How far do we have to go?” She was told and then she let out a whining complaint. “My butt hurts,” to which I responded, “We bought this van so that you all can have more space when we travel. Girl #3, you especially wanted it, and were excited about having the back seat to yourself, and you all are still complaining!”  Then I pulled from the NY Times article by saying, “Goes to show that we give you more and you’re still not satisfied.” Girl #1 then said with a smirk, “IIIIII’m not complaining.” I think the other two got it and ceased the whining.
What are your thoughts?
Image is from Microsoft Office clip art.
Thanks Judy.


Alan james said...

Great! but The landlord isn't looking for a premium, the broker said, but he still hopes the apartment's past could appeal to young, ambitious types, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Furnished Apartments New York

Tabor said...

People live in those tiny apartments because they think they can be successful by living among the successful. They are wrong, but they will learn. You are correct that the only importance to having more money is security for those of us who feel insecure. Barbra Streisand once said that the best thing about being rich is not having to eat the other half of the cantaloupe. I think that pretty much says it all.

Judy Thomas said...

I (obviously) like this post, as it includes my philosophy. Anita, you, I and our peers have more than enough. And we are leaving behind a world where our children and grandchildren might not have enough, because of what we have done to it. Now, I'm no angel, but I know over-consumption when I see it and, boy, do I see it. And avoid it.

Abby said...

I think of myself as a minimalist. Less is more. At the same time, I'm not ready to live out of a backpack just yet!

Especially with kids, there is comfort in knowing there is "enough" to take care of all of our basic needs PLUS some for emergencies.

Rebecca S. said...

Well, you have opened a can of worms when it comes to my ideas and ideals. Yikes. I don't know how much I'm willing to reveal here. Suffice it to say, my husband has a decent middle management job, decent benefits, and decent pay. However, because we chose to have four children and for me to stay home, we have had to let go of a lot of things we thought we were entitled to have only ten years ago. We feel like the eternally squeezed lower middle class - grateful for what we have, but concerned there may be nothing at all to leave our children. I just try to stay positive and focus on the things that really matter in life. I work as much as what allows my family to still function in a way that works for us.

Those apartments look okay on tv, but that's when they are perfectly tidy, which is the only way anyone could stand to live in one. It would work for childless people, but sure would be difficult when a kid is over two feet high. 'Location, location, location might have its limits!'

Anonymous said...

Well...(smile),as you know Anita, I come from a very different perspective than most westerners. Having lived for 30 years on a small (7 miles by 13 miles)remote, isolated tropical island and now in rural Japan- I have come to see how skewed the western idea of "minimalist" really is. I've traveled a lot-Philippines, Bangladesh, Thailand and around the "islands" to name a few- so I know what minimal living really is. MOST of the rest of the world (other than America) lives at a much lower standard of living than "you guys" do. We did and still do live at that lower standard. There were a few times in between where there was more money here and there but you know what? We found that we were happier living without more money. Stuff is just "stuff". It holds empty promises of "happiness" and "joy". Many people use stuff as a cover up-to hide their inner poverty. Strip it all away and THEN ...can you be joyful? Can you be really honest to goodness joyful? Can you find purpose? Contentment? You can, but it's a choice. It's interesting to see how people change when they "get money" or lose it. And honestly-once you finally have the veil is the most freeing thing in the world. Meaning, once you understand the truth of the matter by experiencing it. Even Jesus said that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. What that means to me is that money and "stuff" can be a distraction and take our focus off of what really matters. It can be a false cloak of happiness and I said -take it all away and see what happens. As you know...I've experienced this first hand so I'm not just blowing smoke. Hugs to you Anita- you always have such great posts!

"Auntie" sezzzzzz... said...

My thoughts on this topic??? Mmmm, let's see. How long have you got? A week, perhaps. -chuckle-

I'll try to condense, by saying I so agree with your friend, who is now -wanting-less-. Oh yes!!!!

And kids get too much handed to them, and do not learn life lessons, thus.

And I could hug you to pieces, for telling your whining kids to stop it!!!!!!!!! Hug you to pieces! Didn't know any parents did that, any more!!!! Plus, your kids will be learning good life lessons, with you for a Mom. Yesssssssss!

Learn to know when we have enough. And be content there. How's that, in a nutshell?

Gentle hugs...

"The fairy queen wore velvet cloaks of pansy purple in spring,
with a petticoat of late yellow trumpet Daffodil."

"Auntie" sezzzzzz... said...

Wondering... Have you ever read Nina Yau's blog... Castles in the Air?

MissKris said...

My daughter and I were out riding along not long ago, going out to dinner together. As she looked out the car window she said, "Isn't it strange how most of the houses here in Michigan have garages but so many people park in their driveways?" I pointed to one such house and said, "Look inside the garage. THAT'S why they park outside!" It was filled, floor to ceiling, all the way out to the driveway. We Americans are BURIED in stuff. I always feel somewhat ashamed when I watch a House Hunters International and the American buyers are complaining about this not being big enough, that is so small. And I look at the tightly polite smile on the foreign realtor's face. I always wonder what's going thru THEIR mind. As you know, Anita, we purged BIG TIME when we moved from Oregon to Michigan. And it dawned on both of us how little we need. We still have tons of empty space in our storage cabinets, a neat and tidy garage. Never again will we allow 'stuff' to take over. And, if anything, I'm happier now than I was when I had all that stuff. For those who say, "I'm saving it for my kids someday"...well, I saved a lot for mine and when push came to shove and I asked them as we prepared to move, "Do you want this or that?" all they wanted were a couple of Christmas ornaments from their childhood. As to the stuff then? I chucked it. Why clutter up my life? And it was LIBERATING!!!

Rob-bear said...

In the society of "more," the idea of "enough" is pure heresy! Thus, usefully thought-provoking.

Heresy or not, I have been thinking a lot about the idea of "enough." A year ago, we moved from house to apartment, and got rid of a lot of stuff in the process. In looking around, particularly in my study, I still have a lot — and probably a lot more than I'll need.

I'll eventually post something about this, too. I just haven't got my ideas to the place I want them.

If you want a more or less classic approach to the topic, check Leo Tolstoy's "How Much Land Does a Man Need?"

SuziCate said...

I wasn't raised having much according to today's standards but I had enough.We raised our children having the things we never did, but we were also careful not to "overindulge". Now, I separate needs and wants. We have all we need, and then I question "why" I want something before I purchase it...not saying this results in not purchasing anything, but I buy for what I consider the right reasons. We aren't lavish but we are comfortable and most importantly happy. I admit there was once a time I thought having things would make me happy. I now know things don't bring happiness...but if I am happy as I am now and want to splurge on occasion, I don't feel guilty, lol!

InSeason Mom Cynthia said...

Recently, I told my daughters to make a separate list of 100 things that they were thankful for. I’m BIG on being grateful for what you have. Unfortunately, when it comes to money, few people feel they have enough.

Barb said...

Hello Anita, I was raised by a single mom, and we lived paycheck to paycheck. I had a very happy childhood roaming with friends outdoors and reading books. We never went on a vacation. I got scholarships and worked several part time jobs each semester to pay my way through college. My own children had more materially, but I hope I also taught them to value family, friendship, and the natural world, things that can't be bought with money. Now retired and a grandmother, I find I have fewer wants. In fact, the accumulation of things is something I avoid. I still gravitate to family, friends, and Nature for the feeling of enough. This said, I am not destitute - I have enough money to travel when I want, and I have the financial freedom to do as I please. Perhaps it's easier to do with less when it is a choice and not an inflicted lifestyle. PS I think it's good for kids to be bored sometimes!

Julie Magers Soulen said...

Like you, I have a wonderful home and a very good SUV. I really don't buy many clothes or other stuff. In fact, I am feeling like I need to start getting rid of stuff. Maybe this is an aging thing? We do tend to accumulate over the years and if not careful you can get buried!

Julie Magers Soulen Photography

Linda Hensley said...

I remember talking to a friend about her money problems and suggesting that she drop cable. "I can't!" followed by a whole list of reasons why she couldn't give up cell phones, playstation, etc, etc. -- yet she was truly stressed by her financial situation. When people can't see when their possessions have taken over their lives, they can't improve their situations. My friend is one of the masses who think the same way. Sometimes less really is more :)

Haddock said...

I think its greed that makes one go after more and more money.