Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hops on Soapbox

It's early Sunday morning. Wrapped in the warmth of my bathrobe, sipping coffee, waiting for my morning dose of antibiotic to settle in and settle down. The sun hasn't come up yet. I was in bed last night at 8:30. While the most severe side effects of the medication have subsided, I'm still relatively exhausted from the waning battle being fought in my guts and so sleeping a full 10 hours was apparently what I needed. I feel pretty good.

As I waited for the coffee to brew, I found myself staring at my kitchen shelves - the hodge podge of food stuffs, bowls, gadgets, baking supplies. After a minute or two, I became aware of what I was thinking...I was subconsciously taking an inventory and discarding stuff that wasn't essential to our existence.

I've talked about stuff before.

No, I mean literal "stuff". You know, the stuff we all accumulate, pack away, impulse buy, collect, and cram our homes with when we don't really need it?

When I look back, of course in hindsight, to 2005, I realize it was a strange, surreal, difficult time for me. But, even though it was crazy and hard and, I'll admit, I dove head first off the cliff into the deep end, I don't regret it. Giving up nearly everything I own was truly one of the most freeing feelings of my life.

When I came back to relative sanity, and for the next two and half years, I wouldn't accumulate anything. Perhaps a new book or two and some new underpants made its way into my pile 'o stuff but seriously? When I moved from the luxuries of the Pinery to the cozy depths of The Grotto, I did the entire move in two trips in my Honda Accord and a half load in the Honda Civic of a friend. There wasn't any heavy lifting. I loaded and unloaded everything but that half load by myself. It took me about an hour (less driving time).

I have a few sticks of furniture now - but only the necessities...a bed, a small chest of drawers, a couple of bookcases, etc. If I had to move, with the help of 3 or 4 friends, we'd be loaded up in an hour or so (you know, with Lex's stuff included).

And yet...for some unknown reason, all of these articles and blog entries have come across my Reader path about paring down, whittling away, getting rid of stuff. Well...not entirely unknown. Part of the onslaught is because Acr0nym keeps sending me links to some of these articles as he contemplates his own sorting, discarding, organizing project.

I look around my house and I don't have all that much. Especially compared to what I had pre-2005. I've been relatively careful about such blatant consumerism. I rarely shop - not even for clothes - and, when I do, it's because I've identified something I can usually say with sincerity that I need. In the last 4 years, rather than spend my money on stuff, I've spent it on people - things for other people or the opportunities to spend time with other people (happy hours, brunches, coffee klatches).

I saw an article a few days back - a blog entry really - about all the new fees...banking and Hulu and Netflix...that have hit the average consumer recently. While I can understand why this is upsetting to an awful lot of people - most of my friends even - this doesn't impact me at all. I don't have Netflix or cable, I don't watch much on Hulu and only what's available for free (and if the free content went away I just wouldn't watch at all), I don't bank at one of the mega-banks having chosen years ago instead to keep my accounts at a credit union and at a fiscally strong, conservative, local bank.

I don't subscribe to newspapers or magazines. I read books and rent movies checked out from the library. I get my news from NPR (a service for which I pay what I can afford) and a handful of websites.

All in all, I live fee free. I mean, depending on what you consider a fee. I pay car insurance, pay my fair share of taxes, pay for a cell phone and internet access. I'm still paying exorbitant interest on pre-2005 debt that I'm slowly but surely whittling away (I've paid off almost 20% of my outstanding debt in the last 8 months and on track to have 31% paid off by the end of the year).

But Lex and I? We choose to live below our means and I don't see that changing even after I'm out of debt. I divorced myself from most casualties of consumerism long before the economic crisis and long before the Occupy movement began.

That's not to say I'm not a part of the Occupy movement in my own way. I am the 99% and I'm just as appalled at what's happened to our country and the world. But I have to say those of us who are the 99% continue to allow corporate America to gouge us - even as we stand up, holding our signs, showing our solidarity - by still BUYING IN.

A friend of mine posted this on a social media site last night...
While taking to the streets in protest is good for publicly displaying your piety and filling you with a warm sanctimonious glow, it doesn't really hit the banks and corporations where it hurts, namely- their pocket books. Nor does it help the people close to you, your friends and family, who are struggling. Here are some tips:
1.) Buy your next pair of jeans at a thrift store. This will save about $30.00 over paying new. That's a weeks worth of rice, beans, eggs and bread for someone close to you who's struggling.
‎2.) Cut up your credit card! Banks don't profit from money not spent.
3.) Skip dinner out with the wife and kids- that's $50.00 saved. Feed a poor friend.
4.) Buy your next vehicle used. Buy it with cash you saved. This benefits you, the person you bought it from, and the bank gets nothing.
5.) Got an extra room in the house? Rent it out at a reasonable price to a friend.
6.) Don't just save- you gotta give! Help the people close to you. Give some shit you don't use to friends who will!
7.) Here's a simple one: Revive the old fashioned, venerable tradition of "visiting". You know, at the kitchen table. It's free.

And some suggestions from a commenter I particularly liked:

You forgot- When you decorate your home buy art directly from the artist- buy books used, then pass them on- learn to mend your clothes to make them last longer, and if they belong to your kids- pass them on when your kids outgrow them- throw potlucks- if you have debt, work like heck to pay it off, somebody will pay for it if you don't- walk- use your library- volunteer- be proactive about helping people, and work hard at finding ways to make it easy for them to accept it (I made to much, I bought to much, my kid needs the community hours for her homeschooling, save me the trip to the thrift store)- write letters

Anyway! Back to my point...

Those rising fees, the ones people are mad about? Are fees that corporate America can get away with charging because, while people are mad, they grumble and CONTINUE TO PAY THEM.

If we want change, we have to be willing to change. We have to be willing to give up our dependence on an America that will continue to drain us of every bloody red cent until we say NO!

And...while I am part of the 99%, I'm not crying for the greedy top to give me more so that I can have bigger, better, faster, more too. I'm asking the greedy top to be far less greedy so that everyone can have what they need to live well - a life-sustaining wage, a warm home, nourishing food, healthcare, a good education, and time to spend with people they love and/or doing things they love.

Oh but then that would be a redistribution of wealth and such a Utopian idea is bad for 'merica.

*shrug* So is accessible healthcare apparently.

Lex and I are challenging ourselves to conduct an inventory of our current lifestyle, identify where we fall in the corporate culture, and make changes to how we conduct ourselves and where we spend our dollars so as to discontinue supporting a structure we no longer care to uphold as much as possible.

Right now, that means buying local from independent businesses and bartering with friends for goods and services. We'll see how that goes.

[hops off soapbox] Time to go find some biscuits from a local source.

1 comment:

Shri said...

I agree 100%. I've been thinking much along the same lines lately. I'm going to move our $ from my big name bank account back to my long unused Credit Union account, I only buy clothes used and hardly buy any of those anymore except for my older daughter as she grows (the younger gets hand me downs from a couple of different sources including her big sister), I'm buying produce from nearby local farm markets instead of the grocery store (and it's so much yummier anyway!), and I'm deep into the process of going through every single item we own and getting rid of everything we don't actually need and use regularly. There's other stuff, but you get the point. Good thinking Jane! :)