Find Contentment Where You Are Right Now


Photo by tanakawho

I‘ve felt this way before, and I know others have, too:

Anna asked,
My question is how do you find contentment? I am newly married, and my husband and I are just starting out (we’re barely 23) and we don’t have much, or much money to get more stuff. I find myself always feeling glum because my older siblings (both in their 30s) have the nice house, the nice car, the nice furniture that I can’t have.

I hope someday to own a comfortable-but-small home that people feel welcome and happy in, but I know I won’t even be happy with that unless I learn to be happy with what we have NOW, however little that may be. Do you have any tips for us? P.S. we are both Christians also.

How I Learned About Contentment

When I was in college, I didn’t date.  Some of my friends from church declared they were “date fasting” (choosing not to date).  I wasn’t date fasting, my problem was that no one was asking. For years. It was hard to let go of the idea of getting married right after school.  

During my senior year, I had to learn about contentment. It wasn’t easy, and there were a lot of tears involved. I spent time reading my Bible and praying about it. I needed to learn that if I didn’t have a husband, then God would take care of me.

And here is what happened: once I grew content being single, I became confident being single.  When I started dating Doug, one of the reasons he was interested in me was because I was content in my circumstances, and not looking to him to solve my problems.

The same holds true for houses. Buying a house does not solve problems.  It doesn’t give you more friends, it doesn’t give you more free time, and it certainly doesn’t give you more money (at least in the short term, and possibly the long term too).

Once you find contentment where you live, you have to work to keep it.

Stay Content

  • Don’t watch too much HGTV.
  • Don’t spend Sunday afternoons driving around looking at nice houses.
  • Don’t keep catalogs around.
  • Don’t underestimate the stress of buying and selling a house.
  • Don’t forget about the mortgage. (I try not to envy someone for their house, but I never wish for their mortgage payment.)
Anna, if you and your husband work together on this, it will be a time in your relationship that you will later look back on with fondness and thankfulness. If not, then you’re right, a house won’t satisfy.

You’re in good company. Even though it seems like everyone around you has a nice house, there are lots of other people who are choosing something else right now. Renting is a good thing.

Look at the bright side

  1. You can have fewer, nicer furnishings when you don’t have to furnish a large space.
  2. It doesn’t take as long to clean.
  3. You can easily relocate for job opportunities.
  4. You can make a long-term financial plan for buying a house.
  5. You can have free access to swimming pools and gyms.
  6. You don’t have to pay for repairs or a new roof.
  7. The utilities are much lower.
  8. You don’t keep as much clutter.
  9. It’s easier to live close to work for short commutes.
  10. You don’t have to cook turkey for twenty people at Thanksgiving.

I used to think I needed to have a house, and finally move out of an apartment. The pull is especially strong during the holidays when you plan to have guests and decorate. Lately though, I’ve really been enjoying the freedom of having an apartment, and I love the coziness.

I love having the story that starts, “When we got married, we lived in a small apartment…”  

Does anyone else want to share how you got started?

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. My partner and I recently bought a small condo. Before that, we house sat for someone for 3 years. The house sitting gig was lovely and inexpensive, though the owners came back each summer and we had to move out for 3 months of the year– pretty inconvenient.

    I’m loving that this home is truly ours, and I actually really love its small size. 3 tiny closets means I don’t buy new things without a long thought process about whether I need the item or not. We’ve painted and put in easy-care laminate floors.

    All in all, I am glad we waited to buy and that we bought small. Though I sometimes wish for a garage and yard, a condo is a nice hybrid between an apartment and a single family home.

    Whatever people say, home is what you make it, especially at the holidays.

    liz´s last blog post..Saturday Links

  2. We’re trying to learn to be content in the big house that has become too big and too expensive to maintain!!

    We did start in a small apartment designed for married students at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. We recently drove by it and couldn’t believe how bad the complex still looks! We went from there to a fixer-upper that was way more fixer than upper if you catch my drift! I was never content there (and that was ten long years) but was shocked to see how cute the new buyers made it in just a few short months. The difference was that they were excited to have their own home and they made all kinds of inexpensive improvements.

    This is a great post on contentment – I wish I had read it when we first bought that house!

    Mary´s last blog post..Consider adding a taste of Savannah to your Thanksgiving menu …

  3. When my husband I got married we were both students and all our friends had left school and started work directly – needless to say we were on the back foot financially! It felt like the whole wide world was better off than us and to make it worse our siblings looked really successful (house, cars, kids, overseas holidays) even though their lives were pretty miserable and messy. An older wiser woman told me: “We all have different Blessings” – aahhhh! That’s all I needed to hear and I started counting Blessings instead of comparing them. We were happy. We still haven’t caught up financially but live within our means and we have contentment – that’s a Blessing in itself!

  4. For me it wasn’t the house – it was kiddos.

    God opened my eyes to contentment, because I wouldn’t have made the connection on my own. Before my husband and I were contemplating a house, I worked and we didn’t have kids yet. I met several wonderful friends at work.

    They all had more than I did. Their spouses found good jobs (mine was still looking). They had kids too.

    I saw how one chose to work part time to stay home with her kids as much as possible and was content and willing to make sacrifices needed in her career and the things they could “afford”.

    There were many more wishing they could stay home and frustrated that they felt they couldn’t. We were a very supportive group. The one that worked part time had paved the way and helped them to choose. Another friend of mine figured out how to make part of what she wanted. She worked from home some days on an alternate schedule, so that she could have time with her daughter before she went off to school.

    We make choices. Things happen and we start with different circumstances too. Not everything can be “controlled”. But the choices we make are very important. My husband and I were always behind in what we had compared to others but worked to ensure we had no school debt. It’s been a blessing. We ended up choosing a house in a price range, because I wanted at least stay at home part time. I’ve loved the choice. Yes, I’d like a 2 car garage, a spare bedroom, etc. But I’m home with my kids and no debt other than the mortgage.

    Avlor´s last blog post..Comfort in simple repetition?

  5. My husband and I are in our 50′s and got married two years ago – each for the last time. :) We blended two families of older children, and we each owned a house when we married. I moved into “his” house because we thought mine would sell the fastest for the most money and then we’d do it again and get “our” house. Not so fast. Just in time for the real estate market to drop to nothing, we listed my house and it sat for a year. We finally sold it for less than what was owed and have nearly bankrupted ourselves from paying two mortgages.

    We are still in “his” house. I have spearheaded an appearance transformation as finances have permitted. I have been upset that we are stuck, and I don’t really care for the city where we live, by comparison to where I lived. But…I’m very appreciative for what we do have, and realize that we barely made it out of deep water. So, I try to be nice to our ugly duckling of a house. It will never be a swan, but it’s growing into a presentable duck.

    Betsy – Passing Thru´s last blog post..TENACITY

  6. My husband and I lived in a sun-less basement apartment in Harvard Square for several years. All the windows faced onto a 5 story, enclosed brick “courtyard” (read: dirty area full of broken glass) This was the only building at that time in Cambridge that would allow our dog! From there we “moved up” and we are presently in our 3rd owned home. It has taken me my whole adult life (I’m 37) to finally understand that though I do not have what the catalogs and magazines say I should, I have more security and comfort than 99% of the human beings in this world will ever have. I look at my home as a sturdy shelter for my family, not as a statement to the world about my success or as a project. I am so grateful for the meaningful things I have that I no longer lust after the material things that I can’t afford and honestly, no longer desire.

  7. My husband and I started out in a small apartment. A year later we bought a house. It was nice to have, but three years later we’re back in a small apartment again and I couldn’t be happier. The best thing about it is the lack of clutter. We have to keep things down to a minimum.

    Every once in awhile I feel that tug to buy more stuff, nicer furniture, etc. I second the suggestion not to watch HGTV. Contentment is a tricky area. I’m not sure it’s something we ever conquer, but everything is possible through God.

    Kristen´s last blog post..Evanston

  8. Excellent question, post, and comments! My story also begins with a small apartment. For our first five years there, I experienced the same lack of contentment, pushing for a house, a move, anything really. In one very distraught moment the Lord did one of those gentle reprimands; I regretted my behavior but didn’t know how to make myself content until He provided more (or if He never did). It took lots of tears and prayer and confession. Painful but worthwhile.

    One way I keep myself grounded in a society that thinks bigger=happier is to keep myself immersed in how people live in other countries. It helps me to be thankful that I have carpeting and heat and running water and nice sheets; keeps me thinking how I can live smaller to give more away.

    My final encouragement is to stay small and unchained as long as possible so that your heart can be more fully the Lord’s.

  9. I was 24 and trying to finish school when I got pregnant with my daughter. My fiance (boyfriend at the time) wanted me to move in with him – so I did – into his mom’s tiny townhouse. We had one bedroom for the three of us. I stayed home beacuse going back to my own job wasn’t worth it financially. After a year, we moved in with my mom. The house was much bigger, we had plenty of space, but the time there (2 years) was a big emotional challenge.

    After some financial trouble of living on only one small income, I was able to go back to work and we started planning to move into our own place. It took a long time to get over the idea of wanting a nice, big, single family home right off the bat (it was harder for him than for me). We’ve since settled into a very cozy 2 bedroom condo. It’s not much but it’s all ours. It’s our first place together.

    I though I was content – until my brother and his wife (who make about twice as much as we do) started inviting us on all these expensive trips, and suggesting that we go out and buy all this new furniture (what we have no is a lot of hand me downs) – to them, it’s easy to spend $1000 on plane tickets for a weekend get-away. We can’t do that.

    It causes a lot of internal struggling for me – I feel like I should be able to do those things, but at the same time, after me telling her so often that we just can’t, I wish she would get the message and stop asking.

    Contentment is still a challenge for me. It’s time for me to throw out the catologues and stop looking at my brother’s life and wishing it were mine. Our budget is tight, but it works and I’ve found a new sense of pride and freedom in finally having a happy, small, home to raise my daughter in. I shouldn’t worry so much about what I can’t do and start focusing more on what I can do – and how far my fiance and I have come in the past year: from having one income and one car living with my mother, to both of us having steday, reliable jobs that we enjoy, having two nice cars, and most importantly, a place of our own. I have “different blessings” – and they’re all mine.

    Thanks for helping me remember that.

  10. My husband and I started out in a small apartment… 4.5 years later, we’re still in apartments! :) We have no intention of buying a home any time soon. Don’t have the money saved up, don’t intend to live in this area for good, don’t want the mortgage, don’t want the responsibility of homeownership, don’t want to get trapped by an upside down mortgage.

    The contentment part is funny though. Before I got married I wasn’t the happiest gal on the block. I didn’t enjoy college or working. I told myself that getting married would make me happier… and it did! I never felt real contentment until I got married. I went from living in a 5,000+ SF house on 10 acres to a 480 SF studio apartment and not even a porch to put plants out. I wouldn’t say those days were always easy, but I was content.

    I get along great with my family, I get the lust for all the space my parents have when I visit them, but I don’t want to trade what I have now for what I had then. :)

    Leah S´s last blog post..Guess the Quilt: Clue 2

  11. When my husband and I married, we were super-broke-students! *lol* We lived in a TINY appartment that only had one single bedroom (meaning a double bed did not fit inside!) Our daughter was born there, so she got the bedroom.. my husband and I slept on a fold-in bed that doubled as the sofa..

    After that, we lived in a rented appartment with 3 bedrooms for 3 years. We LOVED that appartment, the only downside was that it had no yard for our daughter to play in. We have now moved into a ‘real’ house (still rented though) which is the exact same size as the appartment, only with the yard. (and a staircase, of course)

    I don’t think I would ever want to buy a house.. We’re quite comfortable as it is.. once your livingroom it sized large enough to fit in a nice dinner table, I think you’re all set ;)

    greetings from the netherlands!

    Linda´s last blog post..Feminism liberates women

  12. We just returned from my brother’s house. He is in a beautiful 6 bedroom home with his wife and three kids. My husband, 6 month old daughter, and I live in a one bedroom apartment. What I love about their house is that they can and love to host many family members comfortably. What I would not love about their house- the cleaning! I love that we can vacuum our entire apartment with the vacuum plugged into one outlet. And only one bathroom to clean! (I hate cleaning bathrooms). Living in a small space forces me to purge purge purge, which means I get to donate a lot of baby clothes and toys to our local pregnancy center. I know we will probably never go back to living in a space this small (until perhaps our kids are all grown up and moved away) so I am enjoying it to the fullest while we are here. Cleaning and keeping track of our belongings will never be this simple!

  13. Don’t watch HGTV… excellent point!

    I think you have to ask God for help regarding contentment. It’s hard work. I think you have to be very purposeful in contentment. It’s not just a feeling you have in your heart.

    You also have to be around others that have similar goals regarding contentment. ie. Don’t work in a clothing store – the temptations will be overwhelming. I think living close to the land as much as possible can make it easier to contentment.

    Dana @ Letters to Elijah´s last blog post..Go Straight to Confession after Eating This!

  14. I’ve been in your boat! My husband and I married at 21, me with a few years to go in college and working part-time, him working full-time and waiting for his turn to get his bachelor’s. We’re in our second little apartment, and I sometimes get house-envy when I see how my friends are starting out, but I wouldn’t trade our first 5 years for anything. We did do things a little backwards, but our marriage is stronger for it. I’m happy preparing myself for when we actually can afford a bigger apartment or house–this is not only financial prep, but being good stewards of what we already have instead of acquiring more, something that is certainly not easy. I do not envy any of my home-owning friends for the time they spend on home maintenance: living in an apartment I appreciate not having to spend my Saturday mowing the lawn, raking leaves, unclogging gutters or caring about how the repair guy hasn’t shown up yet (unless I’m helping out my family, of course). The free time and fewer worries about stuff is freeing and lets me make time for creative pursuits, church, or simply hanging out with my family and husband. Now we’re working him through school and we’re talking about kids, and we’re happy to have a small life with dreams for the future. To be more content with what you have, I’d begin by helping those who have even less than you–help at a school in a lower-income neighborhood, volunteer at a shelter or food kitchen, or just read the news and pray over the stories you see…. God is so great and He’s given us what we have so we can be His ambassadors to the rest of the world. Think about what you can do toward that aim with what you have now.

  15. There is so much to relate to in your comments. I’ve got my cup of coffee, and I’m enjoying reading them all. Thanks for sharing.

  16. I just want to say one thing,(OK maybe a little more) Anna, I know exactly what you are going through and at this time it probably means nothing of what others are telling you. I started out as a young mom and married, after 8 years of marriage, he decided that there were other greener pastures, and I was left with two kids and a father that was no where to be found, at 25 I worked full time and scraped by, meeting the husband I currently have. I re-married and he took the full responsibility of being my kids new dad, we had a son together right away. We rented a old farmhouse and I stayed home since it did not pay for me to work outside the home with daycare costs. What he made barely paid for the necessities, we received toys for tots and food shelf donations the first Christmas, we had absolutely nothing. I went to trade school for two years and we were broke. My brother and sister in laws were buying houses, cars, all kinds of stuff and we could not buy anything. Everything was used, including our clothing.

    Today: My brother and sister in laws make good money and struggle to pay there bills, they have big new homes along with the big payments and charge cards. We have an older home that we bought because it was cheap! Since we are zoned commercial my husband has slowly worked in to starting a car repair business and two years ago he went full time, he is really busy! I graduated from my trade school and got a good job, I am still working there, and I will never forget those hard times.

    Because of those times I am grateful for everything I have even if it is not new and pretty, I am grateful for being able to pay my bills, to know what I have is paid for, and I am really grateful to be able to pay back what once was what I felt a time of desperation, I give back every year to those who where once in the same position I was in by donating to the food shelf and having my kids picking other kids from a tree and buying for those that are less fortunate or just down and out.

    Because of your humble beginnings you will appreciate everything, and you will be a better person because of it.

    Ruth

    rdzins´s last blog post..My Soda addiction

  17. My husband and I were married before we finished college. There was no married housing so we found a doublewide that was on the outside of the small college town. The “hard times” were being away from the college so less interaction, the yellow stripes on the ceiling and not being able to hang things or paint the way we wanted. But we were on 80 acres, had wildlife all around us and knew that we would miss this blessing when it was over.
    Fast forward a few years and we did buy a house ( low interest rate loan) that was truly too big and we can’t keep up with the land – 8/10ths acre. We have a long term goal to build a Cob house that is characteristically very small.
    We see our friends who travel all the time, have tons of “toys” and possibly creating lots of debt in the process.
    It is hard for us to see all the “fun” they seem to be having but we also have no debt besides our home. No car debt, school debt, credit card debt. There is much more freedom for us by living with much less so we don’t have the stress of having more.

    Lynnette´s last blog post..Stuart Little by E. B. White

  18. Just a follow up, I still practice a lot of the things I did then now, even though we are better off. Here are some of those practices:

    Throw away any sale ads, magazines or junk mail catalogs. There is always a good deal somewhere. Don’t temp yourself by looking, a lot of times we really don’t want something unless we see it or see someone else with it.

    When I do shop I shop in concrete floor stores.

    Carry a basket instead of using a cart.

    Try to limit trips to stores, by going every other week or once a month.

    rdzins´s last blog post..My Soda addiction

  19. What’s funny is that when we first got married, we had about $700 between us and our furniture was sparse and all hand-me-down. We had inherited a small tv that was sitting on a wobbly table. But my Grandpa and Grandma came and visited and looked at that little one room apartment and said, “Kids these days have no idea how good they have it.”

    Kelli´s last blog post..Say Cheese

  20. This post could not have come at a better time, as a personal reminder to MYSELF that I truly have all I need & more. And that I absolutely hate the angst that I “wish” for better than what we have.

    To be quick (hah!), our story is that we didn’t get married until we were 32. There are lots of pros to that, one of them being that we both had purchased our own homes (mine was a condo), we both had good-paying jobs, we both had learned our “lesson” (or so I thought) at the downside of being unwise with your money & the upside of discipline. We had no credit card debt (& still don’t). The only debt we had was our 2 mortgages & each of our car payments.

    Before we married, we decided to sell my condo, which easily paid off my car payment. We had planned on staying in my husband’s house until we decided to leave the area & move closer to family. But of course, both of our contentment levels started to wane when we got pregnant right at our first anniversary. That changed EVERYTHING. All of a sudden the cozy, low-mortgage, completely comfortable home we were in had “issues”. 75% of the flooring was tile – no way did I want my cute little toddler learning to walk & constantly cracking his head on that floor. We lived in the desert where scorpions were an issue in this particular house. Hubbs didn’t like the idea of his baby potentially being bit by a scorpion. Both of our cars were 2-door sports-type cars (remember, we were single!!) That just wouldn’t do when imagining a child in the picture.

    The market at the time was RED HOT, so we made a killing by selling our home & majorly upgrading, completely intending on spending at least the next 4 years in the bigger home THEN relocating closer to family. We made off with so much money from that first home, that we were able to purchase 2 brand new cars – which we fully intend on keeping for at least 20 years or more, God willing – as well as have a sizeable down payment on our upgraded home. And by upgrade, I mean an additional 1200 sq. ft & only 10 years old. It’s a perfect home if you have 5 kids….which of course we did not. But I immediately fell in love with it – sold!

    Do you know what it’s like trying to clean a 2200 sq. ft, 2-story, 3 FULL bath home while 8 months pregnant….then with a newborn?? Insanity is what it is. Yes, it was comfortable. Yes, we could easily house guests. Yes, the kitchen rocked.

    But we moved to California within 1 year of buying that home. And we still own that home because the market sank. Big time. A nice family with 4 children is now renting that home from us, which I am so thankful for. I still love that home. But it was completely out of our budget, completely unnecessary for our family size, etc. We are now in a home that is 1200 sq. ft, with bathrooms so small I can clean the entire thing while sitting on the toilet (practically).

    MY MAIN POINT (sorry for dragging this out) is that even though we can “afford” both of our mortgages….we have almost no money to do anything else. I am quickly learning to be content with the somewhat ratty furniture we both brought into the marriage from passed down college roommates, with bookshelves that don’t match, with wall art that is stuck under our beds because it’s too big for the now-small house we live in (as well as too many pieces), etc.

    I’d love to make this home “ours” with my own personal touch. But I’m severely limited. I’m thankful we still have no consumer debt, no car payments & we live within our budget. But we have learned our lesson (hopefully). We now have a 2nd baby on the way & I’m a little stumped as to where we’ll put it :> because our bedrooms are a little bigger than some office cubicles! But I WILL make it work rather than looking to find a way to make our lives more comfortable.

    We just celebrated our 4-year anniversary & there are times that I look back & wonder what our married life would have been like had we simply stayed where we were at for a few more years, learned to be content & joyful where we were, & not had the hectic-ness of 3 moves in 3 years, all the money spent & wasted on down payments, etc.

    Sorry so long, but like I said, this post was perfect timing for me!!

    Vicki´s last blog post..Epson Artisan 800 Printer

  21. I adore this post, Rachel. It is soooooo true. I completely agree that minimizing HGTV, Pottery Barn catalogs, and window shopping really curbs home envy.

    Tsh´s last blog post..Link Love :: the Holiday-for-Falling-Asleep-on-the-Couch-Watching-Football edition

  22. I can definitely relate. We started out as newlyweds in small apartment and for a couple years, it was tough to watch as our family and friends purchased new homes (some even moving on to second homes!) while the best we could do was upgrade from a one-bedroom apartment to a two-bedroom.

    But that time of discontent was a growth period for me – it caused me to search deeply within and question my character and my values. I reexamined my priorities and came to realize that I was letting envy and jealousy take precedence over gratitude and humility.

    Our first baby is due in February, and amazingly – during a time in my life when I used to think I would JUST HAVE TO HAVE a house — we made the conscious decision not to buy a house, and stay in our small apartment. The reasons were numerous: to have more time with each other and the baby, to keep his commute time short, to NOT have to stress about the mortgage or lots of bills.

    In short: Stuff comes and goes, but time is irreplaceable.

    I know someday in the future I’ll have a house, of course. And when I’m there, I want to look back fondly on the sweet time I spent in my cozy little apartment with my wonderful husband and brand new baby. :)

    marisa´s last blog post..still here…

  23. Thanks for the beautiful insights. We struggled when we were first married and had very little. It was scarey at times. Now we look back and they are good memories. We couldn’t have those memories if we hadn’t lived them. I’m glad we did. They strengthened us and taught us and helped make us who we are today. Life has been good to us, even in the ups and downs.

  24. This post seems to hit home (no pun intended) with so many of us! My husband and I have been married for four years and have lived in the same apartment for the entire time.

    My piece of advice would be to make memories where you live now.

    Even though we’re saving for a down payment and hope to move next summer, I think we’re going to really miss this apartment. Because this is where we..

    -learned to be “grownups” together
    -spent several evenings learning how to cook side-by-side in the kitchen
    -hosted Easter dinner for 20 some college students
    -threw a rocking Harvest Party
    -shared countless cups of coffee and game nights with friends
    -cooked Thanksgiving dinner for my entire side of the family (Yes, it was a bit insane)
    -enjoyed breakfast dates on our deck
    -brought our daughter home from the hospital…

    You get the idea. All of us are at such a great season of our lives… I remind myself of that whenever I feel discontentment start to creep in.

  25. I know exactly how you feel! I’ve had twinges of feeling ‘less than’ off and on for thirty years!

    I used to have this saying posted in my kitchen: You will never be happy with what you have until you are comfortable with who you are.

    There is nothing that cures the “I wish I had’s” like volunteering in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Even though you don’t have as much as your older siblings, you have SO MUCH MORE than
    others.

    My husband and I married at 21. We were newlyweds during the last financial meltdown. We spent the early part of our married life scraping together enough cash to make our house payment every month. Even though I love my house, I’m not sure I would do it the same way again.

  26. “There is nothing that cures the “I wish I had’s” like volunteering in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.”

    Thanks for mentioning that, Laura.

  27. What a wonderful post, and great comments!
    In some ways I’m exactly where Anna is, just married (6 months on Dec. 8) and 23, in an apartment with not much to spare. I grew up with very little, my family was always struggling financially and I wanted so badly to be like the other kids. Then I went to college and found a wonderful little thing called a credit card, all of a sudden I could look like I ‘belonged” with these private school students with cars that their parents bought them. I kept saying to myself “I’ll pay it later”… about 8 months down the road I realized that this was too much for me to pay later and I had about $4000 in credit card debt (not to mention my student loans). I’m still paying that off. But I learned so much from that.
    We had a tiny wedding ($2000), it wasn’t fancy, there wasn’t a buffet or even dancing, but it was beautiful and memorable and we didn’t spend a dime on a credit card to pay for it.
    That experience, combined with the fact that off all our friends from college, we’re the most settled (especially emotionally) and we’re constantly reminded of how blessed we are.

    Stay away from ads and magazines, they’re designed to give you ‘the wants’, so don’t listen to them. I personally start every day with a shower, and in the shower I thank God for as many blessing as my sleepy mind can think of. That always helps my day start out in the right perspective.

    Remember, life is about memories and relationships and those are things that money simply cannot buy.

  28. If I have learned one thing about contentment it is this: it is found in your heart, not your circumstances. A person with no possessions who is discontent will be just as discontent with plenty.

    When we first got married we were fresh out of college and had nothing except student loans and the money that was gifted us when we married. We rented a 2 br apartment instead of a 1 br at the advice of others. We owned no dining table, sitting chairs or sofas. We lived for months like this until we were “gifted” a dining table and chairs that we ended up having to pay back. We could have bought furniture, but chose not to so that we could work on paying off our student loans. We also decided I would stay home and we would live off of one income when I became pregnant 5 months after marrying.

    After a year we wanted to pay an even lower price for rent so we moved into a 1 br apartment with 600 sq ft. Two months after we moved in our first son was born. Our living room contained his crib and a rocking chair. He slept in the bed with us until he was a few months old. We now rent a 900 sq. ft. duplex and I remember when we first moved in how big and abundant the space felt. I was so thankful simply because of perspective. We agreed to not spend any money on anything that wasn’t absolutely essential (and we still, for the most part stick with this). Our sofa I purchased with some money I was gifted for a birthday. The other furniture we have was either a gift or a $20 purchase from a garage sale. We have friends and family who have asked if we are “ok” financially. The truth is we are probably more prepared financially than most, but it doesn’t appear that way simply because that money hasn’t been put into tangible “things”.

    What we consider poverty in this country is actually a huge amount of wealth in others. I believe we have a sense of entitlement and consumerism in this country that is both deceptive and dangerous. There are many people in the world with far less who have far more contentment.

    Shannon´s last blog post..No Spend Months: Week 3 Review

  29. What a wonderful post! My husband and I are also newly married and enjoying the apartment lifestyle. We have dreams of owning a house one day, but realize it’s going to take some serious planning, or a move to a much cheaper area if that’s ever going to be possible. Although it would be very fun to have a garden, garage, and an extra bedroom. I love how quickly we can clean our place. I feel like an apartment is a great and safe place to try out my domestic ambitions on the small scale and I’m loving the coziness.

    Thank you for the great call to be content with where we are now, (and good stewards with what we have been given now)!

    Great tips too- I can see how HGTV can be a bit dangerous. : ) Sometimes it’s good to just watch it and laugh.

  30. I LOVED reading the above comments. Know what else I love? My story. I got married when I was 20, an absurdly young age in our culture. We were still in college and lived in married housing … a ghetto of an apartment building which housed our 320 square-foot apartment. I loved our beginning and especially all of the lessons we’ve learned, together. I think back and smile.

    Here’s the bad part. While I was decadently happy with my husband I still struggled with discontentment quite a bit and 6 years later I am paying for it still. My husband and I are digging our way out of discontentment debt right now and it is not fun. We’ve learned some costly lessons about what is important. We live in a mobile home, which most people view as a step down from an apartment, but we’ve scaled back and we’ve chosen to place our value in eternal things … our faith and our family. We have a young daughter and she has no idea that Mommy and Daddy are broke because we don’t act like we are.

    Thanks for this fantastic post. The week of Thanksgiving could not have been better timing. I am so very grateful for my family and for the life that I live.

    Nicki´s last blog post..Christmas Gift Baskets

  31. This post and these comments are so beautiful and encouraging for all of us. Thank you for telling your stories, they are a blessing to me :)

  32. When we first got married, we lived in pretty nice house that my husband had purchased before we even dated. A few years later, he quit his nice-paying job in order to go to school. We moved into a small “farmhouse” with teeny closets, 1 bathroom, rickety floors and not much storage space. We had fun being creative and trying to make things fit. Eventually he got another job that paid well enough for us to buy the bigger, nicer house that we live in now. We figured we needed to since baby #3 was on the way. I really love our house now, but we find that we often look back on our little farmhouse with longing for the simpler life. I wish we would have been even more creative and used the extra money to add more storage and make it work. All of this new space is so much harder to keep up with, and I spend most of my time shuffling around our possessions no matter how much I purge. So, having been on both sides, I actually prefer the simpler, smaller life. There is time to do more and experience more of life rather than the constant upkeep of a larger house and more possessions. Having a bigger, nicer home doesn’t make things better, it just makes them different, and in some cases, it makes things more stressful.

    Keri´s last blog post..Sleeping Again!

  33. This is a great topic. I have been married for almost 29 years and we rented when we got married for 3 years, then owned (with mortgage, of course) a farm in Kansas for nearly 10 years until we moved to Virginia to pastor a church where we lived in a parsonage for almost 10 years then bought a house where we have lived for the last 6 years. We had mobility when we were first married to move if we wanted to because we rented. We loved farming, but the “farm” got all the attention not the house. I now know I didn’t appreciate our farm and our life on the farm because I wanted the house to be better. (I would love to have the farm life back, house and all!) When we moved to Virginia, our home was part of our salary. We didn’t have much in pocket money but we also didn’t have to pay for upkeep and repairs on the house. For awhile it was great until I started to “wish” we had our own house. Eventually, the Lord gave us the desire of our heart and we have a wonderful home. Am I content because of our home? No. We had to put on a new roof this year (ka-ching), we will need to replace our carpet and refinish wood floors next year (ka-ching), the kitchen needed updating (ka-ching), landscaping, resealing the driveway, windows, the list goes on and on. Don’t get me wrong, we really do enjoy our home but from experience I know my contentment does not come from that. I sometimes really desire the flexibility of not owning our home. There are so many things that can cause one to feel “trapped” or tied down. A friend once said long ago, “wherever you are, be there”. This is so true. You are where you are for a reason and you have so much to glean from current circumstances that will grow you to be the person God desires for you to be. As I reflect on the homes I have lived in, they each somewhat represent a stage of my life. First married, when my kids were small, moving very far away from our home in Kansas and going into ministry, and now my kids grown and married. I have grown in through all these stages of life. It is for these reasons, now I can say I am content.

  34. As a (fairly-older-than-Anna) newlywed whose main goal is to buy a home, I loved your perspective on this, Rachel. Even though “House Hunters”, “Property Virgins” & “My First Place” take up the majority of the space on our DVR, we don’t torture ourselves too much with Home-Owning Envy. We’re putting money away every month towards this goal, & even if we don’t make the cut here in NYC we know we’ll be homeowners one day in the (not-so-distant) future. It’s all about perspective!

    I also loved your thoughts on being single. I have a dear friend that I’ve been close with the last 3+ years, and in that time she never had a boyfriend (or anything more than a second date). She had a negative attitude toward her career, her looks & her social life. It wasn’t until she empowered herself by finding a fulfilling job & raising thousands for cancer by running her first marathon that she found a great guy she’s holding onto. It didn’t surprise me in the least!

    WhenIGrowUpCoach´s last blog post..Motivation Monday: Installment 4

  35. I completely understand how you feel (as does everyone else who has posted here). My heart goes out to you, because it is hard to want what we can’t have right now and it is hard to watch others live out what we think are our “dreams”.

    I’ve been married for almost 12 years. We rented for the first 4 years and then bought our first house. Of course, we had nothing but hand-me-downs to put in the house and had no paint on the walls for the first four years we lived here. We didn’t invite anyone over because I was embarrassed of having a non-decorated house. Fast forward to just six months ago, and we’ve finally finished decorating and furnishing our home. It is completely us. We’ve taken pictures along the way and laugh at the furniture we used to own (my parents pastel floral sofa, which was definitely not us and his parents blue striped Lay-Z-Boy recliner with a broken rocker so when you sat in it, you fell to one side, along with many other hand-me-down things). We hated things in the moment, but we look back on them now and smile, laugh, reminisce. What great stories we have. Many memories created.

    I remember having a set of friends that had just purchased a new home and it was decorated so beautifully. Almost everything was from The Bombay Company. I was so jealous and certainly didn’t want them over at my house to see that we had nothing. I’m now happy that we waited to paint and furnish our home. We’ve carefully saved and planned out each room with paint and furniture, we’ve been excited when the time comes and we put in the hard work of renovating a room, and proud of ourselves for saving money to furnish one room at a time. It was a very slow process, but one worth taking.

    I’m now a huge fan of Dave Ramsey (www.daveramsey.com) who teaches Financial Peace and has a great book titled, “The Total Money Makeover”. I highly recommend it. We now wish we would have saved money to buy a house with cash. Instead, we’re working extra jobs so we can pay our mortgage off (our last debt) in the next 8 years (sooner if possible). We would love to live debt-free!

    I look at what others have now and wonder if they’re in extreme debt just to have something that society will applaud to. No amount of debt is worth looking good. You take your time, you save up money, and you get a house when it feels right for you and your husband, not because that’s what everyone else has or is doing.

    Praying for God to give you peace and patience as you wait on His perfect plan for your lives.

  36. What fun stories! We started out in a small apartment in a college town. I loved that apartment – it had the best layout I’ve ever seen. After about 14 months we moved because we were having a baby. For some reason, that new place was never right. The chaos of having a new baby, my husband looking for work and then finding a stressful job with a long commute took a lot of wind out of my sails. It was a nice apartment in a lot of ways, but I think I would have actually been happier if we’d stayed in our college town for another year, even with the baby.

    Now, we’ve owned our house for six years. Only in the last year have I begun to be content with it. We bought a fixer-upper that needed a lot more fixing than we were expecting, plus we quickly added two more children. The drain on our finances and our sanity was totally not worth it at the time. Then I had health problems and all work on the house stopped – no painting, no repairs, no nothing. It was really hard to not wish that we could sell our house and go back to renting. Our house seemed so big and had so many problems and was so… ugly that it was hard to live in. We had bought a house that we could live in for the rest of our lives (skipping the starter house) thinking that that was the best use of our mortgage money. But big houses have big problems.

    Now that our kids are getting older and my husband is making more money we’re starting to fit into our house. Having the energy to make the less expensive changes (like painting and yard improvement) have really helped. We still have all hand-me-down furniture, horrid-looking vinyl floors, and no vanity in our bathroom. But, those things are temporary. I still wish we had a smaller house, but having a bigger home is giving us opportunities to reach out to people – we have more parties, more family gatherings, more kids over than we would in a smaller place, I think. We have space for a playroom and a library and a guestroom. And I don’t care if kids and dogs run around and bump into things. We own almost nothing of significant value. And for that, I am very grateful. Our home is a very comfortable place for people to visit.

    I think that contentment is a decision. The grass ALWAYS seems greener on the other side, but you don’t know what it’s really like to be on that other side. I think that believing (as a conviction, not a feeling) that God has provided everything I need for my current happiness is key. It’s hard for me not to envy people who can buy new construction, or are in an area I’d like to live in, or can afford new furniture, or are renting and have access to a pool! But, I know that where I am is where I’m supposed to be. And I can stay here and be miserable or I can stay here and be happy. Not much of a dilema. Kinda like being married. :)

  37. When we first got married, we knew we’d be moving in 2 months, so we rented a room from our friend. Then we moved across country into a tiny apartment. We’ve been married 11 happy years, and wherever we’ve been, there’s always something more to want. I remind myself that home is what we make, not the building in which we reside. We have a small house with a nice-sized yard, enough room for a garden and a play area and chickens, and yet… But I’m happy because this is where I started raising my family and because we can afford it without too much trouble. It’s all in your perspective. I just have to remind myself on occasion that I’m right where I want to be.

    Kathi´s last blog post..Project Time

  38. I’m in a slightly different situation than most here, I guess. I spent the first 8 years out of college paying off hefty school loans, saving for retirement, and traveling abroad about once every two years. I didn’t live without roommates until I was 27, have never owned a new or expensive car, but did indulge in expensive dinners and travel. A house/condo down payment seemed so impossibly large that saving for it seemed like a very distant thing, but I wasn’t trying to burn all my money in the mean time either. I’ve never lived a lavish lifestyle, trust me, though thankfully I’ve never lived paycheck to paycheck.

    When my husband and I married last year, I was 31, debt free with lots of retirement savings, with a full complement of decent household “stuff.” We live in the (small!) one bedroom apartment I have been in since before we met, paid off his student loans, and have no car or other things of significant value (like Lucy). We have enough cash savings now that in some communities we could buy a single family house outright, but here in San Francisco it’s not even a two bedroom condo down payment.

    When we have our first child next year, my husband will stay home and parent, which we feel very privileged to be able to afford. My salary alone puts us in the top 15% of US households, yet even when we have a larger down payment saved up we won’t be able to afford a house in San Francisco. (My husband’s earnings, minus daycare, wouldn’t change that that any, so having him stay home is an easy, nice decision.)

    On the one hand, I know that we’re the ones choosing to stay in San Francisco instead of moving to a cheaper community. And I know that we are very lucky to have the choice to live here. But on the other hand it’s hard not to feel a kind of anger that when the time comes to move to a larger apartment (we want to have two kids, so a one bedroom apartment won’t work forever), a two bedroom rental in a reasonable neighborhood will cost us so much that our savings rate will likely drop to near zero. So the choice will be between rent that doesn’t let us save, trying to buy with whatever savings we have so that “at least we’ll be building equity,” or moving away.

    It’s hard for me to find contentment with this. I struggle with it a lot, actually. It doesn’t seem “fair” somehow, although saying that makes me sound spoiled. I know that it’s a “luxury problem.” Oh, poor me, renting in a super cool city costs a lot, even though I make more money than I thought I ever would. :) We could move. We love it here. I remain unsatisfied with this impending decision.

  39. Wow, I just posted on this subject. It’s so interesting how we are all talking about the same thing but we all have such different aspect of it. Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing!

    God is good, life is hard.

    Blessings!
    Miss Jocelyn

    Miss Jocelyn´s last blog post..Autograph Album

  40. We are the first media-driven generation. My grandmother didn’t have to stand in the grocery line and look at magazines that told her what she and her house ought to look like. We are so influenced by companies that want to sell us something. “This or that is out of style, this in style so buy it from me” We let advertisers tell us what to value. Not enough to have a cell phone or laptop, but it has to be the latest model. If we could be content with what we had, America could solve some of the world’s problems, like clean water and enough food for hungry children.

    I am sixty-one years old. When I was in college, I had three electronics, my hair dryer, a clock radio and a popcorn popper. I wasn’t disturbed about that because that was what we all had. When I got married all of our furniture was hand- me-down. I look back on those years with fondness because we were in love and we had to use creativity to make our home comfortable. We appreciated what we had because we had to refinish it or repair it. I have a feeling if we had money to go out and buy whatever we wanted it we wouldn’t have appreciated it as much. I was a teacher, and my husband was a student when we started out. There is so much pressure now to have the latest thing, all because of advertising and credit cards.

    When I visit Rachel (this blogger is my daughter) I sit by the apartment pool, and think, yard man, pool and hot tub, weight room. Just think Saturdays free from yard work and repairs. When it comes time to paint, or refurbish, just move. Apartment living looks pretty good.

    I am an empty-nester now. I have a modest house that we have lived in for twenty years, so you can imagine I have several things that need sprucing up (is that expression still used?). I can afford to have a new sofa or new carpet, but I wonder if that’s what I really want to do with my money. I wake up in my comfortable bed, and thank God that my daughter did not have to miss out on school in order to carry water for our family from an unclean water source a long way from home. We are so oblivious to the conditions that others around the world live in. We think of that too good to be true lifestyle that the advertisers say you need.

    Happiness doesn’t come from possessions. I cannot imagine if I thought my self-worth was coming from something I owned that would wear out and need to be replaced. Turn off the TV, do something good for someone who has less than you and see if that helps you be more contented.

    Sarah´s last blog post..The New Me

  41. Anna:
    I think contentment is closely related to gratefulness and the ability to be thankful…. and that being thankful is something that can be worked on. Choose to look at what you DO have instead of what you don`t.
    I tend to look at those who are worse off than myself, and by considering what it would be like to live “in their shoes”, I feel truely grateful that I, after all, have what I DO have. It could have been worse!
    I live in a free country, in peace, I have a husband who loves me, kids who are healthy and happy, and we have food in the fridge, a car that works, clothes to keep us warm etc. etc.
    And I truely believe that people will feel welcome in your home, no matter how small or sparse, if you show them you are happy to see them. If you however are “ashamed” of your small and sparsely furnished place, then they probably won`t feel welcome.
    After all, they probably don`t want to see THINGS when they come over…they want to see YOU.

  42. my new husband and i moved into his parents house for the first two months of our marriage before we left for a year abroad, in the uk. here we are, living in tiny university accommodation in edinburgh. we don’t own any furniture, and our nicest home items are wedding gifts that were packing away in canada. and we love it!
    our older sister and brother in law are well settled in a home of their own, with beautiful homey-items. but here is what i am learning: contentment is a journey for each of us. they (the siblings) in their home, are not always content. there is always something more in life. in fact, in some ways they are really struggling to see the blessings in their life right now… and sometimes, those who you admire, admire YOU. in fact, usually this does happen. because you have blessings in your life. really, really cool things. i know it! you and your husband, anna, have blessings. every day. that others look at and admire. so… find the blessings! notice them, be grateful for them, talk about them, photograph them, laugh with them, create them, share them, write them down, be generous with them. AND when you become steeped in the joy of daily living, there are more things to talk about with your siblings than holidays and houses. so, so, so much more. and it’s beautiful.

  43. When I woke up this morning I realized that my last comment sounded condescending, like I had contentment all figured out. Not so. But I think that God teaches us through our circumstances.

    When our children were pre-schoolers we lived in a little house provided by the church where my husband was the minister of music. It was a very wealthy church, in a very wealthy community. All of our friends were better off financially then we were and I got to thinking that their lifestyle was normal. Our little house was tucked back behind the gym and the parking lot to the daycare. We could not afford a house in that area. I was unhappy with my little house. But God was teaching me to be content, and finally I accepted it as my home. I have many happy memories of that time.

    I wanted to be a stay at home mom, but it wasn’t to be. I was a teacher and you know how hard teaching can be, long hours, my homework at the table with my kids, while my husband watched television in the evenings, frustration. But eventually, God gave me a job that I loved, working with other teachers.

    I don’t mean to say that everything turns out the way we hope. I have a speech disorder that is progressive. I can’t communicate very well with my family and friends. It is not going to better, in fact it is going to get worse. I cannot say that I am content. But I have some Bible verses that I read every day and I have found a certain peace.

    I thank God for all my blessings, and I have many. Anna, I bet you do too.

  44. We just celebrated 5 years, and have not purchased our own home yet. We have savings and financial goals, but buying a house is not our number one priority, and though I would love to own one, I must wait. patiently. It’s getting easier. :)

    You’re so right, Rachel, about the perks of not owning! Though we rent a large house, now, so the furniture, cleaning and not hosting 20 people doesn’t apply to me anymore! But, when things break, we don’t pay to fix them. Property taxes, waste and water fees- we don’t see the bills. We are free to pick up and move, whenever we want to, regardless of the housing market. We have a cheaper living situation than a mortgage, so we’re saving money faithfully. It’s good, really.

    And how we started… in a teensy, half-underground basement suite, with barely enough room for a kitchen table for two. To entertain one other couple, we had to pull the table into the living room and move the couches! Our next place was an old apartment in Japan, approximately 600 square feet, maybe less. Barely any furniture (seriously!), cockroaches, a view of the neighbors and the mall, and even less room for a kitchen table (and we still tried to entertain)!

    But you know, it worked. God provided. We got out of school debt, and started saving. We moved into bigger, nicer places eventually. Humble beginnings teach us so much, and help us learn to work together. I’m grateful for those early years. :)

  45. “A study done by Harvard University’s Erzo Luttmer used census data to compare happiness levels of people in the same income bracket living in different neighborhoods. The person living in the less-wealthy area was happier. He probably wasn’t looking at the neighbors and thinking, I don’t measure up. His counterpart who lived in the rich side of town probably felt inferior every time he drove through the neighborhood.” –Deborah Norville, Thank You Power, page 131, footnote omitted.

  46. I’m sorry, was this a page from my journal?

    We started the same. And now nearing 30, we decided NOT to buy a house. We rent an affordable cottage, and over the years have furnished it with antiques and Target buys. Its humble and comfortable and there is no other place I’d rather be. Its home.

    The longing and desire to ‘move forward’ and have newer things never goes away. ‘Tis the ego of this society and it is politely shoved in our faces via commercialism under the facade of ‘bettering’ ourselves. We all have a little of that unavoidable ego. Its how you manage it, how you let it effect how you feel that is imperative.

    We work very hard at keeping our life simple. Not full. We find we are happier the less stuff we have.

  47. This is a great post. I’ve had to deal less with house-envy than I have with boyfriend / husband-envy.

    My turning point came when I ran into an old friend and inquired about her dating status. Her response blew me away: “I’m not dating. God has called me to be single and I’m at peace with that.” Wow! I prayed that God would bless me with that same peace and I’m happy to report that He has. I still don’t know whether I am called to be married or single, but I’m at peace with either scenario. And my eyes have been opened to the blessings of singleness. God is good good good to me!

  48. My hubby of 16 years and I started off in a horrible apartment in a small town in Colorado. I was 19, he was 23 when we got married. Two years later we packed up and moved to Tennessee. A short time later we bought a 60′s ranch in a town just to the south of Nashville. While my hubby has had a successful career, we have decided to forego the continual “moving up” and have lived in the same house for almost 14 years.

    The town we live in is very affluent… tract mansions and starter castles fill the neighborhoods. My hubby and I have deliberately resisted the urge to buy a bigger house. We like the freedom that our current home gives us.

    We have chosen to live a modest life and it is wonderful. I wouldn’t change a thing.

    It is amazing to me how many people ask us why we “still live in THAT house.” The majority of people seem to have the attitude that they deserve to have loads of stuff… a giant house… the newest cars… all the latest gadgets. It becomes their focus, their identity.

    The hubby and I decided a long time ago that being content was more important than surrounding ourselves with things. Living a simple life is far more gratifying. We are able to spend time/resources on the things that matter to us.

    The added benefit is that we are able to teach our son about the things that are really important… family… God… caring for others… He is learning to be content at a young age. We are hopeful that these lessons will carry over into his adult life as well.

  49. We started in a small basement apartment. Low rent, low stress, low ceilings, and lots of fun. :D

  50. “Don’t watch too much HGTV.”
    Splendid.

  51. This is a neat article, specifically, for now — this time of the year. That is with all the competition of getting and attempting to have the perfect holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I think competition is good, but not during the holidays. What’s important is being together with family and friends, if we’re blessed to have them — there are people who don’t.

    Also, the mortgage and financial crisis, has given us all an opportunity to look at what’s important in our lives above and beyond all the stuff and the competion.

    I was forced years ago — to learn to appreciate where I am, after various life changes. Due to all the transitioning I’m having to learn to go with the flow and keep things simple as I can, because otherwise it creates stress.

    So for Thanksgiving — instead of turkey and all the trimmings — my family has a tradition of having pizza with with a few trimmings on the side and it has created a much enjoyable day for us all to just be together.

    Suzy’s last blog post… 2008 ThankFest: 7th simple little thing ~ to help us get by…

  52. I know lots of people have said it already, but this was a welcome post for me too! I have bought 2 houses over the past 6 years. I was living with my brother but when he bought a house, I needed to move back to my parents place as I couldn’t afford the mortgage by myself. Thankfully I love lovely tennants in both houses, but that is due to God’s provision rather than my planning!

    I want to reiterate that owning a house is not as glamourous as it seems at first. I will be getting married in March and we plan to live in a section of my finacees parents place initially so we can get the mortgages under control.

    I am looking forward to having a smaller space to live in, to be able to declutter and spent more time with friends, rather than always cleaning, or fixing things around the house.

    And yes, not watching TV, not day dreaming about a house and avoiding too much cataglogue browsing is highly recommended for Contentment.

  53. Hi again Rachel,

    I got off point a wee bit in my previous post — forgot to talk about housing. What I wanted to say about that was this — my husband & I started as part-time managers of a small apartment complex for several years, then we bought two fixer uppers that we remodeled, and turned one into a rental that we landlorded for a few years, before selling. The other property was our home for over sixteen years before we sold it right before the housing bubble.

    We were planning on renting an apartment, until we found another, but do to unforeseen circumstances my family has been renting ever since. In the last 10 years we’ve moved three times. Each time we had to search for a new place it was harder and harder to find what we needed. But GOD came through and helped keep us from being on the street.

    Each move has been an improvement, but the place we moved to after we sold our house was the apartment from “hell”! We were there for six months before we found a condo and we were there for several years until the landlords wanted to take advantage of the bubble and sell their place.

    We were fortunate to find a place after only having a month to vacate before they sold the place. Thankfully, we found another townhouse after scrambling and searching every chance we could. It was extremely difficult due to the low vacancy rate.

    We would like to buy another home some day, but thus far the circumstances haven’t allowed it. Thanksgiving for us is being thankful to have shelter, food, clothing, transportation, my sons being able to work and us maintaining our family. I myself have been laid off several times. Ironically enough, from two of the banks that went belly up during the mortgage meltdown — Indymac and WaMu.

    Thanks for posing the question and having the forum. I also appreciated reading all the thoughtful comments.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours :)

    Suzy :)´s last blog post..2008 ThankFest: 7th simple little thing ~ to help us get by…

  54. When we were in our thirties my husband went back to school and we moved into student family hoursing with our three (soon to be four) children. This apartment was only 650 square feet, had cinderblock walls, and a “living/dining room” so small we had to keep the dining table pushed up against the wall between meals. My husband and I slept in the living room on the futon couch which we folded out everynight and made up into a bed. For 3 years. And guess what! It was the best community we ever lived in with neighbors from all over the world. You can’t imagine the potlucks we had!
    What I learned from those neighbors was that in most places in the world, even among the middle and upper middle class, people live in small apartments. Our friends from Taiwan said the student apartments we lived in would be considered LARGE by the standards in their country. A friend in Germany grew up in a middle class family and lived in an apartment building full of other middle class families. It seems to be the norm just about anywhere but here. And it helps explain why Europeans use 50% of the energy Americans use.
    When we lived in this tiny apartment with our family (6 of us at the time) I used to often try to imagine living our entire lives in this circumstance. Having the opportunity to spend time with others who found this lifestyle perfectly normal helped me to modify my expectations of what our family actually needed in order to be content.
    I would recommend a trip to the library to check out the book Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel. He went around the world photographing families as they posed in front of their homes with ALL of their possessions. It’s striking to see the family from Houston in comparison with almost everyone else and it beautifully illustrates the point that contentment does not come from stuff.

  55. what a great post and comments!I grew up in the Caribbean and always lived in houses, so apartment living in France has been an adjustment for me! I’m in the process of learning contentment myself (at 40!) and wrote a blog post about it not too long ago.

    http://francineclouden.typepad.com/callaloo_soup/2008/11/making-the-most.html

    I’ve found that now that I am focused on making our small apartment the best it can be I am less likely to spend hours dreaming about that big house. :)

    Francine´s last blog post..More Sneaks

  56. I’m a little late on this comment (I was on vacation and away from computers), but wanted to share our story, briefly. My husband and I met in Alaska where we were both going to school – later we moved to Northern California (2006) where we married. Our first home was a little rental just outside San Francisco – two rooms, maybe 250 sq feet. Teeny, teeny, tiny. But, when we left AK we had to give everything away, so our first CA apartment didn’t need much furniture (a bed, a table, chairs, a desk and a dresser – that’s all we could fit!) and we saved a ton of money NOT furnishing it. And sure, we couldn’t host overnight guests comfortably and it felt cramped, but it had an amazing view of the bay and it was very private. We were pretty poor, due to massive student loans, but had enough to pay our bills on time and spent weekends at home talking, hiking near our house, reading and watching movies; we rarely felt poor. (It also helped that his parents are very comfortable, and generous, and give us nice hand-me-downs every now and then.) Back then we were living on one income. Now we’re both employed in the same university, our loans are dwindling, our savings is increasing and we recently moved into a 500 sq ft apartment. Four rooms! Despite of our new comforts, I’ve learned the value of patience and the lesson has stuck. Rather than run out and buy a ticky-tacky bookshelf that we need for our new place, I’m content to live with some extra boxes and wait for a nice used one to come along on Craig’s List.

    Anyway, just wanted to share our story. Your family is beautiful and I hope you have a wonderful (and simple), memorable holiday!! Keep up the good work, your blog is an inspiration and delight, as well as a valuable resource.

  57. Just wanted to add my (late) 2 cents…

    I am so thankful that my husband & I started out with so little. Once our children arrived, we had never known the pleasure of having “disposable income.” I didn’t feel like I was sacrificing when I stayed at home with my kids and lived on one income; I didn’t resent all the things that I could have thought I “sacrificed” to stay at home with them. Learning to live within your means can be tiring and frustrating at times (especially when the ol’ green monster of jealously rears its angry head), but it is one of the most valuable life skills a person can possess. All it takes is one look @ our economy (homeowners who borrowed beyond their means; banks who were willing to give them too much $) to see that.

    Remember: this too shall pass. Enjoy the journey!

    megan´s last blog post..Crunch Time

  58. I wish I had read this post 14 years ago. I could have saved myself alot of grief.

    Rona´s last blog post..I Love Pancakes and Waffles – Box or Scratch?

  59. My husband and I have been married for 11 years and have lived in apartments/condos for all of those 11 years. I never really minded it until our son was born 5 years ago. Even then I didn’t mind it terribly because we had saved a good deal of money and were ready to purchase a home. We were just waiting for my husband to graduate from law school (debt-free I might add) and we would settle down wherever he found a job (preferably near family).

    But then the economy tanked, my husband couldn’t find a job and eventually was laid-off from the one he had. The condo we own lost 30% of its value making our mortgage nearly upside-down. In the midst of all this we unexpectedly had a second child and suddenly our rosy picture of a home and a future was looking pretty dim.

    These last two years I have struggled mightily with discontent–feeling like it’s not fair to have worked so hard, saved so much and watch so much of it disappear so quickly. Our two children are extremely energetic and I have grieved not having a yard for them to run and play in.

    The good news is that my husband has found a great job in a community that (though it is not near family) is very affordable and a great family area. The bad news is that when we moved here we rented again hoping to keep our costs low while we waited for our condo to sell. Unfortunately, our living situation here has been nightmarish with neighbors who have determined to make our lives miserable. And our condo still has not sold.

    But our situation has determined our resolve that a house with a yard is important for our family’s needs right now–more important than two cars, cable, a gym membership or fancy cell phones. Our kids don’t need any of that. They need a piece of the outside they can call their own.

    The Lord has graciously provided the desire of our hearts allowing us to pull together the money for a lovely home with a great yard inspite of the fact that our condo in our old town has not sold. This home is more than we could’ve hope to purchase in our old community even before the financial setbacks of the last two years! We’ll move into our new home next week.

    But I find myself wondering, have I really learned contentment through this season of our lives? Or have I just gotten really good at going from one type of discontent to another? Will having a home be a joy or will it be a source of strife and aggravation?

    Though I fully expect the disappointment of finding many things that won’t be as great as we hoped, I also look forward to discovering the unexpected joys this home will bring us. I want to hold this place loosely and treasure the years that we have there. I am encouraged by what another commenter said: “Because of your humble beginnings you will appreciate everything.” I’m striving for this to be true and I hope I really will be a better person because of it.

  60. When we got married, hubby was in grad school and we lived in 300 sf student housing. It was fantastic! Then, we had a baby, and moved to another city where he got a job. Then, we had another baby & move to another city where he got a job. Then, we had another baby. Then, we had another baby. After 3 cities, & multiple small apartments, we lived in a 900 sf apartment with 4 children 5 & under. I wanted a yard, and we finally bought a house when the bubble burst. We bought 1200 sf house. I love it. Mostly, I love the part that ISN’T the house. I love having a yard where I can send the kids (now ages 3-8). I wouldn’t give back my years of living in the apartments for anything though, and I’m not interested in more floor space anytime in the foreseeable future (ask me again when we have grandkids who want to visit). I love our cozy space, and despite our still modest size, we had 20 people for Thanksgiving.

  61. I’m new to this site and already loving it! This post is truly a godsend, and your comments make me feel a lot better, after spending another gloomy Sunday alone in my tiny apartment.
    I’m 25, single (I broke up with my fiance 5 months ago), working in a less than stellar job, and green with jealousy every time I look at how others live. My friends are either married, engaged or otherwise partnered, and those who are single travel all around the world. Not an option for me :( Having lost a pregnancy 1,5 years ago I’m also obsessively envious about people with kids and families. It seems that everyone has the things I could kill for. I’m finding myself acquiring more and more stuff to fill up the void – which doesn’t work, obviously. Struggling to be content with what I have, I want to thank you for all your thoughtful comments. It’s an enormous relief to know I’m not the only one! I hope this site helps me find inspiration and peace wherever I am and whatever I’m going through.

  62. I say that you should hang around with people like me who don’t put owning things as such value. It’s not important to want a house but there was a time when I did want it now we are excited to live full time in a RV and be able to have america, canada, mexico be our backyard if we want. our house is cheap, $30,000 and is nicer and newer than any house we could ever own built with sticks and bricks. The only thing is, it’s small. Live simple, avoid debt and most of all enjoy your family!

    Lynne´s last post…Thoughts and Link Love

  63. So many of these stories were all so wonderful to read.

    Yes – you are right. When you are older, you will look back on these times of starting out together as wonderful, simpler times.

    I had a bit of a reverse situation. I worked hard for years as an attorney, not making much time for dating. Then, when I was a whisper away from my 40th birthday, I met a nice 20-something fellow at the airport while traveling. I was hesitant to date him because of the age difference but he was so nice, I jumped in. 3 1/2 months later he proposed and soon after we were married. A few weeks after getting married, I got pregnant and gave birth to my son just shy of turning 41. It was a whirlwind but a wonderful one.

    Since I was pregnant and 40, I decided to become a stay-at-home mom to be. My husband was so happy that I made this choice and he said that he was honored to take care of me. And so…I had sold my large, beautiful home, put my furniture in storage, and moved to his modest home. It was a major change for me. But I was so happy.

    Years passed and we now live in a larger home (with more stuff!) and we are still happy and in love but we often reminisce about those early times in our little cottage. We often laugh about the time we had a minor gas leak and sat out in the garage in lawn chairs reading books and holding hands as we waited for the gas man to come. We were just so happy to have found each other. We didn’t have a care in the world.

    Love,

    Mary
    Mary @ Mary’s Nest´s last post…Culinary Her-story History