A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down

>> Thursday, January 15, 2009

This post is my submission for this month's APLS Blog Carnival. The subject is "mind games." Check out all of the APLS bloggers on January 22nd at VWXYNot.

My kids got Mary Poppins for Christmas, and I'm enjoying re-learning all the great songs and dances from that classic musical. I've also found myself quoting her to my children many times the past few days. In her wise words...

“For every task that must be done, there is an element of fun.
Find the fun, and snap, the job's a game.”

I've also been applying this mantra to my own life as I've tried harder and harder to be less consumeristic. In my own home, I'm safe, but as soon as I step out into the real world, I meet a thousand enticements to slide right back in to that spend, discard, spend, discard cycle.

For example, I went to the mall last November for the first time in several months, and suddenly I was intensely aware of how drab my clothes are, how my shoes are out of style, and how I have no cool jewelry. I was feeling a little despondent about my dowdy appearance and had the impulse to spend to my heart's desire to make myself feel better.

Instead, I came up with a compromise: I could buy myself new clothes whenever I wanted as long as they came from a thrift store.

Up to that point, I had never enjoyed thrift store shopping. But as I began visiting my thrift store on a weekly basis, I began to see the fun in it. It is a challenge to find good buys. And when I do find them, I feel a victorious high that I've never felt from a shopping spree at the mall.

If you're trying to live a low-impact lifestyle, it's easy to start feeling deprived, but if you find the fun in your new way of life, it becomes a game, and it can be amazingly rewarding.

Here are some more examples:

  • I am hooked on Craigslist. Why would I ever want to buy something new again when there are so many “like new” items on Craigslist? And like shopping at thrift stores, I see Craigslist as a challenge. I have a running list of things I want, and I check it regularly. I have to be patient until just the right item at just the right price comes along. But if I put in the effort, I reap some amazing rewards.
  • In my attempt to be more frugal and buy less, I've started seeing everything in a new light. Before buying something, I ask myself, “How could I improvise and use something I already have to do this job?” Before I throw something away, I ask myself, “Is there any way I could reuse this?” When I come up with a way to solve a problem using that method, I feel creative and satisfied.
  • Trying to support my local economy, I do a lot of shopping at the farmer's market. I hate going grocery shopping, but the farmer's market is fun every time. I only take one kid with me at a time, and we make it a date, giving me a chance to teach each child on an individual basis about where our food comes from. First Son always asks, “Momma, are these eggs from happy chickens?”
  • Sometimes if you're willing to be behind the times, you can reap some great benefits. For example, we still have a VCR. I can pick up old VHS tapes, like Mary Poppins, from the thrift store for a couple dollars. The videos are getting extra use instead of heading straight to the landfill, and we get to enjoy some classic old movies without waiting for them to be released from the Disney vault.
If you're feeling deprived in your non-consumer, green lifestyle, take a note from Mary Poppins. Make it a game, and you'll be surprised at how much fun it can be.


Maren Hansen January 16, 2009 at 9:13 AM  

Erin, I'm totally with you on this. I LOVE thrift stores, Craigslist, and Freecycle. I recently looked around our house trying to figure out which big ticket items where bought new. It was a surprisingly small amount! And the best part, like you say, is the rush from fulfilling my part as a hunter/gatherer... :)

Karla January 16, 2009 at 12:14 PM  

Great tips! I also have a VCR still you're right, you can get movies for next to nothing (if not nothing). Sad to think of how much plastic has been wasted in cassette tapes and VHS....

Cath@VWXYNot? January 16, 2009 at 5:00 PM  

And this is a fun post! Thanks!

Vicki Priebe January 16, 2009 at 8:51 PM  

Hi Erin,
I too find it great fun to go to my local thrift stores to find treasures. I am so much happier searching for those treasures, than going on a shopping spree at my local department stores, where you are guaranteed to find treasure with a high price tag. It is the thrill of the hunt for me.

Plus it keeps these items out of the landfills, which I love the thought of. (That is also why I built my website - www.ewishingwell.com. I don't usually ask people to check out my website, but you seem like a woman after my own heart - you might like it.) I love your blog by the by. Great job.
~Vicki Priebe
Wish Grantor

Green Resolutions January 22, 2009 at 4:57 PM  

This is a fun post! I just discovered Craig's List over the summer and found great deals on kid's toys for my son's birthday and Christmas gifts! We were able to buy him much better presents than we could otherwise have afforded!

Going Green Mama January 28, 2009 at 12:08 PM  

I love the happy chickens comment. Isn't it amazing what kids come up with?

Craigslist and (heaven forbid) Goodwill have become my new friends in recent months. And I'm proud to pass things along, even if it's as simple as previously used bottles to a new mom in need, because it helps someone else out in these troubling times.

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