Update on Shopping

So, I’ve been shopping. And I’m okay with it. I find shopping a kind of fascinating topic, so here are my current thoughts on it.1. Shopping is addictive. Definitely. Now that I’ve been going to VV most Thursdays, I get an itch on Thursday afternoons to head out there. Good to be aware of – the more I do it, the more I want to.
2. Second hand shopping is the way to go. I’ve been wanting a few pairs of shoes: a casual sneaker pair, something else for work and some slippers. I bought all 3 pairs (including a gorgeous amazingly comfy pair of brown leather loafers) for just under $20. They are all in amazing condition – barely used, if at all. Though I am not swearing off new goods, I am now fully committed to used in almost all cases, particularly given our current financial priorities.
3. Second hand shopping is dangerous. Especially in a big, well-stocked and diverse store. First, it can take TIME if you scour each section. Then it is so easy to start wanting, more and more and more. I did well today, though, buying almost exclusively from the (admittedly mental) list I had of what we want/need right now.
4. Renewing one’s things through shopping can feel invigorating. Not everything, not necessarily frequently, but often enough that you can add interest to the physical environment in which you live and function.

Fortunately, on this trip I did buy virtually everything we current want/need for myself, home and baby. Though I likely will be tempted to shop more, I may be able to stop myself because we have no gaps in our needs. And bringing these things home, I’m more interested than ever in getting rid of stuff, particularly stuff I don’t use or really like. I’ve been getting clothes I actually want to wear, and it puts in sharp contrast the clothes I don’t. Solution? Chuck the don’t wears. And stop shopping, because really, I’m at “enough” right now.

Frankly, though, I imagine I’ll be tempted to shop again tomorrow. That’s right. Because I’m still looking for something for my sister’s birthday, and I have not had time or success to date. Sigh!! There always is something else to get.

No More New Things

No, I haven’t given up shopping though I think the amount I’ll be doing in the next while will decrease exponentially. However, after a number of purchase challenges lately, I’m of the opinion that in general, used is a better choice than new. I am finding that when I splurge for new (and/or expensive), the results are not often worth the extra money. It’s all fine to say “buy quality and you won’t need to spend so much” or “better one good item than several cheap ones” – but that’s not how it’s working for me much of the time.
Winter coat: I couldn’t find a used one. I did buy a new one. It’s red, it’s great. After wearing it for two days, it got spattered and dirty. Quite distinctly and unbelievably so. Oh well; but if I’d paid less, I would have taken it more in stride.

Purse: I bought a new (on sale – also like the coat) red leather purse along with the jacket. It’s fossil, a brand I love though did not own prior to this. Within a couple of days it was water-stained. Plus, though it seemed big enough, I ended up over-stuffing it so it looked too bulky. Paid around $50 (yes, not huge for a purse). At VV the other day, I bought a black small shoulder bag which I LOVE and which has become my new purse. It’s perfectly laid out, smaller than the red one, holds things better, and feels like the kind of casual efficiency I need. With my current life and activities, a small and efficient functional purse feels much better than a gorgeous red leather bag. I’m going to enjoy using it a lot more. I also won’t worry about the water stains or about damaging it – which will make its use that much more fun. Plus, the cost: around $3.50

Black wool v-neck merino wool sweater. Very nice, classic, bought on sale but still more than I’d normally spend ($30 – I”m cheap!). First wear, I snag the wrist on some of the omnipresent velcro in my life. Snags. Sigh, curse you lunch bags and baby goods! Other sweaters bought second hand are still unsnagged (why is that?!) and I like them just as much.

Rain jacket. Bought a new one in the fall as my first and big splurge, spending a few hundred (really don’t remember; don’t want to). After owning it for too long to take it back I realized that 1) the main zipper is sticky and hard to zip up, and 2) when I wear the jacket plus liner and have anything in the pockets, it’s too small and sticks out a the back. BLEH!!! Yes it’s nice but the wrong size. So incredibly annoying. If I’d bought one second hand I might have spent $30 on it – at the most – the look might have been comparable, and the fit too.

Ditto my red leather boots. Yes, gorgeous. But maybe a half-size too big. I don’t even want to think about it.

On the other hand: the majority of clothing I’ve bought second hand fits well, is in great shape, looks good on me. And, if I find it only works for a few wears, I’m really not out a lot. It’s an absorbable cost.

I don’t know if the high stakes of expensive and new purchases make me stupid. Or if the guilt of spending the money illuminates the flaws with these items. Or if it’s inevitable that I’ll hold those items to higher standards, and feel worse if they don’t work.

Or, potentially, the universe is telling me to just save my money. I don’t need new items. There is a glut of high-quality second hand items. I can get enough of what I want in that market, and save the money for better uses.

Note: there definitely are still items I will buy new. Personal garments, shoes in general, some basics that are cheap or easy or important. For sure. But many things can be got elsewhere, and I really want to try more. Just because I’ve saved a lot to date isn’t necessarily an excuse to splurge. But, if I do … that’s okay too! Just remember the lesson of the last few months and proceed with caution.

Me time, We time, No time

Let me start from right now (10:46 p.m. on Friday night) and move backwards.
I just heard a whistle outside. I hope it’s not the paper lady, returning to remind us that we left another light on. About 10 minutes ago I was seriously freaked out when I heard a strange voice yelling outside the window, “Hello! You left your lights on! Hello! You left your lights on!”

“What the hell?!” I thought. “Run and hide!” When I saw the paper trolley, then I figured out it’s the kind-hearted, knows-no-boundaries, chatty paper lady who lives down the street from us. Knowing that another shout was inevitable, I stuck my head out the door (still a bit freaked out) and said, “Thank you, we’ll get it.” And she left.

Husband was in bed with baby. It was his van, naturally (I never even considered that it might be my car). So I got to drag myself out to the street and figure out why on earth the dashboard light was left on. Good grief. And I’ll leave it there.

Prior to that I had just enjoyed a complete shower. By complete, I mean I washed my hair. Yes, at the age of nearly 40, I still clearly distinguish between showers where I wash my hair and those where I don’t. I have never liked washing my hair. Never. My hair is really quite great hair. Thick, healthy, wavy/curly, grows quickly. But also: thick, wavy/curly, grows quickly. Washing my hair has always meant

1) Taking a long time to do the washing, bored before I’m half-way through.

2) Taking a long time to dry it. Not that I usually use a blow dryer. But it WILL take a long time to dry, no matter what I do.

3) Trying in vain to style my wild hair that soon outgrows any shape the hairdresser has cut into it. If I don’t wash it, I don’t have to style it, therefore not washing it has a definite appeal.

4) Add baby. When I take evening showers, it requires husband to watch the baby and she wants to nurse as soon as I’m done. In the mornings, forget it. Busy baby, busy rush. Rare washing, rarer styling. My body’s clean enough but the hair is doing its own thing.

So earlier today, I had a brief moment of what could have been despair but was more an intense wondering combined with yearning: I wonder when I’ll be back to a time when I can take a shower when I want one without having to plan days in advance or get “help” with childminding. Any ideas when that will be? Because it sounds dreamy.

I’d love to shower as soon as I come home from work. Wash off the grime of the day, warm up my body, step into cozy sweats. Then prepare dinner, drinking a tea, and enjoy at leisure.

OH the dreams I have!!!

On the other hand: today was mainly super great. I had wanted to rush out early with baby and tackle some chores, but she didn’t want to leave the house. I asked her. She said no. After 4 days of dashing off in the morning, she wanted to relax at home, play with her toys, play with her mom. I had another moment, this one closer to despair, where I thought I was a complete failure as a mom. I can’t even get my child out the door to buy groceries. Good grief!

Then I reframed. My child loves being at home. I’m communicating with her and respecting her wishes. Though I might want to be in “go” mode, I don’t have to be – none of the chores are urgent, and in fact, I want to get out of an obsession with getting things done and focus more on enjoying where we are. So we relaxed and ate and played until around 10:30 when, while nursing, she started whining and pointing at something. I asked her to show me what it was and she went over and hit the stroller. Yes, it was time for a walk.

And it was great. We walked, talked, did errands, played. She’s so fun and cute and smart and funny and chatty! She wanted to read the magazines in the accountant’s office, so we flipped through some old Reader’s Digests. We went up and down stairs, then the elevator. Picked up shoes in the shoe store (a question about stretching straps). Just fun fun fun. Then she fell asleep on the way home. I tackled some urgently-needed cleaning, talked with my sister, and she was awake. So, more playing, including playing outside.

And then I got the chance to do my chores! We went together and again had super fun. She loved riding the cart in the grocery store. We walked across the driving lane in the parking lot a few times. We played a game where she’d tell me when to stop and go. The dollar store was full of fun things but she was okay with leaving them there – we said good-bye to them and walked out.

Finally, evening and bedtime. I knew she was really tired. But we seemed to have missed the bedtime window as we were super-busy and had a late dinner. As a result, she nursed, bottled, then popped up, wide awake. Once again (see a theme?) I felt ready to give up. I’d messed up bedtime again. I was a failure.

So I gave up completely on bedtime and started doing some cleaning (the place is a STY, people. Smaller, yes; neater, no). And she started playing. She let me dress her, though she had refused the sleeper earlier. She relocated all her small animals to a stool and chair in the kitchen, talking with me about the process. She then raised her hands in triumph at the new set-up! She was having so much fun. So was I. So I relaxed and let it be. And she’s sleeping now; all, so far as I know, is well. And tomorrow, thankfully, is another day.

Oh, the glories of shopping!

Yes, I’m shopping AND checking Facebook. Just enough to keep me happy, not too much to drive me crazy.
After moving into the basement, we noted a few things we needed to fill in the gaps so headed out this morning to get them. One stop at Jysk yielded some baskets and odds and ends. Then to our shopping mecca: Value Village.

The whole family loves VV. We find clothes, shoes, books, toys, kitchen supplies and games. There’s a wide variety of goods, most in really great shape, for really really low prices. Yes, we can overdo it, but in general we keep it under control.

Baby has a great time. Really. She plays with toys, telling me which ones she wants or doesn’t. She runs down aisles and through the clothes. She looks at herself in the mirror, talking to her reflection. She plays with the books, taking them down and spreading them all over. She particularly likes “baby” books (booh): little books, generally for adults! And going in the change room with mom or dad – and in and out, crawling under the door – is a blast.

We spent $87 today on toys, house supplies and some clothes. This doesn’t include the $5.99 shirt my husband accidentally wore out of the store without paying for. He remembered when we were about a block from the store, but baby was tired/busy/ready to nurse, so we kept going. I plan to take the tag back with me on my next trip to cover it.

We ate at Latin Fiesta. Can I say: OOOH I love Mexican food! This was delicious, hot, super super super yummy. They serve Mexican and Salvadorean dishes. If you like beans, cheese and all that other goodness, go.

Soccer game for a niece, gardening at home, visit with friend, visit with neighbour, nursing and baby bed by 6. We did a bit more settling in after that, and are about to snack and possibly watch something on Netflix, volume permitting.

This coming week will be very busy with a lot of key meetings and a workshop – so I look forward to staying on top of things, and getting to next weekend in good spirits.

Simple solutions to stressful problems

Those of you who read my postings (thank you for that!) may have noticed a certain stress in my tone lately. I know I’m feeling it. It’s not that my to do list is unmanageable; it’s that I haven’t even found the time to do a list so the to-dos are ricocheting around my head and (so it seems – I don’t have a list to check this) piling up. Physical space: a mess. Body: needs more rest. Menus: in need of work.
After some basic reflection, I’ve come up with a few little things I can/need to do to curb the mental and physical clutter that’s getting me down and free up more time to do important things like be with my family.

1. Stop shopping. I keep trying to purge our possessions, but if I shop, we may never made headway on this. I’ve been enjoying second hand outings a lot, and have found some great toys for Alya & clothes for myself. I still want some things to have a complete wardrobe; I still would love to have more and better toys for my girl. But shopping takes time, money and adds to the mess. For the next while: cut shopping and use what we have.

2. Make a list before checking it twice. I need to do a mind dump on paper (kind of Getting Things Done-ish) and then process the list to come up with an orderly way to approach my current tasks. As it is, the list is disorganized and has too many non-essential items rather than real to-dos. I look at it at the end of the day and don’t know what to tackle, so I read blogs. With a full list, in order, broken down to single tasks, I can get somewhere.

3. Stop multitasking. If I can. Maybe. We’ll see about this one, but I find baby-time more enjoyable if I”m focused.

4. No more facebook. For real. I’ll try. Though I’m not yet ready to cancel my account.

Here’s hoping that these simple solutions get me feeling closer to a manageable life.

Free Evening

It’s my Friday – the start of my weekend. My husband usually picks up baby on Thursday nights to give me some personal time.
It’s funny how little I look forward to what should be delightful!

I’m dealing with part of my anxiety right now by pumping before I leave the office. Going too long in between breastfeeding or pumping freaks me out as I still fear loss of my milk supply. And I thought it would give me a chance to breathe and reflect before heading out.

What will I do with my time? Well, I was considering productive engagements. Prepping for the online course I”ll be teaching in a couple of months. Or work on my paper, which has fallen off the radar.

Instead, I think I’ll shop. Why not?! I realize it goes against the decluttering urge, but I want to. I want to get some toys and clothes for my baby. I really honestly could use a pair of yoga pants and/or pajama bottoms as I run through those really quickly. And I simply do not have the focus, drive or energy to pursue something more productive at this point.

It’s been an exhausting week. I’m going to do what I feel like doing rather than anything I should do. And then probably, I’ll go home really really quickly because being away from my girl for so long just feels wrong.

So much for balance!! Life lately has felt like it needs to be about turning in: to family, myself, our home. That is what I need at the moment, so I’m going to enjoy it and not worry about other priorities. They will sort themselves out eventually.

Facing materialism

I am nearing the end of my shopping streak, and am somewhat relieved. My wardrobe feels much more workable, so that objective seems to be achieved. I no longer feel pressure to find time on weekends and nights to rush out and scour the racks for essential clothing items. My credit card can take a break, my time will be my own again.
Unfortunately and predictably, the materialistic obsessions that are fed by shopping – particularly in new stores (yes, 2nd hand shopping is still my norm :)) – are strong and hard to subdue.

Today I returned a few items I had purchased (part of my with-child shopping plan: buy and try on at home). The shoes went back without a problem, though I do feel a slight desire for more shoes.

The dress, that was harder. The lovely red sheath dress – something like this one, but much more elegant. Aside, of course, from the not-quite right-fitting top and the pouchy stomach. Oh, it felt great when I zipped up that dress! The layered detailing was feminine but not over the top. It fit comfortably and yet made me look great. I am mourning the loss of that dress and the lifestyle and activities it represents.

I am also salivating ever so slightly over some machine-washable merino wool sweaters marked down 60%. I got a black v-neck sweater, because it looks great and inspired by this clothing essentials list. Of course, seeing them still on sale and realizing that this gorgeous sweater only cost $35, I desperately want another one. In another colour, of course! If they had had a red v-neck in my size today I would have snatched it up. I still am tempted to go back, check the selection and pick up another one. So elegant, simple, long-lasting. Classic.

And, I have enough sweaters. I really want to retain the minimalism within the “feeling good about myself and my wardrobe” trend. I want, not only to have enough clothes to wear, but to feel good about wearing each item I find in my closet. I want to have just enough clothes so I have variety, but not so many that I forget what I own.

I am reminded of one telling moment in grad school where I brought home yet another pair of comfy attractive black leather shoes from Target and discovered a similar pair, unworn, still in the box, in my closet. That kind of thing has NEVER happened to me, before or since. But still … at that point in my life, minimalism wasn’t what I was going for. Neither was quality. It was shopping cheap, buying what seemed okay, and ending up with a big, big wardrobe (okay, one big would probably be enough :)) but not the right things to wear.

I can live without the red dress. It wasn’t the perfect shade for me, it needed adjustments, and finding a seamstress is not a priority for me now.

And: baby is calling for mam mam ma! I must go.

How to not have fun

Hello grammarians: infinitive split deliberately. I actively engaged in “not fun having” today!
Step 1: procrastinate at work.

Step 2: beat yourself up about it.

Step 3: leave work late because you are trying to catch up.

Step 4: instead of enjoying a couple of hours of personal time while your husband picks up baby and brings her home, rush around madly doing high-speed urgent shopping, all the while worrying about how daughter is doing and feeling guilty for not being there with her.

Not having a cell phone doesn’t help, I realized, as a cell phone enables me to check in with husband and come home if need be.

Shopping had some okay moments but was not really joyful. That is a real shame, since why not make everything joyful if you have to do it? I think I”m at the end of this mad shopping spree and I’m glad. Necessary items have been purchased and now I can enjoy time and wearing things I like. I could get more, but I have enough and combining things creatively will be more rewarding than accumulating too much. I also have an outfit for the wedding, if I don’t change my mind about it, which is a relief. And a few items to return, but once that is done, it’s done. Aaah … stepping out of the mall again. It will be good.

I”m less sure how I can enjoy time away from baby. Admittedly, I don’t have to if I don’t want to. I”m very comfortable being attached to my baby and wanting to be with her most of the time. And I still do enjoy things I do without her, undobubtedly. It’s just that she’s my sweet, amazing baby girl and I crave being with her and I see no reason to deny this.

It’s Thursday night, end of my work-week, beginning of another full and fun (I will give it my best shot) weekend. Hope you all enjoy.

Conscious Consumption

Recently I’ve been thinking about my shopping patterns. I would never have said I was a big shopper. In actuality, I shop more than I need to and am learning more about how shopping operates in my life. I hope to reach a healthy state of balanced shopping at some point.
During mat leave, I shopped a lot, but almost exclusively for groceries. Somehow, everything associated with eating – menu planning, cooking with recipes, keeping the house stocked with dried and fresh foods – assumed great importance. I went grocery shopping usually a few times a week, at several locations, to track down all the essential items for our meals. We did eat some good meals, and I also spent a lot of money on food (up to $700 or so a couple of months when I went heavy into stockpiling dried foods). Other months were more moderate, in the $400+ range, but it was still a lot of money and, more importantly, a lot of time spent shopping with my daughter when we could have been doing other things: walks in parks, play dates, reading books, on and on. Plus, budget wise, if you shop less you spend less but you quite possibly will eat just as well. These days I”m shopping a lot less frequently, enjoying having a more manageable pantry, and appreciating the lower bills. Not every item needs to be replaced once it’s used up; not every needed item must be purchased right away.

Aside from groceries, for years my other weakness has been second hand shopping. I have rarely bought new items (aside from basics like underwear, and yes, shoes) for years. Scouring the shelves second hand became a hobby; the beautifully coloured if occasionally damaged items I brought home, my reward. Since going on this latest decluttering streak, however, I’m being a lot more careful with my time in second hand stores. I would say I generally avoid them now unless there are specific items I’m looking for. I know how easy it is to add unneeded and cheap goods to the home, and since those are the ones we are trying to eliminate, better to not go there. I can think of quite a few items I still own that are not useful, may even be still stored in boxes, purchased on a whim for a dollar or so, and still carted around with my just because they’re beautiful. Okay to a certain extent, maybe (1 or 2 beautiful items, sure) but not what I really want for my time, space and money. And again, time: I don’t want to train my daughter to have stores as her second most familiar environment.

The last month or two I’ve been shopping in new stores (what word am I looking for here?? I don’t really know what to call these. At the mall? Department/other stores?) as I take seriously my inner need to own a wardrobe that feels professional and attractive for work, and feels good on weekends too. I have definitely noticed list-creep as my initially small list of items I wanted to buy new has grown. It’s one of the dangers of shopping: you are bound to want to do more of it.

I also am extremely conflicted about the experience of going shopping with my daughter (or today, as we did, my daughter and husband). My husband, in proof that he’s a better person than me, suggested we all go to the mall together and that he would look after baby while I shopped. And that I needed to shop and he supported me in doing this. Why this felt right: I still lack some items of clothing that would make my wardrobe work (as in, the pieces mix and match, I don’t run out of tops or bottoms, by the end of the week, I have the undergarments and accessories that fill out the look, I can layer as needed). Shopping with baby on my own: tooooo hard. Also, we have a social event coming up that requires a good outfit, which I lack.

Why this felt wrong, once we were doing it: weekend hours spent spending instead of bonding. Attention distracted while in daughter’s presenceĀ  because I was scanning stores for products. Husband doing all this work in support of his wife (I know, that sounds wrong and awful, but really, it didn’t feel good to be constantly running into and out of stores and change rooms while he took care of our girl. Even though he loooves taking care of her and was more than willing to participate).

And back to the flip side: baby had fun. LOTS of fun! She got to run around in a biiiig open space with lots of new things to see. She met lots of kids (including one mean boy šŸ™ – oh well) and adults, and loved being friendly with them. She played – on the rides at the mall, with the glass & mirrors, with things in the stores. She had lots of attention from mom and dad. It was actually kind of great, especially on a winter day when I’m a wimp about going outside.

And, I found lots of what I was looking for. And then looked after baby when we were home so hubby could rest.

There is still shopping and returning to be done. By the way, moms out there, I now understand the return phenomenon: so much easier to buy and really evaluate an item at home; returning takes only a little time, but trying to track down an item once tried on might be futile. But I do hope/dream/plan that it will only be a couple more trips, then I can step away from the spending for a while. Quite a while, even. And really work hard on finding other, better, more fun activities to do with my daughter while wearing my new wardrobe.

Pick 3 things

One idea I’ve read on a few mommy blogs is the suggestion (or survival tactic if you prefer) to be realistic about what you can get done while staying home with kids. For those who haven’t yet indulged, I can let you know that childcare is both wonderful and exhausting,Ā  all-consuming, constantly-attention-demanding. And at the same time, the amount of work seems exponentially increased as you struggle to get things done in a more limited time-frame. Just as one example: prior to baby, I did laundry once a week. 2 or 3 loads on weekends. Now, it’s often a load a day, sometimes up to 3.
Though the temptation (for a task-obsessed woman like me) is to do more, more and more to catch up, a home life of peace and serenity dictates otherwise. After all, proper care of baby requires a certain attention. And life is about more than a clean home. Thus the suggestion to prioritize and limit what you want to get done. You might choose a few things you absolutely must do every day; you might choose a very small list of items you want to get done above the necessities.

I’ve been trying to give this a whirl lately. It is a challenge. Some days I do manage to pick just a few items to do and let the rest go. Then the next day: it’s catch-up time! And while I can see the wisdom of prioritizing and being realistic, my desire to move our family ahead (finish the house, sell the house, downsize our lifestyle, save more money, on and on) keeps my list longer than feasible.

I guess I’m saying, while picking 3 things to get done each day makes so much sense when I consider it holistically, I’m not emotionally ready to fully embrace it yet. However, I’m willing to dabble with it and see if it becomes more appealing over time.

Today, for example. Morning: I cleaned the kitchen. Then we had a fun morning out at the library, book sale, lunch out, home with napping baby, reading and napping. Then back into high-speed mode as we changed sheets, did laundry (multiple loads through the day, drying, folding, putting away), picked out my outfits for the week, and helped with more cleaning and purging. Then, after baby’s bedtime and before couple time (yay, time for that tonight!), I mixed up a cake to bake – really wanting chocolate cake! On the plus side: I was about to go out shopping with baby in the afternoon, actually driving down the street, when I saw her signing for milk/nursing in the rearview mirror. So I turned around and came home, nursed her, and didn’t bother going out again. Good choice, less stress, much more fun to be home.

For tomorrow, there are a few things I’d like to do. I want to make up a batch of facial scrub for me and my sister. I want to get some writing done (on the singles paper – must get back in the swing of things). There are some friends I’d like to call. We want to visit my mom. I’d love to sort my fabric supply and purge; also go through a small stack of magazines and pull pictures. And just some down time and reading time would be wonderful! Plus meal planning for the week and maybe groceries. Reality: I’ll prioritize the facial scrub, down time writing and meal planning. The rest can wait, unless they happen magically.