I've always known that "stuff" doesn't necessarily make me happy.
I've always been much more content pinching every penny at a part-time job than working 40-plus hours a week and wondering where my days went. Somewhere along the line, though, I let society's standards of needing more "stuff" get to me.
When I first met my husband, he worked in a lucrative management position and earned more than enough money for us to live well. Our weekends consisted of much of the same: late nights out in Denver, expensive drinks, and lots of shopping. We had a beautiful downtown city apartment and two cars. On paper, things looked perfect.
Except they weren't. The job was secretly the source of nights filled with arguments and unfulfilled days that either ended in a new pair of designer sunglasses or a hangover.
We both knew that something needed to change. The playfulness and joy in our relationship had been replaced with 60-hour workweeks, bills, and stress. I stayed positive by telling myself that once my husband found a less stressful job, everything would improve.
About two years after we got married, he took a less soul-crushing position at a lower pay grade. We opted out of our downtown apartment and moved in with my sister to save money and add to our travel fund.
But we soon found ourselves in the same rat race to accumulate more stuff, so we made the decision to simplify even more.
We downsized to a 190-square-foot tiny house on wheels that satisfied our shared love of travel. We gave away or sold nearly everything we owned, down to a few suitcases of clothes each. It was liberating to realize how much we had unnecessarily accumulated over the years, and this only continued to inspire us to become more minimalistic.
Living in the tiny house meant we hardly bought any clothing, accessories, or household items. We also rarely went out to eat or drink in order to save money. The connection we shared continued to grow during this time, despite the fact that we had fewer physical items (and less personal space).
Something still seemed to be missing, though. Our days turned into never-ending loops of work, dinner, Netflix, repeat. And although it became a comfortable norm for us as introverts, we knew that another life-changing decision was around the corner.
One night during one of our Netlix binges, I paused and looked at my husband. He knew exactly what I was thinking before saying a thing, and luckily he was on the same page.
We were downsizing yet again — this time to move to Maui, a place we had wanted to end up for a while.
This time, each of us only brought a few articles of clothing along for our leap of faith. We both took lower paying jobs in a state with a higher cost of living and sold our cars and most of our belongings. We transitioned from our already tiny house into a 124-square-foot hut with an outdoor shower and bathroom. We don't have a kitchen or a TV, and we wash our clothes by hand and hang them outside to dry.
To an outsider looking in, it probably seems like we're struggling. We don't have many of the modern luxuries that most Americans have.
In my opinion, we have more.
We rarely spend days off at home, opting instead to go to the beach, watch the sunset, surf, or hike. Every day is fulfilling, not because we have accumulated a new designer outfit but because we have played in the salty air and laughed about the fact that my underwear is hanging outside in plain view.
We've both finally come to realize that life is about experiences, not things.
It's true what they say ... the more you focus on being grateful for what you already have, the more abundance will come into your life.