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Today Danny & I celebrated our 13th/14th Anniversary. It is truly a joy to have come this far together and to have such high hopes for our future together, even though we’re in the midst of some uncertainty. Life is a bit “lacey” at present, a bit full of holes but still beautiful. Dan was working temporary contract work and the company for which he worked has not seen the order book they anticipated so his temp services were “no longer required”. While this is a bit of a bump in the road, I am walking in faith that life is unfolding for our best and highest good. I will continue to believe that the Universe is constantly conspiring for our good.

As I mentioned previously, Lace is the traditional 13th anniversary gift and I had some ideas for my gift to Dan, hoping to avoid consumerism as much as possible. And I did have some ideas for incorporating lace into our celebrations. (I’ll leave that to your imaginations.) However, since Books are our kryptonite… It turns out that the perfect thing I found was a book about life that I thought would be perfect for this “lacey” time. (Working part-time in a book store really is heaven to me but I do joke that I don’t bring home a pay check, I just get paid in books. Could be worse though, I could work at Dairy Queen!!) Wait. WHAT!?!?!

OK, I know, someone is jumping up saying, “Working Part-Time? I thought you were RETIRED!?!” Yes, I did Retire. I no longer work 40-80 hours a week, driving loads of miles in a commute and spending time in a job where I no longer have passion. I left the Rat Race.

However, after 8 months of Retirement, the local independent bookstore, Cherry Street Books, noted that they needed help as two of their original emp5-30-15 (11)loyees had moved on to other projects (the store just celebrated 8 years on June 23rd). So, I am working part-time in a place where I am amazed they pay ME (don’t tell Kathleen!). I love every minute of it and I enjoy lots of perks with this job in addition to pay. So, I don’t see it as work at all, really. As I told Danny, it is an inexpensive way for me to play bookstore owner so he never has to endure me being an actual bookstore owner.

But, back to my original message.

1. We are not focused on materialistic consumption.

I think a better way of putting this is that we are focused on NOT buying into the typical American ideal of consumerism. Our entire US economy seems to be based on spending. We often hear about the need for a higher GDP. Even when we were attacked back in 2001, the message from the President was to “Go Shopping”. So we do our parts as loyal consumers. Why?

Most Americans, and we’re exporting this trend as quickly as we can, are programmed to purchase more and more things. We are encouraged to fill up our lives with STUFF. Ads are everywhere and appear to be unavoidable: billboards on the roadways; purchased ads on the radio; and most prolific of all, commercials on the television. I remember my son Tom calling me into the living room when he was just a toddler. “Mom, you have to come here, you NEED this!” A TV commercial was telling him of the latest “must-have” for every family and he was listening. This was the day I explained to him that the TV lies. And that lesson stuck. To this day, he’s a man of his own mind and doesn’t buy into the ideas of fashion and trendiness. His generation in fact may be the ones who break this cycle of programming. They watch shows on Netflix and they avoid the ads in other ways, like never looking up on a trip in the car as they are plugged into their phones thus seeing zero billboards. They shop online where they can compare the best options, cheapest prices. They have much better tools than my generation did.

As I was growing up, the alcohol industry told me how cool I’d be if only I drank X. “Guys will think you’re beautiful.” (I do have to admit, alcohol does something to the senses making everyone look a little more attractive…) Then there are the fashion magazines showing what I must wear to be “in fashion” and which designer is the most important to carry now, all showcased by ultra-thin and air-brushed models, which leads to the diet books I need to buy to be thinner and the makeup and hair care products I need to make me more beautiful. I can’t be awesome cool unless I have the latest gadgets and apps. And if I’m feeling a bit off, there’s a pill to fix that. (Never mind those pesky side effects.)

The alcoholic beverage industry accounted for over $400 billion of our 2010 economy. And the way things are going, I’m guessing that only goes up every year.
The U.S. apparel market accounts for over a quarter of the global market at $331B. (Should it concern any of us that we spend more on beer than t-shirts?)
We spend about $54B on cosmetics and over $80B on hair care.
And even though we spend so much on beautification, we still have cultural standards of ideal body size so there is a $20B weight loss industry.
We spent over $211B on electronics in 2014. And that doesn’t include the monthly cost of your Vonage plan.
Pharmaceutical sales have been over $300B for the last 5 years.
(As long as the internet doesn’t always lie, you can check out stats here: http://www.statista.com/)

Well, I’m not buying their story. I wear clothes that feel comfortable, haven’t worn makeup since high school (except for maybe the office Christmas party or Halloween), quit dying my hair a decade ago and I am happy with the big bod I own. And while my phone has the capability of texting, I can count on one hand the number of texts I have sent. (The last one was the night of the recent Stanley Cup Final when the Blackhawks beat the Lightening to win the Cup while Danny was at work. It was a historical moment, and worth the $0.46 addition to our bill this month.) And if you want a wake-up call on meds, read Overdosed America by John Abramson. Wanna know how they came up with the proper cholesterol number we should be hitting? As I recall, it was figured in a conference room based on needed sales. This is more recent from him on this topic: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/14/opinion/dont-give-more-patients-statins.html

Dan and I realized that buying into the latest trends and gadgets only kept us working longer and harder. We still struggle with this and buy more STUFF than we need. But we’re much more cognizant than we used to be. For a long time we have minimized buying clothes and, as needed, we now buy second-hand from places like the Klothes Kloset here in Alexandria. (Love this place so I’m happy to plug them. In fact, I love their dollar item days. A while back I was able to get a box full of clothes to send to some friends in Missouri. This is the helping-make-other-people-happy part of life.) We get our hair cut a few times a year (because Danny doesn’t have much hair) and don’t spend much of anything on beauty products (because I’m already adorable!). In fact, I make my own shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste and cleaning products from simple ingredients. What we realized is that the STUFF just wasn’t making us happy. In fact, it was really making us miserable, having to maintain it, store it, clean it and insure it.

Around 2006, my dad gave me his 1981 Chevy Corvette. I had always loved the car, recalling the late nights when Dad and I would head out in the fall, T-Tops off, heat cranked and the Heavy Metal soundtrack blasting. Those were fun times. It was the first car I drove… in the parking lot of Dad’s work when I was about 13 or 14 years old. It was the coolest. So when he offered it to me, I jumped at the opportunity. But a few years later, I realized I wasn’t driving it very often, it was taking up a lot of space in the garage and insurance and maintenance for a ‘Vette is high dollar. I already had a Harley and that’s high dollar maintenance as well. These toys were rarely enjoyed and were keeping us from full implementation of the 5-Year Plan. So I called Dad and told him I was ready to let it go. I took it back to him and let go of a little cool so I could embrace a more simple and unencumbered life. I sold my Harley too, to my friend Steph. But I have first dibs on it if she ever decides to get rid of it.

When we decided to make the move from Indiana to Minnesota, we downsized considerably, letting go of about half our possessions. We gave away furniture, clothing and housewares to friends, St. Vincent’s, Salvation Army and a handful of other charitable organizations. We moved more than we needed but we definitely reduced our load making the move North cheaper and more manageable. We used a 20’ U-Haul and, because we were willing to drop the truck off in Fargo, ND, we got it for half price.

Here’s our retirement place.  Most of this furniture was moved to the Harn by my Mom – inherited possessions.  You can see the “hoarder” look we have going on here with most of the Indiana STUFF still in boxes.  We went through a bunch of boxes this weekend and found more stuff to give away.  But we’ll still end up keeping way more than we need.  (It takes time to get past all the years of programming.)

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The bigger part is not buying NEW STUFF to clutter our lives.  I mean seriously, the place is cluttered enough already, eh?  It’s a process and we are still learning but our expenses are down and we think more about all the ramifications of each purchase. Can we do without it? Is it something we really love? Or is it just an impulse buy? Can we borrow it from someone else?  Can we afford to maintain, insure, store it?  Do we really love it?

This can be a tough resolution to make, avoiding consumerism. We all need some STUFF but most of us can live with a lot less than we buy. It gets easier when you have less income to spend. And deciding to Retire at 45, we realized our earning potential was reduced so our spending better be in alignment. In the end, we’ve found that it actually makes life more enjoyable and simple without a lot of excess clutter.  But we have to go back home to enjoy a less cluttered space…

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