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May 27, 2008

Mid Year Resolution

Happy day-after-long-weekend! I had a particularly long weekend because after being in The Torture Room ("dentist's office") for FOUR HOURS on Thursday, I was in pain and spent Friday at home feeling sorry for myself for not being able to eat. Then I remembered milkshakes and I didn't feel sad anymore. Milkshakes are really nice. So are smoothies. I could probably live on smoothies, especially when they have peaches in them.

None of that has anything at all to do with my Big! Mid-Year! Resolution, by the way.

On Monday bright and early at the buttcrack of dawn, I arrived at Faith's house for a group yardsale with me, Allison and Jane. It was an AWESOME day, because I never get the chance to spend a whole entire day with my friends, and even Sara came by with baby Vivian, and I can't image a better group of friends. We got to hang out and haggle and declutter and make money and chitchat all day long.

And we had a big turnout for the yard sale, even on a Monday! I have a theory about this, as ya'll know I love a theory of any kind, and my theory is that with the pressure people are feeling about the economy and this:

gasprices-may24-2008.jpg

... no one really left town and everyone likes a bargain so the planets aligned just so and we had a great yard-sale crowd. Also, that picture above is from Saturday and overnight it went to $4.19 but I didn't take a picture. I didn't want to idle on the corner!

So that's my yard sale Monday Crowd theory and I'm sticking to it. I've been thinking a lot about the economy lately which is a little strange, I've always been one who prefers to think about things like imaginary vacations, and the mysteries of how the cats need to sit on the one piece of paper on the floor, and whether or not I should be a redhead. But maybe I'm thinking more about the economy because I work at a bank and they have assimilated me finally to their banky borg, or perhaps it's because the media talk incessantly about the weak dollar and the failing real estate market and energy prices skyrocketing. I don't know. I've just felt... unsure. Unstable. Not comfortable at all.

It's a weird feeling, this sort of pervasive uneasy feeling that things could go bad ... and that's not how I want to live my life. Not by a long shot.

On Saturday when I was hauling Jeepload Number One of crap to sell at the yard sale over to Faith's house, I looked in my rearview mirror and I just saw all my clutter with fresh eyes. How was it possible that after participating in several very big yard sales over the past three years that I still have this much crap?

And that's when it hit me. That's when I made my New Mid Year's Resolution to stop buying crap. I did this once before, back when I was desperate to get out from under my mountain of debt and let me tell you, it works. The very best way to not accrue debt is to stop buying stuff. Cold turkey!

So, from right now until December 31, 2008 I am not buying anything inessential AT ALL. There are two exceptions: 1) Presents for other people and 2) I already bought and paid for some office furniture back in April that has yet to arrive, so that doesn't count as new spending but will arrive sometime during the moratorium.

The rest is just the essentials, food and necessities and that's it. Simple. I'm going to do this for the rest of the calender year. After Jeepload Number Two, all my clutter and stuff and piles and bags and boxes -- it was overwhelming. I felt a little embarrassed, a little ashamed to still have so much extraneous stuff especially when I know I would feel better if I saved instead of spent. And that's when it clicked with me, finally, and I decided to drop out of consumerism entirely for the rest of the year. I'm just done with it.

And you know what? I am so excited! I am thrilled! Instead of seeing this as some lame punishment I am looking at this from a whole different perspective. I'm excited about all the things I'll have so much MORE of:

• MONEY! The number one way for me to save money and to have more money is to stop buying crap. Period.

• TIME! I don't have to shop for a new outfit for so-and-so, or spend three hours scrolling Zappos for shoes to match, I don't have to drive around looking for a bargain on whatever it was I thought I needed, and I don't have to special order, find it in my size, or feel bad because I can't fit into it.

• CONTENTMENT! Speaking of feeling bad about fitting into size whatever ... I won't have to feel that little nagging urge to shop to make myself feel better because I'm just not participating in that for the rest of the year. I'm out of the running. I won't be buying magazines either, so I won't be told what brand new thing I just HAVE to have to feel good.

• HAPPINESS! I won't have the weird, uneasy guilty undercurrent running beneath my shopping because I feel bad about spending money when the economy is so unstable and I should have more savings. I will have more savings because I'm not spending.

• GIVING! If you're not spending on yourself, and by that I mean "myself," I will have more money to give to the causes I support. It feels good to be able to have a little more set aside for giving.

• ENERGY! Since I won't have to move, dust, re-arrange, find places for or clean any new stuff, I'll have more time and energy on the weekends to see friends or read a book or knit with yarn I already own or just sit outside and ponder my bellybutton.

The next few months are going to be the culmination (I hope) of this three-year process I've been on to declutter my life and my home and make my days more manageable. It's surprising how little I really need materially, and this next few months will be a break for me, a break from consumerism. I'm really happy with my decision, it feels like relief. I don't want to have a heavy unmanageable life, I want something simple and happy. I don't want to shop anymore and buy stuff that will one day end up in a new pile on the front yard. I'm done.

So this is how it works best for me -- just groceries and essentials (for me that means toiletries and household maintenance stuff like sponges or Kleenex or whatever) and cat food and litter and of course the occasional cat toy, because this isn't Angela's Ashes over here. Cats are not clutter! But no new clothes, shoes, yarn, decorative household crap, DVDs, CDs, iTunes purchases (there is so much free good stuff out there!) (and I already have 27 gigs of music, shouldn't that be enough for a few months' time?), and no more books because Lord knows I have a huge pile of books already I haven't read. And in the meantime, if I see something I want that isn't an essential I'll just write it down in my little notebook that I carry in my purse. Put it on the "Stuff To Buy Later" list and if I still have a burning desire for it after December 31, I'll buy it. No big deal.

But you know what? Last time, when I did a three-month moratorium on buying crap, I went back and re-read my list and after three months there was only one item on it I still wanted -- a salad spinner. So I went to Target and paid my ten bucks for a salad spinner (and I use it more often than you'd think!) and that was it. Ten bucks. All that other stuff had just been impulse "I want it" items, stuff I saw on TV, or maybe something a friend bought so I wanted one, or just some pretty but useless thing I saw in a store. It's ridiculous when you think about it.

So that's my big Mid-Year Resolution. It's not a law or a punishment or some kind of self-imposed prison, it's freedom. It's just seven months out of my entire lifetime, and that's tiny compared to all my years of buying stuff. It's a break, a little period of breathing and re-grouping instead of spending. I plan to really re-evaluate what I already own, to actively have more appreciation for what I do have, appreciation for my time and my space instead of focusing on things I think I "need."

I'm really happy about it. It feels like a great way to start a change in my life, something positive and completely totally do-able. It's just seven months. I once spent seven months on a horrifying diet that featured cabbage soup and lentils as the main meals. Lord knows I can stop buying crap easier than ever eating cabbage soup again.

And anyway, milkshakes and smoothies still count as essentials. Especially smoothies with frozen peaches. They are just truly delicious!

Posted by laurie at May 27, 2008 9:02 AM