When I was working in the corporate world, I had two very distinct selections of clothing: “work” clothes, and “weekend” clothes.
If you opened my closet, you would have been easily able to identify which items belonged in which category. Work clothes consisted of lots of dry-clean-only type of stuff from Gap, Banana Republic, and Nordstrom in shades of black/brown/gray/cream– things like slacks, pencil skirts, suits, button down blouses, blazers, nice dresses, nylons, and lots and lots of high heeled boots and pumps. Weekend clothes were comfy and colorful things like jeans, t-shirts, sweaters, hoodies, socks, flats, and sneakers. Having two totally different styles of clothing for the work and non-work parts of my life were part of the reason why my closets and dressers were so jammed full of stuff–the other part being due to my unfortunate shopaholic tendencies.
I recently got an email from a clothing store advertising a sale on “weekend wear”, and it occurred to me that I no longer have a wardrobe that distinguishes between the two styles – pretty much most of my daily wardrobe is weekend wear, with a few slightly more dressed up options. As a full time actor, there are some mornings when I have to get up, dress presentably, put on makeup, fix my hair, and either go to auditions, a recording studio, meetings, rehearsals, or other events that put me out in public. But there are more mornings where I get up, put on workout clothes, walk Stella, eat breakfast, work out, answer email, and then start working from home on recording/auditioning/reading scripts/memorizing lines and before I know it Ron is almost due home from the office and I’ve yet to shower or officially get dressed or even stop to eat lunch. I may talk to a lot of people via phone or email during the day, but no one actually SEES me, so I don’t spend much time worrying about what I look like or how I’m dressed, especially if I’m on a deadline.
This means that things like my slippers get a ton of wear. I used to have (unsurprisingly) about four pairs of slippers, but in one of my early decluttering sessions after I started this blog, I got rid of all but my one favorite pair. They aren’t particularly expensive or fancy, but I really like the style and how comfortable they are. I’ve had them for easily 10 years, and have worn them a LOT (I am one of those people whose hands and feet are often cold – just ask Ron, who has to endure me getting into bed at night and putting my icy fingers and toes against his perpetually heat-radiating body to warm up). Last year, while we were still in debt-pay down mode, I was sitting on the couch with my feet propped up facing Ron, and I saw him stare at the soles of my slippers and then gently say, “Uhhh…honey, I know money is tight, but I’m sure we could figure out a way to get you a new pair of slippers.”
I knew why he was saying it. From the top, my slippers looked totally normal:
But from the bottom, they were definitely looking a bit worse for wear:
And you have to see the side view too, to really appreciate how
gross loved they were:
The thing was, I knew I could have afforded a new pair – Fred Meyer, Kmart, or even a Walgreens sell slippers very inexpensively, and often offer coupons as well. But since my mission has been to buy fewer, better things, and because slippers are something I knew I would wear really often, I wanted them to be a high quality pair that I LOVED.
Which made the process of finding a new pair become way too important and painstaking. It took me MONTHS. Well, to be fair, some of those months were in the summer, when it’s way too hot for slippers, but I cannot tell you how many online and in person searches I did to find a good replacement. I scoured countless websites, read hundreds of reviews, stalked various shoe departments, and still couldn’t find anything I felt was right – or more accurately, “perfect”. I was even wiling to shell out a lot of money for them – I saw some really similar but ridiculously expensive ones by Ugg, for nearly $90, and was seriously considering them, until I noticed that most of the reviews said the sizing was consistently either too big or too small if you’re a half size, like me.
And then, I finally had to remind myself that no matter how much I loved my new pair, or how much money I spent on them, much like my old pair, the new pair would wear out someday, and I’d have to buy new ones. And while I was wasting all this stupid time fretting over finding something “perfect”, I was spending every day of my present life walking around with holes in my soles.
A day after I had this thought, I happened to be walking past J. Crew, and they were in the midst a huge sale. In multiple baskets on the display tables were pretty pastel piles of cozy slippers. Next to the baskets were signs that said, “Additional 40% off.” And in the lavender color that I liked the most, they had exactly one pair left in my size. So I bought them – for a very reasonable $27.
I LOVE my new slippers. They are cozy, pretty, and sooooo comfortable:
And even better, they have non-slip rubber soles, with no holes in them:
And even better than THAT, I have them right NOW, and I am wearing them every day. (And yes, in case you’re wondering, I did throw the old ones away).
In the end, of course, we’re just talking about a silly pair of slippers. But the experience was a good reminder for me that if seeking perfection becomes your entire focus, you’re a) probably never going to achieve it, and b) you will spend way too much time during that process living with circumstances or things you really need to release.
What about you? Is there an area in your life where you are seeking the perfect something, to the point where you’re living without something you could really use right now? Share in the comments if you feel so inclined!
One of my favorite indulgences that I’ve had to forgo most of this year has been my manicure/pedicure habit. I know some people love to get a massage or facial, but for me, there is nothing quite like a mani/pedi to make me feel relaxed and happy, especially if I’m fortunate enough to go with my girlfriends.
Back in my corporate days, I had acrylic nails. This was partly because a lot of the women I worked with had them so after a while I wanted them too, but it was also because my skin is allergic to nearly every fragrance mix in soaps or detergents that’s out there, and at that point I hadn’t yet figured out exactly what was making me itch. My real nails are very sharp, and I would scratch myself so intensely in my sleep that if I didn’t wear socks over my hands when I slept, I’d wake up with bloody marks on my skin and the sheets. Acrylic nails are super thick and dull-edged and can’t really do any damage, so while I was sussing out my allergy triggers (answer: everything), having fake nails did a good job of protecting me from myself.
To maintain them, I’d have to go to the nail salon every two to three weeks to get them “filled” – a time consuming and expensive habit. I used to actually get sick of having to go to the salon so much, even though it had once been one of my favorite treats. After I finally got rid of my acrylics, I started to enjoy getting my nails done again, and would go once a month when I was working full time and had a nice steady income.
But in this year of cutting back, I’ve been doing my nails at home to save money, and I’ve even gone polish-free most of the year to give my nails a chance to get healthy again. I think I’ve had maybe two pedicures and one manicure in all of 2013. I’ve really missed that little luxury, and wished many times that I could afford to go back to the salon.
A couple months ago, I met with my friend Jane, who is an actress I’ve done stage work with. She is hoping to break into the world of voice over, so I went over to her house to help her figure out the best place to record and give her the 411 on what I know about the business. Because Jane is awesome and generous, she sent me a gift certificate for a mani/pedi as a thank you for my time. I was beyond excited, and pinned the certificate reverently to the bulletin board in my office.
Knowing how much I’ve wanted this indulgence, you might think I’d have run out the very next day and used it. But I didn’t. I knew it might be months before I would be able to go for another one, so I decided to make this one count. I carefully planned to use it during a time when I wouldn’t have any auditions that would require me to have bare nails, so I could make the manicure last as long as possible. I picked a day I wouldn’t be stressed and overbooked and might smudge my fresh polish while rushing to get to my next appointment. I thought for a ridiculously long time about what color would go with most of my wardrobe so I’d get the most bang for my buck. I dreamed and planned and pined and thought about it with the same excitement I’ve had when saving up for a big purchase, or planning a really great vacation.
And focusing all that thought, attention, and care on it made something that I had once totally taken for granted feel incredibly special and exciting again.
That has definitely been an unexpected side effect of this lagom project – the benefit of remembering what it’s like to wait for things. I am an impatient person by nature, so I’m not saying I suddenly love waiting – it still bugs me. But I have gotten so used to immediate gratification (mostly by spending money I didn’t really have) that it took me doing this exercise to realize that things that were once been a big deal had become mundane to me by their accessibility.
I finally had my appointment yesterday – two days before Christmas, when all logic should tell you that it’s unwise to venture out of your house unless it’s absolutely necessary. But a variety of factors made it the best time for me to go, so I decided to brave it, and the day did not disappoint. I found parking across the street from the salon, in one of the busiest neighborhoods in Portland, even during non-holiday times. My manicurist told me that the previous three days had been chaos, but I had fortuitously arrived in a small pocket of unexpected quiet – I was one of four customers in the whole salon. Because the staff wasn’t busy, I had one person working on my pedicure and one on my manicure at the same time, and when the lady working on my nails finished before my pedicure was done, she said, “you look like you could use a shoulder massage” and proceeded to massage my neck and shoulders while the other manicurist finished working on my toes. The gift certificate Jane gave me totally covered the cost of the mani/pedi plus a nice tip (LOVE that), but then they also gave me a $5 gift certificate before I left since it was my first visit to the salon. It had been raining when I arrived, and I was dreading sloshing back to my car in my flip flops, but when I walked outside the sun had come out for the first time that day. I made it home without any nicks or smudges in my polish, and I can’t stop admiring how nice my nails look right now. I may have had to wait, but it was totally worth it.
Thank you, Jane for the lovely gift – you couldn’t have done better.
I haven’t written in a couple of weeks – life has been hectic and stressful and some days were just downright crappy. All my time seemed to be focused on getting through whatever was the crisis of the moment – so thinking up creative new ways to simplify my life has definitely taken a back seat.
One of the hardest things about being an actor – any kind of freelancer, really, is the cash-flow issue. For most commercial or voice over work, there is typically a big lull between when you do the job, and when you actually get the money for that job. Theatre is a kinder business, especially if you’re Equity – you get paid consistently every single week. But since most of the work I’ve had this year has been commercial/voice over work, I’ve been dealing with the lull, and it’s impact has been pretty brutal.
I did a national voice over radio spot back in early March. It ran in a lot of different states, and when that happens, it is very, very good news, because you will be getting paid for all those markets. I called my agent after I completed the job and asked what the estimate was for the recording session plus all the markets. When she told me the number, I almost dropped the phone.
A little over $7,000.
It’s jobs like this that make me keep pushing forward in a career that is so fraught with rejection, struggle, and disappointment. Because to make that amount of money, for a couple of hours of your time, and to really enjoy doing it, just can’t be beat. I was elated. And of course, I mentally had every penny of it spent on our debt as well as some expenses we’ve been putting off due to necessity. I also planned to put some aside to cover monthly expenses in case my theatrical dry spell continued. My excitement and anticipation for receiving this money was equivalent to the excitement I felt on Christmas morning when I still believed in Santa.
But weeks passed, and then months, and even though I eagerly watched the mail every day, there was no check. I sold some more jewelry. I put off getting my hair cut. I bought the bare minimum of food I felt we needed to get by. I repeatedly said no to going out with friends in situations where I would need to spend money. I paid only minimum payments on my debts, which did nothing to lower the monthly interest charges. I accepted even small paying gigs just to have any kind of income. Ron and I stayed home and watched TV every night instead of going out, except on our birthdays, and in those instances we used a coupon for one dinner and went somewhere inexpensive for the other. The charges on my bank statement began to solely reflect payments made for parking and gas, and nothing else. Near the end of each month, I lay awake at night fretting about what I was going to do at the beginning of the upcoming month, when bills were due. after about 75 days I called my agent to see if she knew when it might pay, and she assured me that while this was a “slower paying” client, they always did in fact pay, and she would send them a reminder.
It was stressful. It was depressing. And maybe more than anything, it was infuriating.
If I pay a bill late, I am hit with a late fee. And the threat of being cut off from my credit. And the even bigger threat of a long-term poor credit rating. But in my business, clients are in a very advantageous position. If they feel like paying late, they can get away with it. On union jobs, they may get a late fee, but if they have a lot of money, they just shrug, pay the late fee, and pay you when they feel like it. In the end, the fact that you did the work, and they are using the work, and profiting from it while you consider selling plasma to afford food, has no effect on them. They simply don’t care. And your agent has to be careful about getting too pushy with them, because the client could pull their business from that agency, and go to some other place that is eager to have them. It’s a crappy situation.
90 days passed. Still no check.
And then, finally, on Tuesday of last week, my agent called. She said the job had paid, and wanted to know if I wanted to pick up the check in person, or have it mailed. I elected to pick it up. And 99 days after the job was completed, I finally put the money into my bank account.
Was it a happy moment? Absolutely. I am thrilled to finally have the money. I will admit though, it was also undercut with a teeth grindingly resentful “It’s about F*CKING time.” Because 99 days is a very, very long time to wait when you are already desperate for money. But for the most part, I was overwhelmed with happiness and relief.
If you are considering leaving your consistent paying day job to be a full-time actor, heed my advice: Build up a really, really good savings account. Stay out of credit card debt. Be prepared to wait to be paid, and to be nice about it, even if some days it makes you want call your agent and weep, or post scathing comments on social media (don’t do either of these things). Have a plan B for what you’re going to do if the money doesn’t come through that month. Be honest with people about what’s going on for you financially and why you have to say no to some things. And while you’re waiting, keep working, and keep hustling.
The best part of all this? I paid off my credit card in full. I am now debt free on all my personal cards, and I’m going to keep it that way, barring any horrific emergencies. Now I will start putting all my financial energy towards helping Ron pay of his credit card, and once he is debt free, we’ll attack our joint credit card together. We are a long way from being out of debt (Ron’s card and our joint card both had higher balances than my card, so this will be no small task), but I am starting to believe that if we stay the course, by this time next year, we really might be completely out of debt. The thought of it gives me that Christmas morning excitement all over again.