Monday, December 15, 2008

Minus 11.1° this morning. Last night there was ice on the cat door in such a way that it could still open to let a cat out, but wouldn’t open to let a cat back in. I was paranoid about having a cat stuck outside overnight and freezing to death and since the lock on the cat door broke off long ago, I had to trudge out in the cold (even though I had said nothing could make me leave the house) and scrounge up little boards and sticks to wedge against the outside of the door so no one could get out. The cats were all out of sorts and mad at me, but this morning when I defrosted the door with my hair dryer and took the wedges out no one showed the slightest interest in going outside!

So here it is, the Christmas season again. How I despise it! Call me a scrooge, but the crass materialism of it just gets to me! I think it would be much more significant if the holidays when giftless. At least, giftless in the material sense. What if you only gave love, compassion, cheerfulness, the gift of your time and good company, thoughtful gestures and selfless acts? Wouldn’t that be so much nicer? This whole season just grates on my nerves. I don’t understand how material gifts give any satisfaction even. I guess if they are functional items, things you really needed, they could be satisfying. But frivolous gifts, things given out of a sense of duty, what’s satisfying about that? There are so many advertisements on the radio for goofy gifts--I think it’s the jewelry ads that grate on my nerves the most. I guess I just don’t understand status items, period. Rather than giving satisfaction, wouldn’t they always leave you desiring something even a little better, a little more costly, a little more showy? Whatever it was, it seems like it would never be enough.

Materialism is such a vicious cycle. It creates a continuous feedback loop. I believe ego, materialism and a general sense of dissatisfaction go hand in hand and feed off of each other. There was a recent study that found a causal relationship between materialism and unhappiness--not just a correlation--and I believe it actually went both ways. Unhappiness led to increased materialism and increased materialism led to increased unhappiness.

I’m at a point now, having escaped the consumer culture to such a large degree, that so much of it strikes my ears as being really odd. It seems ludicrous that people buy into any of it (pardon the pun).

I want to start looking back over my year now, in order to start planning where I want to go next.

Materially I’m still paring down my life. I was able to sell off two of my three industrial sewing machines this year and finally claim the sewing room as my bedroom. I built a bed from wood John gave me from his old water bed frame, plus one of my headboard samples. For a mattress I used a slab of foam left over from my headboard venture, topped with my old memory-foam topper doubled over. It’s a very comfortable little bed.

The whole mattress industry has been one of my pet peeves. They over-engineer these mattresses and then sell them for outrageous prices. You shouldn’t have to spend $1000 or $1,200 or more for such a basic item. And the amount of excess in the materials--foam, fabric, metal and wood--is obscene. I always thought it was outrageous when I had my drapery business to go into these homes and see toddlers sleeping in their own queen-sized beds. What wasteful extravagance!

Anyway (sorry for that little tangent) another thing I got rid of this year was my computer printer. It went haywire, and I just decided I didn’t want to replace it. For one thing, I prefer to have the extra space. For another, I find I’m obviously not printing off reams of stuff like I used to. I waste less paper, have far fewer papers to file and keep organized, and I’m not buying expensive ink cartridges constantly. I figured when I have something I really need to print I can do it at the library for 10¢ per page. So far (and it’s been at least six months I think) I haven’t had to do that yet.

I’m thinking about giving John my drill press as a Christmas present. That thing sits in the middle of my bedroom, of all places (trust me there’s no better place to store it) getting in the way, and for as little as actually use it, it might find a better life at John’s place.

I made a rule that for every new thing that comes into the house, at least one thing has to go and preferably two things, since I’m still trying to downsize.

I discover there’s a fledgling Freecycle group now for Brush and Fort Morgan, so now I have a good way to get rid of useful stuff. I think after the holidays I’ll put my tubs of fabric scraps on there and see if I can find any takers. It would be nice to start clearing out the storm cellar.

There are a few other things in the house I still need to get rid of, either by selling or giving away. I want to get rid of the computer scanner and also my cordless phone (I went back to corded phones because of my concern about the health implications of wireless devices).

I had been debating for quite some time whether to trash my antique waterfall desk. It’s half stripped--I had intended to refinish it--and I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to finish the project. I can’t really do it at this place. It’s too dusty outside and the fumes would be too much in the house. But, I finally decided the desk is worth keeping. It was handcrafted, with dovetailed drawers, some of the rabbets were hand-cut, and it really has the potential to be quite beautiful when refinished. It does have it issues, too--the dovetails coming apart, the veneer chipped off or scratched in places, and a thin strip of molding that broke off and was lost. But I’ve learned I need to pay attention when I can feel even a smidgeon of resistance to a course of action, and this was one of them where I felt conflicted. So, I feel great now that I’ve recommitted to keeping this desk (which I’m writing on at this very moment).

I love the way the house is becoming less cluttered. The simplicity of it is very soothing and satisfying. I’m not all of the way to where I would like it, but I’ve made huge strides in that direction.

And what have I have acquired in the past year? A water bath canner and some more canning jars, and the kitchen scale (it has been immensely useful). I bought one soaker hose for next year (I’ll need many more), but that’s about it for gardening stuff except a faucet adapter V-thingy, a sprayer attachment and some O-rings. I also bought a ten-piece deep socket set which I needed in order to take apart my one sewing machine. I honestly think that’s about all I acquired this year that wasn’t a consumable. Santa is bringing me a new set of sheets that he found on clearance in September. For now I’m down to just two top sheets, one of which has to serve as the bottom sheet. Oh, okay, I also bought three small Pyrex containers this year. And some clay pots (most were 25¢ clearance items). Okay, now I think that’s it. Well, except for the brush to clean the refrigerator coils.

I bought zero articles of clothing for myself and only a few pairs of jeans and a sweatshirt for Collin. But let’s not get me started on all the things I didn’t buy!

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