Tag Archives: Wants and Needs

My Complete Capsule Wardrobe

This is every single piece of clothing I own for all seasons, all occasions, and all moods. I consider it a capsule because it has a very basic, but strong frame with a few specialties. It is simple, versatile, and put together. I love the style I’ve curated and feel confident wearing my clothes. It’s basically a uniform, but with variations for weather and special occasions.

After delivering my last baby, I got rid of a bunch of maternity clothes and added a few needed items. Now I feel like I’m “finished” – at least for a while. I believe I have everything I need and am not really wanting for anything. I expect the next changes to be made to my wardrobe will be to remove items, from being too worn or not fitting anymore once I get my pre-pregnancy figure back. Otherwise, I will just replace as needed.

Instead of storing out-of-season clothing in the attic or boxes, all of my clothes are ready and available all year long (something I learned from Marie Kondo in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up). This makes being prepared for weird out-of-season weather super easy and it eliminates  the chore of swapping clothes out of storage every season. I’m always a fan of less chores.

And now… the complete list!

Dans Mon Armoire (27 hangers, 1 shelf)
1. blue striped tank-top
2. yellow flower tank-top
3. white button-up tank-top
4. blue button-up tank-top
5. blue dot button-up tank-top
6. black v-neck t-shirt
7. grey v-neck t-shirt
8. blue v-neck t-shirt
9. white v-neck t-shirt
10. white v-neck t-shirt
11. white v-neck t-shirt
12. blue long-sleeve button-up
13. red long-sleeve button-up
14. black long-sleeve button-up
15. blue wrap dress
16. purple wrap dress
17. black pocket dress
18. blue striped maxi-dress
19. black maxi-dress
20. purple and yellow flower dress
21. beaded dress (with 2 slips – white and purple)
22. black and gold sequin dress
23. blue patterned maxi-dress (maternity)
24. blue gown
25. floral sweater
26. yellow flower scarf
27. purple flower scarf
28. blue patterned scarf
29. straw hat
30. black zip-up hoodie
31-40. my shoes (10)

Dans ma vaisselle (3 large drawers)
41. blue v-neck sweater
42. purple v-neck sweater
43. black v-neck sweater
44. white chunky knit sweater
45. white knit hoodie
46. grey shorts
47. blue shorts
48. purple shorts
49. blue jean shorts
50. blue jeans
51. medium-wash blue jeans
52. dark-wash blue jeans
53. tube skirt (maternity)
54-65. underwear (12)
66-69. bras (4)
70-73. pajama tank tops (4)
74-76. pajama t-shirts (3)
77-79. pajama long-sleeve shirts (2)
80. pajama shorts romper
81. pajama pants
82. leggings
83-96. long socks (14)
97-103. short socks (7)
104-106. tights (3)
107. knit scarf
108. leather gloves
109. fingerless gloves
110. knit gloves
111. knit hat
112. bikini
113. swimsuit
114. sarong
115. work jeans
116. long-sleeve work shirt
117. short-sleeve work shirt
118-121. sports bras (3)
122-123. sports tops (2)
124. sports pants
125. sports capris
126. tennis skirt
127. snow pants

Dans le placard (4 hangers)
128. light blue jean jacket
129. dark blue trench coat (with removable liner)
130. snow coat

130 items might seem like a lot compared to Project 333‘s limit of 33, but I’m pleasantly surprised by my number of 130. True, it doesn’t include jewelry or bags, but I’m hardly wearing any now anyway. And it does include all undergarments, exercise/specialty clothing, and clothing for the entire spectrum of weather in New Jersey – from below freezing to nearly 100°F – which Project 333 does not always encompass. Also, Project 333 allows 33 items of clothing each season (33 items for 3 months – 333, get it?), so 132 items are allowed for the year – so I’ve got even less!

It’s not a contest, though (even though I won). It’s about having less clothing choices to make getting dressed everyday easier. I think Project 333 is great. I learned a lot from when I did it. It helped me figure out what I like to wear, to be mindful of curating pieces that coordinate, and realizing I really don’t need as many clothes as I had once owned to be properly dressed.

Go forth – clear your closet, clear your mind, and look and feel fabulous!

When Are Clothes “Worn Out”?

I understand that I’m supposed to replace things when they get worn out. But when, exactly, is that? When it is no longer “like new”? When it breaks completely? When I’m no longer comfortable using it?

I’ve been thinking about this relating to clothes lately, since I replaced those shoes. They weren’t totally worn out, but I replaced them anyway because they stopped serving their function for me.

But let’s take a shirt, say, that has stains on it. It still functions as a shirt. It could still be soft and comfortable and a nice style and fit well and be loved. Should the shirt be replaced only if the stain bothers the wearer? Or because it has a certain societal connotations to wear stained clothes? Like, that person is dirty or that person can’t afford new clothes or what a slob that person is.

I guess even then it comes down to whether those connotations bother the wearer or not. Do they give a hoot about what other people think of them? Or are they confident to wear a stained shirt because they know they’re not dirty or broke or a slob? Just that, maybe, they were in the wrong place at the wrong time in a restaurant or something.

In some situations, it may not even be up to the wearer to decide to replace a stained shirt or not. A boss may say, “You can’t wear that here – you need to look presentable”, i.e. more put together, i.e. not like a dirty, poor, slob. Definitely different jobs have different standards. Someone working retail in a fancy purse store would be required to dress very differently than someone who works in the kitchen at a local restaurant.

It may not always be a job that tries to dictate what someone wears, either. It may be a small group of peers, the culture at large, or someone’s own internal beliefs about how they think others are pressuring them, even if no one really is.

Anyway, so what I’m trying to figure out, is when clothes are too worn out for me. I wouldn’t wear a stained shirt to work, but I’m fine wearing them at home. I know I’m not a slob, but I do feel a bit slobby when I wear them. But honestly, my infant could spit up on me at any moment, so why bother dressing nicely? Except, from my experience, dressing nicely can improve mood and self-confidence. Even if no one else sees me.

Okay, I’m going around and around here. Wearing slightly worn clothes is still different from deciding when to get rid of items that are worn out. My sneakers: not totally worn out, but I got rid of them anyway. My sandals: really showing wear now. The bottom soles have been re-glued, the color is faded, the inner soles are worn down, the stitching is frayed, the straps are a bit stretched out. But they are still serving their function as sandals for me.

How can I tell the difference between when something is worn in and loved and comfortable and a staple, distinctive piece for me or when it is worn out and just looks bad? Oh jeez, I just realized that answer is probably different for everybody. So I have to make up my own rules. Or just go with my gut for when it’s time to let go of each item? Whew! So much pressure. Life is so hard!

Just kidding.

Deciding when clothes are too worn is an individual decision based on personal comfort levels, job requirements, style expression, and also budget. For me, it is also a balance between getting the most use out of a purchase (the most bang for my buck, as they say) while also not feeling like I’m wearing dirty rags.

I suppose like many things in life, this decision is a complicated mix of rational thought and gut feeling. Making decisions that way can be scary because what if… x 1,000, but the more I make decisions this way, the better I get at it. So, you know, leveling up at life in general.

Anyway. I guess that’s all I’ve got to ramble on about this subject for now. Stay tuned for a detailed list of my complete capsule wardrobe! (I’m scared it’s going to be even bigger than I think it is…)

My Minimal Shoe Collection

I recently bought new sneakers. I was hesitant at first because I already had sneakers that weren’t totally worn out. But they did have a pretty big flaw – the rubber along the side of the toes came apart – that made the shoes very uncomfortable. The laces’ aglets or pebbles would get stuck constantly and cause discomfort.

I already tried gluing the rubber back to the canvas, but it didn’t even last a day. So even though they weren’t totally worn out, I felt comfortable replacing them because one of the most important functions my sneakers must accomplish is “be comfortable”.

Since I brought in a new pair of shoes, though, I must send out an old pair.  Easy this time since sneakers are replacing sneakers. I will donate them because, like I said, they aren’t very worn. Maybe someone can figure out how to fix that rubber, or maybe it won’t bother someone else as much as it bothered my feet.

One pair in, one pair out, to keep my shoe collection small. I keep all of my shoes on one shelf in my closet (except for my dirty lawn-mowing shoes).

Here are the shoes that are in my minimal collection:

  • Casual Sneakers. For everyday comfort and nature.
  • Running sneakers. For exercise and sports (mostly tennis).
  • Sandals. For everyday coolness and breathe-ability.
  • Flip flops. For the beach and public showers.
  • 2 high heels. For fancy-times. I really don’t need 2 pairs. After they are worn, I will only keep one pair of high heels in my collection. Or possibly replace them with fancy flats. Or keep one pair high heels and one pair fancy flats. Because even though flats are soooo much more practical, high heels just add that sexy flair I want sometimes.
  • Vibrams. For kayaking and other water adventures.
  • Causal boots. For everyday warmth.
  • Waterproof work boots. For rain, snow, and yard work.
  • Steel-toe sneakers. For mowing the lawn.

Maybe 10 pairs of shoes is way more than some people need. Maybe it’s less than others need. I could probably slim down a little – find one pair to satisfy what my sandals and flip flops do, one pair for work and lawn mowing, one fancy pair – but right now I’m working with what I’ve already got. I’ll probably do that slimming down as they wear out.

I don’t buy shoes often now, definitely not as often as I used to. I used to have a dozen pairs of flip flops, 3 pairs of casual sneakers, several pairs of sandals, all in different colors for different “options” in my outfits. It is so much easier to have fewer shoes in colors already coordinated with my capsule wardrobe/personal uniform. Much less decision fatigue and a lot more free space in my closet.

My life is so much easier since I began seeing shoes as functional, yet stylish, instruments instead of fashion accessories. Forget fashion, now I buy shoes that are my style. It’s easier to choose what to wear each day when each shoe serves a purpose. They all coordinate with all of my clothes already, so I choose the pair that goes with my planned activity.

Simple. Useful. Enjoyable.

There’s More Than One Way to Be Happy

Sometimes, I think, we get an idea in our heads and we lock onto it as the way to make us happy, despite being somewhat arbitrary. It could be owning a certain thing, accomplishing a certain goal, being with a certain person, or having a certain job. But from what I’ve experienced so far in my life, there are infinite ways to be happy.

I’ve had my eye on a beautiful floral muslin throw blanket for months, but haven’t bought it because it’s a bit expensive. Maybe buying that blanket will make me happy — I do find looking at pictures of it beautiful and pleasing — but maybe I’ll be just as happy without it. Or maybe I’ll be happier. Maybe loving that blanket so much will make me upset if something gets spilled on it or if the cat scratches a hole in it.

I was extremely happy with my MacBook for the 11 years I used it. I was so happy with the computer that I thought when it needed replacing, I would just replace it with the same yet newer model. It didn’t work out that way, but I am still really happy with my Chromebook. And it doesn’t feel like a different kind of happiness either. I was happy with what my MacBook could do and I’m happy with what my Chromebook can do. I’m just happy. Maybe I got lucky. Maybe I just made myself easy to please.

The movie “La La Land” is a good example of this, I think. SPOILER ALERT. The first time I saw the movie, I enjoyed it very much, but hated the ending. Why couldn’t they be together? I wanted them to be together! Why tell us their story if they don’t end up together? Years of perfect cinematic bliss have conditioned me to want the story arc with the predictable ending. But life is unpredictable. That doesn’t mean we still can’t end up happy. Just like the characters in “La La Land”. They went separate ways, despite agreeing they would both still love each other, and they were still happy.

Is it just that we think we are so wise we could absolutely know what was best for us to make us happy? I mean, there are infinite possibilities in this world. How could we possibly know what will make us happy? Why would we limit it to just one or very few things?

What if being happy was just a choice we made. No matter how things were going in our lives — what we owned, who we were with, the work we did — we just decided to be happy anyway. Or found a way to be happy with what we had. Gratitude, I believe, is a big part of this. And also giving up a bit of control. Giving up trying to control every aspect of our lives and instead focusing on controlling how we react. Letting stress go in favor of trusting in the universe to give us what we need (not necessarily what we think we want) and figuring out how to be happy no matter what we’re dealt.

I’ve heard stories of it happening. People who have had real shit cards dealt in their lives, but who are happy, warm, kind, and generous anyway. Maybe we can all try this, no matter how (seemingly) small the circumstance. Instead of driving ourselves crazy to get to that 1 holy grail of happiness we picked out, let’s be happy with all the little pebbles that cross our paths.

Or let’s just try to accept that there is more than one way to be happy. Reminding ourselves of that is sure to help us get over disappointments more quickly than if the stakes are always high. A little prompt that’s more concrete than indistinct optimism: There is more than one way to be happy.

When to Be Serious and Silly

I gave birth to my baby 3 1/2 weeks early. There were some complications. He, nicknamed Dozer, was swept away from Andrew and me to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) within 30 minutes of being born. We had never experienced anything like this before and were inundated with emotions.

We were shocked – he had arrived and left so quickly. We were upset – we didn’t know very much, only that something was wrong. We were nervous – could it get worse? We were happy – he was alive! We were confused – what exactly was happening? We were relieved – they could take care of him and make him better. And I was in pain, but okay.

Our new baby’s condition was a serious thing, but we had each other.

Once we found out more, we knew that Dozer would be okay, it would just take some time – about a week in the NICU. We did not like this… well, we did because it meant that he was getting the care he needed by capable and caring doctors and nurses, but our instincts were telling us otherwise. It should only be a week… but at the same time, it’s a whole week!

We knew he needed to be incubated with tubes in his noses and throat and wires stuck all over and IVs in his veins, but our instincts were telling us to hold him skin-to-skin, smell him, feed him, hug and kiss him, love him, take him home. Our other two sons still haven’t meant their new baby brother. We want the family together. But we must be patient, stay calm, and do what we know is best.

Andrew and I are taking our baby’s health seriously. We listen to the hospital staff and follow rules. We participate in whatever care we can. We even go home without him to eat and shower and spend time with Wingnut and Pigpen because we need that self-care and our other children still need our time and attention. We do what we can, when we can, even if it never feels like enough.

And we joke while we do it.

We keep ourselves occupied instead of needlessly worrying – watching a movie, playing games, reading, talking. We make silly comments. We laugh when Dozer farts. We make fun of his squishy faces. We make fun of each other. We connect with each other and other people. They are there to help us. We are helping each other – supporting each other – being silly to keep each other sane.

Being serious and silly are equally important, and most times should be practiced simultaneously.

Do what needs to be done… with a light heart.
Accept things as they are… while doing whatever you can to make it better.
Be wise… by finding a way to laugh.
Trust… and brighten when possible.

Be serious… and silly.

Andrew and I are bummed we need to wait to bring our baby home and our family together. But we are so, so happy that he is here at all and getting stronger every day. We are able to get through this difficult and serious time with slight sillies – by lightening the situation up for each other so it’s never too heavy for either of us to bear.

What’s In My Hospital Bag for Baby #3

It’s nice to have some extra clothes and home comforts in the hospital with you when it’s time to deliver your baby. And of course there are the things you need, which is actually a lot less than you might think (especially for a baby born during warm weather).

I’m speaking from the vantage point of delivering a baby in a hospital as opposed to anywhere else because a hospital is where I birthed my previous two babies and plan to birth my third. I really have no idea what other situations might be like or the accessories they might entail. Judging from experience, I like how easy my hospital makes it for me.

First, a list of what is in my bag.

The Essentials

  • A postpartum outfit. For me, this summer, this means maternity waisted (as in not full-panel elastics) shorts and maternity waisted jeans (I highly doubt I’ll wear the jeans, but who knows, maybe there will be a cool night); a loose v-neck t-shirt; and one nursing bra. I will have the shoes I wear to the hospital – either sandals or flip-flops. A nice summer dress would also do nicely, but I’m wearing them constantly pre-delivery and I don’t want to take even one out of rotation to make sure it’s clean and packed and ready to go.
  • 2 outfits for the baby. Outfit 1: A Newborn Size short-sleeve onesie; tiny shorts; a thin cotton hat; and Outfit 2: a Size 0-3 Months short-sleeve shorts romper; with previously mentioned thin cotton hat.
  • Baby mittens. So the silly baby doesn’t scratch himself up with his newly exposed fingernails.
  • 2 thin baby blankets. Many people take the blanket from the hospital, but they really don’t want you to. I use hospital blankets whenever possible, however, so if they get messy they will be laundered right away. I wrap my newborn in one blanket for a while and then send it home with visiting family so they can introduce the scent of the new family member to our cats. The other thin baby blanket should be more than enough to keep the baby warm if his outfits aren’t enough.
  • Extra contact case and solution. I am in the habit of removing and cleaning my contacts every night and I suspect my eyes would hate it if I kept them in for 2-3 days straight in the hospital. I just don’t like sleeping with contacts in either. I want to be able to put them back in during the day, though, because my glasses aren’t comfortable enough to wear all day.
  • Eyeglasses and case. Okay, these aren’t technically in my bag yet because I still wear them every night. But I have a Post-it Note next to my bag reminding me to grab them out of my nightstand before leaving for the hospital. As it gets closer to my due date, I will just store them in my hospital bag, taking them out for whenever I need to use them at night.
  • My purse. This includes my wallet with all necessary ID, insurance cards, and money, and my cell phone.

The Comforts

  • Nursing pads. At home I use washable organic cotton nursing pads. A cousin had given me a box of disposable ones that I kept forgetting to use at home when Pigpen was nursing. I’m packing them mostly so they’ll get used, and somewhat because I think they might be convenient to have.
  • Cell phone charger.
  • Camera and charger.

Now a list of things I am not bringing.

  • Diapers/feminine pads/disposable underwear. The hospital provides all we need and more to take home with us.
  • Toiletries. The hospital provides it all. And I’ve actually never showered in the 2 days spent at the hospital after giving birth. I’m too busy sleeping, nursing, interacting with doctors and nurses, and generally recovering. I’ve already established that I don’t need to shower very often to feel good. You may want to shower, but the hospital should provide all you need to do so.
  • Slippers or socks. My hospital provides comfy, fuzzy, grip-y socks with my gown as soon as I get a room.
  • Baby socks. Summer here is quite warm and, again, the baby blanket can pick up any slack.
  • Book or magazine and journal. I’ve brought these before and never used them. During the day, I’m busy. At night, I try to sleep. For entertainment, I talk with my husband or we watch the luxury of cable tv, which we don’t have at home.
  • Snacks. The hospital provides me with all the food I need. Andrew isn’t included in the meal plan, but that’s up to him. I’ve got enough to worry about. If I get hungry, I send Andrew out to bring me extra food.
  • iPod.

All that I am bringing fits in a medium-sized backpack with room to spare. I am a minimalist so I am not bringing much. But I will definitely have everything I need. I’ve learned I don’t need other “comforting” items, because as long as my husband is there and my baby is healthy, I’m good.

2-3 days is not a long time and there is actually a lot to do. Mind you, I believe that rest is a very important thing to do in the hospital. (Especially before we bring our tiny new infant home to two toddlers.) I don’t need my hospital room to emulate a luxurious hotel room or spa experience to accomplish the simple act of resting. We are there to get our baby safely from my belly into the world and to ensure he’s healthy enough to go home. Then we get comfortable, in our family home, together.

The Fear of Downsizing… My Computer

What if it’s not enough? What if I can’t do what I need to do? What if I can’t do what I want to do? Is it even worth the investment? Should I wait for something bigger or better to present itself? What if it’s not what I expect? What if it’s not enough?

I am in need of a new computer and I have made the choice to downsize. And I’m a little scared.

I have owned 2 personal computers in my life. My first experience with a computer was a Gateway desktop, with dial-up internet. Man, I loved playing in that cow-colored box. Next, when I was in high school, my parents bought me my own black Dell desktop that I kept in my room. We got better internet in that era and it was awesome. And finally in January 2006, after a semester of excellent attendance and grades in college, my parents bought me a sleek white MacBook.

I love this MacBook. It has served me very well in the past 11 years and 5 months. And it’s still going! I debate getting rid of it at all, but, truth be told, it’s just getting too outdated. Can I use it for what I need to do? Yes, most of the time.

Here’s the deal.

  • I don’t have much storage space. I store all of my music on an external hard drive because there is no room on my actual computer. Same for photos. So then I just started storing all documents on the external hard drive, too. All of the storage space on this computer is basically used in a way so the computer itself will function — it’s not storing any of my personal files anymore.
  • The battery is pretty much dead. I need to keep this computer plugged in all the time when I am using it. It will stay on for a few minutes between outlets if I need to move it, but that’s it. This has essentially made my laptop into a desktop for the last 5 years. I just never got around to replacing the battery and now it seems too late.
  • I always need to keep this laptop open. I mean, physically keep the screen up. There is some sort of loose wire in the hinge and whenever I close the laptop, it is very, very, difficult to open it again and still see the screen. I can see an extremely faint outline of items on the screen, but it is essentially black. It can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes to finagle the screen back up with a back-lit picture showing. So I just leave it open all the time to avoid that hassle. But that creates other hassles, like dust collecting in the keyboard and cats stepping on it and opening unexpected windows and menus.
  • It just can’t handle another update. I needed to update my operating system about 2 years ago to be able to connect to our wireless printer. This took up even more storage space and was not compatible with a lot of my software, such as Microsoft Office. I’ve been able to get along just fine without the software, thanks to things like Google Docs and online photo editors. But even though I just updated the operating system, this system is not supported for many other updates, including, most importantly for me, Google Chrome. Sadly, the hardware of this system just can’t support another operating system update and it doesn’t seem worth the money to essentially rebuild it with components that will.

I would love to replace this MacBook with the current equivalent, but now that the money is coming out of my pocket, I think, that starting at around $1,200, it’s too expensive. We have student loan debt and a mortgage and home repair debt. We could take some of our income and put it towards a new MacBook, but it just doesn’t make sense to me if it’s going to slow down our debt repayments. Even if we had no debt… well, maybe I would buy a MacBook then… but really I would want to do even more home improvements — like finish our attic and basement to better utilize the space we already have.

So I decided not to buy another MacBook. Thus began my quest to find a suitable replacement. One that didn’t run Windows (I really dislike the Windows operating system). Eventually, for $214, I decided on getting a Chromebook… And that’s where the major downsizing came in.

I am losing some functionality, but I think I can make it work. (I hope it works!) It satisfies 3 out of the 4 problems listed above with my current MacBook — it’ll have a new battery with a long life, it will be mobile, and it will technologically up-to-date. The thing is, it still doesn’t have much storage space.

Chromebooks are designed to have most, if not all, digital matter stored in the Cloud. I’m a little weary of storing everything on the internet, but I do still have my external hard drive to store back-ups and super personal files. My husband has a Toshiba laptop running Windows to which I will transfer my iTunes account, since one cannot run iTunes on an Chromebook at all. I fear that not having my very own iTunes will be the thing I miss the most — after all, I’ve already been dealing with no storage space and loss of software for a few years now — but it will definitely be manageable.

There’s probably a lot more that even my current obsolete MacBook can do that a Chromebook cannot, but when I really thought about it, I decided I didn’t really need it. I asked myself “What do I use my computer for on a day-today basis?” and “What do I want to use it for in the future?”

Right now, I basically use my computer for the internet — things like online banking, email, domestic shopping, connecting to the library, searching for information, reading blogs, etc. — and a Chromebook should be ace at allowing me to do all that.

In the future, I want to do more writing. It certainly does not take a powerful computer to do word processing, so a Chromebook should manage fine. I will have to give up Scrivener, but as much as I like Scrivener, I am looking forward to the simplicity of writing without all the bells and whistles. Like, a typewriter has been seeming very appealing to me lately — no distractions. A Chromebook will be full of internet distractions, but I can also just physically disconnect from that for a while.

There are lots of other things that I’ve used a computer for in the past, like editing videos and photos, but I’ve grown away from them and have no desire to go back to it. I have a family now and want to spend more time with them and less time in front of a screen. And since I’ll be sharing iTunes with my husband, maybe that’ll bring us closer, too, ha. I’m diving in — the Chromebook should arrive in the mail sometime next week — and I’ll just see how it goes.

Hopefully it’s enough.

Debt Feelings

I hate debt. Our family experienced a hardship a few months ago in the form of a car crash last October. We are all healthy and well, which I am super thankful for, but our finances took a hit and it’s been a hard battle getting back on top again.

My husband and I usually never carry credit card balances, but we have $3,000 worth of credit card debt right now and it is really weighing down on us. Not only are we stressed out, but we feel a bit hopeless. I feel stuck on a hamster wheel of work, work, working toward paying it off and yet we’re not getting anywhere.

There are a few unfortunate circumstances and mistakes that have put us in this position.

First, of course, was the car crash. We lost the value of the car we crashed, we had to pay towing and other varying reparations, and we had to buy a new car. That totaled at about $9,600. (Ugh, it’s painful to see it written out here.) That wiped out our meager savings and then some.

Then, it was Christmas and the whole holiday season in general. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get comfortable financially during that time of year and I just can’t seem to manage it. We don’t spend a lot on gifts, but we do get some things. Like, I bought the clothes Wingnut and Pigpen needed for Christmas because I still feel this obligation to have something under the tree for them (I want to get rid of that nagging feeling of duty). We get a tree, we go to parties, we go out with friends. It’s a season of celebration and it cost us money. Money we didn’t have.

Next, Andrew and I needed some clothes, too. He really needed new sneakers. The soles on his old ones were smooth with wear and his socks got wet in the rain. So we went shopping. I also bought some clothes I “needed”. That is in quotations because I did kind of need the stuff I bought. I am wearing them all now and getting tons of use out of them. I am very happy and satisfied with the purchases. The only problem was: we bought them on credit. I bought these wonderful pieces of clothing without the cash to do so. And if I am really truly honest with myself, although my old clothes were uncomfortable and deteriorating, I really could’ve gotten by without buying new. The old stuff was falling apart, but it was still keeping me warm.

The anxiety I’m feeling now, makes me wish I was more discerning then. But then that’s the problem with credit — it’s easy to justify purchases because it’s so easy to swipe the card. We can afford this swipe and this swipe and this swipe, but not all these swipes together. Because even if the purchases are perfectly legitimate, we still didn’t have the money to buy them. And I don’t know, that makes me feel poor.

And now I get into the controversial bit. I really don’t think I’m poor because we have a house and eat pretty well and have an annual income pretty dead-center in the average range for middle-class households of 3 in New Jersey (although we are a household of 4). But when you calculate in our debt, it starts to look a lot more dire.

We already paid off about 50% of our student loan debt, which is awesome. But the remaining balances are 71% of our annual income, which is definitely not awesome. They come out to be 26% of our monthly budget. Our mortgage is another 25% of our monthly budget, leaving less than half for all other living expenses, like food, heat, and transportation. Which brings our annual income clearly below what is considered middle-class, but still not technically under the federal poverty line.

Truthfully, I grew up comfortably middle-class, maybe even upper middle-class, and I’m just not used to saying no to a new coat when my current one is falling apart. But this winter, that’s how it’s been for us. It’s a personal experience and it hasn’t been pleasant for us. We’re stressed and despairing. I believe that we will get out of debt, but the wait is excruciating. I’m hoping to at least get these credit cards paid off within the next month or two and I hope that’s realistic because I really, really want it gone. Then it’s back to work building up our emergency savings before we can even think about tackling any more student loans.

Having debt sucks. I want to feel free and content and comfortable buying things we need. I want to feel secure in our finances, especially our savings, in case we experience another hardship. Regardless of whether we are or not, I don’t want to feel poor. I don’t want thousands and thousands of dollars of debt hanging over my head. I don’t want to be overdrawn or in perpetual service to indebtedness.

And to do that honestly, I think I’ll need to reevaluate my standard of living.

Some Thoughts on Minimal Privilege

About a year ago, I wrote about increasing satisfaction through deprivation. I tried my best to turn a difficult situation into something from which to learn and grow. I wanted to feel good about a state of lack and so I decided to be appreciative.

Last night, the blower on our furnace broke down. We had no heat, save for a small space heater we borrowed to keep the children’s bedroom warm (Andrew and I piled on blankets to stay warm while we slept), while a snow storm blew outside.
During the day, with the snow falling harder, the space heater actually did a pretty good job of keeping the house warm while we waited for an available HVAC technician to come take a look at our furnace. The temperature in the house never even dipped below 60°F.
As we endured this slight inconvenience, I kept thinking about what I wrote about in my Increasing Satisfaction Through Deprivation post and I didn’t feel as comfortable with it. I mean, I think it still has its merits, but since I read a guest post on Becoming Minimalist about Minimal Privilege, I just haven’t been able to think about it in the same way.
All of us are permitted to have our own feelings and experiences. My experiences are not less valid because someone else experiences something harder. But being aware of what others may be going through is a powerful concept. I feel less flippant about using deprivation as a tool — using my privilege to choose how and when to deprive myself — when it is a real life struggle for some people.
I sometimes feel bogged down by our debt, but I don’t really have to worry about having enough food for my family or having the electric cut off or being able to keep the family warm enough. We are quite fortunate and it will serve me well to remember that.
It’s also good for me to remember that others may not be as fortunate as myself so I can do what I can to help, whether that be by donating to charities, helping a friend, or by being more mindful during conversations.

The Importance of Rest

I’m not an expert on anything. But I do know that when it comes to myself (I guess I am kind of an expert on myself), rest is key.

For me, the daily rest I need is at least 7 hours, preferably 8 hours, or sleep per night. But when I’m feeling exhausted, I need to take a break — even if it’s just sitting on the couch for 5 minutes. Rest is the only thing that can properly recharge me.

Now that I’m pregnant with my third child (surprise!), rest is even more important. Hurray naps! And we all need to remember to pay attention to any special situations that may require more rest for our bodies.

For example, when we’re sick, especially with something as seemingly harmless as a cold, we sometimes kind of just power through it. We acknowledge we’re sick, feel miserable, maybe take some drugs, and then slog through so our daily lives aren’t interrupted. We may want to just magically feel better, but we need to take care of ourselves.

I think this may be because we’re afraid of seeming weak, or asking for help, or just dealing with an inconvenience in our lives. But the truth is, sometimes we just need rest. Science has come a long way, but there is still no substitute for some good, solid, rest.

And, man, do we need it sometimes. Let’s give it to ourselves! Just like our bodies need food, water, and activity, they need rest. Let’s not forget this important part of our lively balance. Sometimes, I even schedule it right into my day.

Remember, balance is poise — a graceful and elegant bearing in a person.