Mind-space is a marketing term. Actually it is more of a marketing target. Large organizations hire professionals to emblazon potential clients with billboard-like messages that are stored in the seemingly bottomless memory banks of the brain. Unlike traditional advertising (billboards, magazine ads, etc.) messages that reach the brain are permanent. How many jingles can you hum? How many corporate slogans can you list?
The subversive nature of mind-space advertising is alarming, and powerful. Many of us do not consciously give over the space in our brain for advertising, it just happens by osmosis. We hear a commercial on the radio or see one on TV and suddenly we’re humming (all together now), “doo, doo, doo, doo, doo, I’m lovin’ it.” There in our minds is a bill board for a fast food chain...forever...without our consent.
I spent a few days this month in the Napa Valley of California. In case you are not familiar with the region, it produces the bulk of California wines. Many of the finest wines in the country--and even the world--come from this area. Several co-workers and I spent two days meeting to discuss the coming fiscal year and build camaraderie for the challenges ahead. One of the ladies in our group is friends with the vintner of a rather exclusive winery. He invited us to have lunch in his home while we sampled his wine and eat a meal prepared by his personal chef. As you can imagine, this was a perfectly superb way to spend an afternoon. The wine was marvelous, the food was delicious, the conversation was atrocious.
Many of my co-workers are very wealthy. They spent most of the meal discussing who they would be telling (bragging to) about his illustrious meal. They also spent a bit of time discussing which car, boat, second house, etc. they were about to acquire. They discussed how the french oak chair rail in the house was nice and rustic, but wouldn’t fit with their tuscan decor. They tasted the wines and the food and nit-picked about the littlest things.
As I sat there I realized that we have become slaves. Slaves to stuff. Our mind-space is filled with hundreds of billboards promising riches, success, sex, love, even fulfillment if we buy this, or go there, or have that, or do whatever. We live our lives believing ten lies for every truth. Deep down, we all know that a new car won’t get us laid more often and even if it did, it wouldn’t give us someone that loved us. We all know that a bigger house, a second house, a different house won’t fulfill us for the long-term. But regardless of what we know, we walk down those paths everyday. We eat at places that claim to be healthy, even though we know they are not. We buy stuff we know we don’t need because it fills a void, but at the same time it drives us deeper into debt and therefore deeper into work that many of us do not enjoy.
I don’t want to sound holier-than-thou, but I think it is time for a little truth. Truth is big. One truth takes up the space of hundreds of lies. So, here are some truths that I’m painting on billboards in my mind:
1.) If I have food, I am blessed. (It doesn’t matter what food because millions of others won’t eat today.)
2.) If I can sleep tonight in a place of relative safety and warmth, I am blessed. (Millions of others will sleep in dire poverty.
3.) Everything I own is something the poor do not. If I have two coats, I’m taking one away from someone who needs it.
4.) People are after my mind-space, I need to put security measures in place to protect it.
5.) A truth is bigger than a lie. I am responsible to seek and spread truth.
6.) I am blessed that I may bless the next person I see who needs it. Not the next person I’d like to bless.
Jan 31, 2007
Jan 29, 2007
Okay, take away my man card, I don't get sports. I mean, I enjoy playing football or hockey with some friends and I like to ride my bike or a skateboard, but I really think sports are a bit out of hand. A lot of the guys I work with have been planning their Sunday's around the NFL all season. Now that the "Big" game is coming up, thy are like drooling zombies walking toward the TV.
I'll watch the game. But, I'm certainly not going to celebrate it like a national holiday. I watch it almost every year, mostly for the ads. I am a writer, videographer, etc. and I have always found a lot of creativity (after filtering the brash over-sexualized majority of the advertising) in some of the commercials. So, today as the guys in my hall puffed their chests about who would win I did a little research, on the commercials.
Each 30 seconds of air time (according to an article on MSNBC.com cost $2.4 million. Yes, I said, $2.4 million. That is $80,000 per second. The World bank estimates that 1.2 billion people live on less than $1 US per day. So, if my calculations are correct, advertisers are spending more than 4.8 million people in the world spend on food each day per minute of advertising. Sick!
Let's assume for a moment that there is the standard 14 minutes of advertising per hour during the Superbowl this year. In that time advertisers could have fed 67.2 million people for another day. How long is the Superbowl? Four hours? 268.8 million people.
16,000 children will die of malnutrition in developing countries on Superbowl Sunday. If advertisers re-allocated their funds for that day, what would happen?
The most disturbing thing about the numbers, however, is not simply in what is being spent on the advertising; it is what the people watching will do with the ads. Every company that advertises during the Superbowl will expect heavy returns on their $4.8 million per minute. How much? 100 times or more?
PepsiCo (Pepsi) is one of the leading sponsors of this year's Superbowl, according to Forbes.com PepsiCo expects $34.8 billion dollars in sales and $4.97 billion in profit this year. They are but one of the companies lusting after Superbowl advertising profits. Some studies suggest that it would only take $13 billion US to satisfy all of the world's basic sanitation and hunger problems. PepsiCo alone makes enough profit each year to eradicate one third of the WORLD's hunger. Something doesn't add up.
Okay, now my tirade is over...well, not really. What does all of this have to do with our journey? Here is the point, every time we choose to not buy something new, we slow the growth of these money-eating machines. But saving money for ourselves cannot ever be the point. We need to redistribute the wealth and resources we save to those who need it most.
Lent is coming up, I know that many who read this blog are not of the same religious persuasion as I am, but I think Lent (regardless of your beliefs) can add spiritual weight to our convictions. By giving up something we enjoy and using that time to reflect on our blessings and taking the resources--monetary or otherwise--that we would use during that activity and redistributing said resources to others is a sure way to slay the dragon of consumerism and embrace the spirit of global community.
Thanks for letting me stand on the soap box for a few minutes. Before I step back down, can I make a suggestion? Don't boycott the Superbowl. Instead, watch it with people you care about and gently educate them on how much opportunity is being missed. If only one person begins to think about changing their lives in order to bring balance to this world, it was worth a Sunday afternoon.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 10:42 PM
Jan 28, 2007
I have to admit, this one has been a struggle for me. I like to watch TV. I like the mindlessness of an episode of canned reality. So when we decided, a few months back, to dump the dish and stick with whatever floated to us on the air waves...I was a bit distraught. (So was the satellite TV company, they weren't able to comprehend that I was dumping them and not replacing them)
The move was born out of an increasing awareness of how much TV influences our daily lives. We were beginning to realize that weeknights revolved around the network schedule. We found ourselves turning down dinner with friends for the latest episode of whatever. But, even more depressing was the numbing effect on our children. They played around the house singing commercials. They tried to talk us into toys with the selling points from advertisements, they were beside themselves when the TV was off.
It's been a little more than two months now. There have been times when we missed it, but this weekend we were reminded why we made the choice. We went to the local thrift store on Saturday to look for a rug (our house collects quite a bit of dirt and our current rug is well beyond capacity or cleaning). We didn't see anything so we asked the lady at the counter if she had seen anything come in.
"No," she said, "but there is a 27" TV back there if you'd like." I'm not sure how the two were connected. We politely declined and asked her to give us a call if something showed up. Today (Sunday) we had dinner with our extended family and immediately after dinner, the tube was on. I was amazed at how much advertising and cross marketing was going on. The most disturbing was a pharmaceutical ad set to the music and animated pictures of Happy Feet. What on earth does the flu have to do with a movie about dancing penguins (a premise that confuses me anyway, ahh...maybe it's so bizarre it makes you ill)? Needless to say, we will not be going back anytime soon.
Take a risk, dump the dish. Cut the cable. Just take back your life from that horrid evil box.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 11:03 PM
Jan 26, 2007
"Hey! We're Compacting!"
Sounds like fun, right? But what if you take comfort in shopping?
This last week I realized more will have to change in me if this is going to work. I have a tendency towards depression, and for me, dperession means hours of doing the bare minimum of living. Driving kids to school, eating and sleeping.
And my normal vice is gone. I can usually drive down into town and shop a little, then buy myself a nice dinner. I'VE GOT TO STAY HERE. I've got to face the REAL.
Which mean I've got to deal with my kids- graciously. I've GOT to pick up dirty clothes and put clean ones away. I've GOT to take a shower. (seriously- when I'm down- my hair gets braided, I throw on a scarf, and use lots of lavender oil to mask any smells.) (sad but true.)
It's so funny that my posseions are causing so much problems with my life. Not being to get stuff stinks, not be able to take care of the stuff I have....ugh! No more stuff!
I'm feeling better today, but I am left with my house in a shambles. Will I be able to un-bury myself and get all my stuff together? I hope so.
I included pictures to show you what my house looks like RIGHT now. This is what a funk looks like for me. I'll update when I'm on top of things.
Posted by Carolyn at 8:58 AM
Jan 25, 2007
My father has been in town for the past few days. Whenever out-of-town family are in town, things tend to be a bit harried. Well this time was no different. Usually, when my father is in town, we eat out a lot--usually every meal. So, when my father called me yesterday and wanted to take us out to dinner I blindly excepted. I called Carolyn to work out the details and was blindsided by her response.
"Why can't we just eat at home? I'll cook something."
Well, she did and it was fabulous! My father was very suprised. When he and I were alone for a moment he said suprisingly, "I didn't know she could cook." That put a smile on my face for several reasons. The most important one was that I knew Carolyn has made a dramatic change in lifestyle. She is really living out what this journey was supposed to challenge. Also, he cooking is getting better and better.
So, long story short...MY WIFE ROCKS! I love you babe!
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 10:06 AM
Jan 22, 2007
My son, my nephew, and my father joined me for a hike on Sunday afternoon. I planned on taking them all to one of my newest favorite places. There is a new regional trail system in our area that winds its way through rolling oak infested hills and down to a beautiful stretch of the American River. We planned on hiking down to the river and panning for gold. I've found quite a bit on the American and I thought I would share a bit of fun and history with my family.
We strolled down the trail quickly and arrived at the river with baited breath. What treasures did the river hold? The young boys were ready to stake a claim and begin their cowboy lives living near the river. They were busy exploring the rock outcroppings past a gravel beach while I set up to clean out a few small crevices in the rocks that might yield gold. As I dug through my pack, my father noticed a change in the river.
"Matt, I think the river is coming up," he said a little anxiously.
"Yeah it might come up and go down a little, they are probably adjusting the dam upstream." I responded in a dry unresponsive tone, which he noticed and thankfully didn't stand for.
"No, I'm serious, I think we need to move!"
I'm glad that he forced me out of my haze, he was right. We quickly gathered our things and began to retreat over the rocks only to find ourselves on a quickly shrinking island. We moved quickly to the narrowest part of the rising river and jumped to the other side with only wet shoes. The river continued to rise almost 3 vertical feet, breaching the gravel bar and leaving the rock outcropping completeley under water.
There are many metaphores for life, but this experience shed bright light on my present state. In life, we often lose sight of the big picture in order to consentrate on the details. We forget about what is really important to take care of what is at hand. We forget to look around and notice the river rising and cutting us off from everything that matters. Once we finally look around (usually too late) we find ourselves stranded on an island questioning where it all went wrong and when it all happened.
I have been experiencing a rising river in my life for some time. I am never content. I don't live NOW. I live in some ethereal future. A places where, "things will be better someday." A place where my worth is determined by what I have, what I do, and who knows my name. In some small way, I have been aware of this--although I have become quite adept at ignoring it--for some time, but a journey that challenges this thinking at its core really lets the dam loose.
So for now, I need to keep my head up. I need to force myself to look around and find an exit from the rising waters before they claim me or leave me stranded. I need to act fast, I cannot wait to see if the river is just rising a little, because a little might be too late.
There are some big truths to paint into my mental canvas, but that is another post.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 11:41 AM
Jan 20, 2007
I hear people talk about Satan having "footholds" in their lives. In this time of renewing my faith, I'm still painfully aware of things that seem to never change in me.
Like my sense of entitlement.
I realize that no matter how much I simplify and get in the groove of real life and out of wanting stuff, I STILL feel like I should someday have better.
I'm mostly talking about this house. Through all the fondness I feel for this place, and all my determination to change the way I look at what I need- I harbor this tiny voice that says, "Yeah, but...come on! How much longer are you going to stay here?"
I realize that this is something I'm going to have to pulverize. I've got to continually let go of this little tiny voice and move beyond it.
I have so many little things like this that I write off as natural or reasonable. But that doesn't make them right. I've got this inner yucky person that creeps out now and them- climbing up into my daily life on these footholds that I ignore.
As I'm trying to be vigilant with my possessions, it's times I'm vigilant with myself. Yuck.
Posted by Carolyn at 7:16 PM
Jan 18, 2007
I mentioned something in my last blog about our preschool, and just feel like I should say more.
Last year- some other mamas and I banded together and formed a Preschool co-op. We were thrilled to learn that if we didn't charge any money, we could start a school without liscensed teachers in any location we want!
Then we were approached by First Five- a goverment program that gets money from cigarette taxes. They told us we were eligible for a grant!
Next we aquired usage of a historic Schoolhouse right in the middle of where we all live! It needs alot of work, but with the preschool using it, the schoolhouse has gotten alot of attention and it has since been painted, and is set to be re-roofed. We are so happy to see this great old building used as a school again.
School has been going since September and we are astounded at how well it has been going. We got our grant- and though we realized we could suvie on no money- the supplies we can buy will really make things easier and mean less prep for all of our busy moms!
So, I just had to share. More evidence that hard work and creativity can circumvent spending bigs bucks on anything.
Posted by Carolyn at 9:36 PM
SO- it's happening- just like people told us!
We are getting the stuff we need used- even the pesky little stuff- but also great stuff we just want!
I have wanted longies for Scarlet (wool pants to go over cloth diapers)- but didn't want to spend much $$ on them.
Well- along comes a new mom to our preschool co-op (which is also a blessing we get for free), who makes diapers and covers. Today- she stinkin GAVE me a sweater, shirt, and matching longies as well as a fitted diaper she made. Just stinkin' gave them to me!
These are the kinds of blessings that keep coming along- if it wasn't kinda late- I would post about more.
Posted by Carolyn at 9:31 PM
Jan 17, 2007
There is something about me that causes me to overindulge when I'm lonely and bored. I'm just one of those people who can't seem to fill the time when I'm alone. Now- lets make it clear that I'm never truly alone- I have kids with me all the time.
But this morning Matt left for a company retreat for three days.
Here's a normal day when Matt's out of town: My first instinct is to go to the grocery store- buy some Oreos and some TV dinners. Go home, go online and browse a little. Then pick up my son from school- go down into town and go to Target or even the mall. Grab some dinner at Pasta Pomodoro, grab some Starbucks and a magazine. Then go home and go to bed.
So- YIKES! That is wrong in so many ways right now.
First of all- I don't go to our grocery store anymore- I tend to over spend there, and we've just found that sticking with a bi-weekly trip to Trader Joe's is better for us. The food I'd buy would be for binge purposes only. I cant do that anymore! It's not right!
Then, wasting all my home time on the computer; shopping for more than we need right now is wrong.
Taking the kids down the hill to go shopping is against our pledge. We need nothing at Target- in fact I'm not going to Target right now. Even though there's health items there- it's just too tempting. And the mall- I've always loved the mall, but right now it just seems like such a waste of space to me.
Going to Pasta Pomodoro is the toughy for me. Going out to dinner is something we all thoroughly enjoy and dont plan to give up. But tonight? Is that the wisest decision?
Starbucks...sheesh- I have an expensive Barista machine here at home and tend to be more satisfied by my own Lattes than the ones I buy there.
So, what now? Why is it so hard for me to have Matt gone?
Do I not have enough to do around here? Laundry is piled high- the kids rooms is a disaster again. I have plenty to do. Why do I want to get out?
I have no solution for myself right now- no wise exposition on time management. Just some frustrated run on sentences. Thanks for reading, though!
Posted by Carolyn at 10:09 AM
Jan 15, 2007
So, I hate to post anything today - in case it would mean that people may not read Matts post- which is AWESOME.
Yesterday I took on the monstrous job of cleaning out my hutch. It was one giant junk drawer. It held everything homeless and awkward- yet there was very little that could be purged. But I still got rid of more than half of it!
My motivation was to get it cleared enough that I could finally inherit my china.
There has been a huge dish pack box in my parents garage for my entire life that said "Carolyn China". It was my great grandmothers. I had taken a peek at it about ten years ago. I pullout a saucer and was quite underwhelmed.
So, over the years I have ignored it. I decided I may be interested in it over the past few months- but I had NO where to put it.
With my newly cleared hutch- I have a place.
I unpacked it all at my moms house- and I LOVE it. I'm so excited. Alot of it was broken- my sister is going to try to make some stuff out of the pieces for me.
So, I feel like an adult. I have fine china. I'm not sure how fine it is- but it's mine.
Posted by Carolyn at 6:19 PM
"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
These words were spoken about the tremendous struggle of the nineteen sixties Civil Rights movement. Civil Rights were the pressing issue of their time in America. Martin Luther King, Jr. quickened the pace of change and demanded a response from the mass of American citizens that looked at the problem in apathetic annoyance or failed to see a problem at all. Still today, his words continue to change the minds of millions. He caused a ripple that raised a wave. There is still discrimination and segregation in this country, but Mr. King helped to get the wheels of change moving in the right direction.
Today, as I read about his fight, I could not help but think that the most pressing issue of our time is consumerism. Americans make up less than 5% of the worlds population and yet we consume 24% of its energy resources! We have entered a new era of slavery. Worst of all, we've walked into it willingly. Our struggle is becoming more deadly and dangerous every day.
I have been sharing a lot about this journey away from consumerism and toward contentment and sustainability with those in my sphere of influence. Many of the responses are frightening. I've been told that I am a Marxist, that I am acting un-American, that I am a hippy (as if that's something bad;)), and a host of other quizzical angry things. It seems that this way of thinking has really hit a nerve in those closest to me. Why is that? Why is there such fear of life outside of consuming?
What is the best way to get the wheels of change moving in the right direction? I am not content with making this journey a "family" thing. It needs to be bigger, to change more people's minds. It needs to be about change, real change. When Martin Luther King, Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize, he gave the money ($54,000, a very hefty sum in the 1960's) to the Civil Rights movement. What can I give to perpetuating the freedom of millions of consumer slaves?
More pressing, how can I help people to see consumerism for what it is?
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 11:36 AM
Jan 14, 2007
We spent the weekend cleaning and organizing our home. Carolyn was working inside while I worked on the yard.
Our property sits on a hillside covered in trees. The leaves and pine needles from two seasons have covered our property in three inches of muck. I spent the day raking and moving large piles of semi-decomposed material around the yard so they can be burnt over the next few months. I enlisted the help of my son for the project and he worked well within his five-year-old attention span--about five minutes on and an hour off. After helping me drag a tarp full of leaves accross the yard he said, "Hey Dad, do you want to go on the tire swing with me?"
"No buddy, I've got a lot of..."
In that moment I realized that I'm always finding time to work or to act like I'm working, but I have forgotten how to play. My son does not need any excuse to play. He can make a game or imaginative adventure out of anything. He turns a box into a pirate ship, a stick into sword, a few pieces of scrap wood into a space ship, a blanket into a tent in the mountains.
His actions are childish, because he's a child. But there are some things that my son does a lot more than I do. He smiles more, laughs more, wonders more, creates more. He see the world as a wonderful source of beauty and adventure. I struggle to see it without asking how much everything costs, if we have the time, if I have to work that day.
So, I'm adding something to this journey. I'm going to figure out how to live life a little more like my son.
BTW we apent the next half hour on the tire swing, it was worth every minute of it!
**Edited to add this from Carolyn**
I just have to add that while Matt was writing this- I was finally relaxing on the couch with a piece of pumpkin bread and some chai. Then Wyatt approached me with a craft book in hand, saying, "Can we do something out of this book, mom?"
Well, my first reaction was "Hey bud, I'm trying to relax here." Then after a few second of watching his little face drop in dissappointment, decided to flip through the book with him. He wasnted to do the activity where you fill glasses with different amounts of water then play them like a xylophone. I was ready to say no- it's almost bed time after all. But I just said yes, put my goodies down and set it up for him and his sister.
Then he wanted to make boats out of foil and float them in the sink. I caved on that one too and as I watched them play together, I realized I put them off so much. I always think things are going to be a problem, but really- the things they want to do are simple. It's me whos complicated.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 6:44 PM
Jan 12, 2007
Tonight I was at my parents house, watching tv with them for a while. They have always liked to watched "This Old House"- the progam where they renovate an old home for a family, restoring it to it's original splendor.
The latest home they have done doesn't have owners yet. The show purchased it for $600K or something and plan to sell it after the renovation. Tonight the episode we watched was one where they toured the finsihed parts of the house that had been designed by a team of 17 designers.
Room after room after room I watched as they revealed the library, the entry room, the loft, the butlers pantry, etc. Then they finally got to the normal rooms (which were in no way normal) like the bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen.
One thing that struck me was one of the showers- it was covered in shiny subway tile, accented with some expensive stuff, and it was HUGE.
I said to my parents, "Don't you think this is a little much?"
I have thought alot about what it would be like to have a huge house with custom cabinets and walk in closets. Or even just a house with a dishwasher. Or a bath tub.
Would I be happy then? Would I keep it cleaner because I had more space? Or would more space mean more stuff which leads to needing more space?
And how nice does a living space have to be? If it's comfortable and safe and everyone has a place to lay there heads, how much is really needed?
The same question comes to me, what do we NEED to live? Not wanting or wishing- needing.
Posted by Carolyn at 10:20 PM
I work a long way from home. So I spend my lunch hour alone. Before this journey, I walk around REI or Borders and usually pick up something little, or not so little during my break, then I would drive through some fast-food joint and inhale a burger on my way back to the office. Now, that we are re-orienting our life, I have found that I have a lot more time in my lunch hour than I had noticed.
We have a great non-Starbucks coffee shop near work. They have free wireless internet, good coffee, and big tables. So, recently I have been spending my lunch time there; thinking, writing, and researching. You know what I have found? This journey to change rhythms is dangerous. Having time to think and write is a frightening thing.
Suddenly, projects that I have been thinking about for years are progressing and I'm realizing that writing fills me in a way that my job never will. I have to talk myself out of skipping the rest of the workday to write. Dangerous.
Even worse, having time to think has given rise to such salacious thoughs as, "maybe I really don't need to buy something to make me happy." Or, "maybe we could survive on less money." Even, "maybe this job is taking away more than it is providing." Yikes!
BEWARE of time to think.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 12:34 PM
Jan 11, 2007
Part of ditching the whole materialistic mindset for me is realizing how much great stuff I already have. I need to appreciate these blessings and stop looking to acquire new things to give me that good old "look what I got" feeling. I tend to grab at things and when I find something I like- I hoard.
This means I don't take time to enjoy what I already own.
So, since I love to make lists I thought I'd list some of my favorite goodies to remind myself that more is not going to be better:
My Full Circle Doumbek drum- a beautiful handmade drum
My Wraps- I am big into wearing my children and my stash is used constantly
My espresso machine-a present from a few years ago that is used a lot and keeps me at home
My iPod- I dig music.
My cuff bracelets- I have a husband with impeccable taste who has blessed me with these
My couch- Ektorp sectional from Ikea, wedged into our tiny house making all the difference
My Ghana market baskets- I have a few and they go with me everywhere
I'm pretty blessed to have such amazing things. What do you treasure?
I could only find pictures of my wraps and one of my couch.
Posted by Carolyn at 11:22 AM
Jan 10, 2007
OK- I'm am done de-crapping the laundry room! It took about an hour, give or take a few breaks to nurse or answer the phone.
I started by just separating the trash out- and there was an embarrassing amount of it. Then I took out the non-clothing items, trying to sort them in the best way possible. Then, I was left with a huge pile of clothes- mostly missing pieces of zip off pants, bathing suit bottoms and single socks.
There are now 6 garbage bags (kitchen sized- not the black bags) on our back porch. A couple to donate and four that are just trash.
Now- the room is dingy and not clean- but I'm back burnering that part until I finish some more pressing projects. I know it aint pretty, but it's alot better and someday we may remodel it. I was able to find a trash can to throw lint in (before I was throwing in an empty detergent box). I put two bins in there for sorting: clothes that are too small or need repairs, and one for emptying pockets into. The bottom shelf of the shelving unit is mostly empty. It's really dirty (I know, gross), and is only holding dog chew bones and some undesignated bins.
I really like that I can walk in the laundry room and have a place to throw the dryer lint. It's normal now.
Posted by Carolyn at 6:53 PM
Jan 9, 2007
"Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
We are a little more than a week in. I'm a little unnerved at how amazingly easy this all seems.
-Carolyn and I seem to really be communicating well about our needs, wants, and
feelings regarding this major reordering of life-goals.
-We are spending A LOT less money
-A lot of people seem to be supportive
-My Mother-In-Law is hardly nagging us at all about the whole thing
I'm sure that hard times will come and that there is a lot of time and potential for challenging circumstances, but stepping into this experiment seems (so far) to have been the most difficult part. I think Mr. Emerson is right.
So...who's joing us?
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 11:32 PM
Jan 6, 2007
My poor husband married a mess. I've been a mess for as long as I can remember. I like stuff, and I tend to hoard it, stuff it, then it avalanches and I sit on the floor and cry.
One of the purposes for this blog for me is exposing my mess as motivation to rid myself of it. So, if you're like me and like to peer into other peoples seedy lives, you'll love these pictures.
I'm starting with my laundry room. I plan to attack it tomorrow. It is actually is worse than this right now- the pile is waist high and overflows to where you can barely shut the door.
This is a result of TOO MUCH STUFF. This stuff is piled because they have no place right now. And I have made a firm commitment to have a place for something or it leaves my house.
Stay tuned for "after" shots.
Posted by Carolyn at 8:07 PM
Jan 5, 2007
OK- that's a little dramatic- but true.
How easy does it sound to buy used and cut down on what you don't need? At first I was like, "Um- no thanks." I thought about how much I already bought used- so, it should be easy, right?
Well- I like scones. I love nothing more than to sit down with a hot beverage and dunk a scone in it. But, to make scones, you have to make a crumbly mixture of butter and flour. In order to do that, you need either a pastry cutter, or-if you don't have one of those- you can use two knives. I've been using two knives and boy is it a pain. So, the other day at the grocery store I saw a pastry cutter for $4.99 and picked it up to put in my cart when suddenly I caught myself. "WAIT! Can this be bought used? Do I want a used one?"
So, I put it back, and went home to scour eBay. Well, eBay has a ton of either Vintage ones (that were mostly rusty) or new ones. Neither apply to my needs.
"This is really no big deal, right? Shouldn't I just grab one next time I'm shopping? Or should I try to hold out for one to cross my path?"
Today I had to go into town and decided I would stop in Salvation Army. I don't have a single pair of jeans that don't injure me right now and so I thought I'd take my chances. Sure enough I scored a pair of wonderfully soft Calvin Klein's for $5. And what else appeared before me in a basket of random items?
A perfect pastry cutter.
I jumped up and down- and a lady said "What'd you find?"
"Oh, it's just a pastry cutter- but I promised myself I wouldn't buy one new."
She smiled and said, "You must be livin' right, honey."
I guess I must be.
Posted by Carolyn at 3:09 PM
Jan 4, 2007
We took the kids to Eureka, CA last week. It was priceless. If you have never been there, you should check it out. It has been a very long time since we had taken a solo-family trip (without another family or our extended family) and we felt that strolling through a forest with some of the tallest living things on our planet was the way to go.
Archimedes is rumored to have shouted the word, "Eureka!" after sitting in the bath and discovering the concept of displacement. Eureka, I have found it! He was looking for a way to solve a complex problem*... hmmmmm... and found it when he wasn't looking for it...hmmmmm...
After strolling through the "Lady Bird Johnson" redwood grove, we stopped at the beach. It was a bit of a hike down to the water and a bit of an adventure bypassing the washed out stairs, but worth it. On that beach...Eureka, we found it! Simple pleasure without spending a dollar. For the first time in most of our lives we had a brilliantly fun time as a family without spending money. That may seem terribly shallow, it is; but, neither Carolyn or I were brought up learning that fun and money were not necessarily linked.
We spent about an hour picking up agates, sea-shells, and drift-wood. We made swords, boats, sharks teeth, dragon scales, and a million other things with our finds. Wyatt found a sea anemone in a tide pool and watched it close around his finger. We saw crabs, seagulls, and pelicans. We listened to the ocean, found a waterfall, laughed, connected, grew together.
That is when I knew in my soul that we needed to deeply cleanse our money-stained souls. There is something so ethereal and holistic about a day spent well in nature discovering the depth and beauty of this planet. The wonder in my son's eyes and the playful squeak of, "look Daddy, look Daddy," from my daughter made me realize that I often spend a lot more than money when I pull out my wallet.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 9:49 PM
Jan 3, 2007
I dont like to share. My stuff is just that- MINE.
I was raised as an only child (I have two half- siblings, but they did not live with us most of my life), so when something was given to me- no one else could touch it. This didn't prove successful for me then or now.
My house is a good example. Where I live generally turns into a massive dirty junk heap. I realize the junking is a form of isolation. If it's a mess, no one will come there- thus making it a nice place for me to hole up and be greedy about all my stuff.
But as I get older, I realize that people- most people- like to get together and socialize at each others dwellings. How strange! Do they realize the amount of time it will take for me to make my house a place where it would be safe, much less pleasurable to socialize in?
Every once in a while I would stuff all the crap in one room and be able to pass the house off as livable- until I got friends who wanted to see the crap heap. What did they do? They barged in and demolished the heap- leaving me with a cleaned up space.
Since then I realized it'd be a diservice to these friends to let the house get this way again.
I read once that clutter cannot be organixed- that no amount of bins, shleves, hooks or gadgets will make my house- which is quite small- be able to contain the amount of items I own.
So- the downsizing has been substantial. And it doesnt stop. Every day I'm trying to look for things that can go away- and the freedom is amazing.
It occurred to me tonight, as I've been picking up in preparation for a play day at my house tommorow (yes- MY house), I no longer have to panic when someone is schedule to enter my home. It's freaking LIVABLE for once!
So here I am- letting go of my stuff- sharing my space- my stuff. Because thats what real people do.
Posted by Carolyn at 9:54 PM
Jan 2, 2007
Today was my first day back at work since Christmas. I had a great time off, spending time with the family, reflecting on the past year and dreaming about the year ahead. Carolyn, the kids and I spent a lot of time out in nature and really refilled our souls. But alas, all good things...
Back to the grind. I have a good job, with a good company, that pays me very well. But, today I realized that much of my lack of contentment begins here. While I make a decent paycheck, I am low on the corporate totem pole and I work with some very wealthy people. I never really noticed how much their lifestyle influences mine. They all drive new cars, wear expensive clothes, live in tremendous dwellings, etc., etc., etc..
I wonder how I can lessen the effects of their influence. I think that this whole thing would be a lot easier if I was surrounded by like-minded people.
Posted by Matt Maszczak at 12:42 PM
Jan 1, 2007
For several months now, we have been struggling to find our identity. The glorious allure of, "The American Dream," has been causing a rising incompatibility with the life our hearts have desired. We have lost the pleasure that stuff used to bring us, and we have begun to realize the dramatic effects of our constant want. The problem was compounded by 3 small children and a very small (by American Standards) house. So we have decided that in this new year we are going to change the rhythm of our lives to more closely flesh out the longings of our souls.
We don't yet know where this journey will end or by what road we will get there, but we have decided to give ourselves a few ground rules to get going.
1. We will actively search our souls and the thoughts of God through prayer, meditation, and the wisdom texts
2. We will buy everything (barring food, medication, and health related products such as soap, toothpaste, etc.) used if at all possible
3. We will only buy a product that replaces a product we already own which has worn out
4. Anything that does not meet the previous two criteria, will require both our approval and a mandatory 2-week waiting period (to assure need and outlive the want monster)
5. We will purge our home of all unused, unwanted, or extraneous clutter
6. We will purge our lifestyle of all unwanted, unhealthy, and extraneous clutter
7. We will learn to and teach our kids to lessen our impact on the earth
8. We will be excellent stewards of the home and possessions we have
9. We will share our journey with all who wish to join us or watch us in this quest
We have no real idea what we are getting ourselves into, but we know that we cannot do it alone. If you are reading this, please keep us in your thoughts, prayers, and hearts. We believe that your encouragement will help us to succeed.
In dangerous pursuit of the best life,
Carolyn and Matt
Posted by Carolyn at 8:51 PM