“Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth—except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers! People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich seldom get a good night’s sleep. There is another serious problem I have seen under the sun. Hoarding riches harms the saver. Money is put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children. We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us.” ~ Ecclesiastes 5:10-15
So over the past few days I’ve been hit with a double whammy of instruction on how to be content. Part of it comes from my pastor, who preached a sermon yesterday on the subject. The rest comes from the book I am currently reading, entitled, “The 100 Thing Challenge.” Combined, the two have really packed a punch for changing the way I view contentment.
I’ve written about materialism before, but this book has really altered the way I think about it. I know that I have too much stuff. I know Americans on the whole have too much stuff. But I wasn’t getting why we had so much stuff. The author decides to live a year with only one hundred personal possessions (imagine your house with only one pen in it!) and learns a lot about why we buy all that we do in the process. He discusses the fact that we often buy things to try to bring to realization how we want to be, not necessarily how we are. And sometimes we buy in an attempt to fix the past, by purchasing things we may not have had or try to recreate opportunities missed.
As the author talks about getting rid of things, he is surprised by how easy it is to get rid of some of the things that he thought would be difficult to let go of. And, in letting go of a lot of material possessions, he is able to see himself as he really is. Which leads to a deeper form of contentment than most people experience, because he is free of the expectations that buying all of this stuff had placed on his shoulders.
I thought about all the things in my house that I should let go of, if I were to take this challenge (he defined his books as one library, which I appreciated). I have sports equipment that sits in my basement that I haven’t used in years – and am not likely to use for many more until my son gets quite a bit older. A lot of things I have been keeping, in the light of reading this book, seem almost silly to hang on to. They could be sold or given away, giving people who actually need them a chance to use them, rather than taking up space in my life and house.
To me, it is interesting to think that getting rid of things in order to have less stuff can lead to contentment. But it makes sense. The more you have, as Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes, the more you have to worry about. By lightening your load, you will then lighten you cares, and be able to focus on those people and activities that you really do love.
It’s a lot to think about. So, who wants to help me clean out my basement?