“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury;
and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable;
and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly,
talk gently, act frankly; to listen to stars and birds,
to babes and sages, with open heart;
to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely,
await occasion, hurry never; in a word,
to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common.
This is to be my symphony.” ~ William Ellery Channing
I've been reading blogs about minimalism for a few years, and have taken little steps in my own life to embrace the idea. I've gotten rid of a ton of things by throwing a couple of yard sales, donating several boxes to a local charity, and pulling more than half my clothes that aren't worn off the hangers and out of the drawers. Okay, so, those clothes are all in a giant pile in the corner of my closet because I intend to use the fabric for sewing projects in the future... but still.
One of my favorite ideas for finding financial freedom is to live as a one-income household even while two incomes are being earned. This would allow us to save nearly half our income (or put it towards our debt snowball, which we're pretty much doing already, just not through my budgeting or planning), embrace more frugal living tips, and be prepared if one of us were to need to go without an income for a period of time. It would be pretty challenging though, especially with the amount we spend on gas and vehicle maintenance for our lengthy commutes, my cigarette habit, and our tendency to enjoy a meal out more often than we really need to. I like to think that I have the words "need" and "want" defined pretty well in my life, but truthfully, I don't. I've never known the experience of truly needing something that I can't get or don't already have.
I take pride in the fact that neither of us spend much on material goods simply for the sake of having them. I bought a pair of black heels on clearance for $7 last week and realized it was the first time I'd bought shoes in more than three years. I ask for a new pair of workout shoes each year for my birthday and wear the previous year's as work shoes. Jeff goes through work shirts a little more often, but he picks new ones up cheap since he's resigned to the fact that gravity and mustard just really hate him. We stick to the same, inexpensive shower products and enjoy all our home decor and furniture, even though at least three-quarters of it is secondhand.
But I get extremely uneasy when I think about a potential decrease in income. Things work so well right now. We find small ways to cut back nearly every month, whether it be on the grocery bill or less trips to the Mexican restaurant (I'm going to make some homemade quesadillas tonight) or me finding ways to cut back on the amount of cigarettes I smoke each day (I know... JUST QUIT LISA). There's still a nagging, an anxiety that there's not enough. It makes no sense. When I track our spending almost daily, I see it on the screen: we are blessed. But rarely do I truly feel the sense of contentment that I seek.
So I continue to find it in all the other small blessing in my life that are so easy to ignore. The sounds of the wind blowing outside while the weather is perfect to keep our windows open at home. The creaminess a half a too-ripe banana adds to my morning smoothie because we didn't eat them all last week, and I don't want to throw them out. The comfort of being able to take a break at work while my boss is here, and the strength of my leg muscles that allow a quick walk outside during that break. The pleasure found in losing hours while buried in a good book from the library, or stitching little X's into a crisp sheet of Aida cloth mom found at a thrift store in South Dakota and shipped to me to make me smile. There's a symphony found in contentment, and I'm glad to be alive to explore that more each day.