Are you frugal? Some random thoughts on stuff

The rest of our stuff came last week.  Wave 3 of the attack, if you will.  I mentioned before, that I didn’t miss too much of it.  Now it is here.  I’m trying to convince myself that this is a good thing.  Or it will be.  Once we get it put away.  I think it will all fit.  Progress has been slow because, you know, KIDS.  And it feels like a shell game.  I need to put X in here, but I can’t because Y is in there, and I can’t move it until I sort Z and get it moved.  And so on and so forth.

My goal for this weekend is to at least get things out of Henry’s reach.  I miss before when he wasn’t randomly walking up and handing me an iron.  Or a flashlight.  Or my box of Christmas cards.

Living with less stuff really wasn’t hard.  I’d like to get back to that a little bit.  But I’m having the same problem I was when I tried to purge before our move.  Selecting the things you want to take is easy.  Looking at all the things and eliminating them is hard.  When I didn’t see this stuff, I really didn’t miss it.  But now–even though I didn’t need it for almost two months–I look at things and think I should keep them.  You know, just in case . . .

I asked James the other day if we are frugal.  The Frugal Girl has a funny post up about how to How to be an obnoxious money saver.  The comments are interesting.  I don’t identify with a lot of these things, particularly noticing price changes of a few cents.  I would never notice that.  My general philosophy is that I can buy whatever I want at the grocery store because it is much cheaper than eating out.  I mean, within reason, of course.  I’m not buying all filet mignon, foie gras, and crab legs.  But we don’t have a grocery budget.

I recognize that we are fortunate to be able to think this way.  I know not everyone can.  I know I may need to think that way some day.  Besides the other reasons I mention here, I think this is one of the reasons I haven’t hired any cleaning help yet.  We could afford help now.  But I think I want to try on what would be like if we couldn’t.  I don’t know what the next step is.  If we opt to do something very different with a very different income stream, I’d like to know what it feels like.  Is this a deal breaker, ladies?

One of my new friends here has asked a few times if we have been to the mall yet.  Nope.  Besides that whole driving thing, I’m just not that into it.  The kids are not super fun in stores.  And I know I want less stuff if I see less stuff.

Similarly, a new favorite blog is The Mom Edit.  The writing makes me laugh.  The pics are gorgeous.  It does give me outfit ideas.  But it also makes me want things.  I find myself with 5 new tabs open after reading a post before I talk myself down that, no, I do not need another gray sweater.

In Clutterfree with Kids, Joshua Becker talks about working towards minimalism after spending a day cleaning out his garage.  Let’s just say it was not the most fun day, and he wished he could have spent more of it with his son.  It was a realization that your stuff owns you.  You have to put it away.  Clean it.  Organize it.  Take care of it.  Right now I feel a little like the stuff is owning me.  I need to be vigilant about eliminating the things that don’t find homes.

So, no, I don’t really think of myself as frugal.  I don’t budget.  I spend money on kindle books without hesitation.  I’ll drop some money on a dinner out.  But I’m working towards less stuff.  And recognizing that putting myself in less opportunities to acquire stuff generally results in less stuff.  I definitely don’t want to be holier-than-thou like the obnoxious money savers above.  I do love stuff.  Particularly gray sweaters.  And gray pants.  And gray purses.  Yes, I have a problem.  I think the goal should be stuff that works for you.  Right now my stuff is not working for me.  Time to recalibrate.

What’s your “stuff” strategy?  Do you consider yourself frugal?

Does it ever make sense to do your least favorite chore?

Once upon a time, when I was a poor law student–well even before that really–I fantasized about when I would “make it big” and could afford some kind of house cleaning assistance.  I know this is gross to admit, but we sort of just didn’t clean.  I mean we did laundry and dishes and scrubbed counter tops, but toilets and floors only got the real treatment when guests were expected.

Well, I finally graduated and we did it.  We hired help.  I didn’t love managing the cleaning services, and we went through quite a few, but having an at least bimonthly scrubbed toilet was pretty sweet.

So when we got here, I started asking for cleaner recommendations right away.  It turns out they are cheap!  So cheap!  The going rate seems to be 8 euro/hour.  This means I could have the whole place cleaned for less than a third of what we paid in DC.  Great, I thought, sign me up!

But.  I haven’t done it yet.  I’ve been trying to tease out the reasons for my hesitation.  Very high on the list is having someone here for a few hours is pretty inconvenient.  Mac is still doing morning naps.  This means there isn’t a time of day we can easily clear off for a few hours.  And our place is plenty big enough for us, but it feels a little claustrophobic when you are trying to stay out of peoples’ way.  This was hammered home this week as we had workmen here for two full days.  Woof.

A smaller reason is the money.  It is definitely more affordable than DC, but it isn’t nothing.  That money could add up to some nice dinners out or a trip.  It doesn’t help that I’m not sure how to value my time.  Is it worthless?  The lost opportunity cost of cleaning only seems to be sacrificing whatever else I want to be doing, not sacrificing an income opportunity.  What if I have enough time to do the other things I want?

Ranking higher than money for me is wanting the kids to know how to do stuff.  Someone gave the advice never to clean while the kids are sleeping.  So far I’ve been pretty good on this.  We clean up the kitchen after we eat.  Mac’s morning nap provides enough time for Henry and me to tackle a chore before we play.  The chores usually take longer than if I did it myself, but I want for him to learn.

I also want them to appreciate that things aren’t magically cleaned.  Growing up, I remember wiping crumbs from the dining room table onto the floor.  My mom stopped me, pointing out that then we’d just have to clean up crumbs off the floor.  I’m not sure the lesson fully sunk in because it wasn’t my job to clean the floor.  But this is what I’m getting at.  I want the boys to think twice before leaving something a mess because they know they’ll have to clean it later.

Since we’ve been here almost three weeks, I actually cleaned the bathrooms the other day.  It wasn’t that hard.  In a weird way, it even brought back fond memories of cleaning the bathroom with my sister growing up.  At some point, my mom told us this was our job.  I don’t remember receiving much direction on this, but she provided a variety of cleaning products and we did it.  We figured it out.  We stood on sinks to clean the mirror.  We eventually decided that a top-down approach made more sense than bottom-up.  I’m not sure the bathrooms were actually the cleanest, but we took ownership of it.  And I’m sure my mom was glad to get it off her plate.

But.  Even though I cleaned the bathrooms, I haven’t summoned the resolve to pull out the mop.  I don’t mind vacuuming.  Sweeping is ok.  But I really hate mopping.  It may have started earlier, but the hatred really crystallized during my time working at Panera Bread.  I usually worked the afternoon/evening shift, which meant you had to clean the store after.  Each night the last thing standing between me and the door was mopping the whole darn restaurant.  It seemed to take forever.  So many chairs to move.  So much dirty water to wring out.  I just hate it.  Since then I have avoided mopping at all costs.

Now we are very floor-centric.  Things are done on the floor.  Things are sometimes eaten off the floor.  This is the time when I should be paying more attention to them.  And they are pretty dirty.  Even though we take our shoes off at the door, Rome tracks in on our feet.  Henry is not always a sophisticated eater.  Spills happen.

So should we hire someone?  I really don’t want to mop, but I think I’ll try it at least once to see if I hate it as much as I remember.  And how long it takes.  Maybe James will decide mopping is his jam? [UPDATE: James says mopping is NOT his jam.]

If it is soul-suckingly terrible, I could always hire someone just to do the floors.  I’m not sure why I need to remind myself of this, but the beauty of having help for hire is that you get to direct what help you would like.  Having a shorter task instead of a full house clean should theoretically minimize the interruption to our homebodiness.  It should also avoid having our stuff rearranged in weird ways; I hate that.  And be cheaper to boot.

We shall see.  Maybe Henry will start cleaning proficiently.  (Snort.)  Maybe we’ll hire someone to do the whole house.  Or maybe we’ll just start with the floors.  And the range on the oven.  Cleaning the range is the worst.