Possum Living: Laying the Ground Rules

So back at the beginning of the year (is 2018 over yet, because it feels like it has hung around long enough!), I shared some of my goals. One of them was the most ambitious thing I have ever tried. Inspired by the book Possum Living (cool video here), I plan to go all of 2018 without buying anything I don’t NEED. Sometimes there is a giant grey area between needs and wants. Take books, for example. I need books like I need air. But do I NEED to BUY them? Unless it is a text for my job, probably not. This outline is rather fluid, and time may force some changes, but I will share any changes as a means of holding myself accountable.

Needs:

  • Gasoline
  • Food
  • College tuition
  • Clothing (but NO T-SHIRTS)
  • Utilities and mortgage
  •  Cellphone – I have a Tracfone, so I have to get service cards periodically. Texts are $5 for 1000, and it’s the primary way we communicate at work
  • Books specifically relevant to work – must be read within a month of purchase
  • Car (I signed my car’s death warrant when I put my favorite sticker on it)
  • Potting soil and bare bones supplies for growing plants to sell at Farmer’s Market
  • Photo books – I do these twice a year as a gift for my mom, but I also get one for me. My photos are essential. But no superfluous photo gifts. I use Snapfish, and they usually provide me with good coupons.

Wants:

  • Books (Goodbye, BookBub! Until next year?) – Not even the illustrated Goblet of Fire due out in October
  • Harry Potter memorabilia (this kills me!)
  • Music (unless I already have gift card credit on the music site)
  • Toys for the pets. It’s too bad, really, because Lumen is quite destructive, but she LOVES HER TOYS SO MUCH! I stocked up on the one toy she hasn’t managed to completely murder and dismantle, so she won’t have nothing. Don’t look at me like that!
  • Additional pets – (no more snakes? WHAT? But… but…)
  • He wants a friend…

  • Additional pet housing, beyond basic supplies (food, UVB bulbs, etc
  • Toys in general
  • Impulse buys for the kids
  • Clearance holiday stuff *whimper* unless it’s for prizes for my students
  • Squishables
  • Coffee or meals out – unless I am traveling or it is pre-arranged date-night
  • Postage for packages to friends
  • Gifts – beyond family birthdays and gift-giving holidays
  • An addendum to the above rule: no creating gift-giving holidays. In our house, Valentine’s Day is a children’s holiday. I cannot turn it into a “Hey, gimme this Funko Pop! figure” holiday.

So you’re here to hold me accountable.  Almost As much fun as a host of fleas nesting in your armpits.

I make a lot of impulse purchases when I’m feeling sad, lonely, depressed, excited, anxious. I admit that I shop (and eat) to deal with feelings and to fill a void. So what am I going to do when that shopper vibe starts bouncing in my brain? I’m going to be creative. Literally. Like, I’m going to create something. Here are some ways to channel my energy

  • Write – I’ve been successful with this one. I have been writing a LOT. I have written so many blog posts this year already, and that’s not even the tip of my brain’s iceberg. I think I could spend the next few weeks and write out blog posts for each day for the rest of the year. Don’t worry. I won’t. But I could. And I wrote a short story and entered a writing competition. So yay.
  • Take Lumen for a walk or a run- I ran with her a few days ago, and I totally freaked her out. “If Mommy’s running, someone must be chasing! LET’S MAKE TRACKS!”
  • Who’s the happiest dog-parking dog in the world? And maybe the most exhausted. Little Pittie mixes are fast and intense, old girl!

  • Read – I am on NetGalley, and I’m working on reading a book I’m super-excited about. And when I read the book, I can REVIEW it, so that brings me back to WRITING!
  • Knit – I have the basics down. Yay, me. But I suck at it. Practice makes perfect, so I shall practice.
  • Give stuff away – Stuff begets more stuff. If I clear out some of the clutter, I am less inclined to buy matching clutter. Also, moving stuff out helps me to realize how much I already HAVE.
  • Make little turtles out of Sculpey – I’m good at this, and I owe some people some critters. I gotta get on this as soon as my right arm begins functioning again.
  • Play Neko Atsume -What better way to practice becoming a crazy cat lady than to learn to attract stray cats?

    My yarn balls bring ALL the kitties to the yard. And I can’t get rid of them. Help!

 

How do YOU deal with anxiety or depression? What’s the most effective thing for you? Tell me in the comments.

 

 

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Every Single Time

Every time, I promise myself this time will be different. I will be strong. I will not forget who I am.I will not give in to the anger or swear under my breath. I will not dissolve into a puddle of hatred and self-recrimination.  And every time, I am wrong. Wal-mart just has that effect on me.

Yes. I shop at Wal-mart. Don’t judge. No, go ahead. I judge myself all the time. But my choices at this point are to get a real job and put Squish in daycare or shop where my current budget allows. Rock, meet Hard Place. But I digress. We do buy our milk, eggs, and most of our soy products from a store where we can buy organic. We do what we can, right? RIGHT?

I hate going grocery shopping so much that I only go every two weeks. Planning out my menus for two weeks is a bit of a pain, but it limits the pummeling on my poor psyche gets to twice a month. I dread the trip. I should say I go no more than every two weeks. I will put it off for as long as possible, until we are eating pancakes and black beans every night (not together. That would be gross.). When it gets to the point where sweet husband is asking what I’m serving for dinner with trepidation in his voice, I know I can’t avoid it any longer. And yesterday, it was time.

I decided shopping would be less painful if it didn’t take an important part of my day (i.e. nap time). The plan was to make out the list at breakfast and go straight after dumping kids at school. Determined not to let the prospect of shopping ruin the morning, I plastered a sunny (psychotic?) smile on my face and asked the family what kind of things they’d like to see on the menu for the next two weeks. If I include them in the process, they are less likely to complain about what I am serving, right? RIGHT? Whatever. I might as well have asked them what kind of tires to put on the dishwasher for all the interest they showed. Sweet husband dutifully took pen in hand while I walked the 9 year old to school and made a few additions. A very few. He suggested that we have pancakes two nights. I give up.

But I was not going to let this trip turn me into a dried up, bitter shrew. That’s what having teenagers is for. This trip was for sustenance. Nothing more. So I packed up Squish, and we went. I cheerfully headed to the general merchandise section for the non-foods on my list. I found soap quickly enough, though the aisle was so narrow I had to leave my cart where it was. No problem. Next on the list? Deodorant. Piece of cake. I found it with no trouble. Except there was not a single brand for me. Not one. Do other people’s husbands not stink after their morning 5 mile run? My husband is secure in his masculinity, but I am pretty sure that if I brought home something that made him smell like flowers, he’d have something to say about it. No problem. I picked one that is unscented. What’s that, pumpkin? No. Mommy is only talking to herself. She is being so silly! No, those aren’t words Mommy wants you to use. This is FUN!

I managed to find my knitting needles in the proper size with little trouble, and I found the sandwich containers on sale (score!). Selling my soul for 25 cents off is what it is all about. Then I needed to find doorknob covers to keep Squish out of trouble at home. I located the baby section pretty easily. But the aisles are no longer marked. Nor do they make any sense. You may find diapers and bottles in pretty much the same spot. I certainly didn’t mind walking up, down and sideways through every aisle. Twice. It was actually fun! It was! So fun!

How I managed to contain my excitement and get over to the grocery side, I will never know. We had a fantastic time looking for our pretzels. I know those silly managers stock them in four different places just to make our trip exciting. Like a treasure hunt! X marks the spot. Where I lost my mind. Something snapped, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I began loudly talking to “myself” about the morons who created this ever-lovin’ floor plan, about the aisles that are so narrow that two people can’t pass, about the fact that the store has only carried the light variety of string cheese for MONTHS! If I want to be fat, I will jolly well be fat! Fat and jolly!

I shoved my cart to the check out and did my best to maintain pleasant small-talk with the cashier.  It wasn’t his fault. I grabbed up my groceries and headed to the car. And it was raining. Perfect. And once I got home, I was going to have to unload the stupid things on my own. Awesome. But I bought a lot of stuff. Plenty, really. I bet I can stretch these groceries out for at least three weeks. I think I’ll make some beans.

 

 

Back to School Blues

This photo has nothing to do with the blog except that padlopers make me happy. And I need that.

The beginning of the school year is hard for me. It’s not the forced adherence to an arbitrary schedule. It’s not having to say goodbye to the kids I’ve had such fun with. It’s not the sudden inability to pack up the troops and head off on some fun adventure. Sure, there’s some of that. But here’s my secret. I despise the end of summer because I have to shop for school supplies.

When I was a kid, I loved shopping for my school supplies. I’d run home from school on the first day proudly brandishing my list. I couldn’t wait until dinner was over so we could dash out to the store. Each item on the list represented an opportunity to buy something new. All for me. The possibilities were so exciting. Would there be enough money in the budget for me to have the Garfield folders instead of the plain ones? Would my mom spring for those weird triangular pencil grips that were all the rage, even though I had nibbled through every one she had ever bought me? And if there was something really unique on the list like a watercolor set, so much the better And I couldn’t wait to go to school the next day and compare my new treasures with those of my friends.

Fast forward a few years and a few kids, and the shine has definitely worn off a bit. I dread the arrival of “the list,” and I am in a snit from the moment it arrives. I don’t mind outfitting my kids for a school year. What bugs me is that I am forced to go to Wal-mart.

I know that there are other stores that sell school supplies. Office supply places spam my inbox every day with their “unbeatable” deals. But school supply lists rarely contain only school supplies anymore. As much as I hate shopping at Wal-mart, it’s worse when I have to visit multiple stores. So off to the mart we go.

I don’t know about your area, but our big, soul-sucking box stores have a little cardboard kiosk where befuddled parents can pick up supply lists starting in early July. A simple courtesy or shameless marketing? And here’s the catch. They only carry the lists for nearby schools. In my town, there are a LOT of schools, and the Wal-mart that is most convenient for us is apparently out of our area.

There’s something a little demoralizing about being zoned for a Wal-mart. We’ve all seen People of Wal-mart . I’m sorry I can’t live up to those standards . And you can forget about visiting the one that is officially “in our area.” Yes, it is brand new, but the floor-plan was designed by a schizophrenic. The make-up and produce are in the same area, the whole building has a ceiling that consists of bare pipes. Except for the bakery, which has an 8 foot ceiling and such low lighting that it’s like buying your baked goods at a garage sale. Yummy.

The aisles themselves also also drive me nuts with their inconsistency, as though the whole thing was thrown together in a hurry. Nothing says “quality control” like having so much space in Baking that you can fit 5 carts abreast but making Storage Containers so narrow that two carts can barely pass one another. And there’s no way to get from the front of the store to the back without going to the path in the center of the store because the sections are now a perpendicular maze. I get so frustrated that I end up channeling the spirit of the floor plan designer, talking to myself and swearing under my breath.

So this year, the kids and I stopped by a Wal-mart while we were running errands in a different part of town. I was determined that this year would be different. I would not end the trip in a horrible mood. I would not complain. I would enjoy this time of excited anticipation with my children. Whatever.

The smell hit me the moment we entered the (well-hidden) school supply section. I sniffed the baby. I sniffed the older children. We collectively checked the bottom of our shoes. Apparently, we didn’t bring this delightful aroma with us. It was already here. It smelled as though someone had taken a dump in the floor. A big one. Having once reported to my register 15 minutes late because I was trying to prevent shoppers from slipping in a puddle of urine, I am well aware of the probability of that little scenario. Yes, I once worked at Wal-mart. And I have seen things.

And that little trip never got any better. We were unable to locate most of the items on the list, and we were forced across the street to Target. Don’t get me started. Target is just as soul-less, minus the poop, and I wasn’t any happier when I left their store.

But if you would please excuse me. My daughter just brought home her list. I need to run to Wal-mart.

What NOT To Do At A Kids’ Consignment Sale

Having spent the last few weeks consumed by preparations for a local consignment sale, I have learned a thing or two that I thought I would share with you.

At a kids’ consignment sale, NEVER:

-Go to the bathroom at the sale. You will be in line behind 12 moms and their toilet-trainees as they cajole, beg and plead with their young padawans (potty-wans) to “Go pee pee in the potty. Come on! Make a little pee pee for Mommy!” And trainee boys have very, very poor aim. Find a gas station on your way to the sale. It will be faster AND more sanitary.

– Let your small children run loose while you shop. It’s as much for your safety as for your child’s. If your child is driving a Barbie jeep up and down the aisles or dumping merchandise on the floors, your fellow shoppers will hate you and will wish you ill. Studies show that strangers are 125 times more likely to create a voodoo doll in your likeness and step on its head than to kidnap your child. Don’t take chances.

– Drink a lot of coffee before heading to the half-price sale. You are going to be elbow deep in crazed bargain hunters and their cranky kids. You don’t need to be any jumpier than you already are. Plus, drinking a lot of coffee will make you pee. See number 1.

– Totally lose your grip on reality when pricing your stuff. Adding curling ribbon to your Carter’s sleeper hanger does not a boutique item make. No one is going to pay what you are asking.

– Forget to clean your items up. Unless that Little Tykes dump truck has been digging around in a diamond mine, no one wants to cough up cash for a toy that bears the evidence of it’s last haul.

– Try to pass off stained or damaged stuff as “gently used.” Do unto others, my friend. Consignment sale karma is a you-know-what.

I’m Gonna Be Rich!

I am a big cheapskate, and I refuse to pay retail for my kids’ clothes. Let me amend that statement. My kids can stain a pair of jeans in 4.2 seconds, so paying more than $2 a pair makes me want to cry. I’m very fortunate to have some great kids’ consignment sales in my area, most of which pop up twice a year. Give me $50 and a couple of hours, and I can outfit a kid for a season.

But I’ve been missing an opportunity. I have never once actually sold stuff at these sales. It’s not that I don’t have a garage full of stuff that my kids outgrew before we ever took it off the hanger. I do. Or that I never hid a toy that I hate in a closet so that my kids could never play with it. I have. (Please don’t tell them.) I confess that I’ve just been a big chicken.

Last spring, I got a wild hair to become a consignor myself at my very favorite sale. I had been storing outgrown clothes on hangers for months (okay, years), and I had a collection of rarely used (read: Mommy hated them) toys. I was good to go. Registration was a breeze. But when it came down to ordering the bar codes, I freaked and ignominiously unregistered myself.

But this time, it’s for all the marbles. I have registered, ordered bar codes, chosen my drop off time and a shift to work. It’s gonna be awesome. The only thing left to do is, um, pin all the clothing items on hangers and put the prices on them. All 120 of them. Please shoot me now.

What a total pain in the behind. The whole thing. Let’s start with the pins. I bought 400 gold pins several weeks ago because I had been told that if I waited too long, every store in three counties would be sold out. I was all proud of myself because I was getting a jump in the whole thing. Yeah. 2 weeks a lost receipt and one opened box later, I realized that the pins are entirely too small. After another trip to the store and the purchase of 500 more pins, I find that the size that I need only comes in mix-sized packages.

And don’t get me started on zip ties. I know they are the most convenient way to secure shoes together, but it took three stores to find a store that carries them, or at least whose employees could tell me where they were.

And maybe you shouldn’t ask about the hangers. They’re the reason the pins were too small in the first place. Wire hangers are much, much easier to pin clothing to, but plastic is the material of choice for our local sales. They’re fat, break easily, and seem to strongly resent having things pinned to them.

Affixing the clothing to the hangers has been almost as fun as poking sharp things in my fingers. Wait. It has been exactly like that, and add trying not to bleed on the stuff I’m hoping to sell into the bargain. And I haven’t even started pinning on the price tags. I’m looking forward to it.

Will it be worth doing again? Time will tell. It’s kind of like childbirth. If the payoff is good, all the blood, sweat and tears will be forgotten. I’ll let you know how it goes.