The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The road to freedom...

     .... is paved with Craigslist ads. 

 In the past two weeks, we, as a family, have made tremendous progress towards less stuff and more happiness.  We've sold several hundred dollars worth of stuff. I've been using a chopstick to shove more and more money into my happiness bottle.  When it gets too full to shove any more money in, I'm going to break it and pay off a credit card. 

Even Vinny has made great progress. De-cluttering is really difficult for him because de-cluttering involves moving stuff and making somewhat of a mess in the process of sorting. Vinny hates mess more than anything.  The irony is that what he had in his room was a huge mess, but he didn't see it that way because it was out of the way (I think I have said this exact same thing about Marc in the past... I have recollections of helping him move out of his room and into our apartment and discovering that, although he maintained appearances of tidiness, a mess lay hidden underneath). Vinny had a corner of his room where he had just tossed anything and everything. Backpacks, papers, random little toys and party favors, "books" he had made.  You name it, it had been shoved in his corner.  After many tears, we got through that one corner. He sold a bunch of stuff and threw away a bunch of stuff. He still has hundreds of toys in there that he hasn't played with in years, but we are taking it one step at a time. He is only about 7% of the way to his goal of buying a MacBook, but he gets excited about his progress every time he sells something, which is at least once a day, which is good. He gets positive reinforcement for the emotional distress that de-cluttering causes him. I have been encouraging him by letting him play with my Mac when I'm not using it.  He has become amazingly adept at computers in a very short amount of time.  Last night, he was playing with photobooth, and suddenly iTunes comes on, specifically, my reggae playlist.  "Did you mean to do that?"I ask. 
  "Yup. I'm on an island. Need background music," he replies. He is just too funny.

       Even Marc is making great progress. It seems that every day he appears with an arm full of stuff that I didn't even realize he had.  "Where are you getting all this stuff?" I asked one day. 
 "Boxes," he replied.  Hmm. Okay. I thought I was painfully aware of all the boxes of clutter and what they contained, but I guess there were more I didn't know about.
     By the fourth or fifth new load of stuff, I finally asked, "Where are these boxes hidden and how many more of them are there?"  

      "The garage, and I am pretty sure that's the last one." Time will tell, I suppose. 

      I am trying to tackle it all one room at a time right now, with the intention of returning to each room for another round after the first round of each room is done.  I've done the first round of Vinny's room, my room, one of two bathrooms, and the bookshelf. I really need to go through the toy box in the living room, but its such a mess that I've been avoiding it.  Baby steps.  With a few baby steps each day, we really are making progress. 

      This year, we really are serious about paying off debt and living within our means. I know that, in order to really feel free, this is the answer, but at first it is hard.  It means redefining a lot of how we live.  It means not buying fast food just because it is convenient or because we don't feel like eating leftovers for lunch for the third day in a row.  Instead, I am trying to get creative with leftovers and finding ways to stretch what is in our refrigerator.  It is a change, but we are up to the challenge.  

    When I was looking over our finances in December, I was really depressed. This month, I looked at it with a more positive attitude, and I looked carefully at our credit card statements.  I realized that Vinny's dance class had triple charged us for two months in a row.  I contacted them and got all that money credited back, which was great.  I also realized that we had paid nearly $200 for Green Day tickets for a show in Vegas. We were planning on making a prolonged date night out of it, but the show has been postponed with no date rescheduled yet. Who knows if the date they end up choosing will end up working with our busy schedule, and besides that, we cannot really afford a trip to Vegas with hotel costs and gas and food. I decided to see if I could get a refund. Fortunately, they were able to refund the  tickets. Yea! More credit towards our account.  

  With careful planning and shifting to a lifestyle of true frugality for a while, I believe we can be debt free by the end of 2013. 

      For now, I leave you with how Vinny's "adventures."

"Look, Mommy!  Two Vinnys and they are mad at each other."

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