A Simple Approach to Living With Less

Contentment, Resentment, and Yearning for More

Minimalism hasn’t saved me from being discontent. There are still things I want in life. However, the things that I want have drastically changed.

There are very few possessions that I want anymore. In fact, there are still things that I own that I don’t even want to keep, yet I struggle what to do with them.

So why do I still struggle with being content?

It’s not mere things that I desire anymore…it’s the experiences, emotions, and memories that I want.

I guess you could say that I yearn for more time.

Resenting the Lost Years

Resentment eats at me sometimes. When I think of all the time and money we’ve thrown down the drain in the pursuit of stuff, it gets me so upset. I can’t think of a single thing I’ve ever owned that made me happier or made my life feel more full.

I really dislike the endless hours spent on jobs and tasks that take away from life instead of adding value to it. Careers that steal our joy. Money spent on so many things that we ended up throwing away. All those things seem so pointless.

Even something as simple as planning our summer family vacation made me resent the fact that we don’t get the travel as a family like I want us to.

I do believe that the desires I have for more family time and building memories are good things to want. However, I realized that being resentful and yearning for more in any area of life will sabotage any effort of finding contentment.

Lessons on Contentment

Even though I feel like I’ve triumphed over the quest for more stuff, I still have some growing to do in the area of contentment. I did some digging online and found learned some pretty important lessons about contentment:

Contentment is the balance between what you have and what you desire. Whenever your desires are greater than what you have, contentment will be out of reach.

Contentment is not just passive acceptance. I used to see contentment more like apathy. The feeling of “Eh, whatever…that’s fine.” True contentment is genuine happiness in your circumstances.

Contentment is a conscious choice. One thing is for sure, you won’t just wake up one morning and discover that contentment found you. It’s not like the tooth fairy leaving a coin under your pillow. You must make a decision to be content. It’s all about your attitude.

Contentment is freedom. Being content is like opening a locked door. When you let your desires become an obsession, you can miss out on your entire life. Being free of those wants opens up opportunities to enjoy parts of life that you previously ignored.

Contentment is not having all you want. True contentment is wanting only what you have.

Mental Pictures of Contentment

When I struggle to define what true contentment is and how to achieve it, my mind shifts to pictures of what contentment looks like. This is what I see when I picture true contentment:

  • The happy chunky face of a freshly fed baby falling quickly asleep for a nap.
  • Those cheesy pictures of kittens curled up next to a big wrinkly dog.
  • Looking in your closet and knowing exactly what you want to wear that day.
  • My three year old daughter endlessly twirling in circles in her favorite princess dress.
  • A breezy springtime day spent swaying back and forth on a hammock by a stream.
  • An elderly couple snuggling on their porch as they silently watching the sunset together.

What does contentment look like to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Other Suggested Reading:

The Unmistakable Freedom of Contentment and How to Achieve It – Becoming Minimalist

The Power of Contentment – Freeing Truth

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for. – Epicurus

We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have. – Frederick Keonig

Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty. – Socrates

There is no end of craving. Hence contentment alone is the best way to happiness. Therefore, acquire contentment. – Swami Sivananda

Everyone chases after happiness, not noticing that happiness is right at their heels. – Bertolt Brecht

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Article originally published on 06/06/2011

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Comments

  1. Contentment is a double edged sword. While many find themselves seeking contentment at nearly all costs, others who have already achieved some degree of contentment allow their “contentment” to breed complacency, laziness, smugness and the like. It’s a fine line to reach a point of contentment because once you’re there you’ll find yourself see new things you haven’t seen before and now it’s the next thing that will make you happy, gratified, etc. Contentment, therefore, should never be the end destination but rather a series of points along the path where we don’t have to worry about what’s behind us but still striving to push forward to the next juncture.

  2. Cath in Ottawa says:

    what a fantastic post – thank you.

  3. I love how you gave visual pictures of what contentment looks like! I love the pictures of kittens curled up next to the dog. Another one I would “see” is my daughter when she was a girl, wading in the creek, looking for shiny rocks, trying to catch minnows. Not a care in the world, no rush. Not pushing to go to an even bigger creek, but enjoying right where she is.
    Oh that we could learn to be content right where we are, yet looking ahead to growth and change…
    Bernice
    The Happy Fisherman

  4. Karen (scotland) says:

    Time enjoying my kids. Not the time when I’m having to feed them, or clean them, or rush them but the moments when I’ve planned and taken a conscious decision to STOP and enjoy them – a trip to the beach, a long walk/cycle to a loved swing park, a “swing park tour” through town. A whole day spent doing nothing but playing with them and enjoying them.
    It’s kind of the whole point, isn’t it?
    Karen (Scotland)
    PS If I have my husband’s company too – bonus – but accepting that he is gone half the year has been a huge step towards my contentment with life.

  5. Hey Faith~
    Great post as I have been struggling a lot lately with how to find my contentment. I have felt discontent because I can’t seem to get organized. I go thru “we have too much stuff” quite often. I think, “If we didn’t have this stuff, I could spend more time being content with life.” 4 kids and trying to keep up leaves one tired. So-we had a huge garage sale and ended it with a trip to the thrift store with a few bags of donations. I brought out the kids hanging cubbies for their summer clothes and made sure to pare down the extra stuff that sprouted (remember I am the one who gives them 5 outfits in a hanging cubby to rotate thru the summers??)

    I “think” I will be content when I have less to take care of and can do what Karen (Scotland) said and just stop and ENJOY my kids…which I don’t feel like I can do with cluter! ugh.

    working towards a goal….

  6. I love the honesty in your post. When I’m not content it’s usually because I’m cross with myself for some perceived past failing, a bit like your resentment really. But I know that I’m the kind of person who has to bang my head against a brick wall to check that the wall is hard. Some sensible soul telling me ‘That’s a hard wall there, don’t bang your head on it’ isn’t enough. I have to make the mistake, and learn from it. Some of the mistakes I’ve made have been incredibly dumb. But without them I wouldn’t be so sure of who I am now, especially because “who I am now” gets comments like “Don’t you worry that you’re depriving your five year old son by not buying him a games console?” (True, I promise) It would be harder to be strong in the face of that kind of judgment and criticism if I didn’t know for sure that I’d been down the “high earning, lots of shiny new things” route and found that it was empty and miserable. For me a picture of contentment is when I have ticked off all the sections of my novel that I wanted to rewrite today, and feel that I’ve done my best at the work I love. Unfortunately this is not such a day. Dash it all!

  7. Stacey Keller says:

    The definition of “contentment” is “a state of happiness and satisfaction.” It is a noun, not a verb. No action required on our part, just sit back, relax, and enjoy what God has given us for that season (time period), whatever season He has us in! Don’t long for more (unless it’s more of God), just be completely satisfied! I have found that longing for more only left me disappointed, and unfulfilled. When I stopped focusing on the future, and focused on what was in front of me in the present, then I became content, happy, and satisfied!

  8. I’m very new to minimalism so happiness to me is nothing falling on my head when I open the pantry door! Thanks for giving me something to think about when the glow fades. Excellent post.

  9. Beautiful Faith! I especially loved the part about contentment being your 3 year old girl twirling happily in her princess dress. It brought me back to the way time had no meaning for me as a child.

    Contentment is something I have struggled with most of my life. In the past few years it has slowly snuck up on me and entered my life. Joy! Contentment for me is sitting in the back yard, laying on lawn chairs and looking up at the stars with my honey while we chatter on about lots of nothing.

    It is a balance between striving and “contenting”, but there is a balance point, and it’s what I’ve been aiming for in my life. Beautiful, beautiful post Faith!

  10. Hey, thanks for the link! This is an excellent post. Your points about resentment really hit home for me. It’s yet another reminder that looking to the past isn’t as positive as we want it to be.

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