Friday, June 11, 2010

Spend your time and money on what you really want

Design blogs that feature flawlessly-styled homes literally quicken my pulse. When my children are comfortably tucked into their beds at night, I often settle in front of my computer to get my daily fix. I practically drool over the bedroom with matching mirrored side tables and bold ginger jar lamps. I marvel at the perfectly-dressed bed with coordinating fabrics and mounds of graphic pillows.

As much as I‘d like to believe that these images inspire me, the truth is that they often rob me of my time and create a feeling of discontentment. I find myself sizing up my own bedroom, where the linens (in my often unmade bed) don’t match and my side table is a repository for household flotsam, such as Matchbox cars and rumpled burp cloths.

I may not like to admit it, but the blogs I frequent create an insatiable craving, a boundless appetite for design nirvana. Even if I could manage to pull off a bedroom with a seamless look, I know the desire for perfection probably wouldn’t end. I’d feel compelled to move onto the rest of the house and then outside to the garden. The cycle of chasing flawlessness would continue, as I’d likely only be satisfied with what I have until I saw something better.

While I place value on living in a beautiful and restful home, perfection isn’t one of my goals. (It can’t be in a home with one dog, three chickens, and four children.) Still, when I allow discontentment to creep into my life, it distracts me from what is truly important to me. I know firsthand how easy it is to spend my time and money on things that won’t help me to achieve what I really want.

Limiting the amount of time I devote to reading blogs is an important step in making me more content. Instead of pining for what I don’t have, it’s much wiser and more productive to plan for what I want in budget-friendly ways. For example, I can create the beauty I desire in my bedroom by clearing the clutter from my side table and filling a bud vase with a few flower stems. Even a new paint color, which requires a relatively small investment of my time and money, could totally change the look and feel of my bedroom.

It’s helps to be intentional in other ways, too. Maybe you want to upgrade to a lighter mountain bike, for example. If you can’t afford to buy a new bike right now, spending all your free time at the bike shop looking at the newest bikes will only fuel discontent. However, you can draw on your love of biking by finding new or more challenging trails to ride. And, for now, you could set a smaller goal to buy a new bike accessory that fits into your budget and that helps you enjoy your current bike as much as possible.

If you’re eagerly longing to buy something right now, take time to break down the desire. First, ask yourself why you want it. A closer look might reveal that you’re more taken with the fantasy of buying something new than with the object itself. How many times have you bought something that you just had to have, only to find that the thrill of it didn’t last long?

Second, ask yourself if what you want –a new home, a vacation, the latest electronic gadget—will make your life easier or better. If you’ve answered yes to both questions, create a realistic savings plan. In the meantime, if a feeling of discontentment lingers, make a list of things you have now that you are grateful for.

After all, gratitude doesn’t cost a thing.


  1. Thanks for this post. There is a lot of wisdom here. I find that decluttering and cleaning really help me be more content and comfortable in my home, while spending no extra money.

    Also, when I avoid judging myself or others by their possessions a lot of the senseless desires simply go away. When that happens and sanity returns I find managing money much less stressful. And having less stress in my life goes a long way to experiencing real happiness.

  2. Gail--

    Your comment reminds me of a William Morris quote: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

    I love this idea (and a good can of white spray paint.)

    Thanks for your comment.