Less of Everything and … Happy?

Photo of a Morgan 4+4 automobile
Sep 16, 2016

Less of Everything and … Happy?


Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world

Question #41
Rite of Passage Fifteen –All At Sea –
1959 I am twenty-five years old

Q. Content with little: Early on in life’s journey we often have very little “stuff” or income. Were we happier in those “tough days”?

There is a rough estimate that many of us in this electronic age are exposed to about 2,000 advertising messages every single day. For the most part, these suggest that we would be happier, healthier or more efficient if we ‘upgraded’ our life with their product or service.

When Treena, Tessa and I began our new life in New Zealand there were few advertisements and none on the public broadcasting service. There were no credit cards and a home equity loan wasn’t an option.

Folks tended to save for what they needed and seemed to frown on people who ‘showed off’ their personal wealth.

This suited us just fine because we had nothing to “show off”.  The $600 I had saved was rapidly spent on second-hand furniture including an amazing wooden dining table riddled with termites to such an extent that we put a lamp under it and delighted in the pinpricked lighted surface!

Our two-bedroom apartment bordered the Wellington docks close enough to allow me to walk to work each day in order to save the bus fare. We had no vehicle of any kind, not even a pram for Tessa.

We did not feel deprived and we didn’t know how we might make life ‘better’ by somehow working harder. We simply learned without distraction to love one another again and to make some very good friends.

You see…we had the time to do so!

So…what about now?

I have now lived an additional 56 years from that ‘sparse’ time and look back and wonder whether the mountains of stuff that we purchased over time contributed to making us happier, healthier or more efficient!

At my last count, we have had fourteen ‘major’ garage sales as we moved from house to house and country to country.

At one time, as you will discover on this blog sometime next year, we decided to sell everything and set off in a search for a life of service to others and in doing so began to live with less and make ownership choices that turned few heads in admiration…or envy?

This apparent breakthrough didn’t come easily and I look back upon a great many years of being attracted by ‘things and experiences’ that were very high up on the hog. Great cars, great wines, great restaurants, great clothes, and watches…even a truly great yacht!

At the time each acquisition added something to the ‘little me’ that needed this Michelin Tire Man exterior that sent the self-inflated message…I am a success!

Image of the Michelin man mascot

My hope these days is to do a “small thing and do it well until it is done”. I gave away my last suit (24 years old) and I find that I am now content enough with my life that an upgrade doesn’t seem to be the distraction it used to be.

Except perhaps for a Morgan 4 plus 4 with its oak chassis and leather strap? 😉

Photo of a Morgan 4+4 automobile

This week I read Treena’s poem Good Friday


  1. Kerryn Says: 9:16 am

    We have mostly lived on a meagre single income with 3 kids, so budgeting was a high priority & “stuff” was limited. Yet, we have travelled more than most & are a very close family due to choosing time together over “stuff.”

    We’re still in the throes of moving house this week & somehow our “stuff” has multiplied over the years to silly levels!! After culling much of our “stuff” we’re still aware that there is much more reducing needed.

    I’ve become incredibly aware of how much we’ve held onto “in case we might need it!!” Possibly that’s been because we’ve always had to be frugal, so have avoided “wasting” things. I’m finding it incredibly freeing to lighten our load of belongings & realize afresh that we don’t need much to be happy. After 10 months having to live away from my family to avoid renovation chemicals it’s pure joy to be reunited as a family under the one roof!! Hallelujah! Praise God.

  2. Mufaso Says: 8:33 am

    I used to buy old books (at least 100 years old) but did not read them. When I realized just how much money and space I was wasting, I started to read these books before buying any more. I now never buy a book I do not plan to read and re-read.

  3. Sandra Says: 8:50 pm

    Dear Graham ,
    When me and my sisters were growing in the 1970s my mother bought us up as a single parent and we didn’t have much. She provide us with love ❤ wisdom and good advice that remains with us for the rest of our lives and now I pass it on to my two children.

  4. Jean Says: 4:22 am

    So true! My husband and I love space – just the two of us but lots of space. It’s just part of survival in our capitalist society. You need to buffet your income and avoid taxes so you get the bigger mortgage and pay higher taxes for a bigger tax deduction at the end of the year, etc. We made our money flipping houses gradually moving up the scale to the point of yes – we need to downsize! Financially we are set now – security – that is our greatest prize. We too gave away, sold, gave up for peace of mind and ease of body. We have arrived to that tranquil shore of gratitude and giving. Such is our strange world. We have seen others however ruled by prestige – that is a real hook in the jaw – for all is temporary and tiresome. It’s always wonderful to see those drowning in debt and despair to be saved by God’s life ring of His word and the reality of His love and presence.

  5. Lynn Severance Says: 6:20 pm

    During my growing up years, as part of a military family, we were literally on the move about every summer heading to a new area to live. Carefully, “stuff” was gone through and either made the grade to take along, or was left behind.

    In my adult years (and now older adult years), I have never had a life style (or income) that allowed for much more than what I have come to know as just enough with a bit extra. There has never been the lure for extravagance other than abundant thanksgiving for having enough to meet my needs.

    Six years ago I had to vacate my apartment so a remodel could be done. I mean “me and all my stuff” had to leave for a month 🙂 and then move back in. That brought an opportunity to dig through and see just what was still a “need” . I was ruthless in downsizing and felt much “lighter” with what got organized and what I let go. With seeming little additions since that time, “yeast” seems to hide in nooks and crannies as much seems overloaded again. Perhaps it means another season of going through to see what “now” is most important is calling to me.

    Not having any highs or lows during my lifetime of “stuff” identifying me,
    I remain grateful for what I have – a lot of it just good company surrounding me reminding me of blessings in days of old and “just enough” for right now.

  6. Hope Ware Says: 12:57 pm

    It’s always a temptation in our society to replace, upgrade, or just buy new (or more) for no reason at all! We have raised our children on one income and I have felt guilty at times for not being able to give my children “more”. My husband and I told each other, “They may not have as much money as other children, but we will make sure they have FUN!” We found ways to make memories and traditions that didn’t cost money. For instance, every Friday night at 5pm I would have dinner hot and ready when my husband walked in the door from work. The kids were dressed, had on shoes, and we headed out the door, toting dinner with us to the local park overlooking the river. We watched the riverboats while we ate dinner, listened to music from the 1920’s on our portable Victrola, read a bit of the Bible together, played a board game or read a book aloud, and finished the evening with a walk along the bluff with the children. I was blessed a couple of years ago when my oldest son wrote “Seven Things I Learned From Living with Less.” on his blog. http://thebibliophileblog.blogspot.com/2015/01/seven-things-i-learned-from-living-with.html I cried and thought, “I guess less wasn’t less at all!”

  7. Robert Margolis Says: 9:47 am

    One thing I find sad is that even the “small” amenities such as a small house near good schools has become so expensive. I hope we can adjust our economy so that one can have a small yet decent life without having to be in the upper echelons of income.

  8. Dia Says: 8:36 am

    Where we happier in those tough days? I think we we able to focus on our inner happiness. Our personal happiness. We were not distracted by this sparkly bobal or that soft fabric. We worked hard and came home to each other and enjoyed the sparkly conversation and soft touch of each other. We were able to see each other clearly, for who we were in our soul, not the through the cover of things.

  9. Karl Says: 5:11 am

    “Stuff” in my life has been part for a number of years.I had gone thru years of ups and downs and when there finally was some really good stable income,”stuff” became a means to justify my years of nothingness.In the last two years the bottom once again fell out from under me and the “stuff” became a burden.My greatest “stuff” temptations are cars and I have given in to this temptation too often.I also recently started to feel the Lords hand on me convicting me of the need to give more to others and downgrade my “stuff”

  10. Gary Gillman Says: 3:28 pm

    Interesting, I think you must have always enjoyed people (in general), the connection with the audiences in Ottawa for The Galloping Gourmet showed that. Also some of the humour showed close observation of people. Like that joke about the woman who wanted onions from the grocer but he didn’t have any, that must have been based on actual experiences, not something read in a book or invented.

    The chef who was an ex-sergeant, or the catering officer you had looked up in England when a show was based there.

    The show was about food but it was more about people than anything else I think.

    For people who have that (a good thing by my book), “things” matter less in life. Not that there is anything wrong with things, I don’t knock it, but for most people I think there is a hierarchy of people, things, ideas. Different order to it for everyone.


  11. Georgie Says: 2:32 pm

    I think “availability” is the wonder of having less to maintain…watching moths and rust consuming our earthly treasures. A soldier is available at any time. Since we retired from full time ministry I am feeling overwhelmed by stuff. I love my stuff! I enjoy my stuff. The Lord is gracious and wants to bless us…but it is our human nature to get lost in the blessings. More so, I enjoy those moments obeying and serving the King even more…when two or more are gathered. So Louise and I are planning a sincere thinning of non-essentials over the next year or so. I am always reminded of the issue in this hilarious clip from “The Jerk”:

  12. Annie Coleman Says: 11:35 am

    Graham, I have come to realize as I have danced along the path of life that, LESS is definitely MORE! When I was 6 months from eligible retirement age, I found myself without employment. The anxiety was immense, however as I continued to send out resumes and search job banks, I asked myself, what did I really NEED to be survive….I gave notice to my landlord, packed my meager belongings from past downsizing events and I prepared to live in my car if that was to be my fate….while friends were horrified and voiced their displeasure of my decision. I plodded onward and was feeling actually was feeling less stressed, an odd sense of peace, when all seemed so bleak, I was incredibly at peace. I did not end up having to live in my car, as miracles came forward at nearly every turn and while my “STUFF” is in storage for the most part, and a small room in a lovely home is my base camp as I explore this wondrous, marvelous life….full of incredible friends, magnificent sunrises and sunsets and much much less burdensome STUFF! Cheers my friend!

  13. Anita Griggs Says: 11:08 am

    I guess there is a balance between material things and the blessings of the Lord. Ahhh . . . to find that special place!
    Here are six Scriptures on material things to ponder.

    Proverbs 8:21 NEB
    I endow with riches those who love me and I will fill their treasuries.

    Psalm 132:15 NIV
    I will bless him with abundant provisions.

    Proverbs 21:5a LB
    Steady plodding brings prosperity.

    Proverbs 8:18, LB
    Unending riches, honor, justice and righteousness are mine [wisdom] to distribute.

    Proverbs 20:20 LB
    The wise man has his home full of fine and costly treasures; the stupid man is a mere spendthrift.

    Proverbs 24:4 New English Bible
    Knowledge furnishes the rooms with all the precious and pleasant things that wealth can buy.
    I think there may be room for you to keep the Morgans (smile).

  14. Malcolm Stockbridge Says: 9:48 am

    The problem with me is just when I declutter something out of my life I miss it, I may not even have used it for years…but soon after giving or lending something away it just gets into my head and doesn’t let go….when I get it back…I don’t want or need it again !!!!

  15. Kathy Bartley Says: 4:39 am

    My husband and I are reaching this point. We have moved 10 times in 15 years and to all of the US continental time zone. Three of them twice! Just before each move we have done a major “down size”. It’s very freeing to let stuff go. Now if we could just find a home and properly connect to a body.

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