Overcoming Home Envy

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I live in an area where people just keep building houses, bigger and bigger all the time. When we first moved to our current home, I could look out my window and see nothing but cornfields. Now, I see nothing but houses. It makes me sad.

My husband is a real estate broker and appraiser. He is always astonished at how much people will spend to build giant McMansions that they don’t really need. It’s not unusual for a family of four to sell their 2000 square foot home to build a 3500 square foot home. People buy brand new homes and then tear out the laminate countertops because they want granite, or replace the kitchen cabinets simply because they’re oak, instead of the trendier maple or cherry. My husband is shocked at what people throw away, because in their minds, it’s just not good enough.

My question is, why can’t we all just be happy with what we have?

I used to suffer from home envy. I thought that I was somehow inadequate because I didn’t have a huge house with fancy amenities. However, as I became stronger in my Christian faith, I soon realized that my home, though small, is the Lord’s perfect provision for me, and instead of whining about it, I should be thankful for His blessings. Furthermore, the Lord doesn’t care about what I have. He cares about what’s in my heart.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (NIV, Matthew 6:19-21)

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (NIV, Matthew 6:24-25, 31-33)

“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (NIV, Matthew 16:26)

“People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” (NIV, 1 Timothy 6:9-11)

I believe that people who are never satisfied with what they have are really struggling with self-esteem issues. They don’t feel important, and they think that if they have the latest and greatest, biggest and best, they will feel good about themselves. They’re looking for the answers in all of the wrong places. Each time they acquire something new, any newfound happiness is fleeting, and soon they will sink even lower than before. Money and possessions will never bring lasting happiness–a relationship with Jesus Christ will.

Before we moved here, we lived in a small town where my husband had lived his entire life, and people had certain (usually erroneous) perceptions about us. My husband had been in business there for 25 years, and at that time, we still owned a lot of rental real estate. One Saturday afternoon, when Bee was still a baby, I was looking at some baby clothes at a local garage sale. A woman I didn’t even know came up to me and said, “Why are you buying clothes at a garage sale? You can certainly afford to buy new clothes for your baby.”

I was offended. This woman was very rude, and clearly she was judging me. Though she knew absolutely nothing about my financial situation, she had decided that I was “rich,” and therefore had no business at a garage sale. For a long time, I turned that conversation over and over in my mind, trying to figure out why she would say something like that to me. I eventually realized that she was just really unhappy with her own life, and it made her feel better to criticize me. My husband and I had a lot of stuff, and she probably thought that more stuff would solve all of her problems. How sad that she was so misguided. She would probably be shocked to learn that we spent the next 5 years trying to get rid of our stuff, because it made us completely miserable.

Maybe we could afford to buy our kids brand new clothes, or build a new house, or whatever—but we choose not to. We have learned to be happy and content, right where we are, and for that reason, we are rich.

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Heather is a minimalist in love with a recovering packrat. 7 years ago, she and her husband sold pretty much anything that wasn't nailed down in order to pay off their mortgage, and they've been living happily debt-free ever since. They have 3 hilarious little kids who were conceived with the help of in vitro fertilization, and they haven't had a good night's sleep in the last decade. Heather is an anglophile who loves all things British, and spends her free time looking at real estate listings in Cornwall. Every day, she and her family work toward a simpler, more meaningful life. Some days are awesome, some are disastrous, and you can read about all of them here.

Have a question? Need a listening ear? Contact Heather, or visit Want What You Have on Facebook.

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10 comments… add one

  1. Janice June 9, 2008, 8:45 pm

    AMEN! I totally hear you on the big house bit, I just dont get it. Now, the square footage for my home is around 1100 I think (could be wrong, but isnt much bigger, way less than 2000) that is just fine, the layout stinks though, but we work with it. We have 4 bedrooms (3 up 1 down) 1 SMALL narrow bathroom and a non functional basement (only good for storing things that dont matter if they get damp or musty, and shelter from a storm, think dungeon) my kitchen is small and not very functional either and we have 7 in our home, whereas I know smaller families with houses over 3 times the size of ours, it is just crazy. Would a larger home be nice, yes, but not necessary as far as size goes. The only thing we really need for change is it to be more accessible for our oldest son, he cant get his wheelchair into the kitchen (it has a step down into it), or the bathroom b/c of how narrow and the placement of the sink. But we make it work the best we can! Until the day comes we hae the money to expand or move to something more functional for him, otherwise, I like my quirky little home.

    Reply
  2. Renata June 9, 2008, 9:40 pm

    I LOVE this post, Heather!! Over here it is the same – people always wanting more, more, more & borrowing more money to get it & then it’s not good enough, so they have to get even more.
    Mum & Dad raised 5 kids in a 3 bedroom home & it was squishy, but happy. We have a larger home ( on the farm), but it is still decorated in the 70′s & 80′s styles – we will change that slowly as we can afford it, but it’s also filled with love! If only people would realise it’s not about the look of the home, but about the people inside!
    By the way I think your home looks lovely! – & I remember thinking how gorgous it was inside when you did the “tour” of your home on your blog!!!
    Thanks for this timely reminder!!
    Renata :)

    Reply
  3. Leah June 10, 2008, 9:48 pm

    Thanks for this post! I live in an area where McMansions are all the rage. They’ve been razing pecan orchards for years to build them while nice old neighborhoods with smaller homes from the 50s, 60s, and 70s get neglected and go downhill. It makes me so sad.

    Sadder still is the mentality behind it. I got into almost an argument with my middle school students about shopping at Goodwill. They were trying their level best to make me feel ashamed for shopping there, but I calmly (and then not so calmly) explained that my values were different. They seemed incapable of understanding–even when I explained that you could find cool vintage stuff. We’re such a middle class, keep-up-with-the-Joneses town.

    Reply
  4. Bobbie-Jo June 12, 2008, 4:52 am

    I’ve really enjoyed your posts on voluntary simplicity.

    Thanks for sharing your heart.

    Reply
  5. Christie July 29, 2008, 7:36 pm

    Heather,

    I just “happened” upon your blog recently (thanks to Google!), and I wanted to tell you that I was hooked from day one! I have already told all of my girlfriends about your blog, so I am hoping you get more hits from Houston!!! Your practical outlook on life is so refreshing, and your tips on simplistic living are wonderful. Kudos to you! Whether you realize it or not (I’m sure you do…), you are an inspiration to many. Thank you!

    Reply
  6. Heather July 29, 2008, 9:09 pm

    Christie, thank you so much! I’m so happy that you enjoy this blog, and your kind words are a great encouragement to me. God bless!

    Reply
  7. Kriskringle83 January 3, 2012, 7:36 pm

    This post really hits close to home for me! I’m in tears as I write this!  I’ve been struggling with “home envy” for the last several months.  We are currently living in an 850 square foot home with 3 children and one on the way! Our hopes are to fix up the basement to double our living space, but it has taken alot longer than expected.  We began to remodel it in April 2011.  Lately, I find myself to be very dissatisfied with this house.  I hate to see all my 3 children in one room, trying to keep things in order.  I’m constantly thinking about what I can get rid of to make more room for them, but have “purged” their toys so much, there’s not much left to go through!  I’m afraid my feelings of discontentment may have sapped me from my usual positive attitude of looking at things.  You are so right when you say we are rich when we are content and happy.  Thank you for putting it in perspective for me.  All I can do is my best with what I have, and let God take care of the rest.  God bless you,
    C.E.

    Reply
  8. Jami March 19, 2012, 7:55 pm

    Ouch….  this one stepped on my toes but I really needed to read this today.

    Reply
  9. teacherma May 20, 2012, 1:58 am

    Economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources that have alternative uses.  The baby clothes I buy at the yard sale give me the blessing of making fewer resources do more things.  I can save a little for a rainy day, bless a friend with flowers, invest in an orphanage in the Philippines, work fewer hours for pay, get out of debt, encourage the seller who needed the cash….  You certainly could shop yard sales because it’s your only option, but you could also do so because you’re a good steward of what God has given you jurisdiction over. 

    Reply
  10. lpf March 18, 2013, 8:08 am

    Hi, I discovered your blog while doing a search for “daily schedules for stay at home moms” and I can’t pull myself away now! Love all your tips on home organization, etc. It will probably shock people in America to know that I live in a country where small spaces are the norm, and I live with my husband, two children and dog in a 70 square meter (about 800 square foot) home, and we couldn’t be happier. We have everything we need, we don’t need a lot of space to be happy. We have a small washer/dryer that fits under the bathroom sink, and a small dishwasher that is built in under the stove. We don’t have a car, we don’t need one. Not having a lot of space is also good because it means not having to clean a big space, which is good because cleaning is not my favorite thing (and I’m learning a lot from your posts about how to not get behind on my cleaning tasks). Can’t wait to read more from your blog.

    Reply

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