Sometimes I go to visit someone in their beautiful home and a pang of envy pinches me for a few seconds. We naturally compare ourselves and others, to what we have and don’t have. It’s a shame, but it’s the reality of this world.
I know you’ve all heard it before or seen some meme or blocked out quote that says, don’t compare, be grateful, be mindful, blah blah blah, but even as a minimalist it’s hard to not get sucked in sometimes. It’s almost natural to compare and it’s almost against every fiber of our being to say no to bigger, better and more.
You don’t have to be a scientist or psychologist to see how marketing and sales executives make big money through the art of envy, but we rarely question it. The danger of this, subtle, age old tradition of comparison, may not eventuate in big purchases or drive you to strive for the highest paying job, but it’s influence seeps in from an early age it will (at most) keep you in a state of discontent for the rest of your life, if you’re not careful. This is worse for our mental health than it is our wallet.
Fortunately for Gen Y’ers, social media allows us to be perceived as anything we like, to appease the pressure we put on ourselves and each other. We can fake good looks, stage parts of our houses to look appealing, only post what we want people to see, buy clothes that look cute on our kids and attend events based on the appeal it might have on our social media… But you can’t fake what is your real life and that is what is hurting us more than anything.
This unreasonable, crazy, overwhelming feeling of failure in every area of our lives because of this embedded discontent and comparison. It’s not fake, it’s been put there for a reason.
The saddest part of it all is how Gen Y’s and unfortunately Gen Z’s will live through this discontent more horrendously through more materialism, consumerism and self objectification, thanks to the said appeasement of social media. If we are smart we can keep sane by using an equation. As much toxic stuff we follow, we need a fraction more of the friendly self love banter to keep the sanity. This is the reality we face and if you don’t follow self love, faith filled, scriptural people, I highly recommend it. Leah Darrow is one of my favourites.
This link is a journal article on the effects of Instagram and young women’s perceived beauty standards. When will this stop? It probably won’t until more studies emerge that eventually tell us (if it survives the noise and gets turned into a buzz feed) the glaringly obvious. Stop comparing.
Maybe one way we can the shift societal pressure of comparing is by starting off real simple. I like to ask real questions when I meet people, like, what do you do on weekends, or, what are your favourite things to do with your family and why.
But even as a minimalist, just recently, I had to stop take a deep breath, mantra my way through a conversation that included ‘Oh you rent in Kingswood’ and ‘you are so brave to have as many children as you do in today’s financial climate’ – children aren’t a luxury, that we have ever had to save up for, they are a result of the love we share. I have probably lost all credibility as someone worth reading because I don’t own my own a mortgage (note that I say mortgage and not house) and have lots of kids. After silencing the old self, I had to say to myself.
It is not only o.k., it is is bloody brilliant, to want less!
If you’re still here, thank you.
This is the main reason why I wanted to blog about living simply. The conversations that can shift societal pressures, improve mental health, keep families together, fight the war on waste, restore dignity to women and all these other issues that seem to stem from a culture of envy, comparison and greed. We base our success on the amount of debt or investments we can get ourselves into. Sure, if that’s what you want, go for it! However, if there’s anything slightly, or even remotely more important, than why not go for that thing with much more fervour.
This was shared on Facebook recently and it’s definitely true for us. That thing that make us happy, it is our relationship as husband and wife, as mother and father, as friend and sibling. The most important, being the ones within these four rented walls.
Both of us co existing in the same home, passing ships in the middle of the night and stressing out at the kids (just to pay bills) was not living in good relationship and was not a life we wanted for ourselves. We didn’t want our priority to be bills over each other.
I don’t know what you’re questioning right now, maybe it’s the cost of living, maybe it’s struggling to parent growing children and work at the same time or maybe you want some peace in life from the numbing embedded discontent and constant comparison to your neighbour. We questioned all of these and the answer has been simple for us. Let me break it down to you old school when cliche and life changing slogans once graced our billboards… “The best things in life are free”, “mo money mo problems”, “love don’t cost a thing”.
Praise be to God, we decided that change was in order for our family, but this simple life that we live, is not a popular, reasonable, or even a “responsible” way of living for most.
Our faith, morals and desire for one another lead us to be passionately pro-life, so we have many kids and we will probably have more, even though we practice natural family planning, but I would go as far as to say that I hold many feminist views which make me question social media and societal pressures put on women today. This juxtaposition already rules me out as a mainstream feminist and as a modern woman, so really, I don’t fit in a lot of categories or social standings anyway. What’s another (renter, part-timer, still studying, catholic, one income family, minimalist) to add to mix?
We may never own our own home in Sydney and for us, that is more than o.k.! I can’t justify the amount of hours I will have to work away from my small children to do that right now. I can’t even justify working more hours in a job that I love when I can just be with my family. I am quietly obsessed with them. Besides, I asked my husband tonight, what do you want to leave our kids with when you die… and he said most assuredly without hesitation, ‘faith’.
Tonight and most nights when he’s not gaming and i’m not writing, my husband and I get to stay up past the kids bedtime to talk and hang out, I know without a shadow of a doubt that we are always on the same page on the most important things in life. It’s the reason why I married him after only three months and it’s the reason why I know, no matter if we are poor or well off, in joy or sorrow, we will be together and our love makes us the wealthiest of people in this world (I can imagine skeptics rolling their eyes and hear them scoff ‘says a low income earner, without a mortgage’ – but it’s true and you know it, well this rich guy know it).
Our biggest bill we have is an investment in our children’s character and faith formation at their awesome PARED school, and as long as we can provide for that investment and be present, we know this is far more valuable to us than leaving them with money or property. It’s these memories of my ‘stay at home’ mum I hold dear.
I was confused at one point why my husband enjoyed ‘staying at home’ so much, because I never did, so I asked with a superficial feminist undertone… ‘Dude, what are your goals in life?’ and expecting him to say to something superficial back, he replied instead, “To be a great husband and a great Father”. He sure showed me.
Experiencing the loss of people so dear to me, including my amazing mother, has made me more aware and passionately seeking the type of life I want to lead and the type of character and moral standing I want to impart on my children and my family when I leave this earth. Just like she did. She was a great wife and an even greater mother.
It is now our shared goal, our most important and hard work. We are both busy with the cross we carry trying to look after the condition of our souls and the well being of our children in our imperfect life. Trust, it’s not easy and sometimes i just want to shut up and go to Mass on Sunday and that’s it – but this shared goal of good relationships, ministry and charity is a far more worthwhile ambition than the superficial one I was attuned to hearing.
So in the spirit of shunning comparisons and breaking down societal pressures, I will gladly share these joys with you – from a family and a woman who advocates a ‘simple life’;
- I am so grateful for our beautiful, homely, minimal 3 bedroom fibro ‘rental’ cottage and our beautiful God given landlords (they’re seriously the best), with our ripped couches from our cat and !
- I love working (currently with Monday’s off) in Ministry, where I get to help further the kingdom of God, in a great community and a faith that I love dearly.
- For our family, it worked best for my husband to do the stay at home dad gig. He does it with certainly, a more carefree and fun attitude than I ever did (all I did was stress about cleaning). This is actively helping our kids be happier, grounded, safe and secure – especially our daughters. An opportunity, not many fathers will ever get.
- Over the past three years simplifying our lifestyle we have been able to get rid of over 21k worth of personal loan and credit card debt that we acquired when we weren’t minimalists, admittedly not all on the one income, but we got there and have not acquired any more debt to date. More recently we were able to lower our expenses (went from two cars to one and got rid of childcare), so that we can live on one income.
- But most of all. I am grateful, for the amount of time we have together with our young children. This time, we know we will never get back. This time, we know we should cherish and be present. As we’ve heard from many parents of teens and young adults who blaze the trail before us, this is the time where they have so much innocent, reciprocal love, dependence and admiration for us, but it will surely fade (nooooo).
We are still learning and growing as spouses and parents and we are never perfect, but we are well aware of our faults and we actively try to find solutions for them because this is where we are invested. In these lives. In this home.
As St Mother Therese said… “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”
Everything else, even ministry and charity comes after this and it is precisely because we seek to live a simpler life that that we can focus on this more intensely.
Some days we struggle to live and to love each other and I still stress, get upset and get overwhelmed because well, that’s just life and I’m a woman in all my pro-life, feminist glory, but those days are nothing to the amount of days that God provides for our every need.
I don’t know why you are reading but if I can offer one assurance it’s this.
In our simpler life we are content, we don’t want more than what we have and we are grateful.
In fact, we want less and that’s more than o.k. it’s a bloody brilliant way to live!