Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lists Make My World Go 'Round

I am grateful for grocery lists, grid paper, and budget spreadsheets. I used to be a real impulse buyer, and yes, I still let the occasional spontaneous inspiration strike me, but ever since I was pregnant and became crazy forgetful about everything, lists became my best friend. We're like this: ____.

Oh, wait, you can't actually see me. Right. Well, anyway, now I research all big furniture purchases like crazy and plan everything out on grid paper before I buy. I consult my handy-dandy Excel budget spreadsheet and figure out how much we can afford that month and if we'll need to stow some away into savings for next month to make the purchase then. This may seem very stuff-oriented, but it has actually greatly diminished our acquisition of stuff. It's great! We tend to spend a bit more on each item due to its better quality which translates into having nicer and less stuff = perfect for clutter-loving people that now have a crawling baby. That's not necessarily true. We don't really love clutter, but we have a real hard time at saying goodbye to things, especially little knick knacks. Sometimes we think we'd like to rent a storage unit, but as my wise eldest brother said once, "By the time you've paid a year's worth of storage unit rent, you could have bought everything in that unit four times over." That is especially true with our crap, because it really is purely of sentimental value. Which leads me to the wonderful To-Do List.

Some shiver just at the thought of a To-Do List which I completely understand, especially in light of my status as one suffering from panic and anxiety disorders. But I figured out a way to make it a less-stress, if not no-stress, kind of list. I list things as they come to mind and for the most part, do them as I'm inspired to tackle them. Some things lose their priority as others pop up and more often than not, things simply disappear off the list entirely which is glorious in its own way. I include both dream-type to-do's as well as absolutely necessary to-do's. What is a dream-type to-do? Oh, like "research organic farmland available for sale in California," "make every present by hand this year," and "go to Thailand for a year." They are not necessarily the type of thing you merely cross off a list. Oh, and I love crossing things off the list. Sometimes I'll add things to the list after I've done them just so I can cross them off and feel like I accomplished more during my day. Example: "Change Keats' diapers." I would actually love to start a project where I use a chalkboard for the daily to-do's and take a picture of it everyday for a year. THAT would be interesting... to me.

I wish I could say that the monthly budget is a lifesaver, but we struggle to keep to it. Right now we're in the process of re-examining what we spend our money on and how much. We've made it a priority to spend at least half of our income (after rent and bills) to our food. Obviously, this makes the purchasing of anything else during the month a major purchase and we've decided that though it can feel tight, etc., we enjoy the feeling of eating local, sustainable, better food each day. I know for a fact that it has seriously contributed to my general health, especially while breastfeeding. Going about our budget in this way also opens up some serious communication between Birch and I that I wouldn't trade for anything. We don't just talk about how much we want to spend on what but why we want to spend our money on that thing. Each month it changes and sometimes we even trade off access to the truly extra money each month. In September, we had the great enjoyment of hanging around with my sister and her family while they visited in England (and still managed to buy Birch several new pieces of clothing for work). In October, I got to go to a Cat Power concert and a girls' night out with Miriam and Leslie (so fun!), I bought a new hand knit scarf (so obsessed), Birch went to a bar with our neighbors to watch some UFC fights he was particularly interested in, and I got to procure the necessary ingredients for a Human Cannonball costume for Keats. This month: a chair for Keats, Thanksgiving dinner ingredients, and Christmas presents!

So, here's to making lists, making life easier, making plans, making dreams come true, and making time for the things we enjoy most!

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