5 years ago the center stone of my wedding ring fell out. We added that expense to our list of “things to buy when we can afford it.” I suppose we could afford to replace the stone today, as we have $50,000 in our checking accounts. But I never have. Partly frugality. Partly minimalism. Mostly, my 15-year marriage isn’t in that ring. And it never really was.
It’s a new lesson I’ve been learning in my journey with minimalism. One that has helped me let go of a bunch of stuff that used to seem so important. And it’s helped me stop buying new versions of that stuff.
1. Stuff isn’t what it represents
I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it. But we went into even more debt to buy that wedding ring. Mr. Montana had bought a very simple Irish claddagh to propose with for a whopping $30 (what he could actually afford) and I had said yes! But shortly after we started ring shopping. I wanted something that I would love. Something I would be thrilled to wear every day for the rest of my life. And mostly, deep down, I wanted something that would say, “This marriage is important. It’s going to last. I married the love of my life.” to myself and everyone who saw it.
At this point, dear Mr. Montana didn’t have more than $30 to spend. I think by the time it was all said and done, we owed $800 for both of our rings.
Looking back now, I wish we would never have bought the wedding rings. Not because they were too expensive. Not even because we had to take on more debt.
The rings don’t make the marriage.
Just like my dishes don’t make me a great host.
My book collection doesn’t represent what I have read.
A big house doesn’t mean I’m successful, happy and have my life together.
This summer we celebrated 15 years of marriage. We have raised 6 children together. We have traveled through 27 countries. We have lived in the nation’s capital. We have lived abroad. We have bought and renovated 3 houses together. We have buried a child. We have explored, adventured and tried new things. We have drunk coffee (him) and tea (me) in the cool of a summer morning in our backyard.
A ring can’t hold that. It can’t even represent a fraction of that. Buying a ring doesn’t buy you that. Hosting a lovely wedding doesn’t give it to you.
Putting $800 on a credit card was easy. Building our life together, chasing dreams together, winning and failing together, raising 6 amazing kids together was where the magic lies. Now, our wedding rings feel like a cheap and silly substitute for the real deal.
Certain items and what I thought they represented use to be so tightly woven together. But the knot is starting to loosen. Some things still hold some nostalgia for me.
For most things, the promise has been replaced by actual life. The magic is in the living, the doing, the experiencing. Those items were just a poor man’s stand in.
2. My life is bigger than my stuff
I can’t fully ascribe to an abundance philosophy because so many elements of our life are extremely finite. The number of days we have on this earth. The hours in our day. The amount of energy and focus we can give. The dollars currently in our bank account.
So we have to choose. We have to find what is essential. What we want on our highlight reel. What matters less, so we can get what matters more.
Minimalism makes space for what is more important. And by space I mean: time, energy, focus, and money. All those finite and mostly irreplaceable things. (Money is very replaceable, but the time, energy and focus you put into earning that money is not.)
The most practical and honest example of this comes from being a mom with 5 little kids at home. I wrote about our 3×3 rule for our kids’ toys. Because, for real, picking up toys was a joyless and time-consuming task. For everyone. So urging my kids to do a task they also hated not only took time but it drained my energy.
Most of my friends are in this season of life. The season of picking things up. Our backs are sore because we’re picking stuff up ALL. DAY. LONG. It would be wonderful if we were just picking up our kids, but it’s their stuff. We spend long Saturday afternoons, not out at the lake playing in the water, but sorting puzzles because 8 puzzles were dumped together into a puzzle soup. Rendering them utterly useless unless we give up an hour of this one wild and precious life to sorting puzzle pieces.
Our lives are bigger than our stuff.
We can travel, and go out on adventures. We can hike in GNP for the day. We can go to the playground and grab a .25 cent ice cream. Or I can sort puzzle piece soup.
I gave a talk to a MOPS group about creating margin. Here’s the gist: All this awesome, cool stuff I do? It’s in direct correlation to everything I don’t do.
I don’t pick up toys. I don’t sort puzzle pieces. I don’t make crazy, fun, interesting lunches for my kids. I don’t have a large, complicated wardrobe that takes me 30 minutes to put together a stylish outfit.
The reason the mentoring questions are so important: once you know what you really want out of this one wild and precious life you have been given, it’s easier to see what didn’t make the list. You’re not voting against sorting puzzle soup for an hour. You are voting for something bigger. You are voting to take that time/energy/focus and pour it into something that resonates so deeply you would regret forever if you didn’t at least try.
For me, minimalism and frugality are the realization that I can’t have it all. My life, full of all the things that matter most to me, doesn’t have space for the things that don’t matter….or sometimes even the things that don’t matter “as much.”
Have you ever tried to buy something for what it represented?
Anythings that were so important, now losing their significance?
Weddings and wedding rings are such controversial topics, why do you think that is?
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