Saturday, January 13, 2007

knives in the play area

I don't make resolutions in January for a couple of reasons. 1) I consider my "new year" beginning in September because I am that geek who has always loved the fresh promise of back to school, and 2) they are dumb and make me feel guilty when I ultimately fail. As a practicing perfectionist, I don't like to fail and so refuse to start anything that might not end successfully. This doesn't mean I don't start things without finishing (see the chicken/muffin entry) - that's just perfectly doing something else, which is still success. I have the right to change my mind.

That said, I did have an epiphany of sorts on the flight to Singapore last month. (It could also have been severe lightheadedness due to lack of fresh air & sleep after 18 hours). I read about a group of friends in San Francisco who banded together and refused to buy any new products (besides food, hygiene, and safety items) for a year, calling their agreement The Compact (check out the link to their blog, if your eyes haven't completely glazed over by this point). Now, I am an intelligent person like you and my first thoughts went something like this:

Of course San Francisco, bunch of granola weirdos
How can you not buy anything for a whole year?? That's crazy...
Probably rich granola weirdos
They obviously don't have kids
Why is that guy wearing an orange tie?

Regardless, the idea nagged me during my week-long vacation in the land of The Great Singapore Shopping Challenge (seriously - the entire nation of retailers is required to have sales for a whole month each year). These people shop nonstop, day & night, all over this gorgeous tropical island. Even for me, it became ridiculous. So I channeled these granola weirdos and found myself thinking about every single product I saw, touched, picked up. Do I really need this? Can I find something like it at home? Will it be truly useful to whomever I'm giving it? I focused on spending my money on experiences - a spice garden walk, the art museum, lunch at a charming hidden cafe - and a few souvenirs created by actual artisans, not sweaty, malnourished Chinese children. Okay, I did buy a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt and an Emily the Strange bag (actually two, they were only $3!). But anyway.

An essential piece of The Compact is getting rid of stuff you don't need and seeking what you do from secondhand resources. Compactors (we are a people) are encouraged to frequent cyber communities like Craigslist and Freecycle. I created a staging area for items that were going onto the giveaway list - a small table in our back room, next to the computer - for convenience and to clear clutter from the main living areas. In my purging state, I decided our knife block was unnecessary as we have a drawer full of nicer, more functional knives. Off it went to the staging area. Which is also, I had conveniently dismissed, where my children play occasionally. Last week as I chatted away with my best friend, she spied amidst an assortment of picture books, finger puppets, a tape player, pick-up sticks, and card games - the knife block. Ha ha, funny explanation, ha. Luckily, she understands my lunatic obsessions, knows me to be a good bad mom, and most importantly, doesn't have the time to sit on hold with CPS.

Two weeks into the new year and my non-resolution is going well. I've found replacement items for necessities at the antique and thrift stores, and I have resisted a powerful urge to troll the clearance aisles at Target. Sometimes I experience shopping withdrawals so I head to the grocery store where the cute dairy stock guy works and try to find things I need, because food is an approved purchase. And stalking is free.