What I learned about consumerism from a retro banana phone

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Yes, friends…this is indeed a taxi yellow retro headset for my cell phone. You know…a basic need for most smart phone users.

At times in my life I have fallen trap to the belief that part of living an ExtraOrdinary life is owning ExtraOrdinary things. I have never been a label-looking-Jones-keeper-upper, but I do like owning something that’s unusual, original and fun. As in, “What is that? And where did you get it?” Enter said retro banana phone. It seemed like a good idea at the time as my finger hovered above the Go To Cart button. The truth is it’s a pain in the tuckus because it takes up valuable real estate in my already heavy purse. Also, the sound is not particularly clear when talking to someone. Novelty aside, it was a silly purchase. Now, as I troll my home for equally superfluous Goodwill-bound faire, I am painfully aware of the waste.

I am also noticing how past beliefs about stuff have clouded an attempt at a simpler existence.

I can’t help but wonder why this realization didn’t bonk me on the head earlier. It seems strange that in midlife I’m just beginning to see the literal and figurative cost of spending hard earned moo-la on such items. Maybe it’s because I’m starting to recognize the same pattern in my teen girls. There’s my oldest’s strip mall monologue of why the ridiculous Chihuahua-faced hoodie would be a good edition to a 13-year-old’s closet….there’s my youngest’s 56th pair of novelty socks (bacon patterned!)…there’s the set of IKEA baskets which will be a magnet for more small doo-dad collections that fall prey to my hungry vacuum. It’s funny, because I don’t see a whole lot of difference between their materialistic fluff and mine. It’s time to set an example, but honestly, I’m just starting to get serious about this on my own. Here’s hoping I can teach the lessons to my offspring as I learn them myself.

My 5 step plan to quell the purchase of THINGS I DON’T NEED:

1.     Go cold turkey with a no spending policyIt’s good to shock the system into obedience, right? Worked with sugar. Why not shopping? I’m going for it in my Project Enough this month.

2.     Install a waiting period before making unnecessary purchases. I know Leo says 30 days…but I’m thinking more like two weeks. My self-monitoring has proven that 14 days is quite enough to completely dismiss an idea and move on. Squirrel!

3.     Avoid stores and cyberspace hot spots that provoke materialistic yearnings. I know that Anthropologie (home of interesting and ExtraOrdinary design) is a consumer trap for me. I also know that a mall trip is flat out inviting my daughters’ gimmees to take center stage. I don’t spend money in either of these places when I am not there. Funny how that happens.

4.     Build a nest egg for travel. One of the core values in our family revolves around travel and adventure. Every time I forgo an unnecessary purchase, my bank account wins one for experience instead of materialism.

5.     Practice gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. So cliché’ these days, but oh-so-true. A daily dose of it works to combat the need for stuff. I’m finding myself more and more grateful for the blessings that have been heaped on this family the more and more I record them and share them.

I guess you could call me a recovering consumer. 

I think most of my gimmees fall in the category of home design (need to toss the West Elm catalog before cracking it open) and supplies for a very creative life (my art closet used to be obscene). The song I’m beginning to see the light is the background music to the minimalist stirrings of my heart. Of course, once I started down this path, I stumbled upon a whole host of simplicity blogs and people on the same quest for less and meaning. I take that back—I don’t think there was any stumbling involved there. I think this is a case of (as I’ve said before) when the student is ready to learn the lesson, the teachers show up. There are days I get down on the process because I feel that we’ll never get there. And then there are times I feel that moving into a 600 square foot home is totally doable after my kids leave for college (in just five short years). In this state I feel the power surge to be the person who can let go of stuff, embrace experiences and travel the world with the man I love. How does one get to this point? I’m not sure….

…..but I’m willing to walk to the edge.

Releasing my grip on material things, I’m finally ready to fully invest in what’s important (and it ain’t a banana phone, I can tell you that).

Is there a particular material thing that you find hard to let go of? If so, how did you manage to stop the madness?

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ProjectEnough

Enough  \i-ˈnəf, ē-, ə-\ :   equal to what is needed

This word has lost meaning for me along the way.

I’ve been trying to reacquaint myself with the concept and have identified several opportunities to embrace it. As an American accustomed to a certain lifestyle, I’ve become lazy about challenging myself to stay within the confines of enough. I realize that enough means many things to different people, but I do know what it should look like for my family and me…and I hafta admit…

This

ain’t

it.

Although I’m thoroughly fascinated by the Joy of One concept…and I love the idea of Project 333.…and I covet the Tiny House People’s simplified existence…I’m still tuning in to what enough looks like in my home and in my own head.

I’ve identified the areas where I’ve wandered off the enough path.

I’m aware that it’s best to focus on one goal at a time (for maximum success), so the plan is to be aware and purposeful in one area for a month at a time.

February ~ Enough is Enough….Commitment to maximum health with TheWhole30

March ~ Enough Stuff….A moratorium on buying anything new

April ~ ‘Enough Said….Listening more/Talking less

May ~ Enough Already….A mass media hiatus

June ~ I am enough/You are enough….Only allowing positive things to be said about myself and others

* * *

My February focus, Enough is enough, is already underway (started this in late Jan.) and that’s another whole post in itself.  Hoo-boy! It is really clearing my head (and my tummy issues–bonus!) and I think I might be walking into a way of eating that will stick with me for the long haul. The positives are too plentiful to ignore the fact that TheWhole30 is one amazing thing to do for your body and future longevity. I finish the month of protein/vege/fruit/fats intake (with no other carbs) on March 10th and will do a re-cap of how I redirected my meals…it’s not easy, to be sure…but really, really worth it.

March brings a hold on my Amazon.com problem. By problem, I mean my weekly visits to get “just one more book”…be it for my job as a teacher or for my own development (nonfiction are my favorite), I can spot something worth throwing in the ‘ole cart every visit. Yes, I always buy used, but friends…like anything else, these items add to a whole lotta crazy wallet drainage…not to mention the space these books take up in my home has become an issue. Avoiding the mall and other places of temptation will not be hard and I’ve pitched any kind of catalog temptation, so we’re good there, but the cyber-shopping? Good grief, I need some awareness! I think just using the computer for blogging and work will be in order.

April is when I will hyper-focus on what people have to say…and when I do speak, I’m hoping it will consist of mostly questions about what the other person has shared. I notice that with my 3rd graders, they are usually thinking about what they want to say when someone else is talking. This is normal when you’re eight…not so much at 43. Being present and really hearing another’s words is important and I’d like to be better at it.

May will bring some solitude, I believe. Although I’m not a big TV watcher (2-3 recorded HGTV segments are my “shows”), the commercials I’m fast forwarding through are still seeping in. I’m also witness to the materialism when it’s blaring in the background with someone else plopped in front of it. We’ve done a pretty good job of limiting mindless screen domination…funny thing, my kids’ favorite is The Brady Bunch series on Netflix. ‘Watched it twice! We’re deliberate about what we DVR and make a date to watch it…but those damn commercials…the more is better message is definitely affecting me and the little people in our house. I’m over it. In fact, I’d love to see this month’s project turn into a step toward getting rid of it all together. It’s not just TV, of course, when dealing with the effects of advertising. I’m banishing magazines and ad-heavy internet content as well. Pinterest is a black hole I seem to fall into when it comes to seeing how others live (particularly with home design). I think the first step of enough and being content, is not having the superfluous, excessive more, more, more that creeps in through the media.

June is a month to really think before I speak. There is so much negativity floating in our country’s air. I’m always surprised at the outright meanie pants folks on the web who use the guise of anonymous to crucify someone with their words. I’m shocked by how brutal the media is with dissecting the lives of people trying to find their way. I’m not a person who feels compelled to give my opinion on others’ decisions and lifestyles…in fact, I was brought up to love and accept, which for the most part, I feel I do pretty well. But, there is always that less-than-loving thing that can escape from my lips…sometimes it’s about the woman yelling at her child in line at the grocery store…sometimes it’s the guy who’s signaling to me in sign language as he cuts me off…and sometimes it’s just quiet judgment as I watch people at a safe distance. I realize it’s all the same…it’s ugly and dark…not a place I’d like to dwell. I will reel in positivity in the beginning of summer! It’s a good time for it.

Do you ever create little projects for yourself to improve your life? I’m interested.

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