Danger Will Robinson!
So my brain is broken. I broke my brain.
Overstimulated, overwhelmed, I just shut down, missing all my goals in the meantime.
The budget thing? Still working on it. I discovered that, despite holding all of my tax money out to pay for the dental work that was coming this month, I still went over my medical budget. I didn’t have a very realistic picture. With just a couple exceptions (mostly bills that I had “summer budgeted for” like water and electricity), I went over in every. Single. Category. I’ll know exactly where I stand at the end of the month.
I managed to save $50 per paycheck, though, so my first month savings for the purpose of this exercise is a whole $100. That, plus some birthday money and money I had due me that I had forgotten about puts my total at $1300. Other than the automatic deduction for savings (take it out first, right?), I had no other areas that I could cut from to put any more away. Where I saved money, I ended up spending it elsewhere because my pets would eat me alive if I didn’t feed them and my car wouldn’t go far without any gas. Or current tag.
So yeah. There’s that. I guess it’s a start, but I just felt I should have done better.
The clearing out stuff? Yeah. Didn’t do much of that either. It’s not like I met resistance to throwing stuff out again; it’s not that I didn’t get frustrated with clutter piling up. I just sort of turned off. Spaced out and “forgot” where I was.
So. There’s that, too.
I’m still having an issue with food waste. I totally forgot that I had bought eggs–AGAIN–and now they’re like a month past the sell by date. Things I’ve cooked (rare, but still occasionally happens) gets pushed to the back. How do I keep doing this? Something so simple…eat what I’ve made. And I forget it’s there, opting for something easy–like a sandwich.
I want to have a garage sale, most likely in the fall. It’ll be cooler, I’l have time to prepare. I have three four boxes of stuff that I’ve “thrown out” (actually boxed up and never took to Goodwill), that I want to rebox and label and price so that I have nothing but unloading to do.
Am I procrastinating on the getting rid of stuff? Has another shiny thing distracted me?
I really, really don’t know.
I guess I’ll find out soon.
(Image Source: https://rashmanly.com/2013/06/23/danger-danger-will-robinson/)
I fell behind again. Again.
The past few weeks has seen me fall behind on a LOT of things. Seems like everything, although I know that it’s not necessarily true. With this posting, I’ll be one week behind (as of Sunday), but it’s better than being three. So there’s that.
One of the things I’ve been confronted by is my sheer lack of focus. The past month in particular has been tough. I’d have all these goals and ideas and what-have-you only to be distracted by–what was that shiny thing? Oh my god!
Kinda like that Doctor Who episode “SIlence in the Library” when Donna’s transported out of the library, and finds herself in a life that passes by instantaneously. She’s talking to Dr. Moon: “You said ‘River’ and now we’re feeding ducks.” Her saying she will bring her children to the park brings her to the park without any of the actual journey.
That’s what my life feels like right now. Only more tedious. Like I’ve lost the time, don’t know where it’s at, but have nothing to show for it. I just find myself having done this or that and managing to skip over what I was supposed to be doing for that better life thing.
And here I am. Starting over. But not really starting over. I’m still 47 things lighter, even if it took me 2 weeks to do it.
It’s a little bit better than a start, at any rate.
- 1. Bubba cup (cracked–I loooved that cup)
- 2. Fancy schmancy Christmas ornament
- 3. Mason jar without lid
- 4. NyQuil Cold and Flu: Exp date 2013
- 5. Salon pas (didn’t work for me…held onto because…maybe they would work magically one day? I have no idea)
- 6. Famotidine Exp 2014
- 7., 8. White disks something-or-others (maybe floor protectors?) x 2
- 9-14 Coffee cups X 6
- 15. Clear lax for the dog — exp date 2014
- 16. Bottle of pills so old and faded I have no idea what it even is
- 17. Christmas candle
- 18. Ibuprofen — Can’t use it now with my every day Nsaid–finding it a new home
- 19. Plastic cup
- 20. Styrofoam cup
- 21. Hair clip (not necessary since I chopped my hair off)
- 22. Rusty spoon
- 23. Pink stuffing paper (??)
- 24.-27.. Four un-mated lids from the garage
- 28. Sock–lonely and hanging out in the garage
- 29. Bag of “silverbells gem mix” (??)
- 30., 31. Empty DVD case x 2
- 32. Movie: Face Off
- 33. Movie: Analyze That
- 34–37, Four plates
- 38., 39. Christmas stockings x 2
- 40. Hurricane instructions from 2006
- 41. Book: Non-Profits for Dummies
- 42. Movie: Bad Boys II
- 43. Movie: Hide and Seek
- 44. “Sherry” shaped glass
- 45. Book: Walt Whitman “Laws of Creators” — ruined in the rain
- 46. Notebook with writing–Also ruined in the rain
- 47. Decorative metal pot-type thing
I read once that everyone is a villain in someone else’s story, and I’m pretty inclined to agree with it. As such, every great villain has a master plan, something that is, more often than not, foiled by some meddling kids.
I hope that’s not a prophecy or something.
At any rate, I have a master plan. It’s not at all practical; it doesn’t even have a deadline. But it is a plan–a very general outline of one, anyway–and it comes in three parts:
- To replace my car sometime before I become completely unable to drive it. It’s a standard and, although I love the hell out of this car and would buy another just like it but newer when I ran this one into the ground, it’s becoming less and less feasible for me.
- To have some sort of financial security blanket in place.
- To have the funds necessary for professional services and attention to “the book” should I ever finish it.
The Master Plan of master plans is to eventually move–that’s the man behind the curtain, so to speak. That’s the big picture. It’s not at all practical, and yet, I really want to experience life outside of Mississippi. I seek an alternative cultural environment.
So there it is.
The challenge, of course, is that I live pretty much paycheck to paycheck. I do have a few things going for me:
- I currently have a little over half my mortgage payment put into savings, where I make the payment at the first of the month from the savings. This covers my payment and part of my annual tax/insurance increase. (Thanks, Mississippi!)
- I also have over 1/12 of my car insurance put into a separate account, from which I pay my liability insurance annually. Between the savings account that holds my house payment and the account that holds my car insurance payment, I usually have enough for changes in escrow. (Usually.)
Those two things are taken care of. Yay.
3. Other than a small interest-free balance of my cell phone, which I’ll be paying off with my tax refunds when they come in, I have no other debt. For this I’m very, very grateful. Sadly, the rest of the tax refund will be put toward already-scheduled medical and dental expenses.
My goals for the next two months are to find ways to save or make extra money. While I’ve drawn up a rudimentary budget, I’m not as concerned with my spending so much as I want to track it and to see how my estimates stack against actual spending.
I imagine this will be much like my decluttering efforts–I’ll take off the easy things first, and work in layers.
May will be the beginning of this adventure.
Here goes everything.
- 5 “cleaning rags”
- cat food jug
- Wrecked gift bag
- Broken “flower pot”
- Many pet pamphlets
- Wiggle giggle ball that doesn’t giggle when it wiggles any more
- Post its (this time not from work)
- Out of date Vitamin D
- 4 magazines
- Dog-chewed lid
- Broken scissors (put back in the drawer, even)
Med bottles and various other things from the cleaning closet that I’m just too beat to list. It probably wasn’t nearly 42 things. But it was something.
After a week off (funny how life just happens and suddenly I realized I missed a week), I was attacked by my cleaning closet.
This is what the closet looked like:
In the process of finding way too much stuff to get rid of, I discovered whatever the opposite of a treasure trove of stuff is:
- A bread bag (really?)
- Spoons from MREs. They were leftovers from Katrina, my only guess is that I brought them into the house before I had silverware
- A bottle of Windex with a quarter inch or so of Windex still in it.
- A jug of vinegar with even less
- Lightbulbs I didn’t know I had
- A bag of clean socks (whaaaat?) with medical papers in it (double whaaat?)
I had “stacked” (and I use that term loosely) torn towels and t-shirts in the closet, presumably to use them as cleaning rags.
NOBODY NEEDS THAT MANY CLEANING RAGS!
This week was an epiphany of sorts: I really want to spend as little money as possible. I want out of here. I had left Mississippi years ago, returning after about five. After living in the desert, I fell in love with her all over again. Got a job, got my degree, got another job.
This week I sort of “woke up.” I’ve been complacent. I’ve held my current position for almost eight years–that’s far longer than I’ve held any job before. With an awesome boss and awesome coworkers and a work load that doesn’t ask too much of me, I’ve grown complacent.
Everything I love about Mississippi is wrapped up in my family and my immediate surroundings. I was born here and left the state for about five years in my mid 20’s. The summer nights, filled with fireworks and lightning bugs; the boat rides to Ship Island and from Long Beach to Biloxi and back again; the sheer greenness of the honeysuckle, grass, and oak trees stood in stark contrast to Arizona–a place whose state color should be beige. Beige for the rocks, beige for the houses. Everything running together and nothing really standing out.
So wrapped up in my memories of childhood, I was shocked when the South came thundering back in all its greenness and pinks and yellows and purples of flowers, demanding that I take her back again.
And I did.
But now it’s time to go. I’ve been back for thirteen years now, so very much of that spent miring in complacency. It’s time to go. But there are many steps between here and there.
Paring down the house is just one step. Another is saving money. One thing I did do this week is to change my cell phone plan. From unlimited everything (and I swore, they’d have to pry that plan from my cold, dead fingers) to a finite amount of data. In doing so, I saved $10 a month. After watching how good I am at seeking out wifi, I may be able to pare it down again, for a total of $25 saved a month.
Sure it’s only $10 now (and .70 cents that the state will no longer get in sales tax), but it’s a start. I may be able to pare it down again when I see how my data use works when I’m paying attention to being on wifi.
Ten dollars and seventy cents a month. It’s a start.
Oh, and I also did my taxes. And my brother’s taxes. And go grocery shopping.
And cook up some chicken at 830 Sunday night because I refused to let it go to waste.
It’s been a productive week.
- 16 plastic containers and at least a dozen extra lids (lids without bodies, not counted)
- Coffee cup
- Expired license (as of May of 2015)
- “New Pet folder” given by Vet
- Book: Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery
- Med Bottle
- Dog food mat
I try to get my food together for work on the weekends: Yogurt, nuts if I have them, cereal, etc. and something for lunch, but I’ve been pulling my hair out lately trying to find stupid containers that are a) easy to transport and b) actually have a mated lid.
The first time I cleared out my cupboard, I took pics and pretty much texted them to everyone. It was that momentous of an event.
And there I was, back in the same situation without knowing exactly how I got there. Well-trained by my mother, I’ve held onto every ham/turkey plastic package, every yogurt tub, every little thing. It wasn’t even conscious. More things were migrating back into my house, and it was making life more difficult.
I really like the Rubbermaid Easy Find Lid set. They stack well, the smaller ones are perfect sizes for individual servings, and they’re just so simple.
This is what they look like. I’m not promoting Bed Bath & Beyond (I could never with their careless disregard for commas), but the site does have a “zoom over” so you can see exactly what they look like up close.
I need a couple of more of the smaller pieces to do exactly what I need: have a very compact storage set for five days of three or four different items. I’m trying to pay closer attention to my eating and eat smaller things every couple of hours. These storage things are perfect. I don’t have quite enough for five days of cereal, so, in the mean time I’m using sour cream containers until I replace them with what I really want. When stacked, they take up a LOT less room than what I had before, therefore making room for actual cooking things.
These things work for me, and I’m really loving not feeling guilty about spending money about something that really, really works for me.
I haven’t finished the garage still, but I did have room for both the water filtration system and for the people to work in, so I’ll take it for now. I got away from my filing, and I realized that, here it is the end of March, and I still haven’t done my taxes. I put my W2 somewhere “I wouldn’t lose it,” and now need to make the filing part of organization a priority. So there’s that.
In other news, I finally finished Up From Slavery. I had started it months ago in my quest to read the books I have, only to misplace it, start another book, misplace that one too, and so on.
Washington earned a lot of criticism–both fair and unfair, I think. One of his greatest talents, though was having two messages. One was of “racial accommodation,” that is, leading African Americans through the paradigm that whites had created–that is–stressing education only to the level that allowed them to work with their hands, all the while backhandedly stressing equality very subtly. Washington was gracious and warm in the face of detractors and yet worked around differences in opinions to accomplish his vision.
I think he was a called statesman who was unrelenting in his efforts to better the lives of African Americans while working toward a unified nation of people. The criticism he received from other African Americans was that he wasn’t doing enough. He didn’t push hard enough or expand his goals far enough.
Washington was accused of being an incrementalist–a gradualist. And he was. When others called for more dynamic changes, he took one “baby step” at a time, over and over and over again.
And what he created was magnificent: Tuskegee. It was and still stands as a stepping stone to further progress. Read a little here on Wikipedia if you’re interested.
Sometimes I get caught up in other people’s progress, measuring my accomplishment of goals against that of others. But I can’t. In the end, the only thing that matters is how I stack up against yesterday. Or a year ago. Or decade ago. Have I slacked off, or am I still taking baby steps?
Because many baby steps over a period of time can cover a hell of a lot of distance.
- 11 Magazines
- 5 Styrofoam cups
- Word Count Map — haven’t updated it in almost a year
- Hospital arm band
- 4 Post it Pads
- Stack of out of date coupons
- Red nose
- Ecig box
- A lock–I don’t even know where it came from.
- A magnet too weak to hold a note card
Twenty-seven things, and this week was just my scrambling to get the things together. I REFUSED to miss another week.
I also cleaned out my refrigerator, which I didn’t count, and got rid of even more medicine bottles. Also not counted.
The cups, another holdover from my mother (did you know styrofoam cups can be washed through the dishwasher once or twice?). The post-its, accidental thievery from work–they will be returned on my next day back. Why on earth would I keep a hospital arm band? I mean, really? It’s not like it’s a nostalgic time I want to re-experience.
I am coming face-to-face with my waste, and it’s a bit shocking, to be honest. I am really starting to understand why I feel as if I never have any money–it’s being spent on half-eaten food, shoved to the back of the refrigerator, a magazine subscription that was a “free” trial, and I was too lazy or forgetful to cancel it.
I don’t think I even read any of the magazines.
It’s being spent on notebook after notebook, scattered around (and now being piled in the office until I go through them). Half-written, half-focused, notes from a class merged with to-do lists merged with letters I started writing but never finished. Clothes that “almost” fit that I never wore once I could fit in them. So on and so forth.
I look around, and instead of seeing stuff that makes my house “mine,” I see more stuff to dust, more stuff to move around, more stuff I don’t want to take care of yet don’t want to lose. My drum, for example. I can’t even think of parting with it, and yet I never play it. It’s a pain in the ass to dust.
But still I cling.
This is a process, I know. But I want a tidy and organized house. I want to have less shit to deal with. I want less waste and more efficiency.
I want I want I want.
I guess I’m getting there.
What I’ve discovered is that stuff isn’t just stuff. If it were, it’d be easy to get rid of. For me, it’s about memories, about identity, about security and control. It’s about letting go of the need to remember moments when life seemed brighter, or more honestly–to in the past. The stuff is representative of my need to identify myself by the things I own and the things I remember. I’ve never considered myself materialistic, and, yet, I have drums and books and tie-dyed this and that which have become part of how I present: I’ve read these books. I play this drum. I am a hippie, see, I have tie-dye!
It’s about a certain amount of security I’ve attached to having certain things.
After Katrina, it was so easy. Most things had been swept away. There wasn’t indecision or suffering with choices; those had been taken care of for me, literally swept away down the river. There was a bit of mourning and moving on. “It’s just stuff,” I said, proud that I had let go, even as I unwittingly began the process of collecting more stuff.
Stuff isn’t just stuff. Maybe it’s never just stuff. But clearing out is one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life. It’s been–and continues to be–transformative. And I am ever, ever so grateful that my dear friend started before me, inspiring me to begin my own journey.