Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Things I've Been Thinking About

I've been reaching a tipping point lately. Maybe due to the sudden recognition of financial crisis. Maybe due to a slow and steady realization that our household chaos and clutter is due to, quite simply... and quite disgustingly obviously so, an overwhelming amount of stuff. Most likely both.

Things have been coming to a head on this front for a while. We have filled dumpsters (literally people) with junk, and donated van loads (many, many, times over) with donations. We have given away all our baby things, furniture, old computers.... and STILL we have more than we need. More, in fact, than we want. We have 3 bed frames alone, sitting unused, leaning against the wall of the basement, bins and bins and bins of things (who knows what), boxes of china and crystal (hardly ever used), furniture enough to literally furnish a second home. Literally. Things that all seem too *important* (due to value of one sort or another) to part with and yet QUITE clearly they are of no real value at all. If the house burned down would we even be able to account for a third (a sixth even) of the stuff we feel compelled to store in the basement? Unlikely.

I workout in the basement surrounded by all of our cast offs and off season clothes, christmas ornaments, excess furniture (much of it quite valuable... and for what?), misc odds and ends accumulated over our lifetimes. I've been known to actually have to step off the treadmill and weep (I'm serious) at the disgusting excess of our lives (most often prompted by a Tivo'd Extreme Home Makeover).

Mr F asked me the other day if I could really do what the RV family did. Could I really sell or donate ALL of our stuff? I told him that I could walk away from everything. And really I could. I have a very different feeling about our things since moving them. Having to pick and choose what to bring, and sweat and agonize over each and every decision... only to have it's *uselessness* made blatantly obvious by moving it has completely changed my point of view. I had for quite some time blamed our circumstance for our hoarding (which is truthfully our problem more than clutter is). We had moved multiple times before moving to our first house and moving boxes that had not been unpacked as they had been moved from apartment to storage to house was an unfortunate necessity. Then there were the family "donations" of cast off furniture, heirlooms (of varying quality), and ever growing (and multiplying) stores of baby clothes and toys, and a multitude of home wares and odds and ends.

Now a few disciplined people out there may have filtered through their belongings getting rid of one thing for every thing they took in... but I suspect the rest of you would have just crammed them into your basement storage rooms until they were so full you no longer knew exactly what all you had in there. I no longer feel bad about this. I don't think Mr F and I are lacking in judgment or discipline. I think we are busy and overwhelmed by life itself and that setting aside time to maintain our caches is about as likely as our setting time aside to go on a date. Which is... ahem... un fucking likely. I have no current intention of culling our stores... for one thing... some of it may be useful... for another thing I don't plan to stay here forever (remember?!!) and there are plenty of high quality things that could be put to use in another house. Our new basement is not a storage/living area so there is no spill over as had been the case in our old house. What is down there is down there.

At this moment we have, quite successfully, set up our upstairs in a way that is functional and accounts for what we need to have/want to have on hand. There are not over crowded cupboards and closets. Our things (even our toys) all have a well defined home. And that makes me happy. And I want to keep it that way. And that brings me to THE COMPACT.
The fact of the matter is that there is only one way to keep up with our stuff and that is to stop bringing any more of it in. I don't want or need to go all hardcore on our asses. We're not destitute (but with Kid's tuition we are getting pretty close... seriously), we don't need to start buying all our clothes and gifts at the Goodwill (just yet)... but we do need to be very careful with our spending. And the TRUTH is that we don't need ANYTHING. We are incredibly fortunate people. We want for nothing... and I'm not sure that is a good thing... in fact I'm pretty sure it's not.

Owning things and buying things makes me feel good... makes me feel better... for the moment anyway. But more often than not my impulse buys weigh on me. I've decided it may be possible that not buying things will leave me feeling happier longer.

You can read more about it HERE.


Mary Poppins said...

a version of this compact idea is going to be the inspiration behind the next vice i tackle and as always i will be posting about my progress on my blog. last night bert and i were having a discussion about how things are getting out of control at our house (too much stuff/clutter, too much time worrying about finances, etc.) and i think it comes down to getting rid of stuff and putting our feet down when it comes to bringing new things into our home. i'm going to be thinking very hard about this today and will post about it either tonight or tomorrow.

Andrea said...

I read a little of this and Im impressed with this family I love the whole idea of the compact, its so funny I was reading where she said she can now go to the $1 bins at Target and Bella dosent throw a fit if she dosent get any thing those damn bins are my nemisis I swear I buy 2-3 things each time Im there and I just did the math if I go there only once a week and buy 2 items+tax Ive spent $112.32 a year seriously Ive got to do something!

Julie said...

I respect this so much. If I had more time, I would actually write more about this. But wtf, the kids go to school full time now and now I have no time. I am so frustrated by this. Think very hard before you fill up all your "free time" with volunteering at your kids' schools.

And on another note, today was to be my first day of being a Bad Ass like you...until I was told I needed 4 new tires at a cost of $850. Huh?! I only have 24K on these tires. And it is almost Christmas time...aaah, I guess it is time to join the Compact:) Oh right, back to Bad Ass-ness, my response was to eat an unplanned Kashi bar and big bag of granola. Sounds healthy, right? But probably 1,000 calories. Dammit.

Haley said...

Before I respond to the post I have to repond to Julie -- Dude, I am with you on the granola. I can down a bag of granola and enough yogurt to drown a hippie -- it's my danger food...

Now then, the Compact -- I LOVE it. Reading about it has lit a small fire under me to get rid of some things, specifically clothes that no longer fit me since the weightloss, and which are stifling my closet. I keep them around as insurance, I guess, but I think it's time to say goodbye. I'll probably keep my largest pair of jeans just as a badge of honor.

I've always enjoyed a good purge (of the possession variety, not regurgitation) but it's been much more difficult to not bring things into my home. I am trying to focus on that end of things more now, like it sounds like you're aiming to do. I've found it is very similar to dieting -- some days you just don't feel the need for that brownie, but some days something larger than hunger grips you, and pulls you towards the food. Same with shopping. It's learning to ride out those temptations that's the trick, and then it becomes easier.

Haley said...

That being said I'm about to do some online shopping for curtains for my living room.


One day at a time...

Renee said...

Oh My God...Mrs. F...its like you are reading my mind...since moving to Asheville I realize just how much clutter/stuff we have accumulated that now sits in our basement and every other inch of our seems I long to organize and get rid of things but cannot seem to find the time to do it (I would literally need at least a week of uninterupted time)....our house is literally bursting at the seams and I know I would be a much happier/content person without all this stuff filling my world....I LOVE the idea of the compact but know I could probably never master this extreme but am willing to jump on the band wagon of at least eliminating/cleaning out as much as possible....for all those who are organized stay at home moms-any suggestions on how to start this process???? I could use A LOT of help and advice!!!!

Mrs Furious said...

Online shopping might be the answer for me... I am much less impulse driven when I'm paying for shipping. But I'm working on my Compact. And I'm breaking up with Target... because I can't control myself in there. As I said to Mary Poppins today "when you have to stop and refuel (aka soda & soft pretzel) in the middle of your shopping trip... that is a problem"

Mrs Furious said...

Seriously... it is the small stuff that adds up both financially and with the clutter! And considering that I probably drop closer to $112 in impulse purchase EACH time I go imagine the savings!! ;)

Clearly I do live in your mind ;)

God even Kid's school is sucking the life out of me. I have some kind of weird commitment there every week.. and I'm not a classroom parent!

You know where I stand. Thanks for the talk... I'm really looking at the rewards cards in a different light!

Julie said...

Hi. I've been lurking for awhile...I love your blog and your kids are dang cute! I totally agree with you on this topic and I am so unorganized...I need help like Renee is talking about. It's like I don't even know where to start and the thought of it overwhelms me so much that I just DON'T. Period.

katieo said...

Totally reminds of the pioneers: "Eat it up, wear it out, fix it up, or do without." I don't know if the Amish say that too, but it sure seems they live that way. Doesn't it seem harder making that conscious choice to just get LESS than having it forced upon you?

(p.s. SOOoooo this probably isn't the best time to ask if you wanted me to pick you up a Nie Nie shirt or two at the benefit concert this weekend, lol)

(p.p.s Julie- Volunteering. Amen.)

Mrs Furious said...

Hey Julie,
Thanks for outing yourself :)
Hey I've been there on the overwhelmed front... any chance you could have to suddenly move?!... that worked for us ;)

For some insane reason I could not read your last sentence about the conscious choice in a way that made sense and I had to say to Mr F "I need you to read Katieo's comment it is in a language I can't understand" and then he read it aloud and I was like "Oh... now I get it". Not entirely sure what's up with my brain ;) YES I think that is one of the reasons I'm drawn to the Amish, pioneers, and the RV lifestyle. I'm not sure why choosing it for myself seems scary but it does. It's not like we can't go back to what we were doing before. Plus I've decided to look at it as RV lifestyle preparation.... if I can't do it now how will I ever be able to do it then?

RE: Nie Nie shirt... I'm going to think on that ;)

Elizabeth said...

I totally have problems with food AND shopping. I have very few needs, no children or pets. I don't make a whole lot of money, but I should be able to pay all my bills and stuff.

But Target, and Walmart. I always justify it, I spend so much at Whole Foods, and on things for the apartment... I love stuff, but you're totally right, it just accumulates until you don't even know what you have.

I don't think I can do something like the Compact though, I must admit it's pretty scary! But something... Budgeting for both food and shopping I suppose is a start.

Mrs Furious said...

Oh I'm terrified! But I'm still thinking out what mine will be. We really REALLY need to keep our spending in check if we're going to send Kid to private school while I'm not working. I'm thinking of switching it up to all cash spending for food/misc stuff. I'm also thinking of having some kind of "needs" assessment before I buy ANYTHING. We'll see... it's taking some thought.

katieo said...

It's not your brain. I reread that sentence after I hit publish it and immediately thought, "whoa. good luck with that one."

Julie said...

Well, we suddenly moved here 5 years ago while I was preggo with my first...and now 5 years later, here we are with 2 kids and alot more crap. I am going to try to do better!

Mrs Furious said...

LOL... I was stuck reading it as having stuff hoisted on me... not the life with less.

That is exactly how it went down for us in Michigan. If we hadn't have moved I think we may have needed a professional intervention... because there was just no way in Hell we could make ourselves go through all the stuff.

Piper said...

I went threw this a couple years back. I'm pretty much OCD about keeping things to a minimum. (OCD in a good way- not so extreme that it interferes with normal living. Okay, okay. So I do have this thing about the lines in the carpet lining up after vacuuming, and cringing when the family walks across them. LOL!) I actually have some empty closets! I feel like my family got our lives back. Before, keeping house was a chore. Now, running our home is SO much easier. One of the most awesome milestones was when we really pared down our wardrobes. Oh my gosh. Laundry is SO much easier. Not sure why. It just is. When everything I clean, it all fits in the closets and drawers. And all the clothes have a specific “home” so they aren’t all jumbled together. I thrive on my mantra of "A place for everything and everything in it's place." Whenever I discover I don't have a specific, deliberate place for an item, I brainstorm where to create a specific place for it. That also sounds so simple, but wow, it was revolutionary for us. I have an exact place for library books, an exact place for rented DVD's, and exact place for hair bows, etc. No stashing something here or there when hurrying to put things away. I should have been keen on implementing that philosophy from the time we set up house, but I sure didn't implement it for the longest time! Now, instead of me slaving away with housework, I finally have started to reach the point where I feel like our house is really working for us. Cleaning doen't take hours and hours. A little bit of maintenance each day and it stays looking great.
I guess what I'm trying to say is...go with it - you're going to do great! It is incredibly freeing to let go of stuff and put your life in order. The more you do, the easier and easier it will get. It's really exciting to read your thoughts as you head down tis road; I feel like I am reliving some of those same feelings I experienced a few years back when I had my epiphany. That’s pretty cool. (Now, if only there were a place where I could go to reassign my OCD cleaning/organizing habits to OCD healthy eating habits...*sigh*)

Piper said...

Oops. Sorry so long. Concise I am not. :p

Heather said...

I don't know when it happened but somehow I grew out of my impulse spending and spending money to feel good. It feels like it just wasn't fun anymore. I realized that a lot of the stuff at Target breaks or wears out very quickly (intentionally) so that you have to go back to Target and get more. I have a $50 gift card from Target right now (and have had it for about 6 weeks) and am not sure what to use it on, besides laundry detergent. I used to go buy lipstick or a new shirt or whatevs just to lift my mood, then I dunno, it just stopped working ? Or maybe I realized my better mood booster was working out.

Pete and I are also (at my insistence) constantly cleaning out closets and purging, purging, purging. We go to Goodwill at least twice a month with a haul of stuff. We've held on to some things for my brother to take when he arrived, but otherwise are Ok with giving stuff away. It's also a function of only living in 1,000 SF. There's not much room -- literally -- for excess stuff.

So good luck in the purge! And the not buying. It's worth it.

Marie said...

Very cool idea. We definitely couldn't go "all the way" with this idea (at least if I want to have any sanity and keep my dh!) but paring down/buying less is something that we've started doing already. (ok, I admit..partly for the "green" in me, and partly due to changing to a sahm and loosing a LOT of our income!). If I go to the store, I buy at the store. Period. So I've been trying to just go to the store once a week with a list of what we need...the kids call it "shopping day". Of course, now that I'm trying to avoid the stores, all I want is to go shopping...oh well...I'm hoping its like withdrawl and will slowly get better so I won't "crave" my Target...

On another note, while poking around the Compact website, I came across these two...they are trying to generate no (or very close to) garbage for a year...somehow I found it weirdly fascinating...

Oh...and can I just say that I love these wacky blogs??? Keep em coming!!!

Mrs Furious said...

" little bit of maintenance each day and it stays looking great. "
Yes that is what I'm going for.

and no worries on the long comment... I always enjoy the long ones :)

So how does Pete do with this? Cause you know that is a problem ;)

Okay now I'm obsessively reading about the zero food waste challenge! I too love the kooky extremists ;)

Missives From Suburbia said...

I reached this point with shopping about a year ago, and it was the best thing I ever did for our family. It was a complete shock to my system to start shopping for the new baby recently, because I hadn't spent money on much else besides groceries and Play-Doh for a long time. It's very unpleasant to shop now, at least for frivolous things. A friend of mine who had a gastric bypass said what I was describing was the same feeling overeating gave her now.

Online shopping is a great idea! That's pretty much how I do it all now, even groceries.

Good luck! If anyone can pull off the compact, you can. You've proven to be very disciplined when you have a goal.

michelline said...

specifically clothes that no longer fit me since the weightloss, and which are stifling my closet...I'll probably keep my largest pair of jeans just as a badge of honor.

Does moving the clothes that are too big for me (I've lost 57lbs so far!)from my closet to the office loveseat count?

And I kept the shorts I was wearing the day before my WLS.

Mrs. F - this is a great post and very inspirational. I have been thinking many of the same things lately. It's just hard to make yourself do it!

lucinda said...

I am so with you until you mentioned heirloom castoffs and I started thinking Oh My God don't get rid of the brass bed! Having to have all the stuff out of the rental by Dec 1st has me in a panic even though I know I cannot use, store and enjoy that stuff. Your father and I used to be able to fit everything we used into two big backpacks. What's with the curse of stuff?

P.O.M. said...

I'm still stuck in the Impulse spending thing. I am TRYING my hardest to just get necessities. I even made a rule that if I buy clothing or shoes, I have to donate something. One in; one out. But I havn't kept to it.

This post made me want to go home and clean out my closet.

Mrs Furious said...

57 pounds! Awesome! You must be feeling so great :)

I'm not sure online shopping is a grocery option for me... because with psycho Baby I'm all over NOT having to take her anywhere a shopping cart is involved. I must investigate further.
What about produce? You know I'm an anal freak about that shit.

I am not getting rid of the beds. I'm still planning on getting a decrepit mansion one day and I'll need all those bed frames then ;)
Won't have any mattresses... but plenty of really nice frames.

Heather said...

Sorry it took me so long to get back here...

He deals with it pretty well. He's still a hoarder, but he's also obsessively clean and agrees with getting rid of clutter as much as possible. So it works. But he has to be in the right mood to get it done. I have to do some surveillance typically beforehand. :)

Mon said...

I've been compacting (unofficially) for a year now. There's nothing more freeing, other than running around nekkid in the garden I suppose... but I digress. Yes, free of clutter and stuff idenitifcation.

Feel free to add your pledge to:

I want to keep up with you all and support each other.

Spaceofgrace said...

Thanks for the motivation!!!!!

katieo said...

hey. nevermind about the shirts (I don't even know if you wanted one) I didn't realize the concert was in AZ.

Missives From Suburbia said...

The choices the online grocery people make are pretty decent here in Minneapolis, although that might have something to do with the fact that I write notes next to every produce entry that say things like, "RIPE, PLEASE!!!" and "DO NOT SUBSTITUTE WITH NON-ORGANIC!" Meat is the one thing I really seem to get screwed on if I shop online, so if I'm buying anything but chicken, I swing by the store or the local butcher and pick it out myself.

Mrs Furious said...

There isn't online shopping here. Damn it.

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