There’s an old poem (Miller of Dee) that starts like this:
There dwelt a miller, hale and bold,
Beside the river Dee;
He worked and sang from morn till night –
No lark more blithe than he;
And this the burden of his song
Forever used to be:
“I envy nobody – no, not I –
And nobody envies me!”
“Thou’rt wrong, my friend,” said good King Hal,
“As wrong as wrong can be;
For could my heart be light as thine,
I’d gladly change with thee.
And tell me now, what makes thee sing,
With voice so loud and free,
While I am sad, though I am king,
Beside the river Dee?”
As the poem continues, the humble miller explains why he envies no one and how he already possesses everything he wants: a job, friends, family, and bread to eat.
He continues, “I would not change my station for any other in life.”
By the end, the envious king has ordered him to stop singing the lyrics.
“Good friend,” said Hal, and sighed the while,
“Farewell, and happy be;
But say no more, if thou’dst be true,
That no one envies thee.”
The king has so much envy in his heart, he has even begun to envy the man without it.
There is a special joy found in not wanting things. The miller possessed that joy and the king did not. By not wanting more than he had, he had discovered contentment.
Contentment is the state of being satisfied. And the longer our list of “don’t wants,” the more we experience contentment.
What is on your Don’t Want list? And how can you expand it?
Let me offer an example. I have never wanted to own a fixer-upper home. I’m terrible at fixing stuff (Kim would be the first to attest to that fact). Now, there are some people who would love to have a fixer-upper style home, but not me. I wouldn’t know what to do with it. It’s on my Don’t Want List—and always has been.
Also, I’ve never wanted to own a boat. I enjoy being on boats, but I’ve never been inclined to own one. I simply don’t want one, so please don’t gift me one.
I also don’t want a horse, a tractor, a saw table, a car lift, a tuba, a tuxedo, a motorcycle, or a collection of snow globes. Now I suppose there are some people who want some of those things, but not me.
Since becoming minimalist, my “don’t want list” has grown.
- I no longer want a bigger house… too many lightbulbs to change.
- I no longer want to keep up with changing fashions… too much time wasted shopping.
- I no longer want upgraded countertops, worthless kitchen gadgets, or souvenirs from my travels. I don’t want to store them and would rather spend the money on other things.
The longer my Don’t Want List grows, the easier it is to reject empty consumerism and enjoy more contentment (just like the miller of Dee).
So let me ask you. What is on your Don’t Want List? And what can you add to it?
Make a list on a sheet of paper or a Note app in your phone.
Begin with as absurd an item as you need to get started: a rocket ship, a banana farm, a bus, etc. Then, list as many things as you can that you already don’t want.
Next… see what you can add to your list.
Obviously, the more reasonable the items you can learn to not want, the more helpful your list will be. But think of rational reasons to expand your list.
“I don’t want a bigger house; my family is getting smaller.”
“I don’t want a bigger yard; I hate mowing.”
“I don’t want any more clothes in my closet; mine is already too full.”
“I don’t want to buy a new car; I’d like the money for something else.”
“I don’t want a new furniture set; ours works just fine already.”
Hopefully, the longer we live, the more items naturally get added to our Don’t Want List. But there’s plenty of value in sitting down to expand it now, as quickly as we can.