Signs of the Times

Watching your neighborhood can tell you more than the news these days. What does your neighborhood tell you?

mind your head signage

My sleepy little town is typically unaffected by what happens in many parts of the US. Around here, things change slowly, so when they change, I know to pay attention.

When times are good, the rental houses around me stand empty. No one wants to rent a ratty old house from a slum lord when they can afford not to.

When I see these houses stuffed to the brim with families far too large for the space they’ve rented, I know that the economy is on a downswing.

This also applies to the river that runs near my house. There is a sheltered spot where the homeless squat during times of trouble. It is rare that anyone stays there for long; our community has a big heart. I’ve seen homeless people just passing through given apartments, clothing, food, and all of the necessities needed to help them recover their footing. The homeless get help in my town, real help. It is offered before they even have to ask.

So when there is life at the homeless camp, I always pay attention.

Both situations are happening simultaneously in my little area. Single mothers have crammed their children into tiny spaces, leaving them to roam free while they work to pay their bills. That’s what happens when people can’t afford childcare. Desperate parents have no choice.

The children in these homes have decided that I’m someone that they can talk to. They greet me as I step out of my car after work, telling me about their day and always knock on my door around my bedtime for one last hug before I go to sleep.

They were the ones who spotted the newest inhabitants by the river.

Another gentleman has placed a travel trailer on a spot of land that has been empty for over a decade. He runs a generator for electric. I’m not sure what he does for water. All I know is that he’s not bothering anyone so I hope that the city leaves him alone. He’s not exactly living “legal” based upon the rules in this town.

But my town is the canary in the coal mine. When people struggle here, there is something seriously wrong out in the world.

Because my town rarely changes.

I’ve had fun since my youngest left the nest. I’ve been indulging in things I’ve never really allowed myself to indulge in since becoming a parent. It’s been fun allowing myself to upgrade the things around me.

But I see the signs, signs that something serious is amiss in the world. This isn’t some news agency playing up a situation to get more attention. This is the reality of the people around me.

So while I am doing well financially, I see the signs that warn me to prepare.

It is time to tighten my financial belt to better ride out the coming storm.

In times past I’ve always focused upon my recurring expenses. Keep them low, and I can enjoy myself with the excess.

But I’ve never before seen three events like these occur simultaneously.

So this time I plan to do something a little different. I plan to not only monitor my recurring expenses, but all of my purchases as well.

I may have a job at one of the highest paying factories in town (along with my book royalties), but that does not give me an excuse to be complacent. I know from experience the danger of complacency.

Have you noticed any signs in your area that give you cause for concern? If so, what have you noticed, and what do you think it means?


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I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:

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2 thoughts on “Signs of the Times”

  1. Same here, Annie, except the reaction to homelessness in Canada is not as charitable. My city, Hamilton, is the buckle of The Rust Belt. It is 174 miles east of Detroit. We have hundreds of homeless people living in encampments throughout Hamilton, to the extent that charities proposed tiny home projects built on empty school yards. A former boys’ school was converted to a homeless shelter last year. Since November 2021, police have repeatedly knocked down the encampments:

    1. Wow. That is so sad. Makes me thankful that I live where I do, however imperfect. We have a special person on our police department whose job it is to help people. They move them into apartments nicer than the house I rent, take them to medical appointments that they help set up, do paperwork to help them get financial help…all sorts of things. I know of several who were helped here and one guy who curled up his nose at the place he was offered because he considered the apartment too “cheap” for him. He was given as much help as he would accept until he decided to move on. It’s one of the things I love about this town. We’re not perfect but we’ve got good people that do try.

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