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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How Much Is Too Much?

While walking the dogs on this cold, dark morning, and related to recent writing about gratitude and Thanksgiving, I suddenly asked myself "How much is too much?"

This question often pertains to material things: How much house is too much? How many pairs of shoes are too many? How many flat-screen TVs are too many for one house? But the question can be asked about non-material things as well: How much exercise is too much? How much time spent on work or household chores, rather than with loved ones, is too much? How much food is too much? How much television watching is too much?

As Americans, many of us suffer from "too much." As a country, we are woefully overweight, often the result of eating too much. We worry too much about what others think, about getting the latest fad in personal electronics or cars or designer clothing. We focus too much on getting ahead in our careers, often to the detriment of our families and relationships, or our health.

Our homes are filled with too much stuff. I, too, am guilty of having 'too much.' I recently bought a BlackBerry, despite having a perfectly nice cell phone that is only a few months old. I don't like a cluttered home, yet my place, despite numerous trips to drop off donations at the local Goodwill and library, still has 'too much' stuff. There are too many books to fit on the shelves, too many pieces of art to hang on the walls, too much food in the pantry and garage, too many clothes in the closets, too many CDs on the rack.

So as we enter this season of reflection and thanksgiving, and for some of us, the celebration of the birth of a savior, let us think about what is most important in our lives. Is it the 'too much' stuff that clutters our lives and our homes? Or is it the often-overlooked and neglected, intangible things: our relationships, our good deeds, our health, the opportunities we have to make a difference in someone else's life?

It isn't the quantity -- of years, of friends, of money or of things -- but rather the quality of our lives and our relationships -- that is most important. I love the concept of simple abundance, and my commitment at this special time of year is to learn more about this concept and to embrace it more fully, to make it a bigger part of my life.