SansLux http://sanslux.com An Experiment in Living Without Mon, 05 Apr 2010 07:08:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Week 7: Selling My House http://sanslux.com/2010/04/week-7-selling-my-house/ http://sanslux.com/2010/04/week-7-selling-my-house/#comments Mon, 05 Apr 2010 06:57:41 +0000 http://sanslux.com/?p=246 The last two months of letting go are culminating this Wednesday when my Realtor comes to take photos of my mostly-vacant home.

I gotta be honest, I’m freaking out a little. Last weekend I sold approximately 75% of my worldly belongings in 8 hours. I sat in my driveway and, with the help of my amazing friends and community, I watched it all saunter off into the future, spread across 100 families — little pieces of my life nesting in cupboards, closets, coffee tables and bookshelves in homes of folks I’ve never seen before and never will again. Just a yard sale to them. To me, an integral step towards a new and uncertain future.

I suppose saying I sat in my driveway sounds a bit passive. In truth, I engaged pretty hard with that day. At one point, I was stripped down to my camisole (worthy of note: I live on a very busy 4-lane road) trying on every piece of clothing I had for sale in an impromptu fashion show for a woman who needed some help visualizing. I laughed, talked, hugged and haggled all day long. By the time it was over, I was tired down to my marrow — both physically and emotionally — and I still had so much work to do. As I sat glassy-eyed around the fire pit with friends that night, explaining for the 438th time that day why I was doing what I was doing, I realized that some part of me was on auto-pilot.

Last week was landscaping, final cosmetic touches to the house (patching paint, caulking tub, hanging lights.) This week is Realtor photos and a much-needed long weekend at the beach with my girlfriend. Right now, it is 10 minutes to midnight, at which point it’s exactly one week to the listing of the house.

These days I’m rattling around this mostly-empty house like a ghost. I’m caught in that limbo between what was and what’s to be. I feel like the house has shifted energetically. I may still hold the deed, but it’s not mine anymore. Everything I intend to keep is either “staged” to make the house as appealing as possible to buyers, or packed away in my shed, ready to go. I am meticulous the way I would be if I was a guest in someone else’s home. No dishes in the sink. Everything goes right back where it belongs when I’m done with it. I am the temporary thing here in this life.

I’m such a planner, but I have to say — these days, my mantra is “Jump and the net will appear.” Let’s hope I’m right. ;)

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Week 6, Entry 2: Grief and Whiskey http://sanslux.com/2010/03/week-6-entry-2-grief-and-whiskey/ http://sanslux.com/2010/03/week-6-entry-2-grief-and-whiskey/#comments Mon, 15 Mar 2010 19:16:19 +0000 http://sanslux.com/?p=240 Death comes in threes, they say. And from 2005 to 2008, I’d have to say that proved true. One intense loss each year and a few peripheral-yet-impactive losses between.  Over the years my house began moonlighting as a shrine, my garage shelves filled with boxes I couldn’t open yet, my closet with clothes I wore as remembrance. You see, as childless queers it often feels like there is a greater obligation to carrying forth, to honor legacy.  Our things don’t go to our children when we pass. They go to partners, to friends, to often-estranged families. And we tend to scatter ourselves to the wind when we leave home — precious few folks I know live in the same state as their parents (myself excluded.) We seek one another out and form our own families and our belongings disburse into the collective when we pass.  In some ways, letting go of these tangibles feels like letting go of something more important. And so I haven’t. Until now.

My friend C’s death came on the heels of the two others, and was more sudden and heartbreaking in its arrival.  As her closest friend, it fell to me to take the coroner’s call, to call friends and pass on the news and to clean out her apartment.  I was joined in this last endeavor by a community of friends I will forever be grateful to. The work was quick and done so I could get on to the heavier task of grieving.  Most of the tangibles were given away or donated, but the memory bits – journals, photos, baby clothes, artwork, all the deeply personal bits – came home with me.  Estranged from her family, there was a great deal of personal information I knew C wouldn’t want them to see.  I needed to sort through it all before I sent it back.  Shortly after C’s passing, another friend was diagnosed with cancer and I simply couldn’t deal with it all.  I put the boxes in the garage and I shut the door, figuratively and literally. That was 2 years ago.

As a part of letting go of this house, I knew I would need to go through C’s boxes.  I’m sloughing off my skin here, and shedding this grief is part of that process. So yesterday, with a bottle of whiskey and a fire pit at the ready, a friend and I set to work consolidating what was to be mailed, removing what was too private, cooing over baby photos and crying over random bits of all of it.  When the family box was packed, we moved to the fire pit and began the work of setting fire to years and years of her sadness.  As each page burned, it felt like lifting a weight from her psychic shoulders. No more wondering, no more self-loathing, no more confusion, no more pain. The last thing I burned was a piece of canvas on which she’d painted a serene water/sunrise scene. It was bright blues and gentle yellows and a hint of pink. I set her there in my mind as I watched it go.

SansLux is not just about consumerism.  It’s also about releasing the tangible ties that bind us to pain. It’s about embracing impermanence. Mine. Yours. Ours.

Three bins were the last remnants of C’s life on earth. At the end of the day, what was left filled only a small box.  But inside that box is the promise that she had as a child, before the world caught her up and swept her under.  And in the fire that burned, burned the pain that came when that promise was broken. And in between is where I live, carrying with me all the mixed beauty of this daring, devious, damaged and loved being that was my friend. And so I don’t have much of her left to carry in my hands — but I am by no means emptier for it.

Love you, C. So much.

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Long Overdue Update – Selling, Umm…Everything http://sanslux.com/2010/03/long-overdue-update-selling-everything/ http://sanslux.com/2010/03/long-overdue-update-selling-everything/#comments Sun, 14 Mar 2010 05:20:59 +0000 http://sanslux.com/?p=233 Over the past few years I have developed a tendency towards starting online projects with gusto and then dropping them a few months in.  I wonder sometimes if it’s the non-committal nature of the intangible Intarwebz that makes it so but, more likely, it’s that I’m in a bit of an activist limbo and haven’t fully found my new passion. I know bits and pieces of it, but that burning-in-my-belly fire of passion that comes with having a truly cohesive mission has been sorely lacking.

That said, SansLux has never been far from my mind, even though I haven’t been actively blogging.  Truth is, it’s become so much of my mind that I haven’t  had the energy to put to words what the rest of me is putting to action. (This is a strange turn of events for the writerly likes of me.) I have taken a break on giving up the little things since Week 5.  However, in exchange for this little kindness to myself, I have been preparing to give up much larger things.  These things are my house, 90% of its contents, my privacy, and ultimately my job, employer-paid health insurance, the lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed and possibly my country, family and friends.

I have been grappling with concepts like “responsible adult behavior” and “the sensible thing to do.”  I have been struggling with the idea of going ‘backwards’ financially — renting instead of owning, shirking stable employment in a toxic environment for the scary waters of freelance and self-employment.  I have been considering a return to student life, school loans and an uncertain future in a possibly dying field.  Instead of focusing on preparing myself for lucrative employment, I have been shifting my focus towards preparing myself with a greater toolset for activism.  I have been looking away from the illusions of future safety and security and towards to the realities of present-tense, ethical and joyful living — a trade-off which inevitably hits one directly in the wallet.

Today a friend came over and we tackled my garage — shifting, sorting, stacking and boxing.  I freecycled art supplies to a man who works with differently-abled adults. I sold a huge bookshelf to two women for their newly forming mental health clinic. I let go of belongings that represented the beginnings of finding myself as a holistic human being.  The keep pile (as opposed to the dump pile and the sell pile) is minuscule by contrast.  I am sloughing off years and years of belonging — it to me, me to it, whatever ‘it’ may be.

Most of the furniture items in my house have already sold, even though they are still here.  Friends kind enough to wait until I move have already tagged these items with their names. I am surrounded by things that are no longer mine, or things that soon won’t be. When I move, I will own only what fits in my bedroom and a few boxes of memories that will be stored graciously at my Mother’s home.

Tomorrow my living room rug will sell.  Tomorrow, I will go through my shed and pull out boxes and bags of luxuries I don’t even look at, much less use.  I will put these to use again in the lives of those around me.  And next weekend, I will go through each room of my home and do the same.  Weekend 3, I will sell my life via the grandest yard sale I’ve ever had. What’s left will be donated or saved for one more sale.  And then on April 5th, my house itself will go on the market.

When it sells, I will join a shared living space with minimal cost (and minimal privacy/luxury.) There is already talk of chickens and gardening, greywater collection and community dinners.  I will refocus my efforts towards piecemeal income and the success of my budding, green business. When I am confident that I can sustain myself, I will leave my newly toxic, misogynistic day job (Joyfully!!!!) and focus my efforts towards the larger, scarier prospect of leaving my country, my family and my friends in 2011.

In the meantime — each day, each piece of property parted with, each bit of skin shed is leaving me pink and raw and open. Each breath of wind gives me goosebumps, each patch of sun is the universe giving me its jacket, each drop of rain is a sweet kiss on my shoulder — and I’m walking, hand-in-hand with what’s next like I trust it.  Which I do.

More to come.

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Week 5: Giving Up my Car http://sanslux.com/2009/11/week-5-giving-up-my-car/ http://sanslux.com/2009/11/week-5-giving-up-my-car/#comments Thu, 12 Nov 2009 03:52:09 +0000 http://sanslux.com/?p=229 Aaaaaand, we’re back.

Took a brief (but longer than I’d imagined) hiatus from SansLux, as I had some traveling to do. Once back, I had a strange epiphany (somewhat related to SansLux) that has kept me more in my head than in the world for the last couple of weeks.  I’ve been wondering, all along, what called me to start this project. Activism aside, my reasons for doing this felt bigger than I even understood. For months I’ve been going through heavy RID cycles — giving things away, donating items I don’t use, cleaning out the garage and shed, tying up loose ends that I’ve been procrastinating on for years.  I’ve felt this need to minimize the amount of ‘stuff’ and stress I have in my life. I have turned down holiday and birthday presents with a polite but stubborn vehemence, I have borrowed vs. bought where possible, and I have been, while not downright frugal, at least much more conscious and aware of my spending.  All of this for some unknown reason, even to me. Just an instinct or an urge without an obvious root cause.

But two weeks ago my heart made a decision that my mind and body are still trying to catch up with, and it will mean taking a huge step backwards in comfort (of all kinds).  Sometime in the next year, I will be going back to school to study Visual Anthropology.  I have absolutely no idea how I will afford it, and it may very well, if I am able to get into the program I want, take me to another country away from nearly everyone and everything I know and love.  It will render me completely broke and I will have to give up most of my possessions and more luxurious comforts.  It’s exhilarating and terrifying and it is shedding a bit more light onto what brought this on for me.  While it is, absolutely, an activist exploration — it is also a very personal one.  And many of my future adventures will be further explorations on this theme.

That said — onto “No Car Week.”

I’ve mentioned before that there’s no direct public transit from my house to my job, nor a walking route that doesn’t either take me about a half-mile out of my way or require that I walk through a trail that is creepy, secluded and walked by some fairly sketchy dudes with regularity enough to warrant weekly bulletin board postings at work reminding folks not to walk it alone (especially women).  In addition to taking your chances with assault there are also, more often than not, trains parked along the tracks at the end of the trail — which means you have to clamber over them, not knowing if or when they’ll begin to move. So — it’s either fear/potential dismemberment or taking the long way round in the heavier-than-usual rain. Neither of them are on my top 10 list of ways to spend my day but, as I’ve been reminding myself all week, not everyone has a choice. And what am I whining about anyway — as even the long way to work is just under a mile and a half, even if it is walking in the shoulder of 4-lane roads all the way.

That said, I am actually having a pretty hard time with this week.  I’m pretty out of shape, and I’m pretty overwhelmed/stressed in general – and I admit to a ton of grumbling this week.  I’ve kind of been an epic failure at it, really.  Mostly I’ve chosen to either stay home or get rides from friends.  I’ve yet to set foot on public transit and I’ve only walked to work once.  And, most disappointingly, I actually drove to work and back this morning.

To be fair, the only reason I did that was because my alarm clock failed to wake me and I was half an hour late to work, even with driving.  But I made the choice to sacrifice the project to save face at work because I could.  If I was being true to the project, I would have just been that much later and faced the consequences since that is what someone who didn’t have a car would have had to do.  But in this economy, it’s a little scarier than usual to take chances at the day job.

Tonight I’m going to a concert with a friend, and she’s driving.  We’d planned a bus adventure together, but I got my first ocular migraine at work today and it absolutely sapped me of my energy.  Truth is, I’m being pretty soft on myself this week in terms of SansLux.  But this is part of the process, too.  I’m not going to be amazing at every challenge. If I was, it wouldn’t be a challenge. I’ll have to either extend the week or do some kind of penance for being so lax. Especially as I have decided to make another car exception tomorrow so I can make a doctor’s appointment and not have to take a full 3 hours off of work.

Yep, I’m definitely going to have to extend this week…and make some tougher choices to make up for it. I may have to give someone my keys.

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Guest Post: Week 2, Plastics http://sanslux.com/2009/10/guest-post-week-2-plastics/ http://sanslux.com/2009/10/guest-post-week-2-plastics/#comments Mon, 26 Oct 2009 17:11:15 +0000 http://sanslux.com/?p=227 After a week without sugar, the Portland ReDirect Guide staff decided to continue our inspired-by-SansLux experience by avoiding acquiring any plastic. In staff meeting Monday morning it seemed easy enough. We already compost food scraps on site in our own office composter and reduce and reuse whenever possible. We take computers to e-cyclers and other hard-to-recycle items to the appropriate recycling centers. Surely we were fairly eco-conscious folks, we reasoned. Avoiding purchasing plastic should be second nature by day two of the challenge.

Our first attempt lasted precisely until lunch time, when two of us unwittingly came back from New Seasons with plastic – the first item was a carton with a tiny cap, and the second a soup container with a plastic lid. Neither one of our coworkers had realized what they were purchasing and were mildly surprised at how unconsciously they acquired it. Later in the day, Heather realized she was out of shampoo but couldn’t purchase a new bottle until the end of our challenge, and other coworkers commented on how avoiding acquiring plastic would impact their takeout plans. The challenge was shaping up to be a lot trickier than we first thought.

We knuckled down with renewed commitment, double-checking every purchase, bringing glass jars to buy bulk food at the grocery store and requesting compostable containers when available. At a Thai restaurant later in the week, Heather requested that the waiter avoid putting her leftovers in plastic and was thrilled when he reappeared with cardboard takeout boxes in a paper bag. However, upon arriving home and inspecting the contents of the sack, she was dismayed to find the restaurant had included condiments in small plastic containers.

“People concerned about the environment rightly point out the problem of plastic water bottles, but that’s only one small piece of everything plastic that we consume,” Heather mused toward the end of the week as we discussed how many things we had put off purchasing because of plastic.

At the end of the week, many of us were relieved to have the burden of avoiding acquiring plastics lift from our shoulders, but it was replaced by increased awareness about just how difficult it is to avoid the substance. However, by examining our acquisition patterns during the week, we agreed we had developed some new habits that would allow us to continue to reduce our overall consumption of plastic.

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Week 4: Dining Out – Epilogue http://sanslux.com/2009/10/week-4-dining-out-epilogue/ http://sanslux.com/2009/10/week-4-dining-out-epilogue/#comments Mon, 19 Oct 2009 04:31:19 +0000 http://sanslux.com/?p=225 Giving up Dining Out was both more and less complicated than I’d imagined.

After not really cooking for, oh, 35 years — 3 weeks without break of cooking every night was a bit rough.  It takes a great deal more mental energy for me to prepare a meal than it does for folks who have been doing it for ages. Admittedly, I was pining for a drive-thru by week’s end as I stared at the Spaghetti Squash on my counter and wondered what, in the name of all that is vaguely food-like, to do with it.  Seriously. Total bachelor moment. I must have stood there staring at it with a deeply furrowed brow for a good twenty minutes. And what the @#($*& is up with THESE?

It made for some awkwardness around business as well. I had two client meetings last week who, normally, I’d have met out for lunch.  Thankfully both were with really lovely people with a global-consciousness who didn’t laugh when I explained. One, in fact, invited me to her home and made me a meal, which was cozy and sweet and much more personal and enjoyable. Plus the food was delicious!

Truthfully, despite feeling a little whiny about it after work when I was exhausted and didn’t feel like cooking, last week continued to be refreshing.  And given I “celebrated” my success today by allowing myself a cheeseburger at a drive-thru, and was rewarded with an upset stomach and a desire to wash my face repeatedly, I’m thinking this is another challenge that will result in some ongoing changes in my life.

In Summation —

What I Learned: Dining out has become too commonplace for me, overall.  Cooking, for both myself and those I love, or joyfully allowing myself to be cooked FOR, is another way to show/share love and appreciation to myself and others. It also allows me to be more mindful about what I’m eating, where it comes from (shopping local!) and encourages me to interact with my food in a more creative way. I’ve also felt more of an urge to learn gardening, now that I understand how to cook with vegetables. I can feel the burgeoning awe of planting a seed and then feeding myself and others with food I helped to grow.  It’s amazing the disconnect that comes with packaged/processed/pre-prepared food. I had no idea how far out of touch I was until I started cooking.

Let Go Completely, Moderation or Change Nothing: I’ll be bringing restaurants back in moderation.  It will be a last resort.  Where possible, I will defer to cooking together or socializing over things other than food. I will continue to cook with regularity.

This Week’s Challenge: I am giving myself a break from SansLux this week, as I am traveling to New York and won’t be entirely in charge of my surroundings.  Back soon with more!

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Guest Blog: ReDirect Guide Gives Up Sugar! http://sanslux.com/2009/10/guest-blog-redirect-guide-gives-up-sugar/ http://sanslux.com/2009/10/guest-blog-redirect-guide-gives-up-sugar/#comments Thu, 15 Oct 2009 02:23:27 +0000 http://sanslux.com/?p=221 Last week I mentioned that I’d received word from the fabulous folks at the ReDirect Guide that their office was inspired by SansLux and that they’d decided, as a team, to join in by giving up sugar and all sweeteners for the week.  That’s an intense thing to give up, and I asked them if they’d be willing to write up a guest post to tell us all about it. Here it is!  I’ll be back tomorrow with more from “No Restaurant Week.”  I’ve already had to thwart a client meeting or two.

“Inspired by the SansLux blog and the idea of living without in order to appreciate the privileges we daily ignore, the Portland staff of the ReDirect Guide decided to do away with sugar and sweeteners for an entire week. In staff meeting Monday morning, we carefully drew up the rules.

“No honey, xylitol, agave nectar or anything of the kind,” Heather said. Our regional manager and area advocate, she is not often spotted eating anything sweetened, but when she gets the rare craving for a doughnut, it’s the fierce wild-eyed kind that signals woe to anyone between her and the pastry case at New Seasons.

Heads nodded gravely. It wouldn’t be easy: eliminating all sweeteners meant most of the sauces and half the prepared salad dressings on grocery store shelves had to go, as well as copious amounts of deli foods, most beverages and of course almost all traditional desserts.

We wished each other luck and the challenge began. That afternoon, we suddenly realized a coworker was starting to get ill. The entire staff sprinted for the refrigerator and liberally chugged Good Belly, a probiotic drink we hoped would ward off wayward germs. We congratulated ourselves on being proactive about our health until somebody thought to check the ingredient label and there it was in malignant little letters: SUGAR. There were groans all around. “We knew it wouldn’t be easy,” Heather said as we gazed at the offending juice container. “Now let’s get back on the wagon and keep going!”

The rest of the week was an eye-opening and community building experience. We shared unsweetened fruit dessert ideas (baked pears with cinnamon, yum!), talked about how different life would have been before refined sugars, and generally commiserated with each other about the lack of prepared foods we could consume. By the end of the week, most of us reported feeling a little more clearheaded, a bit more energy, and a lot more thankfulness for the abundance of food that we could eat despite our self-imposed sugar restrictions.”

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Week 4: Dining In Prologue http://sanslux.com/2009/10/week-4-dining-in-prologue/ http://sanslux.com/2009/10/week-4-dining-in-prologue/#comments Mon, 12 Oct 2009 05:54:10 +0000 http://sanslux.com/?p=217 I struggled a bit about what to give up this week.

In some ways, giving up spending extra money at all was pretty encompassing.  So many things are represented in that overarching category that giving up anything smaller felt redundant.  I thought about giving up drinking anything but water this week, and had actually decided to do so, and then I woke up this morning and downed a Diet Coke before I even thought about it. Caffeine-addiction is a powerful agent of denial. That will be a good challenge for another week, but setting out on a fail note was too depressing.

After much consideration, I decided to give up dining out.  Even during the no-spend challenge, I ended up in restaurants twice. Once, a friend took me out for Sushi (for her birthday! Incredibly generous.) and once, an awkward (but fun) brunch where I was the only non-eating attendee.

The reason I’ve chosen this is three-fold:

1) I feel that a lot of my socializing happens around food.  That’s all well-and-good, but it’s not the most creative use of social time.

2) I have had a block about cooking for a long time, and I’m just starting to get the hang of it.  I’ve been restaurants, drive-thrus and pre-prepared foodstuffs for ages.  I’d like to nurture this newfound skillset and help solidify it as a habit.

3) I went through my bank statements for the last few months and, overwhelmingly, my largest non-bill expenditures were on food. It’s a huge waste of money. Huge.

SO:  No food that I didn’t prepare myself will pass my lips this week. If I’m invited out for a meal I will propose alternatives.  If folks really just want to go out to eat, I can join them to be social, but I can’t order. Nor will I accept invitations to purchase meals for me (as I will feel inclined to return the favor at a later date, which is sort of like passively spending money in advance.) ;)

If we eat together, we cook together. And ideally as a smaller part of a more encompassing evening.

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Week 3: Epilogue http://sanslux.com/2009/10/week-3-epilogue/ http://sanslux.com/2009/10/week-3-epilogue/#comments Mon, 12 Oct 2009 05:21:25 +0000 http://sanslux.com/?p=214 The last week of the No-Spend challenge was not much more eventful than the first. However, I did find myself having to make a few compromises.

First – Transportation.   On Wednesday, I had a commitment to go to a conference. This conference was nowhere near walking-distance from my home, so my choices were to drive (and pay for parking) or take the bus (and pay for the bus ticket.)  Alternately, I could have hitchhiked or begged for a ride from a friend.  But being it was during work hours and I enjoy not being sexually assaulted, neither option seemed feasible.

An insightful friend asked me last week if SansLux challenges always had to be about NOT doing something — or if sometimes they could be about doing something I don’t normally do.  So I decided to put that into practice as a way to offset the money for parking on Wednesday and I walked to work on Tuesday instead of driving.  Granted, I didn’t walk as far as I drove on Wednesday, but considering the risky nature of the walk to work (down a path lovingly deemed by my female co-workers as the “rape trail” due to a couple awkward run-ins with naked masturbating men — the end of said trail sometimes being blocked by large trains that one must literally climb up and over to get through) I figured it evened out on some cosmic level.  My walk was uneventful, but it did find me wondering what I’m going to do on “No Car” week, as that’s not an experience I care to repeat with any regularity.

Next – Community Support.   As someone of some means — by no means affluent, but at least comfortable — I am used to being able to reach out in financial support of my community.  One of my dear friends runs a queer open mic at our local feminist bookstore on the second Friday of each month.  The event is sliding scale and all proceeds go to benefit the bookstore, which has been suffering under the weight of the current financial crisis.  Walking in to the event and having to tell the door person that I didn’t have anything to give was rough.  It was rough because

a) I *do* have money to give, but I’m not giving it because of this project – and

b) it’s really, really hard to have to say that. It hit my old class stuff right square in the kisser.

I was nervous about walking in that door all the way there, and it took me a bit to shake it off once I was through it.

On Saturday, a friend was in from out of town and there was a group brunch.  Because I didn’t want to miss spending time with this friend, and I was also her ride to the brunch, I struggled with myself all morning about whether or not I was going to give in and have breakfast, or if I was going to stick to it and not spend.  I didn’t want to make other people uncomfortable by hovering there at the end of the table as the only one not eating, but I didn’t want to break the challenge either.  Ultimately, I decided to stay true to SansLux.  I drank so much water at breakfast that I had to pee 4 times in 2 hours.  A friend offered to buy me breakfast and I was so hasty to talk her down from it that I was actually rude, albeit well-intentioned.  I caught myself and apologized for not saying thank you for the offer, but it pointed out to me how awkward that can be.

By the end of the meal, I was starving (I’d eaten something small before I’d gone, thinking I’d get to go home for lunch after, but it took 2 hours before we were actually served and there was no time.) and another friend took pity on me and handed me their plate of leftover pancake.  As I watched all the food on other patron’s tables get sent back to the kitchen as waste, I realized how often I, too, am wasteful — and how what I leave on my plate would be enough to fill up another person – and I vowed to never leave my leftovers at a restaurant again if I could help it.

Saturday afternoon, I buckled.  My friend gave an amazing reading at the same feminist bookstore I mentioned before, and I couldn’t help myself from supporting her art.  I bought one of her chapbooks.  Here was someone who, in her own way, was living the SansLux challenge every day — struggling from dollar to dollar to live and breathe her art, sacrificing so much to do it.  It moved me tremendously and it felt like the right thing to do to support her, so I ended the challenge a few hours early.

I celebrated my two weeks of no-spending by going through the change on my coffee table in the living room and scrounging out enough money to support another local performance group that evening. Four soggy dollar bills and 4 quarters.  I felt good about spending them, too.

So — in summation, not spending money has taught me:

— that cooking for and with friends is a lot more fun and interactive than going out to eat.
— that cooking for myself is actually a joy and not a hardship.
— that you can have a hell of a lot of fun without spending a single penny.
— that it’s terrifying to think about life without a cushion – where any little financial misfortune that might befall you is a huge stressor.
— that throwing money at your life without thinking is akin to a delegation of self-care that is both unhealthy and unrewarding.
— that friends and community are paramount to happiness, with or without money.
— that not realizing the value of money and what it offers you leads to being wasteful in huge ways.

My decision about what to do in the aftermath of No-Spend Week(s) is this:

I plan to continue to live as if I do not have the means to afford many of life’s extras.  I will make exceptions here and there in support of community events and occasional entertainment, but I am going to be frugal. I will put the money I would normally squander in savings in order to invest it more wisely in the future. In my future.  And I suspect “wisely” may mean different things to me at the end of SansLux than it did before I started.

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Week 3 – Prologue: Making it Hurt http://sanslux.com/2009/10/week-3-prologue-making-it-hurt/ http://sanslux.com/2009/10/week-3-prologue-making-it-hurt/#comments Tue, 06 Oct 2009 05:01:39 +0000 http://sanslux.com/?p=210 It’s taken me a while to write this update as I’ve been busy, but it’s certainly not for lack of things to say.

First, I’ve been overjoyed at the response to the blog.  Today I received an email from the good folks at RedirectGuide saying that their staff was inspired by SansLux and they’ve decided to join in by doing the challenge at their office as well.  This week their entire staff is giving up sugar and all sweeteners save for fruit juice. They’ll be writing up a guest blog about their experience which I will post next week. Fun!

I also received a sweet card in the mail from my mortgage broker who read about the challenge on Facebook and wanted to drop me a note of encouragement, and a sweet series of text messages from friends.  My roommate has also decided to join in on some of the challenges.  He’s sort of involuntarily had to (re: giving up cable) and has taken it supportively in stride.

It’s exciting to me that this challenge is encouraging others to think about things differently and to join in.  I hope others will follow suit and let me know as well.  I’ll be happy to provide a link to anyone else who decides to blog about similar challenges. Just let me know!

As for me and my horse, last week proved interesting in a number of ways.

First — I actually had a great deal of fun, and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that.  The truth of the matter is, fortuitously, I am not broke right now.  And while I’ve spent far more of my life broke than not,  it’s still genuinely impossible to recreate the actual stress of being strapped for cash when you know that it’s temporary.  I am choosing not to spend right now, and because of that, it’s easier not to.  I know if I need something, I just have to wait a bit and then I can get it. The fun of that stops when you remove the choice from the equation.  So I can’t authentically experience the genuine level of stress that not having the option to have what I need would create.  But I can make it hurt a little more than it did.

So I’ve decided that, instead of taking on a new challenge this week, I am going to extend my no-spend period for another week.  I stocked up on basic provisions and I will pay household bills – but no frills. Nothing extra.

What I have learned so far is that I have a great many spending impulses that, on an average day, I don’t generally fight.  I find that it’s not all that difficult to fight them if I stop and think about it, and that doing so is often more rewarding.

Last week, instead of going out to eat, I cooked for friends.  Instead of going to movies, I had a craft night that was fun and creative.  Instead of spending money in clubs, I had a game night and got my ass trounced at Scrabble.  Instead of going shopping, I went to a clothing exchange with friends where we all traded clothes we didn’t wear anymore and everyone came away with something new without spending a dime.  I spent quality time with friends and family and I didn’t spend a single penny.  It was fulfilling and joyful and connective and I actually liked it a great deal more than usual.   Again, the removal of the choice to do anything else for an extended period of time would make that less fun.  But it’s a good reminder to me not to be lazy and throw money at entertainment instead of making my own as a general rule.

This week will pose some interesting challenges.  It already has, to some degree, and I’ve already committed to breaking my no-spend rule as an exception where it’s impacting someone else negatively.

As someone who works two full-time jobs and has myriad marketing duties on top to help grow her fledgling start-up, I don’t have a lot of time to spend on the mundane details of my life, like deep-cleaning my house.  I have a friend who is forging her own path as a house cleaner and we’ve had a standing date for her to do a deep-clean on my house once a month.  Her original date fell last week and I asked her to push it off another week. That was fine, but when I asked again this week, it became clear that it would be a hardship on her financially.

I’ve struggled for a long time with classism issues around having someone else clean my house and it’s taken me ages to be comfortable with it.  The only way I really find myself able to not be ashamed of this is by understanding that paying her for this help is allowing her to live her life the way she wants to, outside the corporate structure and working her own schedule.  To me, that’s important to support, and it helps me do the same.  But it is definitely a luxury for me.  However, having the work is not as expendable for her.  It’s an interesting position to be in — realizing how interdependent we all are, and how one of us in a community not having money can cause a ripple effect in the lives of those around us.  I am going to keep our date this week so my project doesn’t hurt her, but thinking about what would happen if I genuinely couldn’t support her that way is rough.

As well, this week there are birthday parties and client meetings and conferences, all of which would normally find me spending money.  I will have to be creative in my gift-giving, and am not entirely sure how I’m going to manage transportation to the conference.  I would either have to pay to park my car, or take public transit, which is not free either.  It’s a conundrum. Granted, since this is a work gig, I can fudge it a bit because I will be reimbursed — but it’s a gray area that I have to think about a little.

So – this week’s theme is: Making it Hurt.  We can survive anything for a week.  So I’m pushing myself a little harder on this one.

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