07 August 2011

This is Recovery

To be honest, I haven’t been keeping close tabs on the economic news, but I do hear hurrahs about how the recession is over, and we are on the road to recovery. Apparently, sales are growing, new jobs are on the horizon, and people have hope and faith that everything is going to turn out okay. How can it not get better, right? And by the way, gas prices are down from that major spike that happened in early May, so it’s no problem to hop back into your SUV and take a summer road trip across the country. (Never mind that despite the drop, they are still at an all-time high since the 1970s.)

A few weekends ago, as we were turning the corner into our neighborhood, we saw the telephone pole plastered with “yard sale” and “garage sale” signs – more than I’d ever seen in one place at any given time. We even had our own at the beginning of April, to start weeding out excess belongings in the hopes of one day moving to our property on Terlingua Ranch in the Big Bend desert, completely off grid. It was curious to see that the items we had always considered most valuable were not interesting to our neighborhood shoppers – exotic antiques and brand name clothing pieces were passed over in favor of generic doorknobs and plastic containers.

Over the last six years, we’ve led a fairly practical and frugal life. We don’t buy clothes unless we can find them for a bargain at the thrift store, we keep our AC at 80 in the summer and the heater around 60 in the winter, we’ve maintained our 1983 Diesel Mercedes to avoid buying a newer car and having payments, and the library is our main source for books, music, and movies. Our furniture and home décor is a delightful hodgepodge of items discarded on bulk trash days (which Shand has masterfully restored), hand me downs, thrift store finds, and a small handful of IKEA and antique store splurges from the days when we were a two-income household. (Designing on dime isn’t just entertainment on HGTV.)

Some people comment about how difficult it is to let go of personal possessions – I imagine, in some cases, it is heartbreaking if you have some kind of memory attached to it, or you spent a lot of money on it when you bought it brand new. Since most of our belongings have come into our home either free or at a very low cost, it’s no problem for me to send them along the way with a new owner. I joke that if there ever were a fire, the only things I would take with me are my laptop, a suitcase of childhood diaries, my violin, and my 2 dogs.

I have to wonder how much hard-earned money goes down the drain at so many of these neighborhood yard sales? For instance, right next door they were selling a giant sports-bar sized TV (as tall as me!) for $10 and a nearly brand new SUV for $5,000. Were these purchases ever made with the idea that one day they would be worthless or that they would have to be sold in order to afford putting food on the table and paying the bills? Think twice before you buy something, whether it’s a $50 shirt or a $500 sofa. Do you really intend to hang on to it forever, or is there a chance it might wind up on a folding table on your driveway a year from now? If you’ve been living a comfortable life up until now, don’t gamble on material belongings. Give up the addiction for consuming and shopping – maybe you will be able to avoid recovery by means of purging.

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