I Want To Want Less More Often


Colorado River that runs through Bastrop, Texas, scene of my spiritual transformation

Colorado River that runs through Bastrop, Texas, scene of my spiritual transformation

Ya’ll, I’m all for “less is more.” Truly, I am.  I transferred my life from Texas to the Midwest several decades ago and slowly let go of mascara, hair spray, giant silver jewelry, and a sizable twang.

More recently, I have cut my kids’ toys by 75%, and no one has died (or murdered me in my sleep).  In fact, I am so damn happy not to trip over toy animals and blocks every four feet that I am never going to unpack the rest of the toys that at one time, I believed they “needed.”  I am slowly embracing the idea– in a real and direct way– that having less “stuff” will make space for more authentic joy for me and my whole family.


What to do with all these feelings that I used to medicate with a teeny tiny trip to Nordstrom’s Rack or TJ Maxx?  The discomfort of sitting with myself instead of, say, buying new bath gel or justifying a new pair of jeans is starting to give me the jitters.    And I know this spiritual lesson is really sinking in, because I am not using saving money as the motivator.  I’ve tried that in the past and all my best intentions around budgeting brought success, but not the deep, all-the-way-to-my-soul kind of change I want to see in myself.

Until I really let go of using spending/acquiring as a way to hide anxiety or boredom, I didn’t understand the true cost.  Take this weekend: I traveled with my whole family to Texas for my dad’s 70th birthday. NEVER EVER in my life have I returned to Texas without a suitcase full of newness– new clothes for the kiddos, new shoes for me, maybe an accessory or two to go with a new outfit.  Years of buying something to spruce myself (and later my kids) up had blinded me to the underlying message: my outsides are the most important thing.

I won’t lie. My mouse hovered over hundreds of items in dozens of shopping carts before the trip.  “Oh, Simon will look so cute in this shirt for the family picture.”  “New shoes for Sadie– they’re on sale and they match her dress.”  I resisted. I walked away. I let the coupons expire.

I showed up without anything “new” except my pedicure.  Instead of making myself crazy trying to dress everyone up, I went with the assumption that we already had everything we need.  That each of us is enough.

Goddamn, it almost killed me.  Today, the trip is over and, looking back on it, I can say that my kids looked gorgeous to me in the clothes I’ve seen them in before.  My jeans were just fine, and Sadie never put any shoes on so it’s a good thing I didn’t buy any.  We went in our bare feet with our bare souls, so I know it was a victory.  Not just for the bank account, but for my spirit.

Now of course I want to celebrate the victory with a new pair of True Religion jeans I saw at Nordstrom’s Rack a few weeks ago.  I won’t, but the pull is there.  It feels like it always will be.

Progress not perfection, people.


51 thoughts on “I Want To Want Less More Often

  1. Bare feet and bare souls – what a way to travel! Welcome back and congrats – you are so much more than enough without any outside trappings (though I know you’d look adorbs in those True Religion jeans). I’m struck that you reduced toys by 75%. That’s what I call a certifiable miracle. Can you please come over and work your magic on our toy situation?

  2. Way to go! I know I use retail therapy more than I should. If you want to send some of that willpower north to Canada, I’ll receive it with open arms!

  3. I’m going through this lately, too. Since my mid-summer layoff, I’ve had to ask myself “do I really need this?” and almost 100% of the time the answer is “no.” I’m trying to cut back on my “stuff” anyway, so the having-no-money thing is really helping further that goal.

    • The “need” question is such a good one and I find I can hardly ever say I really “need” something. It’s better but it feels so strange and there’s no hit of a new thing. Congrats on your freelance gig! You’re on your way!

  4. I love these lines: “I resisted. I walked away. I let the coupons expire.” I swear, letting coupons expire takes so much effort but somehow that small token feels like huge progress. You are doing the work – so proud!

  5. The damn coupons. They are out to get you and me, I swear. And TJ Maxx is my weak spot. There have been occasions though when I have walked in, looked around, and walked out with nothing. And it actually feels good.

    • I still have it all and when the time is right, I roll it out. But some of the ornate crosses and Christian-themed jewelry is not quite appropriate for me these days.

  6. I do this with food. Sitting with uncomfortable feelings—feelings that the writing is good or that it’s bad, that the kids are wonderful or that they’re destined for prison, feelings that I’m loved or that I’m hated—all make me run for the kitchen.

    Just sitting and breathing and letting the feelings come…I can’t imagine. But I’ll try.

  7. I have been fighting this exact same battle with myself recently. I love me some retail therapy. But I really need to be saving that money instead, for rainy days like my recent layoff. Stay strong. It is indeed so hard to resist all those deals that arrive in the inbox. I unsubscribed from all of them so I wouldn’t be tempted.

  8. It is a journey that I know well. I have, over the years, weeded out my closet in the moments where my mindset was able. The pull is, as you say, to then fill the empty space. Since at one time, many of my clothes had come from gifts and hand me downs, the impulse was great. But, I have won the battle more often than lost, so I plod along. Toys are no longer an issue as the children have grown. I now have wardrobe that reflects who I am. But, recently on a purchasing trip for needed items to the thrift store, the call of cookbooks (being 50% off that day) was almost a scream. Being already in possession of probably 100+ cookbooks, I am seeing it more of an obsession. One, I am coming to realize is not from the desire to be a more rounded cook, but rather the desire to recapture the family gathering around my grandparents table on the farm of my youth. The trick is to turn those memories into a natural reality for myself and family rather than being buried under the weight of paper and pictures depicting the reality I wish to create.

  9. Your introductory “y’all” has softened my re-entry north of Mason-Dixon. And the rest of it makes me feel better that I was the only one at the hubs’ reunion not wearing $500 shoes or carrying a fancy-pants handbag (cuz even a bumpkin knows not to call that thing a purse). Your epiphany is serious progress. Let me on that train.

  10. Love this and so spot on with my mixed feelings about keeping up and throwing out! I started the school year with very few new things and it was just fine. Yes, I did get a new Curriculum Night outfit but my first day of school outfit was a repeat.

    My son is using the same backpack as last year because he thought it was a waste of good money to buy a new one.

    Great reminders and great post!

  11. So glad you had a great trip toTx!! I had to laugh at the bath gel comment because today I purchased 2 yummy bath gels for me at Marshalls!!! And for me that is progress not perfection!!! Growing up without a lot of money and losing my dad at 14 I always asked myself if I needed something material and the answer was always no. So today I have to remind myself that I am worth and it’s ok to splurge on a $6.99 bath gel!!! And my daughter has decided she wants to be a bee again for Halloween for the 3rd year in a row. I am thrilled that I bought it at a 2nd hand shop and she still wants to wear it but I hope she inherits a more balanced view of shopping than I had!!

    • And that’s the hard line to walk– between deprivation and spending to get rid of feelings. I love that you got some bath gel and I know there will be a day when that’s a sober decision for me. And how awesome is Marshall’s bath gel section? Your little bumble bee– I hope there are pics on FB!

  12. I love this. I struggled for years in this exact area, and honestly my kids have taught me so much about need vs want. I can trust my teens (well, 2 out of 3 of them!) to tell me what they truly need and what they can wait for. Blows my mind every time. Wait for it? Who taught you that?? Earlier this year I made a decision to stop shopping at Target cold turkey, after years of hearing my guy mumble under his breath about the amount of money we spent there. I thought the money saved would go straight into the mall, but instead the act of saying no bolstered me to look at many purchases differently. I don’t advise it for everyone, but it did wonders for me.

    • I’m going to try the Target thing. I have phases there where it’s hard and now I am not in a big one so I should ride the wave. Your kids sound awesome. They learned it from YOU!

  13. I have the exact opposite problem. I am super cheap and spending money depresses me. I want to see the bank account grow. Since I barely make enough to cover my bills, it happens very slowly.

  14. The whole ‘less’ thing was always something that I wanted, but didn’t really know how to DO until it was forced up us. With everything from a smaller house to a smaller closet- my days of old spending to get that little lift- are done. At least I hope they’re done. The US is a hard place to carry that along with you though- since you’re encouraged at every turn to have bigger! more! new! this or that. One thing that I like is that we’ve started looking at our ‘extra’ money as traveling funds. When I spend it on ‘stuff’ I actually see that as taking away a bike rental, a little nicer hotel, a fancy pretzel. Sounds silly, but it works. And in the past year that we’ve been here we haven’t used a credit card once- which I am MOST proud of!

  15. don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, right? I hear you on so many fronts…I am living in the culture of bling & excess (gold-plated SUVs, anyone?), and it is terribly, nay hideously easy to get caught up in the whole thing…I applaud your pedicured feet in last year’s shoes, and really, the only thing that relatives want are hugs, kisses, and your time. Or at least, the only relatives worth keeping around, that is.

  16. I try so hard to reduce what we have and not buy more. I’ve mostly curbed it for myself, except when it comes to travel (or a blog conference!). For my kid, I like to buy him things to make him happy, even though I know and it’s so obvious that this a) sets him up for problems later, and b) happiness caused by material goods is fleeting. And yet I do it anyway. I’ll bet I could spend a really long time and a tremendous amount of money with a therapist exploring this, but I won’t.

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