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Thoughts on the Meaning of Life…..by Todd Helmkamp

Archive for March, 2010

The American Way

Posted by Vogeler on March 16, 2010

Good grief, has it really been almost a year since I’ve posted anything here?  My apologies, Dear Readers, Life has a way of distracting me (for example, I am eating lunch while I type this and just very painfully bit the inside of my cheek.  Very distracting).

Anyway….a lot of things have changed since last April.  I started a knife-making business/hobby, Man Group (the men’s group from my church I lead) has gotten larger, shrunk, then gotten larger again, the boys are older, I’m older, Bethany now has a job….lots of changes.

But the biggest change has to be my dissatisfaction with the way our lives, and American culture, revolve around Money and Stuff.  It seems as if everything we do is aimed at either getting more Stuff or making more Money so we can buy more Stuff.  My sons have a giant box of toys they don’t even play with, I have stacks of books I have yet to read (my wife is the only who doesn’t have piles of Stuff, but that’s only because she hates to spend Money on herself).  I firmly believe that the clutter and upkeep from all of this Stuff is having a negative effect on our family financially, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.  We have to store it, we trip over it, we spend Money on it, we spend time on it.

Now, I’m not saying that having material possessions in-and-of-themselves is bad; I just think that, especially in our culture, our reliance on and reverence for Stuff has gotten out of hand.  Do I really need 8 pairs of shoes when I wear 3?  How many shirts can I wear at once?  How many toys can my children play with at any one time?  My garage is so full of junk that I can hardly move in it.  I can’t WAIT to have  a garage sale and hopefully get rid of some of this Stuff.  But that’s only half of the equation.  Getting rid of all this extra Stuff will do no good if I simply go out and replace it with other Stuff.

What it all comes down to, in my opinion, is mindful spending.  Before I buy something, I need to stop and truly consider the purchase.  Do I actually need the item?  If so, can I get it for cheaper elsewhere?  Is this the best balance between quality and value for the item, or would another one work better?  If it’s not a need, why do I want it?  Am I trying to fill some need or void with this item?  Is this desire a symptom of something deeper?  Am I just bored and seeking an emotional thrill from buying something new?

In my battle with Stuff, I’ve learned a TON from 3 men in particular,  JD Roth from Get Rich Slowly, Leo Babauta from Zen Habits, and Trent Hamm from The Simple Dollar.  Although JD and Trent focus mainly on personal finance, a very large part of managing your finances is managing your Stuff.  Leo from Zen Habits focuses on simplifying your life in general.  All three are well worth the time to read daily, and all three offer email subscriptions so new articles are delivered directly to your inbox.

I am also on a quest to change the way I eat, the way I think, and the way I treat others.  I am tired of not being the man I desire to be, the man God created me to be.  For too long I’ve talked, thought and dreamed about how I wish I or my circumstances were different.  Well, I didn’t quit smoking cigarettes by talking, thinking, and dreaming about it(cold turkey baby, 4 years-smoke free!).  Action is everything (thanks to Action Girl for a great article, and thanks to JD for pointing it out!).  I will chronicle my journey here, and encourage you to embark on your own journey to a life lived with purpose!

What are some changes that have come about in your life recently?

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