Balancing the Wish List

Balancing the Wish List

Usually, I’m the queen of “less is more” and firmly believe the path to happiness is less stuff. My husband, Dave, and I have always been a no-dryer-one-small-car-no-microwave kind of family. My kids each get one drawer in the three-drawer dresser they share. Anything that piles up is deemed clutter and has to go. Our minimalist mentality – as harsh as it may seem - was a necessity during the first ten years of our relationship. With little money and a tiny city apartment, we simply couldn’t have a lot of stuff.  But now that we live in a house that has closets and a basement, our minimalism is optional and I suddenly find myself making list after list of things I want, including the dreaded second, bigger, car.

A year ago, I’d nix the wishes on the wish list before they even made their way onto paper. Any offers from friends that started with a “We have an extra…” were met with a resounding “No, thanks.” My mom finally accepted that gifts to us should be perishable, preferably in the form of chocolate or coffee. Now, not only are my wishes going down on the wish list, the fulfillment of one simply triggers the next.

This cycle started out naturally enough when the whirlwind of moving twice within a year put us in a high-energy mode that didn’t shut off when we finally landed in our empty, new-to-us house this summer. Bursting with ideas on how to turn this house into our home, we refocused our energy on settling in. First it was major cleaning projects to clear out spider webs and scrub away the previous owners’ grime. Then we turned to standard purchases, like a child-gate for around the wood stove and gardening tools, having never had either a wood stove or a garden. From there, little home improvement projects sprouted up in every room: curtains here, better lighting there, replace the rotting window frame, put up a screen door… Now, I find myself in the habit of walking from room to room and only seeing things I want to fix, change, or buy. But the wish list extends beyond home improvement. My excitement for snow season has triggered a whole slew of new wants: cross-country skis, after all, the ski trail is right across the road; snow shoes for my seven year old; oh, and what if we made an ice rink in our backyard, the kids would love it! Before long, I’ve wasted an hour researching backyard ice rinks and have made out a list of materials we’ll need for it, including ice skates for all three kids. We won’t actually do it because we’re on a tight budget, but I’ll want it.

I don’t think wanting is necessarily a bad thing. After all, the absence of want, also called hope in some cases, is a symptom of depression. Wanting is healthy, and it can inspire creativity and resourcefulness. We don’t want to spend money on curtains, but I can figure out how to make new ones from old ones, and my children get to watch me struggle through the process of measuring, piecing together fabric, and sewing straight hems. When I proudly hang the slightly lopsided curtains, my oldest asks if she can make something using the sewing machine. Christmas lights, not fancy track lights, now brighten our kitchen – it looks a bit funny now that the holidays are over, but I can see while I chop vegetables.

But an endless wanting of stuff clashes with my minimalist values, and I worry that my infinite wish list is preventing me from enjoying what I already have. Instead of appreciating our new home in the country, I fret about how to manage carpooling with one small car and three children. The warped window frames overshadow the beautiful view from the sun porch, and I look past the 160-year-old wooden beamed ceilings and all the history they carry.

Perhaps I need to figure out that balance of simply living in our home as it is, and planning – pacing – changes over the next twenty years. After all, we hope to be here at least that long, so what’s the rush? Adding bit by bit will make it sweeter than hurrying to reach the end state as soon as possible. The kids will enjoy a backyard ice rink just as much, if not more, in five years. Besides, they are perfectly content with sledding this year, and I can be too.

But a second, bigger car? Well, some things may fall into the necessity category that we give in to sooner rather than later.