Mar 10 2011

poverty: the stress of a downward spiral [day 287]

My rent payment is $286.  My utilities are $190 this month.  I don’t own a phone, I don’t have a job and I have a baby to take care of.  My name is Iris Isaacson… but only in this temporary make-believe world.  This world I’m speaking of is a poverty simulation, a game to teach people what it’s like to live in poverty.

I participated in this event last night.  At first, I thought it seemed like a lot of work and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be there.  In the middle of it, I was thinking, “…what a chaotic game…”, but also realizing much of it was like real life.  At the end of it, I was worn out.  I couldn’t pay my bills, the ones I did pay were late, I had to pawn my jewelry, sold my camera, and after all the hardships and paying everything late, I got evicted anyway.  Here’s a description of the simulation.

The Poverty Simulation is a simulation experience developed by the Missouri Association for Community Action. During the simulation, participants pretend to be members of a low-income community attempting to survive four 15-minute weeks of poverty. The simulation relies on role playing techniques and extensive props to help participants understand the day to day challenges faced by families living in poverty.  Continue reading


Feb 26 2011

the minimalist challenge update [day 275]

I have to say, I never thought I would call myself anything related to being a minimalist.  I was raised in a very materialistic home and placed a pretty high value on having stuff.   So what exactly is a minimalist?  Here’s the dictionary definition.

minimalist

[min-uh-muh-list]

–noun
1.  a person who favors a moderate approach to the achievement of a set of goals or who holds minimal expectations for the success of a program.
2.  a practitioner of minimalism in music or art.

–adjective
3.  of, pertaining to, or characteristic of minimalism.
4.  being or offering no more than what is required or essential.

Every day, within my normal routine, I’m finding a lot of material possessions that I just don’t need, want or even use.  I have a basket set up as a staging area to get these things out of my house.  Not a day has gone by, within the last week, that I haven’t placed at least one thing in there.  I open the kitchen drawer and realize I have extra hot pads, I walk by a shelf wondering why I have a cluster of too many vases on it, do I really need that stack of books… you get the picture.  I like this new mentality.  It’s that same one that keeps me from buying impulse items, shopping for no reason and buying things just because it’s a good deal.

I suppose if I look at this, applying the definition, I din’t know how many people would say I’m striving to be a minimalist.  When you look at the part that says “required or essential”, does that mean for us to live or to live in our society?  My minimalism would be considered the latter of the two.  Clearly, I don’t need a car to live, I don’t need that cute art bowl on my table to live, nor do I need the most awesome hot tub in my back yard to live.  Comparing these items to our basic necessities of food, water and moderate shelter, it’s extravagant.  When compared to a middle class family, it’s the norm.

My house is considered small in the higher income, affluent city I live in.  I’ve thought about downsizing.  I even had a nightmare about it last night.  Worse yet, it’s a recurring one.  I bought a new, bigger house about 30 minutes north of where I live.  I got a good deal on it, so I bought it with the intention of selling my current house.  In this dream, I always forget I have the new house until the 1st mortgage payment invoice shows up.  I haven’t sold my house, I’ve lost the key to the new house and I’m not even sure exactly where the new house is.  I usually wake up from this nightmare in a panic, clenching my teeth, stressed out about something that never happened.

As Madonna says, we’re living in a material world, but I don’t want to be a material girl.


Feb 23 2011

I found a psycho guy in my garage [day 273]

Before

After

This cleaning and purging job took about 4 full days.  Not bad since it’s been in there for 4 years.  Heck, I could even park my car in the garage if I wanted to.  I gave away several car loads of stuff to the thrift store and had my driveway filled, and I mean the whole thing, for freecyclers to pick up.  I still have a long way to go on the “garage minimalist” approach, but I sure have made significant progress.

Here’s the deal.  Most people, including myself, can get help or clean an area like this by themselves, but how do we maintain it?  I’ve cleaned out my garage several times and it always ends up looking like the before pictures within weeks.  The difference this time?  I got rid of a lot of stuff and I have a new minimalist outlook on this whole thing.  I might like stuff, but knowing the stress associated with it, the high cost and the gridlock factor, I can let go.  Even if it’s just a few things at a time, the process is in motion and will stay that way.

Here’s one little guy I’m keeping, as I found him in my garage this week.  He’s been hidden away for 4 years.  He’s broken and he’s part of my weird stuff collection.  He’s a vintage Kreiss Psycho Pottery piece from the 60’s.  He depicts how I feel when I’m in gridlock with too much crap in my house.  I need to prominently display him where I see him everyday, reminding my that life is not about collecting a bunch of stuff, but about the people in our lives.

Would anyone out there like to name this little guy?


Feb 12 2011

ditch your high maintenance vacation [day 262]

My kids and I decided to make a purchase a couple of years ago from craigslist.  It was a bright red Sebring convertible that we fondly called the “vacation”.  We couldn’t take a vacation that year, so this was our substitute for it.  It wasn’t uncommon to hear, “Mom!  Are we taking the vacation?”  And my reply was always something like, “Is it raining?  If not, of course we are.”

Let me start by saying this was not a well-planned purchase.  We had the vacation for about a year and a half, and during that time, we got a lot of use out of it.  It was a sad day when we had to end our vacation, but all three of us knew it was the right thing to do.  We had so much fun in our vacation!  Although it didn’t initially cost a lot, the maintenance, repairs and insurance just made the vacation too expensive.  The previous owner carefully hid many of the mechanical issues, and I, being in love with the thought of having a convertible, didn’t do my due diligence on this item.

This was our second car, as I would never consider parting with my 15 year old Infiniti.  Actually, I had 5 or 6 people that were ready, cash in hand, to buy my Infiniti, but I will own that car to its death.  I will get 300,000 miles out of it… or more.

I’ve been downsizing everything lately.  My housewares, my wardrobe, pretty much everything I own.  I never realized how much stress is associated with stuff.  Embracing the chaos has a whole new meaning for me.  I can embrace the chaos by managing the chaos.  Less stuff = more time, more money and more peace.  I lost about $1,000 when I sold the vacation, as the A/C compressor went out right before I went to sell it.  Not having the vacation and all of it’s associated costs, monetary and otherwise, gave me some peace worth more than what I lost.  We have some great memories from our vacation and we’ll always have those to cherish.

Where is your vacation?  Is it time to end it?

[side note:  I got rid of the vacation before I started the challenge.  I realized I will never have a need for two cars.]