Finding Contentment – Thoughts on the Downsized Life

Donald Miller

Last year I moved out of my really nice condo into a really nice apartment. But it was too nice. It had a view of Mt. Hood, access to the river, and all the stuff you’d find in a Bed Bath & Beyond catalog. I noticed something, though. None of it made me happy. I thought I’d downsized my life but I hadn’t really downsized enough. The rent was still uncomfortably high and stuff was just too nice.

When it came time to do some work across the country, I decided to really go for it.

I moved everything I owned into a small storage unit. If it didn’t fit, I got rid of it. I sold my nice car, bought a twenty-year old Volkswagen camping van and headed out with my chocolate lab, Lucy. We drove from Portland to Houston, then to New Orleans, stopped in Asheville, NC and ended up in Washington, D.C. where I’ll stay and work for the next six months or so.

The new digs? About 500 square feet of old, uncomfortable furniture, drafty windows, terrible internet and the smell of a hundred previous tenants.

Am I happy? Yes. Finally.

There’s a lot that goes into happiness and I’m not saying downsizing is the key. But I think it’s a big part of it.

For me, downsizing was about no longer buying the stuff I thought would make me content. I realize now it really won’t.

In fact, getting rid of the clutter and square feet made the “pursuit of happiness” that much easier. There was less false hope around.

For me, the checklist for being content in life involved:

• Connecting with people I love each day
• Having a healthy routine
• Getting sleep and taking a sabbath
• Working on a meaningful project
• Giving generously to the people around me
• Being wise with my finances
• Having some sort of artistic creative expression in my life
• Having a long-term vision for my life

So, I don’t have a nice house. I don’t have a nice car (though I love it. How can you not love a car that has a popup bed on the roof?) and I don’t spend much money.

But I’m content. I can breathe. And that’s nice.

What is the key to finding contentment for you?

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller is a student of story. He helps people live a better story at Storyline through this blog and the Storyline Conference. He helps leaders grow their businesses at StoryBrand, where they get an entire marketing education in 2 days at his Workshop. Donald lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife, Betsy, and their chocolate lab, Lucy. For regular updates, follow Don on Twitter (@donaldmiller) and Instagram. To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.