Josh and I are excited to announce that we’re housing two foreign exchange college students for the summer! One is from Uzbekistan and one is from Azerbaijan, so it will definitely be a summer full of learning and exciting cultural experiences for all! We’re pretty excited.
Honestly though, we wouldn’t be able to host these students if we weren’t a little flexible. Our two boys were in separate rooms when we got the call. While it was always our plan for them to share a room someday, agreeing to host both meant that “someday” needed to happen this week.
It’s not a huge deal for two boys to share a room. There’s people that do it from day one out of necessity. Rather than view it as an inconvenience that we must combine two beds, two routines, two closets, and two sets of sleeping habits, Josh and I are choosing to view it as a luxury that we had the space to give them their own rooms at all. When we think of it this way, it becomes much easier to adjust our crazy luxurious habits in order to assist others.
(So far the switch has taken some getting used to. They’ve been sleeping through the night, but the mornings have been pretty early. Still, I’m currently sitting here writing while both boys snooze in the same room…so I say success!)
What else in life do we view as necessity that really isn’t?
Vacations, maybe? I cringe whenever I hear someone say “I need a vacation.” The accurate truth is you want a vacation, and that’s totally fine. I admit that sometimes we all get burnt-out and need to fill ourselves up. But does that really require a cruise in the Bahamas? How can we change our thinking to reflect our situation of privilege? How can we recharge without being frivolous spenders, but rather mindful stewards?
What about the ability to open the fridge and choose from several snack options? I got a small taste of this after finishing our Frugal Grocery Month. In order to save money, we didn’t stock snacks. My only option was usually leftovers of what we had for dinner the night before. My mantra was “Pretend it’s your favorite” inspired by my frugal friend Kalie who writes how life isn’t about our preferences. I eventually got so used to eating from limited choices, when the month ended and I was able to fully stock the fridge, I couldn’t believe the luxury! An apple? Grapes? A piece of cheese? I had choices! What’s more, I finally appreciated having choices.
What about shopping? I’ve nearly gone an entire year without buying clothes. Some may have called this impossible, considering new clothing every season a necessity. I’m living proof that clothes shopping is indeed a luxury. And when I do return to buying clothes, I’ll do it differently. More on that topic soon!
I’ve started training myself to notice the smallest things as lovely and refreshing. The fresh air on the porch. Sitting outside in the sun. I don’t need to be lying on a beach to soak up the goodness of the outdoors. I can close my eyes and pretend I’m just about anywhere without even leaving my city. In the same way, I can thoroughly enjoy the quiet and the stillness and the alone time on my bike ride home from work. Biking may save me money on transportation, but it certainly feels like a privilege!
Due to a little spring storm in the area, we were without power one night this week. Wow, what a great reminder of the luxury of electricity! I enjoy camping, and I always thought we were pretty good at conserving electricity at home…but nothing like a power outage to put me in my place. I realized with frustration that since my stove is electric, I had no way to heat up water for coffee or tea in the afternoon. (Yes, coffee and tea are almost necessities in my life, but not quite!) We managed just, but it felt absolutely amazing to have electricity the next morning!
I’m convinced TV is largely to blame for dissatisfaction in the middle class. Reality shows and commercials don’t show “normal.” They show excess. They feature celebrities, inflated lifestyles, extravagant “cribs” and people saying “yes” to $10,000 wedding dresses. It’s no wonder many Americans say they feel poor when, in fact, most of us are extremely privileged.
Commercials are designed to make us feel like we lack something. Advertisers will invent problems for their products to solve. Consumers buy and consume. We keep buying new things, even if the old one isn’t completely used up or worn out. We can justify almost any purchase to ourselves. He has one just like it. She said it looks great on me. If I can get it now, then why not? And the more we own, the more we feel like we must protect it. We secure, lock, and insure our stuff on top of buying and storing it. Then we’re left wondering why it doesn’t make us happy….
Of course we’re not perfect over here. Josh and I still wrestle daily with our needs and wants. I don’t write because we’re experts; I write because we’re on a journey. That said, we have learned a few good habits in the past few years of our journey toward simplicity.
My biggest suggestion here is one I learned during our self-imposed Buy Nothing Month.
Just slow down. Never rush to the store for only one thing. It’s stressful, it wastes energy, and leaves you no time to find a creative solution to your problem. No “need” is as urgent as you think it is. It can wait and be evaluated. The fewer trips to the store, the less time spent in the car driving back and forth (unless you walked.) The fewer trips to the store, the fewer impulse purchases you’ll be tempted to make. Sometimes I delay a purchase a few days only to find I no longer need it. I guess it was a luxury after all.
My second suggestion is simply turn off the TV. Focus on those around you rather than those on the screen. You might be amazed at the change of perspective.
And if you really want a change of perspective, here’s an additional challenge: befriend the less privileged. When your friends are refugees from war-torn countries or single moms or at-risk children, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
We live a life of luxury. Even though my family aspires to live frugally and generously, we admit we’re a long way from suffering. We find great joy in our simple lifestyle. Noticing the everyday luxuries is just one small step toward contentment and meaning.
What about you? What are some things you once considered necessary that are truly luxuries? How can you take a step back and fully appreciate the luxury around you now?