what’s real and a round-up

The great Tammy Strobel had a post this week about what’s real.

From Tammy’s post:

By “real life”, I mean living a conscious life. A life that is focused on connecting with others. Not a life that’s focused on the “should’s” or a life that’s spent in front of the computer screen or with our own unrealistic expectations.

I love what Tammy wrote above. When I take time away from the screen and do “real” things – meet up with friends, visit the library, go to swim class with Henry, have a non-movie date with Chris – I find I am content and recharged. When I enjoy where I am at RIGHT NOW, instead of thinking about SOMEDAY, I enjoy my days more.

running the Portland Marathon in '07

Right now I’m getting back into running. I need to stop beating myself up about not getting longer runs in because I am pushing around a toddler that isn’t up for sitting in a stroller for long lengths of time. I need to stop thinking about someday running a sub-four hour marathon and enjoy where I am at today.

Right now we are paying off debt and working on downsizing our possessions and spending. I need to stop thinking about dreamy modern sofas or someday home exchanges in Spain. Life is good without them.

I’m all for dreams, goals and enjoying memories. When I do go on that vacation and run the sub-4 I’ll enjoy it. But shouldn’t right now be the good stuff?

I’m working on being less wanty lately so you’ll probably see more talk of this here. How do you balance goals for the future with enjoying today? How do you get over wanting things that you don’t need? In some ways getting rid of the stuff is the easy part. Getting over the wanting the stuff is trickier. You’re just one bad stress shop or flip through a J Crew catalogue away from slipping back into your old ways.

*So worth it to wait in line for some of the best pizza in Naples, possibly the world.

standing in line for pizza in Naples '09

links I liked this week

The secret to a clean home: Meagan Francis dissects the secret to having a clean home and reveals it’s not a secret, it’s a mindset. There are some shout outs to going a bit minimalish (as my friend is now calling herself after a ground breaking wardrobe declutter).

Shopping Embargo 2011: I’ve heard of no-spend windows before but I really liked Andrea Tompkins take on it. On her blog, Quiet Fish, she outlines that Jan 1 – Feb 28 is a no spend window on non consumables for her family. Andrea doesn’t seem like a frugaltarian, or a minimalist, but a woman keeping things in check. I’m all about moderation, even in minimalism. Do what works for you. *We’re making plans here to kick it up a notch on debt reduction and will be doing something similar to Andrea’s Shopping Embargo. We don’t buy many “things” anymore but we have lots of room to curb spending at Starbucks and the movie theatre. I will put a call out to see if anyone else wants to play along.

Think you can’t afford travel? Yes, we traveled while in debt but our most recent three week run through Italy, Morrocco and Spain was saved for with change. A year and half of change (along with frequent flyer miles and a gracious week of free accomodation) got us driving through Italy, touring the bazzars of Marrakech and lounging around seaside Marbella, Spain. Seth Kugel of the NYT tells it like it is: there are choices to be made and you have to decide what your limits are.

Have a great weekend and remember to unplugg!

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  • Love the running photo Rachel! Didn’t realise you had run a marathon… I managed a half last year. I too am just getting back into it. I went for my first run last Saturday (after a break of over 3 months). I only did 3.5 miles, but really ached for days after. My plan was to eventually do a marathon, but I’m not sure, it’s the training that puts me off now I have kids… to spend hours out training is difficult, and I am not sure what I would get back from it. When I crossed the finish line at the half it wasn’t euphoric, I was just pleased to have got round – glad my team and I managed to raise some cash for Brain Tumour UK though. Let me know about your plans for running a marathon when you decide, I may join in with some virtual training – might just be the motivation I need – have a lovely day – Jo

    • Thanks, Jo. I’ve run two full marathons and three or four half marathons. The Portland full I trained really hard for and wanted to break 4 hours – ran a 4:02 =( The second half of the course was very challenging (I did a 1:55 first half and then slowed down in the second).
      Full marathons are a lot of commitment to train for. I don’t see having the time, or wanting to take that time away, when Henry is still little. I’m thinking about having a goal of going under 4 hours before I turn 40. That gives me seven years.
      Chris and I (and Katy) ran a half marathon in the fall. Did most of the training for it with Henry in the jogging stroller. Required a lot of patience and timing runs around his nap.
      Would be so fun to have a virtual training partner!!

      • Impressed with the time Rachel. I’m built for comfort not speed :-) My half was 2 hours 15, but should have been 2 hours based on my usual mins per mile over distance. I struggled from mile 10. This is probably because mentally I had it in my head if I got to 10 I was nearly there – how wrong was I? – I’d only trained up to 11.5 miles…
        Virtual training partner – I’m up for it xx

        • 2:15 is a great half time. I’m also built for comfort – 6 ft does not a runner make! But I am more competitive the longer the distance is. My 10k is slow. And I’ve never actually run a sub 2 hour half at a half marathon, 2:02 is my best time. Breaking 2 hours in an actual half is also on the bucket list.
          Might do a half this fall so I can train in nicer weather over the summer. Will let you know.

  • Thank you for this post! You saved me from”falling back into my old habits”! I was just thinking about buying a shirt (or 2) on JCrew.com because they were on sale. I left the web site to think about it and read this post. I am trying to pay down debt and not buying new clothes is part of the plan. Thank you for reminding me what is important right now!

  • Yes, while still in the middle of getting minimal, it is hard to cut back on shopping. The effort is worth it, though. I just think I still have room for improvement, as does my husband!

    That Shopping Embargo sounds like a cool idea!

    • Always room for improvement, right? We started this in the reverse order, stopped shopping, then got rid of stuff. While I am shopping less, I’m still dealing with wanting stuff. Working on it and have some strategies that I will share here soon.
      Have a great weekend, MJ, and thanks for all your comments here.

  • Yes!
    You’ve the nail on the head for me:
    right now
    freedom from want

    These are two things I struggle with on a daily basis(sometimes it’s a moment to moment thing). I’m excited to hear how you deal with these issues.
    My first steps will be reminders through out the day (via a timer on my phone) to be present.

    I love your blog and have a Henry myself. He’s 11…..it goes so fast!

    • Another Henry – love it! You were ahead of the curve on that name. Seems like there are loads of young Henrys around here but haven’t met any tweens.
      Moment to moment here too but getting better with it. It’s hard to get over a lifetime of thinking more stuff, and expensive stuff, will make your life different or better.

  • I have felt the urge to purchase some things to put on the walls after repainting and After the massive 18 month purge. After working so hard to get rid of it all, this threw me for a loop that I could get sucked back in. I attached a small dry erase board to the back of my closet door and listed our debts, so everytime I go in my room I can look at it, and refocus on our priorities and it has really helped.

    • Your debt list board is great idea. I’ve found my will and focus is better when I look at our debt spreadsheet every other day. It’s not running my life but it’s a great reminder to spend consciously.

  • “In some ways getting rid of the stuff is the easy part. Getting over the wanting the stuff is trickier.”

    So very true. Contentment is definitely a state of mind, but I found it also required considerable “practice” before it was second nature for me. I tried to do my own version of a shopping embargo a few years ago, but all I felt was deprived. It has taken a couple of years of making “not wanting” a habit. I’ve found the best way to curb both the wanting and the spending is to stay out of stores (both real and virtual) altogether. If I am in a store now, it is because there is something there I need to buy. I try not to find myself in stores without a plan for what I am looking for, or when I am bored, stressed, tired or hungry. Also, if there is something I want, I try to hold off going out shopping for it for a few weeks – I used to be a more impulsive shopper, and I find this strategy works really well for determining if what I am wanting is on impulse or really a true need. Limiting my exposure to advertising by unsubscribing to a ton of email subscriptions has helped too – if I don’t know it’s out there, I can’t want it. :) Making little things seem more special is a great way to help yourself not feel deprived – I’ve found doing certain things less often (like going to Starbucks once a week or month instead of daily) makes them seem more special, which is a great way to both save money and savour the little things.

    • Great ideas here, Erin. I have some longer posts coming up that explore some of the tactics you mentioned. Comforting to hear from another person that it is not an overnight transition but a process.

  • I don’t think I have ever been all that wanty. I was more wanty than I am now, but I have never been the sort of person to drop big sums of cash. It’s served me well.

    All the same, I did come to a place where I finally realized that my life is abundant. Something about that word made things click for me. It’s not about having stuff, or buying stuff. It’s about enjoying the stuff I had. The pleasure of my ice cream scoop is better than any IKEA catalogue. At least for me.

    • Some people don’t struggle with this. I’m always interested to hear if they think it is nature or nurture that gave them sound reasoning around wants and money. My brother grew up in the same house I did and he’s never been one to shop or spend above his means. On the other hand, as soon as I had a credit card I spent, spent, spent.
      Abundant is a great word. I’m still thinking about your word for the year concept. Maybe abundant is mine?

      • Nurture vs nature is interesting – my sister is a huge spender, always wants more stuff, whereas I have always been much more restrained and reserved. Where my sister spent until she had no money – I was always a saver. Lucky for me I guess!

  • For me becoming less “wanty” is about filling my life with the most important things, which aren’t things at all. I’ve found that by following my dream (to be a full-time writer) and having an amazing relationship with a wonderful man I don’t actually want much else. When I was busy working in a job I didn’t like in an unhappy marriage I compensated myself big time and lived a life choking in stuff and wants.

  • In 2009 I came across the idea of a spending fast and I wanted to do it for Lent. This year that is what I’ll be doing, a spending fast… 40 days! I’ve done this previously during one 2 week pay period, I spent less than 100 bucks (and out of that 100, 2 bills were paid) and it allowed me to pay OFF my braces ($1200) all at one time. BOOYAH!

  • The families that I find so gravitating and generous have all lived in the moment and enjoyed life’s twists. I rarely hear them talk about their next big “want” or spend a ton of time projecting an image.

    They are laughing as a family by the pool, playing games after dinner, stopping for Smoothies, and volunteering together. They are engaged in others. They are enjoying the NOW.

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