Monday, December 21, 2009

Stuff Anorexic

Well, the whole "spend nothing in December" thing is over. I made short-notice plans to go to Houston for Christmas, for two very good reasons. The plane ticket was surprisingly cheap, but it sure wasn't free.

Skipping the work Christmas gift exchange was unexpectedly awkward. I went to the party and all the exchange gifts were put on a table. When one of the organizers got up to start distributing gifts, I slipped away to the bathroom, figuring by the time I got back they would be pretty much done. I forgot from years previous just how long my coworkers can spent chatting about presents. They kept at it for a good ten minutes after my return, and several people asked me what I got, reacting with sympathy or puzzlement (is that a word?) when I said I hadn't participated. I also thought that my boss typically didn't participate, but it turns out I was the sole holdout. Last year, the (temporary) receptionist didn't exchange, but she was a Jehovah's Witness.

I also got gifts from each of the people I supervise, so I purchased some nice candy at the grocery store and will give it to them after Christmas. (Personal problems really made it impossible to purchase gifts in the last few days before I left for Christmas.)

I'm getting even more obsessed with minimalism and reducing my stuff to the lowest possible level. I've had "minimalist phases" before, but I want this one to be the "real one," where I really get my stuff to the level of just the essentials and things I really love. I'm leaving for the airport in a few minutes, and on my way out I'm discarding a few more pieces of jewelry that I wear occasionally but don't love. I've also decided in the last couple of weeks to sell or discard my saxophone, YA book collection, and giant Chagall print. Mostly this is because I don't use these things, but they also happen to be three of my largest and heaviest remaining possessions.

After getting rid of a little more makeup, I think I now have one of the sparest collections of toiletries/bathroom items of any woman in North America. My personal (i.e. not shared with the boyfriend) bathroom items are:
- toothbrush
- comb
- sunscreen
(Discarded--why do I have it if I never use it?)- one bottle of hair goop
- contact solution and contacts (rarely used, but came in handy last month when I broke my glasses)
- two prescriptions
- tongue scraper
- mascara
- silver eyeshadow
- lipstick
- lipliner
- tweezers
- deodorant (rarely used, I don't seem to need it often. This container was a freebie.)
- reusable sponges for that time of month
- baking soda, for washing my face (I keep one container in the bathroom, one container in the kitchen. I didn't purposely get a second container; I think one of them was in the fridge of our old apartment when we moved in)
-hairdryer (rarely used)

I do sometimes wonder if I'm taking it too far. I don't know what "taking it too far" means. As long as I have stuff I don't use, I might as well keep discarding. But I guess I'm concerned that i place too much importance on minimalism--I do sometimes get really tense when things are cluttered or when I'm given things I don't want that interfere with my minimalism.

Monday, December 7, 2009

December: Attempting to Spend Nothing for 23 Days, Including Christmas

I set myself a budget of $1500 for December. I've already paid the rent, all the utility bills, ate two meals out, took the boyfriend to the top of the Hancock Center, paid for Netflix, and bought about 4 years' worth of soap. Buying the soap last night used up the last of the budget. So my mission for the next 23 days will be to use as little money as possible.

Actually spending nothing will not be possible. Technically, we probably have enough food in the house to last until New Year's, but we are out of tomato products, low on cheese, and have only about two cups of white flour, and if I attempted to feed the raised-on-fast-food-and-Stouffer's boyfriend for 23 days on a diet consisting mostly of frozen chicken, whole wheat flour, and artichokes, I think he would rebel and we'd end up eating Domino's instead. However, maybe I can convince him that when we do go to the grocery store, we should buy only those things on our list (i.e., the things we actually "need").

I'm also committed to mailing several books on Paperbackswap. I certainly don't need any more credits, but since you never know how long it will take a book to be requested, I'd like to send those out, for a cost of probably about 10 to 12 dollars.

Typical expenses that I don't need to spend money on this month:

  • waxing (have Nair I can use instead this month)
  • stamps (already mailed bills; shouldn't need to mail anything else until January)
  • Christmas presents?!?--the boyfriend, my brother and sister in law, and my parents have all said they don't want presents this year. I said something to my parents about donating money in their name instead, but I don't think they'd be too disappointed if I don't follow through, or if I did something that doesn't cost money, like write them a thoughtful letter. I don't really exchange gifts with friends at the holidays, and I don't have to participate in the gift exchange at work. So I think, maybe, my only possible gift expense will be small gifts for the people I supervise. Last year, all three of them gave me gifts, and I reciprocated. I will probably wait until a few days before Christmas to see if this is becoming a regular thing, and if it is, I'll get them something small and consumable. I'm not a fan of this kind of gift-giving, and I think it's particular weird for people to buy gifts for the person who is essentially their boss, but I do appreciate the thought and if they get me things I'll return the favor.

Things I may "need" to spend money on:
  • boyfriend's birthday: usually he just wants a nice meal and cake, but if he wants to go out to eat or wants a present, I'll definitely oblige him.
  • meals out with boyfriend on "bad days": there's a good reason right now for me to treat him to an occasional meal out, so if it's appropriate, I'll do this, too. Could be once or not at all in the next 23 days, could be ten times.
  • eating out with friends: I'd like to see a particular friend at least once before Christmas. I should be able to find a way to do this without spending money, but I might take the easy way out and end up going out to dinner with her.

Aspirational Clutter

I've been thinking lately about how much of my stuff is stuff that I want to use rather than stuff I actually use. I want to be the kind of person who wears lipstick, writes letters on Crane's stationary, or wears tailored blazers, but in fact wearing lipstick annoys me because it gets all over glasses, I write about two letters a year, and I don't wear blazers because they're not as comfortable as sweaters.

Other "aspirational" clutter around my house:

  • four pairs of high heels, because someday I will put more importance on looking fashionable than on being able to walk medium distances.
  • a saxophone, because someday I'm going to start serenading my boyfriend at night with romantic saxophone music, even though the only reason I ever played the saxophone was to be part of a concert band, and if I ever wanted to join a band again, I could just rent a sax.
  • a set of family silverware, 12 place settings, because someday we're going to start throwing *really* fancy dinner parties. This isn't exactly aspirational, as I'm quite fine with the fact that I'm never going to use it and am really only keeping it until I get around to selling it.
  • Framed pictures, because someday I'm going to put them on the walls
  • Size 10 pants and a red-checked dress, because someday I'm going to fit into them again
I think the saxophone can probably go. As for the heels, I'm putting on a pair right now.