What Makes Us Happy?

When I was little, I wondered where happiness lived. I thought it might be at my friend’s house, hidden in her pile of dolls. Or maybe in one of their many large rooms filled with curios, cabinets, and a grand piano. It might possibly have been in the bottom of the toy chest I’d always wanted to explore.

I was certain happiness didn’t live with me. My family’s house was modest compared to many I knew, and I was certain the more others had, the happier they were. I made it my goal to be like them, which meant, when I grew up, I needed a lot of ‘stuff.’

One day, I rented a tiny apartment, filled it with a sofa rescued from a friend, an old stand from a dumpster, and a little metal table I pressed against the kitchen wall. At the thrift store, I bought a set of dishes, a few pieces of silverware, a pot, a pan, and a couple utensils.

I met my future husband while living in that apartment. We acquired our first real collection of ‘stuff’- bowls and serving sets we’d never use, gifts from everyone we knew.

The gifts became an anchor in our lives that we dragged from apartment to apartment. Our family grew, our toys and kitchen supplies got bigger. Our apartment was cluttered, our storage closet stuffed. We did the only thing we could – we bought a house.

Our new home was barren, so we bought, and we bought, and filled each corner and crevice with furniture, tables, decorations. We loved our home, but it wasn’t long before it was a source of tension, a string of work to be done.

We were always a happy family, but sometimes, I wonder if we always knew real joy. We were so busy working on a home, taking time for material possessions, we didn’t always really live. Not until the day we moved 1900 miles away.

Much of what we owned was sold before we moved. And in our new place, we bought only what we needed. We were happy and excited. We had time to explore, time as a family. Our lives were not centered around our things.

Time wore on, and we again became like the squirrel – always hunting, always gathering, never satisfied with what we had.

We grew a collection of movies, a library of books. We bought shoes and dishes, too many glasses, too many things to decorate our home.

After my accident, I’d had enough. I could no longer take care of what we owned, and no longer wanted to. I was tired, and overwhelmed.

My husband and I purged, and what we have remaining is all we want, all we need. We are truly, truly happy. And filled with joy beyond belief.

Have a Little Faith:

I recently read, “Have a Little Faith,” by Mitch Albom. In the book, Mitch asks his rabbi, “What makes a man happy?” Here is the rabbi’s response:

“The things society tells us we must have to be happy – a new this or that, a bigger house, a better job. I know the falsity of it. I have counseled many people who have all these things, and I can tell you they are not happy because of them.”

Think about that, just for a moment . . .

The rabbi continues, “The number of marriages that have disintegrated when they had all the stuff in the world. The families who fought and argued all the time, when they had money and health. Having more does not keep you from wanting more. And if you always want more – to be richer, more beautiful, more well-known – you are missing the bigger picture, and I can tell you from experience, happiness will never come.”

Wise words to live by.

Does all your stuff really make you happy? Maybe it’s time to let go, of one thing, or two, or three.

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