Scarcity myth

Abby and I have a tradition of Friday Lunch when she’s home from college. We both work downtown, so we meet up and walk to a nearby coffee shop. It’s a chance for us to hang out and catch up. And it’s fun.

During our most recent lunch, the two of us got onto the topic of journals and planners and how we keep track of our days. She talked about using hers to journal and get into a healthier routine; I’m sort of over my planner because it’s got a self-help aspect to it and, since my father-in-law’s death, I’ve just kind of decided I’d rather enjoy the moment instead of constantly feeling like I need to be working towards some goal.

bernard-hermant-663480-unsplash

Scarcity mindset: That there is never, EVER enough. Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash.

And then Abby was all, Well, that’s the scarcity mentality, Mom. It makes you think there’s never enough time or money and that you constantly have to work to improve your situation. That you’re never good enough. And I was like, WHAT.

Because I’d never thought of it like that, in terms of why I always feel like a hamster on a wheel. But lo and behold, the answer is simply that we’re bombarded with messages that we are not enough as we are.

Case in point (and I’m still kind of pissed about this, vaguely): We went to the big city recently to buy an eighth grade promotion dress for Johanna. While in the mall (wow, nothing like going to a mall to remind you why they suck), a salesman called me over and tried to sell me all manner of beauty product to improve my skin in general and lift the area under my eyes in particular. ‘Cause I’m noticeably middle aged, I guess.

And then, as I was walking away, a saleswoman tried the same thing. I was fuming. Eric was like, They’re just doing their job, and I was all, Yeah, point taken, but why, as a woman, am I supposed to give literally any shits whether or not I meet some unattainable definition of beauty? They aren’t calling YOU over.

I am six feet tall (truly, that’s not program height 😉 ) and I weigh 138 pounds. And I still feel like my body isn’t thin enough in the right places. I don’t color my hair, but I keep it trimmed and thinned, and I use a flat iron religiously because it’s very thick and that’s the only way I can keep it from puffing out. And my skin care routine is basically a bar of soap and some sunscreen, but I wear makeup because then I feel presentable.

So basically I was fuming because it made me confront all the ways I DO give a shit. Self-realization is hard, yo.

But Abby’s words made it seem more … I don’t know. Like, I could understand the tendency on a fundamental level. It’s just that I wanted to actually know why this is even a thing.

So: I started researching “scarcity mentality” to try to figure out more thoroughly what it means and what it does to a person’s overall health.

Most of what I found had to do with financial issues. Finding information on the mental and emotional aspects was harder and I never really did come across anything that struck me as an explanation as to why we do this to ourselves. I did find a book called “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much,” which I have added to my reading list. But otherwise, the closest I came was this paragraph:

Having thoughts and feelings of scarcity automatically orients the mind towards unfulfilled wants and needs. Furthermore, scarcity often leads to lapses in self-control while draining the cognitive resources needed to maximize opportunity and display judgment. Willpower also is depleted, which makes one prone to feelings of giving up. People in this state attend to the urgent while neglecting important choices that will have a drastic effect on the future. (LINK)

(That was the only part of that article I found helpful, incidentally.)

What I found ironic about my (admittedly quick, we’re talking a couple of hours) research is that most articles were linked with ways to create an abundance mindset — and I have no interest in that, as it seems like one more think I need to feel bad about: My mindset isn’t abundant enough! Better add that to the list of self-improvements!

So my overarching questions did not get answered immediately is what I’m saying. What did become clear to me is that this scarcity mentality is probably why minimalism is still considered an alternative lifestyle choice (and again, easy for me since I’m not financially strapped), why I sometimes make terrible decisions on everything from adding to my closet to what I put on my plate, and why we live in such a need-based society — why we’re never satisfied with what we have and where we are (we need more money / recognition / socks / knickknacks / travel / friends / health / etc.).

My limited search did make me think of this on a grander level, as in people I know, as I’m sure we all do, who never give but always take and/or why women have such a hard time rooting for each other, as if someone else’s success somehow takes away from our own. Why sometimes I don’t want to give. Why I have to make a point to remember I want us all to win.

And that maybe, much like I shout I CHOOSE PEACE when I find myself in a negative mental loop, I need to start yelling THAT’S A SCARCITY MENTALITY when I catch myself wondering if my neck is too wrinkled or thinking that I need a certain object to make my life better or catch myself feeling angry that I have to donate $5 to that person’s office birthday fund when everyone knows she doesn’t donate herself, even though $5 means nothing to me.

Uh, I might have some unresolved issues to work through.

I find this quite fascinating and I’ll follow up after I read “Scarcity.” I would really, truly love to hear your thoughts on this topic. I don’t pretend to be an expert on this after one conversation with my brilliant kid and a quick search.

Link HERE: The NPR story on the authors of “Scarcity” and what they learned in their research. It’s a quick read.

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Decluttering v758.0

Let’s see here: I started my minimalism journey in 2012 and began decluttering. I started Project 333 in 2013 and eventually made two more passes through the house, particularly my kitchen, before starting a zero waste year in 2016.

And here we are, 2019 and I’m starting to declutter again. Um, how many times am I going to have to do this?

Never mind, rhetorical question. All of that is just to say, here we go. One more time. And probably not even the last.

I’m actually a couple of months into this and, wardrobe aside, it’s going fine. What’s really helped me is following the FlyLady zones because it gives me a set area to concentrate on with the added bonus of mini-missions. I can’t say I follow what she prescribes each week because I have a different agenda. But I do give myself five chores at the beginning of each week that can be accomplished in 15 minutes.

Spoiler alert: I generally manage to get four of the five done, which I count as a success.

Anyway, it’s been quite helpful in getting down to the nitty gritty of cleaning and purging that I haven’t had time for / haven’t wanted to deal with in the past. I’ve cleaned under the bathroom sink, tackled the top shelf on my side of the closet, gone through and wiped down cabinets in the kitchen and started in on the hutch. I kind of like the hopping around from space to space because then I don’t get bored. And because I set a time limit, I don’t get frustrated or bogged down.

One thing I’ve learned in all that past decluttering is that you can burn yourself out quickly if you try to do too much to fast. Which is why I am a big fan of this slower route. 

It amazes me how much cleaner a particular area can look after each of these small sessions. How it all adds up. And how accomplished I feel. It’s not all about decluttering for me, per se — it’s about getting a handle on my home. Getting rid of stuff is just an added bonus.

I guess my point is this: No matter where we are on our minimalist journey, there is still work to be done. And half the battle is starting. AGAIN.

Wardrobe woes

Once upon a time, I really had a handle on my wardrobe (thanks, Project 333!). It’s been a year or so since I stopped P333 because I felt like I’d learned the lessons I needed to and, at the end of the day, it didn’t matter how many items were in my closet. I’m a minimalist. I gravitate towards minimalism.

Ha ha ha, isn’t it HILARIOUS when you get all cocky about being a genius and then the world knocks you down? Karma in action! Because:

Johanna and I hit the Goodwill in the town next door a couple of weeks ago — the weather had turned quite warm and I wanted some “spring-y” t-shirts. Johanna just enjoys thrifting in general and always finds something. The problem is that once she finds it (and buys it), she doesn’t always like it later on. This is actually called “pulling a Johanna” in our household.

My “spring-y” t-shirts ended up being burgundy, gray and a black/white patterned tank — I guess I’m not cut out for bright colors. (I saw a pink cardigan that was kind of cute and asked Jo what she thought, and she was like, That’s not even you. True, kid, thanks for the wisdom. Gray it is!) When we got home, I began organizing my closet for the warmer months. Johanna decided to go through her closet and got rid of a couple of items, one of which was a striped navy number that I decided to add to my closet instead of the rummage sale bag.

My spring t-shirt situation was really starting to look up, but my closet was getting away from me. I started running out of hangers. And I refuse to get more hangers. I have more than enough if I keep my closet to 35 or so items. Um, that ship had sailed, so I solved that problem by folding sweaters and long-sleeve t-shirts and storing those in my standing wardrobe. Not ideal because I tend to forget about what I can’t see hanging in front of my face. On the upside: It did make things look more manageable, at least.

And then Abby came home for the summer — P.S. YAY — around 6:30 p.m. last Monday. She decided she needed her room completely clean before she went to bed (she is the most organized teenager ever), which seemed to me like an impossible task, just looking at all the boxes and bags and suitcases she had strewn around the place. I was tasked with hanging up her clothing.

“I have a lot of clothes,” she said, “but I love them all.”

No judgement, kid. It’s your life and your closet. I’m just over here, hanging it all up.

As she went through her suitcases, there were a few items she decided she no longer wanted … one being a baseball-style t-shirt she got in high school that I’ve always thought was adorable. Um, so that’s now in my closet.

And then the weather went from 90 degrees F last Saturday to 65 degrees by Wednesday. So all the sweaters I had folded KonMarie-style (damn you, Netflix!) are now hanging across the bar in my closet. So I can get to them. Because I’m out of hangers.

What were the lessons I’d learned about minimalist closets again? I’ve clearly lost my wits.

Anyway, here’s my solution, and I will tell you right now that it’s lame, but it’s what I’ve settled on so whatever: When I wear an item, I turn the hanger back-to-front (putting it in backwards?) so I can see what I’m actually wearing. Of course, whatever I’m wearing out of my standing wardrobe doesn’t get the same treatment, but I’ve decided that isn’t so much of a problem because it’s not prime real estate like my closet. At the end of the month (which is coming up surprisingly quickly), I will reassess.

Um, so the moral of this story is that I’ve got a little work to do. 😉

P.P.S. Some links on my experiences with P333 (that maybe I should read myself):

HERE (Just beginning and the issues I ran into right off the bat)

HERE (Putting together a spring and summer wardrobe)

HERE (Lessons learned from my winter wardrobe)

Paper vs. digital

We’re going to go a different direction with today’s post — and ironically, I’m going to use a digital platform to talk about paper.

I’ve never actually thought much about paper vs. digital formats, I guess because my life naturally involves both. I started blogging on my 39th birthday as a way to deal with having the 40s in my sights, but even before that, most of my working life has revolved around what I produce on a desktop computer screen.

Eric and I got our first home computer in 2001 — Abby was around 2 — and I immediately took to it. I am a fast typer (had to be: English major, history minor, there were a lot of papers going on in my college days) and I enjoyed being able to toss out my thoughts quickly and cleanly. Word docs look so organized!

I have also been an avid journal keeper for … most … of my life. I started at around 10 years old (I was also writing stories in earnest when I was 6, much to the delight of my first grade teacher, who just knew I’d have a writing career. I guess she was sort of right) and kept them religiously until I was 25 or so. Then I just got busy. When the girls were born, I kept journals of the funny things they said while simultaneously writing about how overwhelming young children are. (I’m so happy with my older kids, I can’t even tell you.) And I’d go through phases where I’d keep a personal journal — mostly that was anxiety control, and the thought of rereading any of it isn’t something I’m up for at the present time. I’m in such a better head space now.

All of THAT is just to say that I like and use both formats, the paper and the digital, and I can see the benefits both bring to my life: Sometimes writing longhand is therapeutic; sometimes I want to write quickly and get it all out.

My blogs have served as a bit of a journal from the get-go, and I never really thought about the possibility that any of what I’ve written would ever go away. Until I read “Raiders of the Lost Web” (HERE) about how the internet isn’t exactly forever.

My favorite parts of that article, written by Adrienne LaFrance:

Digital information itself has all kinds of advantages. It can be read by machines, sorted and analyzed in massive quantities, and disseminated instantaneously. “Except when it goes, it really goes,” said Jason Scott, an archivist and historian for the Internet Archive. “It’s gone gone. A piece of paper can burn and you can still kind of get something from it. With a hard drive or a URL, when it’s gone, there is just zero recourse.”

And, later:

“There are now no passive means of preserving digital information,” said Abby Rumsey, a writer and digital historian. In other words, if you want to save something online, you have to decide to save it. Ephemerality is built into the very architecture of the web, which was intended to be a messaging system, not a library.

She concludes:

But the thing unsaid, the fact that unravels even an optimist’s belief in what the web can be, is that the ancient library was eventually destroyed. Not by technology or a lack of it, but by people. Saving something and preventing its destruction are not entirely the same thing.

Huh.

I don’t know that I need to save everything I’ve ever written online right this second and for evermore, but I do like the idea of my grandkids, if I ever end up with any, being able to read my stuff. It’s vanity, of course, thinking that they’ll care or that I have anything to contribute in any possible way, but whatever, I still want that option. So maybe I’ll pursue some sort of paper version of my favorite posts someday.

Because my mother would totally read it even if my own grandkids never materialize. WORTH IT.

It’s interesting to me that right now, my Simple Year co-bloggers and I are working on an anthology that will take a digital media platform and translate it to paper. (Or maybe still digital format, since I wouldn’t mind seeing it available for eReaders.) So I know the process I’d have to undertake to get an anthology of my own work going for those future maybe grandkids. What ticks me off a bit is that had I just written this stuff down in a notebook and not gotten sucked into the idea that digital is better / anyone besides myself would want to read what I’ve written, I wouldn’t have to do anything else besides hand it over at the appropriate time. Um, not that I’m going to stop blogging. VANITY.

And there’s no way I’m transcribing any of those entries in longhand, I can tell you that right now. Plus my handwriting at this point is terrible because all I do is type.

I guess it’s a bit of a war with my minimalism, too, now that I think about it. Of course I’d prefer to write online — nothing physical to have laying around the house. But I also have three paper journals going at the moment: A planner, a bullet journal for daily brain dumps and notes, and a quote book. I like being able to play with these, make them pretty or just scribble. They are whatever I say they are, with no one to please but myself.

And damn! I love journals! I love that paper aspect and how I can go back and read whatever it is I thought important enough to write down without having to scroll through a bunch of screens. There’s a sense of possibility with paper that I don’t get from a blank Word doc. (Word docs symbolize work.)

I have no idea where I’m going with this now that I’ve come to the end of this post. But I like how this aspect of my life is coming to the forefront … that I read an article about the vastness yet limitations of the internet around the time I’m translating my experiences with my zero waste year to paper via the computer screen.

Well, I don’t have a lot of hobbies.

Um, thoughts, feelings, ideas?

Five things challenge

This week I’ve been working on a simple decluttering challenge: Five things a day, out the door.

Doesn’t that sound so manageable and innocent?

I’m keen on this project because we’ll be hosting a couple of middle school Japanese students next week. Nothing like strangers staying in your house to make you look at it with fresh eyes. Plus Eric and I have always done our best cleaning when guests are involved.

We’re minimalists and aspiring zero wasters, but we still have stuff. Some of it is from before we knew better; some of it we should have known better than to bring home but we did anyway. Some is because someone else didn’t know better. 😉 And of course, we’ve got three people in the house fulltime, and all of us have different ideas on what minimalism and zero waste means.

So paring down five items a day seems like a great challenge — it doesn’t take a lot of time but you can still see results. I gleaned this from my friends at Nourished Planner (okay, imaginary friends); they suggested putting a box or basket someplace inconspicuous, adding items each day and, at the end of the week, taking the whole ordeal to the secondhand shop.

Um, I’m not quite doing that.

I am loathe to admit this, but most of my five items each day are ending up in the recycling or … the trash.

Here’s why it’s happening:

  1. There are items I should have recycled or  thrown away ages ago, but didn’t because of environmental concerns.
  2.  Um, I guess that’s pretty much the only reason.

It’s an easy thought process: If I don’t throw things away, then they don’t get added to the landfill. If I don’t recycle, but simply reuse, those items also don’t get added either. *

And yeah, I mean, that’s one way look at it.

The problem with this approach is that my house is being taken over by stuff we don’t want, don’t need and don’t use. (Hello, glass jars from my sunflower seed butter!) Mentally, I also do better when I don’t have a lot of clutter, or projects, or anything, really because “things” tend to trigger my anxiety — when things are crowded or left undone, I can’t breathe.

So there’s some landfilling going on in my house this week. Case in point: Five kitchen towels that have seen better days. And the last time I was at Goodwill, I asked if they took rags and was told in no uncertain terms that THAT is a lie. Okay then. Trash it is.

I’m disappointed in this result, the landfilling of items. I’m disappointed in myself. But … I came to the conclusion long ago that there are no best-case scenarios when it comes to environmental solutions — we’re just making the best choices we can from a list of really bad options. That doesn’t mean I just toss things into the trash without thought. I’m just not sure what to do about it: Continue to hoard it and delay the inevitable, or get on with it and appreciate a clutter-free home.

I’m going for the latter. And feel like a jerk. But wow, my anxiety is doing awesome!

* HERE is a rather depressing article by The Atlantic about the recycling situation in the States right now. Recycling pretty much equals throwing away at this point.

In which KonMarie accidentally sparks a revolution in the Walker household

Last Friday, we added a Roku box to the household, because apparently our 2011 Wii is no longer able to act as a conduit between our TV and Netflix.

It’s okay, we had a good run. And the Wii still gets used by Eric and Johanna. They’re Mario Kart fiends.

Of course, we could have chosen to let Netflix go … and it’s basically my fault that we are not. It’s also my fault we have Netflix in the first place, since I’m the one who signed us up for the service many years ago, when Eric was hunting and I was left unsupervised.

It’s just that if this is the future — this tiny TV box thing — then so be it. We may not watch a lot of TV or movies, but it’s nice to have that option. Especially since we don’t have cable.

Anyway. Eric got the thing hooked up and I finished the setup part using my phone, which is now a remote. That’s probably old news to many, many people, but to me, it was like, what is this crazy Jetsons future?! I’m scrolling through Netflix options and before I even knew what was happening, we were watching “Tiding Up with Marie Kondo.”

Three episodes worth. And then I finished the series Sunday afternoon.

Eric thought it was boring and Johanna had no interest, so it was just me and the kittens. I mean, it was kind of boring, but I liked how the people featured were from all different backgrounds and places in their lives, and went through the same lessons regarding their stuff: What it says about them and the meaning they place on physical items. And how to get past the attachment.

And I liked Marie’s perspective, so different from the American way of looking at stuff. (Like, actual stuff: Houses and possessions and whatnot.) I liked her focus on keeping what brought joy to a person and working towards a desired future. I haven’t read her book, but I’d made all kinds of assumptions about the KonMarie method based on what I’ve heard about it. Turns out my assumptions were completely wrong.

I found her take refreshing. I can see why so many people swear by her method. It just seems so doable.

Saturday morning, I found Eric rattling around the laundry room making a huge racket. He had cleaned off  the top of the standing freezer and was sorting through items. The gist: He’d heard enough of the third episode, where the mom was responsible for everything in the house and how stressful that was for her, and he’d decided he could take on some of that stuff so I wouldn’t be saddled with it.

I am pro that plan.

And then he moved on to our recycling closet. I let go of some jars I’ve been saving. He sorted out a bunch of stuff that had gotten shoved there for no apparent reason. It was awesome.

That day, I noticed Johanna making several trips back and forth between her room and ours. She was in deep cleanout mode, making piles in my reading retreat (aka the room where everything gets dumped when we don’t know what to do with it): Books, shoes, clothes, random bits and pieces she’d collected. She also filled the recycle bin with old papers.

I guess she got KonMarie-d through osmosis. Not complaining. I can actually walk in there now without tripping over anything. Her closet looks more manageable and her shelves have room to breathe. I’m so proud! This kid is my hoarder; she doesn’t need new stuff, but wow, she sure hangs on to what she does have.

I guess the moral of this story is that even seasoned minimalists can learn new tricks. And those two sorting items gave me enough of a boost to get into my reading retreat and start packaging up items for donation.

My reading retreat is its own challenge … and I’ve never managed to get a handle on it in the 16 years we’ve lived here. I don’t use it as a reading area, that’s why, so it’s become a sort of closet instead. Maybe I need to just embrace that. Regardless, it could use a good cleanout. Again.

Yes, my internet friends, I have my decluttering challenges too. But that’s another post for another time. 😉

TW, minimalist

I was at the dentist sort of accidentally on Thursday (my appointment got moved up a few days) and minding my own business in the chair (after having to come clean to a new hygienist that I don’t floss AND always throw a fit when it’s time for x-rays because gag; she said she already knew that because it’s in my file), when my dentist breezed in and was like, as a way of introduction to this new woman, “Did Trish tell you she’s a minimalist?”

And I was like, well, I can’t actually respond to that because, you know, mouth stuff going on.

I was also kind of like, oh yeah. Yeah, I am a minimalist, huh?

Minimalism isn’t something I have to work towards or think about anymore. It just is how I live my life. I don’t need a lot of stuff to be happy. Actually, I think I could make a good argument that I am happier without stuff than I ever was with it. I don’t miss what I’ve given away and I certainly don’t miss what I don’t bring home.

I feel like the minimalism movement has really come to the forefront in the last few years, which mainstreams it a bit. But it’s still kind of weird to some people, I guess. Or maybe “weird” isn’t the right word. “Different,” perhaps.

(Um, I don’t see this current trend of purging and organizing items as true minimalism, incidentally, although I’m cool with everyone doing what they need to do. Nothing wrong with getting rid of what you don’t need.)

Anyway, I had a minimalist/zero waste win on the way out of the dentist office: The hygienist asked me if I wanted a toothbrush and floss, instead of just putting it into a bag and ignoring my refusals like the last one did. (Awkward.) I said no, and that was that. Although she did tell me that not flossing was “not ideal” and encouraged me to look for some kind of natural alternative, even if that “was more to throw away.”

I’m not sure what all is in my file, but I have never felt so understood.

P.S. Yeah, I know I need to floss. It’s more that it’s, like, 10 whole minutes a week that I don’t want to spend, actually, then a zero waste stance, to be honest.