Happiness isn’t about how much stuff you have, what car you drive, or which labels you’re wearing. We all know this, although some of us are more accepting of it than others. So why, then, does the rat race continue?
Because, like any race, it will keep going for as long as people choose to participate.
Several years ago, I found myself confronted with the harsh reality of having to downsize my life in order to survive. Bankrupt and unable to work due to severe depression and anxiety, I had no idea how I was going to make ends meet. Whether I liked it or not, I needed to learn to live with less.
It took some time yet, bit by bit, not only did I adapt to living with less, I actually began to enjoy it. Because I realised that I genuinely didn’t need more stuff to be happy. And, more importantly, I realised that the pursuit of ‘stuff’ – material goods, status, economic achievement – is just not sustainable in the long-term without sacrificing true happiness, the kind of happiness that comes from leaving work at 4pm on a sunny day to enjoy a lazy barbecue with loved ones for dinner. The satisfaction that comes from knowing that your weekend is yours and yours alone, to do whatever you want with. The joy that comes from curling up in your favourite spot with a coffee and a good book. All of the things that money cannot buy.
I was forced, through necessity, to get my shit together and learn to live with less. I learned how to budget. I stopped ordering in and started cooking. I stopped doing groceries four times a week and instead pre-planned what I needed to buy. I even retrained myself to shop in a more frugal manner without needing to resort to living off the dreaded super-cheap generic products. It turns out that regular $2 supermarket paprika is almost as good as the $15-a-tin Spanish stuff I used to be addicted to. Because, at the end of the day, $15 paprika is not going to make me as happy as all of the different things I can buy for $15.
Sure, I miss leisure shopping every now, yet I’ve discovered that a good browsing session online can actually quench my desire to shop if I’m feeling particularly on-edge and desperate to shop. It’s just like quitting smoking (which I did nearly three years ago) – even now I have the odd craving, but I know it’s just my brain being cheeky and that it will pass as quickly as it came.
Living with less has gone from being something which was forced on me to a lifestyle I really enjoy. When we moved house a few months ago, it was pleasing to see how much stuff we had managed to get rid of and how much easier that made the move. We’ve decided our next challenge is to downsize our stuff even further – once our furniture is taken out of the equation, I would love to be able to move everything else in one carload. Aspirational, yes, yet achievable.
Because, at the end of the day, it’s just stuff; you can’t take it with you. And I, for one, choose to live with less.
Interested in mental health and wellbeing? Join me for my new web series, Let’s Talk About Mental Health, at youtube.com/jeremygodwin1976 and subscribe on YouTube to be alerted when new videos are released.
My book, Depression? F*** Depression!, is currently on sale on Apple iBooks and Amazon Kindle. Featuring 260 pages of practical advice about understanding and dealing with mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, it’s part memoir and part self-help guide. Grab it on Apple iBooks HERE for only $0.99 (AUD/USD/CAD)/£0.49/€0.99 or on Amazon Kindle HERE for just $0.99 USD/£0.99/€0.99. Also available to buy in print from Amazon and Book Depository.