Well, I suppose you could say I haven’t really failed. My wardrobe really is the “capsule wardrobe” type, since that’s all that would fit in two suitcases. The kitchen stuff I currently own—3 pans, 3 knives, 4 bowls, 8 plates, and some silverware—really isn’t that much. And that’s about it, besides stacks of papers to grade (but I get to give those back!). I don’t even have books. Everything else was packed away when we moved to China. The problem is, I want more.
Curtains, for instance. Curtains so dark they don’t have to have scarves hung over them to keep out the light. The scarves work fine, so I don’t need to complain, but it would be nice to simply pull the curtains shut at night and not have to worry about blocking out every last bit of light.
Or pictures and decorating stuff for the walls. If I were a true minimalist, I’m sure I’d sleep in a cabin on someone else’s property (I’m looking at you, Henry David Thoreau!) and have nothing but the clothes on my back and maybe a fire to cook a fish on. But me being me, I want where I live to look nice. Nice does not include completely bare white walls. It doesn’t have to be fancy—but some sort of color would help!
But at the same time I’m thinking how nice it would be to have more stuff, it also seems ridiculous to spend large amounts of money on things I’ll only be using for less than a year. Apparently there’s more than a touch of Great-Grandpa Manthei in me. And when things are priced in yuan, those numbers are just so huge. I can’t bring myself to spend 200 Y on something unnecessary, even though it’s really only around $33.
I’m thankful for what I do have, like our pretty plants that decorate and purify the air (they were cheap too). But it’s easy to get caught up in wanting, even coveting, other good things to have. I’ve been spending too much time lately wanting what other people have: things like a place to stay for more than a year and money that doesn’t have to go to fill the pockets of university staff (seriously, why do degrees and everything cost so much?). Complaining comes easily: thankfulness does not. And I’ve been given so much—there’s no reason for me to not be grateful.
I don’t want complaining to become my default option—discontentment can so easily turn to bitterness and bargaining with God. I don’t want stuff to define me, either by what I have or what I lack.
Life isn’t made up of stuff, but sometimes it’s awfully nice to have. And we’ve been spoiled by having so much within easy reach. I may feel like a discontented failure some of the time—but when I think about it, there’s really nobody I’d trade places with.