I've said it before, I'll say it again: I just love New Year's. Not only is it great to make a fresh start, but it's just nice to enjoy the simplicity after the insanity of Christmas.
And so, here we are. Two thousand twelve. Or twenty-twelve. I'm not sure how I'm saying it this year.
Either way, I like the number 12. My birthday is on the 12th, 12 was my brother's water polo number, and I just like even numbers. The number 12 is such a great even number, too, because it can be divided up many ways. So many equal groups. So much fairness. So, I feel good about 2012. I say, It's gonna be a great year.
Except, What if it isn't? popped into my head on New Year's Eve. So many of the past years have been great to me, what if I'm due for a terrible tragedy to befall me? Then I recall what Betty, my least-favorite of the Crazy Camp counselors, used to say: People with depression are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. She also told me that I have an obsession with fairness, which is why I tend to think those who have lived a fortunate life (like me) are eventually going to get their due and have a tragedy befall them. (Grating though she was, she had a point about the fairness thing. I mean, I just wrote an entire paragraph analyzing the fairness of numbers.)
So, obviously I'm being ridiculous and letting the darker part of my mind get the better of me. I am feeling optimistic about 2012, even if it is just the antidepressants talking.
Now, my feelings about new years having been explored, let's move on to resolutions.
I will briefly discuss three small resolutions I have made, and then one big one.
The three small ones:
- Get back into Weight Watchers. I know, I make this one every fucking new year's. This year I'm focusing on getting myself off white starches as much as possible, because people claim you stop craving them eventually. I'm also focusing on I can do this today, because when I think about the uphill battle that is weight loss, I just get so overwhelmed and want to quit. One day at a time is a strategy that works for AA, and it can work for me, too.
- Train for the indoor triathlon at my gym, which is February 25. I signed up for the official training program, which meets at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m. on Saturdays and will undoubtedly include a bunch of fitness types who will make me feel like an even bigger fatass. The training starts January 14, and I don't know if it will include some sort of "homework" workouts you're supposed to do during the week, but for now I'm just trying to get back into swimming and teach my fat self to run for 15 minutes straight. Oh, and go to Spin to train for the bike portion.
- Use my credit card less. This isn't about debt, it's more of a mental thing. Let me explain. I have paid my entire credit card bill every single month since I got a credit card. I think credit cards are convenient, and I think if you use them right they can work to your advantage, e.g. by giving you airline miles or cash back or whatever. (My particular one is a Target Visa, which gives me 5% off all Target purchases and then gives me an additional one-day 5% off every time I get x number of points.) However, despite the convenience and payoffs of credit cards, I hate getting the big-ass bill every month. I'm fully aware of the fact that everything on that bill is stuff I would have bought anyway, I just hate seeing it all added up on one statement. I don't like the "pay later" aspect of it all. So, this year I'm going to try to use my debit card or cash more, so I can pay now instead of pay later.
See, recently I watched a movie on a website called The Story of Stuff Project. The movie is kind of long (or at least, I think 20 minutes is long by online video standards), but the bottom line is this: We cannot create an infinite amount of goods with a finite amount of resources. The movie also reminds us of what we already know: The goods we get for ridiculously cheap come at the expense of people working for unfair wages in unsatisfactory working conditions in other countries.
Now, like all movies, this one has a bias. One could easily argue pro-consumption as well, because obviously a lot of people--people in America--depend on income from the retail industry for their livelihoods. And it would be impossible to give up consumption altogether, at least here in the mainstream real world.
But what ultimately brought me over to the side of less consumption was cleaning out my closets in December. I realized that, like most households, we have a lot of stuff.
And, like most people, we like acquiring stuff. Buying new things always comes with a small, temporary high. Although I have always advocated that high over the high that comes from eating, it's time to go back and use some of the stuff we already have instead of getting more stuff.
It's also time to start choosing reusable over disposable, because we only have one planet. I've never been a crunchy, hippie type--in fact, I've often chosen ease and convenience over eco-friendliness--but even I can see that it's time to just stop throwing so much away.
Now, my family and I live in the real world, so it would be impossible to give up buying new things altogether. We need clothes and shoes to wear. And sometimes unforeseen situations that necessitate unforeseen purchases arise, making it impossible to make any hard-and-fast rules about consuming less.
But we have established some Guiding Principles for The Year of Less Consumption:
- Choose reusable over disposable whenever reasonable and/or tolerable. Now, reasonable and tolerable are obviously subjective terms that vary from person to person. But, for example, reusable grocery bags and water bottles are tolerable, reusable toilet paper and tampons are not tolerable (in my opinion). Reasonable is a little more situation-specific, like maybe it might be more reasonable to use disposable products when going on a picnic at the park, for example.
- Consumable goods are not restricted, but choice of product should emphasize frugality and eco-friendliness. For example, choose the big hand soap refill that uses less plastic than the individual hand soap pumpers.
- Second-hand is preferred. Now, I am 100% okay with hand-me-down clothes for Nathan. I know the people who used them and I know they're clean. Plus, second-hand clothes are sort of the norm for kids, who grow out of things quickly. On the other hand, I'm not as cool with second-hand clothes for myself, and neither is Bill. So, since that's outside of our comfort zone, that's something we can maybe revisit later. But I think we can do a better job of buying second-hand when it comes to hard, easily sanitizable items that haven't come into contact with strangers' private areas, such as dishes or toys.
- Emphasize experiences over material goods. While of course I hope that saving money is a positive by-product of the Year of Less Consumption, it's not the main goal. Which is to say that I'm not opposed to spending some money, I just want to change how we spend it. When it comes to disposable income, I'd like to spend our money on non-tangible experiences instead of more stuff. Stuff like movies, museums, trips, restaurants, and other attractions are where I want to put my money this year. And that goes for gifts as well as for ourselves.
- All of the above should be followed according to individual comfort level. Bill and I discussed specific behaviors we could each change for the Year of Less Consumption. As I said, neither of us is going to use cloth toilet paper, and we're not currently all that okay with buying pants that strangers have worn. However, I have agreed to start using cloth napkins and dish towels instead of paper towels. Bill has agreed to bring his own bags into Target and to take a reusable water bottle to work every day. The bottom line, if you try to change too much too fast, or to do things you aren't comfortable with, you will be in for a big fat FAIL.