What does “enough” look like for you? In your home. In your possessions. In your activities. In your finances.
As far as possessions go, we find something we like and then we start collecting it. The first one is super special. But everything can’t be special because too much of anything makes it not special. “Collectors” can easily become “hoarders.” It’s a fine line, but there’s a crossover at some point. I know because I used to have a lot of “special collections.” One or two keychains or figurines is fine, but a whole ring of keychains is just crowded. A whole wall full of figurines is cluttered.
We all have our weaknesses – I’m still not immune to the collecting bug. I no longer have many decorations in my home, but I do have a lot of house plants. I feel like I can never have too many, and I always find more I like at the store or garden center. I feel like they all have a different personality and contribute something different. It works as long as they’re out on the porch in the summer, but then in the fall when I have to bring them inside…. Every year there’s a moment of panic that they won’t all fit in my house. What was I thinking? I don’t have enough windows and pedestals for all these plants! Even my beloved potted plants can get stressful and overwhelming if I let them.
And then there’s clothing. I don’t have a strict number like some minimalists do, but I do have a limit. I don’t want to own more clothing than will comfortably fit in my closet and dresser. For the longest time I had to rotate, rotate, rotate. Now I can get to all of it without too much hassle. Now that my year-long clothes shopping ban has ended, I can purchase clothing once again if I need to, but I try to abide by the one-in, one-out rule and only buy items that will replace one (or sometimes two) pieces.
Keeping it contained in one space not only limits me, but it ensures that my clothes are taken care of and actually being worn. I frequently purge those that aren’t ever worn, resisting the collector inside of my head who says, “But this is so nice!” Yes, something may be nice, but if I’ve owned it over a year and never worn it, it needs to go be nice to someone else.
Us Americans can have a hard time understanding the concept of “enough.” We will never feel like we have enough. But the Teacher in Proverbs 30:8 says “Give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs.” There is divine wisdom in this statement. The book Your Money or Your Life points out that other than our basic comforts and needs being met, more money does not make us happier.
“Too much” is actually worse than “enough.” The fulfillment curve and rule of diminishing returns are examples of this. The peak of the curve is a happy place called “enough.” Our goal shouldn’t be to go for the gold. Our goal should be to go for “just enough.” Enough needs met. Enough comfort. Enough little luxuries. None of the stress, clutter, weight, debt, or distractions of excess. It takes trust and an honest self-evaluation to know where enough is and stop there.
Unless we are disciplined and able to perform a realistic self-evaluation, we will never feel like we have enough in life. We could always inflate our lifestyle more. We could always purchase more. Those of us who are minimalists could always invest more, always save more, always give more – even if we’re aren’t buying more.
As far as our home goes, there will always be more repairs and more upgrades to do. As far as hobbies go, there will always be new skills to learn, new gear to acquire. There will always be things wearing out that need replacing. And there will always, always be more groceries to buy!
So when do we know that we’ve reached enough? Your Money or Your Life says: Enough will cover your basic needs (your bills, mortgage, groceries) and then some. “And then some” doesn’t mean thousands and thousands extra. It means flexibility. Room to breathe. You know you’re making enough income when you don’t need to worry or stress about money, or even think about very often. It doesn’t mean you spend thoughtlessly, but rather you adopt frugality as your autopilot and otherwise money is a non-issue. That’s the magical point of enoughness.
When speaking of minimalism and possessions, I would tweak the above formula a bit and say: Enough will perform your household and personal needs efficiently. No more. This means having enough pairs of socks that I don’t stress about laundry day. But not so many that the drawer won’t close. Enough dishes to host our friends and guests, but none that sit in the cabinet unused year after year. Things that aren’t used often and are easy to borrow needn’t be owned at all, like many books and movies. I used to have what I thought was an impressive movie collection. I sold almost all of it and now get my movies at the library when I want to see them again. I frequently purge our toys as well, or rotate them with friends, because too many toys can overwhelm children. (I’ll talk about this more in an upcoming post!)
I find that a lot of people who are afraid of minimalism are holding onto their possessions due to fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of loss. Fear that one day they might need all this stuff. But in my own life I find that living with just enough actually frees me from fear. A fellow blogger named Kathleen addresses this in a great article on why Christianity and minimalism go together.
All possessions beyond what I need to survive are ultimately a burden. Perhaps this is why Jesus tells us to “store up treasures in heaven” rather than “treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matt 6:19). Getting rid of excess and keeping out whatever I don’t need is therefore liberating.
We also tend to waste time worrying about our possessions – worrying that they will be stolen, stained, or broken. This is all time we could be spending having conversations with our spouses, kids, friends, and neighbours. It’s time we could be spending enjoying nature, praying, meditating, or being creative.
This is my goal: to own so little (or things of so little value to the rest of the world) that if someone ever broke into my home and robbed me, it wouldn’t be that big a deal because I don’t have that much to lose.
That’s my goal as well. It doesn’t mean a stark home. It doesn’t mean all the walls are bare. But it does mean we have freedom from maintaining a lot of possessions. Freedom from the financial strain of paying for things we cannot afford. It means that we aren’t so wrapped up in our excess that we miss out on what truly matters. It means we’re free from the fear of losing it all.
What does “enough” look like in your life? What are some ways you can channel your excess (if you have it) into the lives of others?