Increasing Satisfaction Through Deprivation

I would like to start with a little story about my recent situation.

We are refinishing the bathroom in our house. Our house was built very well, but it was built in 1957 and as far as we could tell, the bathroom was completely original when we bought the house in 2012. A few clues were that the bathroom wall tile was grey with pink stripes, the floor was pink, the tub was pink, the sink was pink, and the toilet was pink. Also, when we tore down the walls, we found newspapers from 1957 stuffed inside as insulation.

We replaced the toilet a year or two ago because of a bad leak. We either had to shut the water off until we needed to fill the tank to be able to flush, or watch our money drain down the toilet with all the water that was being wasted. Also, it was pink.

Since then, the bathroom has continued to show signs of increasing wear. Did I mention it is the only bathroom in a house with two adults, a toddler, and two cats? The cold knob on the sink would leak unless my husband shut it so tight I would need to use two hands and all my strength to open it again. The tiles were coming off the floor just by stepping on them and grout would crumble from the tiled walls when I cleaned them. Then the tub faucets started leaking so bad that we had to turn the water off in the whole house when not immediately using it to avoid wasting lots of water and money.

So we finally got some funds together and decided to gut the bathroom so we could refinish it nicely. We dreamed of a beautiful and efficient bathroom. We found an excellent contractor to do the work, with my husband helping out where he could.

This is a story about increasing satisfaction through deprivation because once that bathroom was gutted, we have been without a shower, tub, and toilet in our house. We still had the kitchen sink to use, when we were able to have the water on in the house, which thankfully was most of the time. And we are lucky enough to have accommodating parents that live very close by. Like, super duper lucky. My in-laws live a block away and offered up their spare bathroom whenever we’ve needed to bathe. My parents also live in town and not only offered their spare bathroom as well, but were also able to loan us their RV camper.

We parked the camper in our driveway and although we don’t have any water, electric, or sewer hookups, we’ve been able to use it as a glorified outhouse while still living at home. December is cold in New Jersey and the watering can we used to flush the toilet into the grey water holding tank of the camper was heavy and cumbersome. But I was still so happy just to have a place to pee when my unborn baby decided to have a rest on my tiny bladder, even if that meant putting on shoes and a coat and sitting on a freezing cold bowl in the middle of the night. It was clean and I was independent.

The toilet is now reinstalled in our house, even though the rest of the bathroom isn’t totally done yet. We still don’t have a sink and we can’t use the shower. (We can technically use the tub as long as we don’t splash.) The first time I used that toilet again today, though, it was magical. I didn’t have to don any extra clothes or bring any special equipment or worry about what my son was getting up to. It felt so amazingly luxuriant to be using a flushing toilet in my own house. Something that I wouldn’t have thought twice about otherwise.

Indoor plumbing is amazing, readers. It really, really is. (Especially to this pregnant woman.) But I think that it is something that a lot of us take for granted today. I had a pretty sweet — and free — set-up to get us through these last few weeks, but it still felt quite inconvenient. But the deprivation and inconvenience I’ve felt during this experience has made the sporadic showers at my parents’ and in-laws’ houses feel like lavish spa get-aways. Having a working toilet in the house feels like an incredible luxury. I found that when I had less, I appreciated a lot more.

So what I’m saying is that if you are feeling discontent or unsatisfied, getting more or having more or doing more may not be the answer. I’m suggesting just the opposite. That taking something away, even temporarily, can have the power to completely shift your outlook. To shine a light on something simple yet wonderful in your life that you had been too distracted from or numbed by to properly notice.

Stop buying a cup of coffee everyday for a month and a special trip to the cafe turns into a treat.

Turn the water off in your house for a day to really appreciate how amazing it is that you can usually make water flow abundantly with a simple flip of you wrist.

Stop buying loads of books and take the time to understand and a appreciate a good story.

Donate all of your spare coats to those who need them and feel the warm embrace of the only one left, noticing one is all you need to keep out the cold.

Try living with less so you can appreciate more.


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