During the last weekend of February, Kurt and I talked about some of the different worries and stresses that we currently have as a part of the PowerSheets Couples Goal Setting Companion Guide (from my February goals). One of those stresses that is consistently on our list is living in Florida. Other stresses, like Kurt's future job opportunities and the steps we are taking to start a family, are on that list too, but our living environment seems to regularly be the highest thing on our list. It's just not where we want to be long term, and our time here seems to be beginning to wear on us more now that we have an approximate end date in our sight.
Part of this discussion also included talking about how we both soothe our worries and stresses; the short answer is we buy things. It could be treats at the grocery store, clothing during a sale, or meals out even when we have a full fridge. We aren't content and we are using stuff to try and fill that void. So, we've decided to make a change and try to break those habits for the next three months.
The Contentment Challenge
Some time last year I read about Nancy Ray's Contentment Challenge. I remember thinking it would be too hard to follow through on when I first read her series of blog posts describing the actions she took, and to be honest I had all but forgotten about it. But after this conversation with Kurt about how we fill our feelings of emptiness with stuff, and a well-timed podcast episode during a morning at the gym, I was reminded of this challenge.
As Nancy outlines on her blog, the guidelines are pretty basic. Here's how we are planning to implement them during our challenge months of March, April and May:
- We used the last weekend of February to complete the homework: prepare our hearts, organize our closet, and make any necessary purchases that we might need from March to May (not one last shopping spree!).
- Choose 1-3 inspiring books to read during this time. I'm planning to read Grace, Not Perfection, Nothing to Prove, and You are Free. All of these are taken from my 2017 Reading List!
- Gifts are okay! If someone gives you a gift during this time receive it graciously! If you need to buy someone else a gift, by all means, do so. (March, April and May all have birthdays that I will want to celebrate - including my own - so I'm glad for this guideline!)
- Necessities are okay! Things like groceries and replacing everyday items that break or become lost (like your phone or your glasses) should not be ignored. Just don't start justifying new purchases for items that you already have.
- You must actively pursue something - anything - that replaces your tendency to buy stuff. Begin thinking about something you love or a hobby you've always wanted to do, and make preparations to actually do it. For me, it will continue to be knitting, but instead of buying new yarn every time I want to start a project, I'm going to check my existing collection first and try to use up what I have. I'm also going to try and identify something that Kurt and I can do together.
When I worked through uncovering my 2017 goals at the beginning of January, my thoughts were often on the amount of stuff I have. Those thoughts of wishing I could live with less and be happier are littered throughout the prep work pages in my PowerSheets.
Through those thoughts, I recognized (and finally accepted) that I have tried to comfort myself with stuff for years! This unfortunately isn't a new behavior for me, and I know that I am certainly not alone in living this way.
Stuff brings us temporary comfort. Stuff tells us "I need this," instead of "I really want this". Stuff shifts our attention from what really matters to what is trending and, as a result, temporary. It's why living with less is the very first goal that I settled on for this year; I want to feel less burdened by my stuff and more free in my life.
Breaking this habit in just three months isn't going to be easy. But if I want to work on living a life that matters, that will mean something when I'm 80, I need to break up with my stuff and find out what it means to be truly content - with myself, with my relationships, with my faith. Because those are the things that truly matter.
As Kurt and I have prepared for the Contentment Challenge, I have thought a lot about some of the first verses in Psalms.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
Psalms 1:2-3 (KJV)
Those verses don't say anything about stuff helping us to prosper - they tell us that thinking about God day and night will. My strength should not be in my stuff; my strength should be in my faith and my relationships. I am hopeful that those verses will help me to remain focused throughout this challenge - I know I am going to need it!
If you'd like to follow along, check out the hashtag, #contentmentchallenge, on social media. You will see my posts, along with those from other people who have already taken on the challenge!
I'd love to know - have you ever challenged yourself to stop buying stuff? What did you do to succeed? What were your stumbling blocks? Share your experiences in the comments below!