Archive for December 2010
Recently, I’ve found myself complaining – here, in real life, even in yet-unpublished blog posts – about how I have too much stuff. This is, of course, true. Some of it needs to go. But, today, rather than seeing it as a burden, I want to see it as a blessing.
It’s a blessing because I have enough, and my life is comfortable as a result.
I may have too much bedding, but I always have a cozy place to sleep.
I may have too many clothes, but I’m always warm, and always have something nice to wear.
I may have two many pots and dishes, but I can cook lots of healthy, tasty food, and feed many people.
I may have too many books, but I have lots of interesting and useful things to read, and to loan or give to friends.
I may have too much stuff, but I have enough that I can live a comfortable life which is, sadly, not something that everyone in this world can say.
Things are still on their way out the door, of course, but I know that I have enough, and for that I am very grateful. At the same time, I hope that what I give away will be useful to other people, and maybe even help to make sure that they too have enough.
In the interest of full disclosure, on my first full day of TGAAD, I shopped. Not for clothes – I’m good there – but I happened to be by the used bookstore today. And they happened to have “The Hunger Games” and “Catching Fire“, both of which I’ve been wanting to read (and have checked the used bookstore for no less than 12 times). So, they came home with me, along with a copy of “Trees: The Green Testament” and “The Poems of Tennyson” (I love me some graphic novels and some Arthurian-themed poetry). $12 for the lot.
Also, in order to get my Christmas gift order of one CD up to the free shipping amount, I finally ordered “Alabama Studio Style” which has been sitting in my cart since before it was released, (I did use gift cards entirely for that, so I’m actually not out any money). Not a necessity, but I appreciate the focus on homemade things, sustainability, storytelling, local food, and tradition, not to mention the fact that this one has the dress and tank top patterns that I’ve been coveting.
So, more books. And more shopping, I suppose. This should be the last for awhile, though, since the two earlier books were the last stragglers on my wish list (although I will likely have to keep my eye open for the third, and it strikes me that I have more gift certificates, and that Ashley English’s books on chickens and preserving have been in the queue for a long time as well). I’m trying not to be too hard on myself over this, especially on the first day of the diet, and seem to be succeeding. I’m also trying not to focus too much on supplanting clothes shopping with other forms of shopping either, justified or not, especially with books. That said, there will be a new focus on reading what I have around here, and I’m still hoping that TGAAD will help change my rleationship to shopping in general, and not just with clothes.
I found out about TGAAD a few months back, but it didn’t really cross my mind to jump on board. Then, a few days ago, I was thinking about the New Year and resolutions (in the loosest sense) – wanting more time for the important things, thinking about getting my finances tightened up even more, and trying to declutter further – and it hit me that now would be a good time to get on board. And, after a month of not shopping, this felt at least reasonably do-able as a project, and it seemed to fit well with my hope for a low shopping year. So, no new clothes (or new-to-me used clothes) until the end of August, 2011.
I don’t really spend a lot, mostly because I shop almost exclusively at thrift stores. But as a grad student, I’d rather be saving than spending, and given how little I currently make, it’s still a higher percentage of my budget than I’d like. Because thrift stores are cheap, I also have a lot of clothing – nice, good quality clothing, but certainly enough, and probably more than I need – and I could use the room. Finally, I spend more time shopping than I would prefer, looking for just the right things at just the right price.
So, for TGAAD my goals are four-fold. Spend less. Bring fewer things home. Have more time for the important stuff. Get creative with what I have (and get rid of what just isn’t working). Pretty simple, I hope.
When I was considering joining, I found myself nervous. Could I really do this? (As a side note, I think the fact that it felt so monumental at the time is probably a sign that this is a good thing to be doing.) Now? I feel excited – not just as though a big decision has been made, but also as though many months of small ones have too. For the next eight months and change there are no more decisions about shopping or not, buying or not, or even just what to get. It feels freeing, which is a pleasant surprise.
Right now, I’m considering whether I need to plan out an exception or two. A suit for job interviews is at the top of that list, and my pj pants are about to go, I think (although there’s some lovely flannel and a sewing machine in the closet that could probably make short work of that particular need).
The only other question left, I think, is whether I try to further extend this diet to other elements of my shopping which, while also not hugely indulgent, add to the time, the expense, and the clutter of shopping (books and housewares, I’m looking at you). While TGAAD is focused largely on clothes, I’m hoping that my perspective not only shifts with respect to this kind of shoppng, but also transfers to other elements as well.
I’m not much of a New Year’s resolutions kind of person. I do, however, like a good challenge (could you tell?) And so, with the coming new year, I’m taking on a new one, and one that fits rather well with some of the other projects that I’ve got in the works.
Here comes The Low Shopping Year.
In my efforts to save some money, prepare to move, clean out the clutter, and just generally sort out my life, shopping isn’t helping. As I’ve said before, I don’t shop a lot, and I certainly don’t spend much, but it still means that things are making their way into my home here and there, money that doesn’t have to is making its way out the door, and the clutter and finances are all the more difficult to deal with as a result. Also, because I almost always buy used, even spending a bit of money can bring in a lot of stuff ($10 at the used book store is usually good for three or four books).
The original thought was that I would start what I called “The No Shopping Year”. Unfortunately, “The No Shopping Year” sounds a bit grandiose. And, given my present situation, there’s no way I can go an entire year without actually shopping for anything, since I like to eat, need medication, and may require an academic book here or there as I plow through the dissertation, so the name’s a bit of a misnomer, cool as it sounds. So, in the interest of accuracy, I’ve reconsidered the No Shopping Year in favour of the Low Shopping Year. (More accurate, but sounds less cool, no?)
The plan? Seriously reduce (my already rather reduced consumption) in much the same way as with my No Spending Month.
The benefit? Less money going out. Fewer things coming in. Less clutter to deal with. Less clutter to move. More time for whatever I want.
There are still details to work out. I need to figure out what’s allowed and what isn’t, whether there should be any exceptions, and if there’s anything else I should be figuring out. I’ll probably wind up working out a new budget to reflect (and possibly reinforce) these changes.
Snowed in is an expression that I didn’t really understand until yesterday. We’re at somewhere around two feet of snow in this neck of the woods now, and it’s still coming. It’s sitting deep outside with many of the roads bloacked. The university cancelled classes yesterday and today, and has just announced that they’ll be closed tomorrow as well. The busses will stop running at 3 this afternoon, and won’t run tomorrow either.
For all intents and purposes, we are snowed in.
For now, this isn’t such a bad thing. The fridge and cupboards are well stocked (I see a big bean soup in my future), the apartment is sealed, and there are plenty of books to read, games to play, and various other entertainment things to do. I have papers to grade and work to do. There will be afternoons on the couch with tea and the computer, taking it relatively easy while still getting work done.
That said, this weather isn’t without its issues. We’re fine where we are, but lots of people are not. Shelters are full or filling to capacity at rapid rates. The food bank is closed. People can’t get around easily, and those with mobility issues are at even more of a disadvantage. Today may well also involve figuring out if there are any ways that I can help out a bit close to home.
With a bust schedule, I didn’t quite accomplish everything that I wanted, but I did pretty well, all told.
With my little 10×30 project, I got the requisite number of things boxed up and ready to go out for donation. There’s still a lot more to do, but a box of books and many bags of clothes later and the apartment feels a bit better. I’m looking forward to doing more, and am considering having a repeat performance this month.
For The Anyway Project, I had a few successes as well. The kitchen was cleared out further, and some clutter was removed from the apartment. We had the landlords come in and do some weatherproofing, which will hopefully make it less draughty in here.
Financially, I managed to save about 45 percent of my income this month, up from the 20 percent that I was aiming for. This won’t be possible every month, but this was a good start. I cut back even the limited shopping that I already do to accomplish this, and I’m pleased with the results.
Tracking resource consumption has been somewhat more difficult than I thought, so I’m still trying to figure this one out, and considering ways to lower it even when there isn’t an actual measure available to work from. I’m also still a bit stumped on taking on extra work, both in terms of what to do and how to fit that in right now, but I’m looking into some opportunities.
Family and community took a bit of a beating this month as I didn’t get out that much for various reasons. On the up side, though, I have been more focused on spending money locally, which I hope is helpful from a community perspective.
I’ve managed to keep outside commitments to a minimum in order to keep focusing on the most important things right now – dissertation, teaching, and job search. I have started a few of my own projects that mesh well with my values, though, so that’s a nice break at the end of the day sometimes as well.
And finally, in terms of time and happiness, I’ve been working on eating a bit better, exercising more – I walk to campus a few times a week now – and taking more time just to rest and relax.
Up next? Planning out what I want to work on for the next month. While December’s usually interrupted by holidays and a visit home, I’m considering ways that I can keep up with working through this life that I lead a bit more.