Categories
Economy

Do What You Can, Where You Are, With What You Have

It is with a growing horror that I’ve realized over these past few days that my grandparents were right. My parents used to tease them for their decision to save most anything they came into possession of; even the tinest scraps of fabric were preserved to become quilts. Every winter, I would watch them sort through bags of old clothing and random fabric pieces, assembling those scraps into coverings that kept the family warm. I used the few quilts I had been given in my childhood until they fell apart, not because I understood their logic, but because I loved and missed them.

That memory has dominated my thoughts these past few days as I’ve kicked myself for some of the decisions I’ve made over the years.

Minimalism is the art of eliminating the excess in order to make room for the important. As practiced, it means that, when you no longer use an item you discard it in order to free up space and eliminate the need to care for it.

I experimented heavily with minimalism over the past 15 years or so. Due to that, when I moved here back in 2011 I eliminated a number of items that I never anticipated needing again.

I ran into problems almost immediately. Having left my stove, refrigerator, and other items behind, I found myself without a way to cook and store food when I moved to this house. I had to scramble in order to correct that mistake.

I made a note in my mind that, should I ever move again, I would make certain that I kept essential possessions. One doesn’t know what will happen in the future, and it is always best to be prepared. It is better to have a refrigerator one does not need than to do without when your current one dies, after all.

As the days ticked closer to marking a half-century of life, I realized that I made other mistakes while pursuing minimalism. Not only did I eliminate a number of books that would have been quite useful to have with recent events, I eliminated almost all of my sewing supplies. With the exception of a sewing kit that my daughters gifted me ages ago, every single piece of equipment I used to sew clothing and make quilts was given away – along with the massive supply of fabric that I had stockpiled over the years as I haunted yard sales and clearance aisles.

At the time, the decision made sense. Clothing and other fabric-made items were cheap and plentiful; it was easier to visit a thrift shop or a yard sale than it was to actually make things by hand.

But now things have changed. In some areas, one cannot even purchase seeds to grow a garden since they are not considered “essential.” Sewing supply stores have been forced to shutter because sewing is considered a hobby…far from “essential” in the minds of lawmakers.

Yet our medical and other essential workers need an item that we can no longer acquire easily on the open market. We all need one particular item that can no longer be easily acquired – a simple face mask.

I had more than enough tools and fabric to make a bunch of them. I even have the skills to assemble them fairly quickly in batches, but thanks to my belief that fabric would always be plentiful and that it would always be cheaper to purchase manufactured items, I eliminated every single tool I needed to construct them quickly. Even worse, I eliminated more than enough fabric to make a ton of them.

I felt horrible when my daughter asked me to make her some masks. While I knew that I had the skills to sew some by hand, I knew that it would take a lot longer than it would have if I had only kept my sewing machine and other tools. I hadn’t, so rather than continuing to curse myself I got started.

I got lucky. Come to find out, the kid had been given an old sewing machine several years ago. A friend donated some needles and oil, so I spent yesterday using a paper cutter to cut the pieces and started sewing. I watched a few videos on YouTube, combined that with my previous sewing experience, and made the first mask.

The kid wore it to work today, thankful that she now had a bit more protection as she works on the front lines.

I’ve began the process of stitching together an entire batch out of the fabric I had the kid grab for me at a local hardware store. They opened a fabric section several years back. The hardware store was allowed to remain open as an essential business; since the fabric section is in the same store, we can actually acquire a bit of fabric here.

After I ensure that my daughter has enough masks so that she doesn’t have to re-use them without washing, I intend to sew some masks for the local cashiers in the area. I’ll use what I can acquire to make that happen.

While our medical professionals desperately need masks, no one seems to be thinking about what will happen if our other essential personnel fall sick. I intend to do what I can to keep them safe.

This experience has taught me a valuable lesson. Never, ever eliminate something that has a practical use if it is still functional and you can afford to keep it. It may be considered clutter for a while, but in this world, we never know when something will happen that will cause those items to be essential again.

And as I watch the financial news with what knowledge I gleaned over those two years of researching the stock market and financial principle, I suspect that there are going to be a lot of things we need that might be a challenge to acquire for the foreseeable future.

In our current focus on medical personnel (which is completely justified), factories are switching over from making everyday clothing to medical garments. Clothing shops have been deemed non-essential, so they have been closed. I doubt that the factories assembling medical garments will be able to readily transition back to making clothes for the rest of us, so if you have it (and it fits) keep it. Even if it doesn’t fit, keep it. You can recycle the material for masks, towels, and even bedding in a pinch.

A friend of mine gifted me with a plastic tote. It has a few holes along the sides, but it will still hold dirt. I intend to use that to grow food. I’m also going to take the shovel I acquired when I buried my daughter’s cat and dig up a place in my back yard. I don’t have enough containers (or even sufficent access or money for potting soil) for dirt, so I am in hopes that I can grow a few vegetables in the back. Unlike my front yard, I doubt it has ever been graveled over and packed down for parking so it should grow food decently. I hope.

I am dreading that. I’m out of practice when it comes to growing food. That makes me nervous. However, with the shortages I am hearing about in the stores and my concern about what will happen as our essential workers fall prey to this illness, I am planning ahead. I refuse to go hungry when I know I can prevent that with a bit of manual labor.

Folks, some financial experts are already whispering the “D” word. When combined with the fact that it could take quite a while before they come up with a vaccine for coronavirus, the lockdowns might last for quite some time. In my lifetime, businesses were discouraged from keeping cash on hand to carry them through extended shutdowns. If they weren’t financed to the hilt, using “other people’s money” to expand, they were wrong. I only know of one major corporation who keeps a cash reserve, and that’s Apple. The others used their surplus over these past few years to buy back stock (the value of which has tanked and will likely go even lower). As their stock prices have tanked, highly leveraged businesses have already began to fail. One company I invested in went bankrupt so quickly when this started that I didn’t even have a chance to sell out.

And I suspect that will continue as this pandemic continues to sweep the world. The United States government can’t afford to save them all. At some point, they will have to allow Capitalism to properly rein by allowing those who do not have the resources to survive this to fail. As that happens, many businesses that we take for granted will go under. It is already starting to happen in the restaurant, hospitality and transportation industries. Airlines and bus companies are struggling alongside hotels, restaurants, and bars as well.

As people have less and less money to live on, items like computers will become unaffordable along with subscription services for software and entertainment. To me, it looks like a chain of dominoes, with the first one teetering. We can’t spend what we don’t have, after all.

So keep your stuff. Hold on to it until we get through this, at least. If I’m right, you may need those items in the future.

As for me, I have learned an invaluable lesson. This time, whenever I acquire something that is useful, I intend to hold onto it regardless if the world believes it is clutter. I intend to recycle what I can moving forward, and I don’t care what it looks like. Like my grandparents before me, I will wear the badge of conservation with pride.

I need to close for now. I have some masks to assemble.

Categories
Organization Productivity self-improvement

Preparing for the New Year

Twenty-eighteen has been an incredibly eventful year. I’ve come to terms with the fact that the previous stage of my life is ending and determined a new direction for my life.

I may not know yet how I’ll get to there from here. That’s okay. All I have to do is continue to move forward with my end goal in mind; the rest will fall into place in time.

The primary way that I maintain my focus on a daily basis is through my planner/diary. The book allots one page per day to keep track of schedules, tasks, notes, and highlights. This not only allows me to keep track of the things that I want/need to do but to look back and remind myself of what I’ve already accomplished.

One major change I have made in this habit over the past year was to finally settle on the At-A-Glance Diary instead of just using the computer or a cheap composition notebook as I have in the past. My plans are extremely important to me, I can afford the expense, and I’ve realized that it’s high time that I break myself of the habit of going cheap on everything. It is time I began to utilize the Diderot Effect for a positive purpose.

I’ve fallen into the habit of using a modified version of the Bullet Journal method of notation to log my entries. This allows me to jot down things as I think of them in a format that is easy to review. My primary changes are using a “$” signifier for financial information, an exclamation point (!) for important items (as opposed to an asterisk), a lower-case “i” to note informative/inspirational notes, the letter “w” for my writing, and the letter “s” for self-improvement items.

As I’ve prepared for what 2019 will bring I’ve transferred recurring events to my new planner and dedicated an empty page in the back for both my annual and long-term goals.

They are as follows:

Long-Term Goals:

  • Multiple streams of passive income. More than enough to live on comfortably.
  • Own my own home.
  • Long, healthy, active life.

I made a note after this set of goals to remind myself that I’m just hitting my groove. I’ve got 50 years of life left at a minimum with modern medical technology so it isn’t going to hurt one bit to utilize 20 of those years to attain my goal of financial independence.

2019 Goals:

With my long-term goals in mind, I sat down to figure out just what I wanted to accomplish next year.

  • Have a will created. I need to get in the habit of keeping one of these. Wealthy people understand the importance of these; since I intend to become wealthy I need to adopt this practice.
  • Acquire dentures. I want a set of partials to correct my smile as I move forward. This will not only improve my ability to eat, it will also give me an advantage as I strive to increase my income.
  • Acquire new eyeglasses. These will aid immensely as I study and continue to write.
  • Re-acquire driving permit/license. This will be necessary if I decide to invest in real estate or enter a field that requires me to drive.
  • Continue investing. I must keep moving forward, doing what I can do with what I currently have, if I want to accomplish my long-term goals so I cannot allow this to fall to the wayside.
  • Determine if a career change is necessary. This concerns my public job. I know I will have to keep a public job for the next few years at the least so I need to decide if I want to continue life as a cashier or take steps to shift into a different profession. This does not concern my writing and investing whatsoever–just what I do to pay the bills and earn extra money to invest towards my future.
  • Continue reading/studying. I’ve got a lot of educational ground to cover as I change my mindset and work out the best way to achieve my goal. This will be a priority to me.
  • Continue writing. I want to share my journey with others in order to provide hope and prove that one can accomplish anything they set their mind to. It will also serve as a form of personal clarification and therapy. I also want to brainstorm and write a new book before the end of 2019.
  • Change the stories that I tell myself. Life is 99% of the stories we tell ourselves. I’ve realized that I need to change a few of my personal stories. I’ll discuss this in a later post.

Now that I know where I’m going it will simply be a matter of keeping on track. To close out the year (and eliminate the stress of drama) I worked out what I could personally do about a private situation, took a deep breath, and got it over with. Now that I know I have done all I can personally do I am free to let that issue go and continue with my plans to move forward.

I refuse to allow anyone’s actions to derail my plans for my future.

Taking Care of My Now

I’ve done all I can do to prepare for next year so it is time to focus on my now. I made another small investment in the stock market to celebrate, I’m composing a list of things I want to tidy and sort around the house (I’ve let things slide due to stress), and I’ve resolved to have this blog back on track with the coming year.

Starting in January I will resume posting three days a week come hell or high water. I refuse to allow myself to slack but I do need to reduce my current workload for a bit as I mentally prepare for next year since I want to hit the ground running.

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What goals have you set for the coming year? Please share your stories in the comments below.