One Woman's Attempt At A Simpler Life

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Every year, in May, my heart beats a little faster when I receive this particular postcard in the mail:

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Anthropologie is my favorite store.  I spend waaaaayyyy too much money there.  Say what you will about it (Overpriced?  Yes.  Fashions can be weird?  Yes.  CEO is apparently not a great guy?  Probably, if the rumors are true.), I still lovelovelove it.  There is an Anthropologie right across the street from a theatre I work at a lot, and I have found it impossible not to stop in and browse all of the lovely things whenever I’m on a break.  And I usually buy something.  Or a couple things, especially if there is a sale.  Just walking into the store makes me feel a little happier.

Because I am an “Anthro” member, and membership has its privileges, I get a coupon for 15% off any purchase in my birthday month, May.   In the past, I usually have gotten a gift card from Anthropologie as one of my presents, so I have happily gone in to reap both the discount and the gift card at the same time.  That has always been a very fun day for me.

But as you know, this year, I only got one thing for my birthday, my new Mac.  I have no regrets – I love it.  But in my current financial straits, and with no gift card to help out, and the average cost of most items in the store being over $100, 15% is not going to do much for me.  I would have to put anything I bought on my credit card, and I am adamant about not doing that right now unless it’s an emergency.  I am also in the process of completely re-evaluating my wardrobe, and it seems a little dumb to run out and buy new things before I’ve gotten what I already own pared down and organized so I can see where the gaps are.

So I’m not using my birthday month discount this year.  Last night, just to be sure, I went online to see what was on display, and really, for the most part, there wasn’t anything that made me delirious with want – which was kinda surprising.  Either I am getting more focused and less crazy on the whole wardrobe issue (let’s hope), or the stuff just wasn’t that great right now (maybe – it seemed to be a lot of sack-like things, or weird tops with peplums.  I’m not big on peplums).

It makes me a little sad – my Anthropologie birthday splurge was always a ritual that brought me a lot of joy.  But I’m open to that being replaced with some other happy thing – like being out of debt.

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Maybe next year…sniffle.

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Remember when I cleaned out the guest room closet and moved all the clothes and purses I’d been storing in the guest room to my bedroom?  Well, it’s been over a month, and I haven’t been able to face trying to find room for those items, because I’ve known it would involve having to get rid of stuff and refigure the way I currently store things.  Which never sounds like a fun way to spend a lovely spring afternoon.

But yesterday, despite the sunshine, I was in a rotten mood.  And sometimes, being in a rotten mood is an excellent motivator for me to make changes.  So I decided to take advantage of  feeling ruthless and unreckoning and attack the items I was trying to incorporate into my bedroom storage- namely, my handbag collection.

Confession:  I am a bag lady.  I loooooove purses.  When I was making good money, I bought purses on a regular basis – in fact, I cringe a little to think about the amount of income I dropped on purses during that period of time.  I had so many that I appropriated a bookcase to store them all.  I always had the notion that I would be one of those women who switched bags on a regular basis, moving her small neat stash of essential items from one bag to the next.  But I am not that woman – in fact, I’m far from it.  I have a tendency to let paper and random items build up in my bag to the point where changing bags means having to clean my current bag, and because I’m lazy, I usually choose to just keep the junk pile growing rather than switch them.

About a year ago, I cut my collection in half, and attempted to resell some of my more expensive bags at resale stores, but no one was interested.  It’s always a bit crushing to realize that things you spent so much money on have no value whatsoever to the rest of the world–I ended up donating them all to the Goodwill.  It was pretty depressing, but I learned my lesson.  I have only bought one bag since then, and for me, that is a massive improvement.

Even though the purses I was attempting to find storage for in my bedroom were  considerably less than what I used to own, I knew I’d have to pare them down even further if I wanted to find room for them all.  I’ve been procrastinating on dealing with them, and during this time I’ve kept some in the bottom of my closet:

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Klassy.

And some in a big suitcase, which is totally in the way and cluttering up our room:

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So I took all the bags out and spread them on the floor to get a better idea of what I had:

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six everyday bags, two gym bags, four evening bags, one travel bag, one computer bag, one laptop case, and one beach carryall.

I can say I genuinely like all of these, but I only actually use a few of them.  Two of the bags I’ve been storing are gym bags, and I don’t even belong to a gym anymore.  Brilliant.

I edited them down –  if I hadn’t carried it in a year, it had to go. I didn’t actually get rid of all that much, but it made a difference.  Here are the items that didn’t make the cut:

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Three everyday bags, one evening bag, one gym bag

I was left with a definitely manageable collection, but I still wasn’t sure where to put them.  Then I noticed this:Image

We have several of these very cool cubbies built in to our bedroom walls.  The photo is of one of the cubbies emptied out.  This is not typically the case.  Since up to this point I’ve seemed destined to fill every empty space and surface with extraneous crap, the cubbies are usually full of random things – carrier bags from stores with items I might want to return (which I don’t currently have any of, yay for me), clothes that need mending, and piles of clothing I’ve tried on and decided not to wear but am too lazy to hang up.  I realized I could put my pared down bag collection in one of the cubbies – genius!  It would not only solve my storage issue, it would keep me from filling the space with piles of clothing and shopping spree guilt.  A win-win:

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What made the cut: three evening bags, three everyday bags, one computer bag (with a laptop case stored inside it), and a travel bag and beach carryall stashed inside one of the larger everyday bags.

I basically kept three evening bags, three everyday bags, and a computer bag/laptop case.  I did, however, also keep a great travel bag that converts to a little backpack and a beach carryall, which I stuffed inside one of my big empty everyday bags to help it hold it’s shape.  I’ve read you’re supposed to use tissue paper for that purpose, but I needed to store the extra two bags anyway, so I figured what the heck.

I also kept one gym bag (which I actually used while I was living in Florida last fall and joined a gym because it was too hot to exercise outside), and two tote bags (one stored inside the other) that I use all the time.  Those I put back in the bottom of the closet, which is now empty except for those items.

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Classy.

The other benefit to this organizing project?  Finding all the stuff stored in my old purses.  There was definitely a lot of garbage, ancient sticks of gum, the worst brush I’ve ever owned, business cards for people I don’t remember, and expired aspirin, but there was also money, unused gift cards, a new memory stick, a great pocket mirror, still-working pens and highlighters, enough lip balm to last me the next five years, and two sets of opera glasses I thought I’d lost:

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I threw away all the garbage and redistributed anything usable to my current handbag.

I’ve decided that if by December I haven’t switched out my current bag to one of the everyday bags I kept, I’m getting rid of them.  And until I’m out of debt, I won’t be buying any new ones, so I shouldn’t be outgrowing the cubby space anytime soon.


A guy I know once told me he and his wife were on a “stuff diet”, meaning they were committed to going six months without buying anything new outside of necessities–like groceries, or items to make immediate repairs to their home.  But other than that, no buying of clothing, home decor, books, cds, dvds, toys, etc.  They weren’t doing it because they were financially challenged, they were just curious to see if they could break their spending habit.  I thought it all sounded a bit depressing.

But right now, because of trying to get my stuff under control, and having no money to speak of, I am on a forced stuff diet.   And you know what?

I find it a bit depressing.

True, I don’t miss my usual post-shopping guilt.  And the areas in our home I have decluttered and organized, though they are small in size and number at this point, are staying decluttered and organized because no new stuff is coming in.   It’s making me remember and appreciate what I already have, and I’m becoming aware of stuff that I should probably get rid of, because even in desperation I still won’t reach for certain items that are taking up space.

But I miss my drug of choice.  And because I feel so prone to relapsing right now, I have been deliberately staying out of stores.  It really kills me not to shop around Valentine’s Day though, because it encompasses some of the things I love most in this world.  Flowers.  Chocolate.  Jewelry.  Champagne.  Pretty lingerie.  Sweet cards.  The color pink.  I LOVE  frilly, lacy, sparkly, romantic stuff.  And I’ve been feeling really bummed about missing all that.

But as it is often recommended when you are feeling sorry for yourself, I decided to put the focus on someone else.  Valentine’s Day was only a day away, and though Ron and I had chosen to celebrate small, I still wanted to make things special for him. Because I had a show on the evening of Valentine’s Day, we decided we would just have cake and champagne when I got home from the theatre.  We already had a nice bottle of champagne Ron had been saving, and I found two Coldstone gift cards in my purse when I cleaned it out last month, so I decided to use those to get one of our favorite ice cream cakes – for free!

coldstone

Ron is an avid wine collector, and though over the years I have shopped for hours to surprise him with creative gifts, nothing makes him happier than a gift certificate or cash to spend at his favorite wine store.  So I have quit trying to surprise him and just give him money.  But I did want to make more of an effort than just stuffing a couple of bills into a Hallmark card.

I was inspired by a great DIY Valentine idea on Pinterest– a DIY Dinosaur Valentine.  I couldn’t stop smiling when I looked at the picture.  I’m not really into dinosaurs, but something about a maniacal T. Rex devouring a handful of hearts was very…me.

It would, however, require me to go to Target for supplies.   And in my current state, that made me nervous.  I was afraid I would go NUTS.  Everything seems so affordable at Target – you can justify almost any purchase.  And then you get up to the register and reel from the shock of seeing the sum total of all that “cheap” stuff you accumulated.  But luckily, the dinosaurs were in the $1 aisle, right near the checkout.  I bought two, just in case I screwed the first one up, and ran straight to the registers.   Then I got the HELL out of there.

I went to Michaels for the craft supplies I needed – gold spray paint, wooden craft hearts, and red craft paint.  My total for the dinosaurs and the craft supplies came to $9.26.  I never buy spray paint, so I was surprised at what an ordeal it was to purchase a little 3 oz. bottle – it was all under lock and key and the clerk had to check my ID and fill out all this paperwork and then I had to sign it.  Before I left the register I had an evil impulse to ask her if I could have a paper bag instead of a plastic bag so I could huff it right away in the parking lot, but figured she wouldn’t think that was funny.

Once home, I spray painted the T. Rex gold, and painted the hearts red.

I let them dry, and then got to work hot gluing the hearts into his little clawed hands, and tucked in the gift money.  I cannot express how much I love him.  He’s a Love Monster.

Love Monster

RAAARRRGGGGHHHH! MEEEE WAAANNNNNTTTTT LOOOOOVVVVVE!

And that monster got me thinking about MY monster – my Want Monster.  And since I had an extra dinosaur, I decided to make one – my very own Want Monster..  Only this one eats money instead of hearts.

RAAARRGGGHHH!  I WAAAANNNNTT  STUFFFFFF!

RAAARRGGGHHH! MEEEE WAAAANNNNTT STUFFFFFF!

After that, I didn’t feel depressed any more.

We had a very sweet Valentine’s Day.  Ron loved his Love Monster.

But probably not as much as I love my Want Monster.  He’s going to live over my desk, as an inspiration to help me through my stuff diet.

want & love

The Want Monster Vs. the Love Monster

And thank God I am not trying to be on a food diet while I’m in the midst of this stuff diet – I think that would be more disciplined sacrifice than I could handle–because let me tell you, that Coldstone cake was DELICIOUS!

cake

RAAARRRRGGGHHH! MEEEE WAAANNNNTTTT CAAAAKKKKE!!



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