Thursday, February 3, 2011

How Not To Be a Hoarder

A couple months ago, I stumbled across a couple of online discussions of Gretchen Rubin's book The Happiness Project. Feeling skeptical (oh, please, not another navel-gazer telling forth the virtues of wandering the world and ditching everyone and everything that doesn't exist solely for her happiness) yet intrigued by the chatter, I tried the first chapter on Kindle.

The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More FunThen I picked up the full volume at the library and buried my nose in it. Gretchen Rubin had lots to say that I found pretty compelling, honestly. Including the argument that making an effort to be happy is less narcissistic than it seems. If you're happy yourself, it's a whole lot easier to make  the folks around you happy. Think about that for a half a sec. Whom do you most like to be around? Who lifts you up? Who's most likely to rejoice with you in your successes or genuinely feel your pain without making it all about them?

The book left me thinking. And thinking some more. And making a few changes. For example: Rubin confesses to being an underbuyer. An underbuyer? I thought. You mean there's a word for people like this? People like me, who can't bring themselves to buy toothpaste or waxed paper at the store, even when it's on sale, until they're absolutely out of it and no-holds-barred need the thing right now? And then don't have the time to run to the store? People who know the bigger quantity of, say, organic chicken feed is a better deal, ounce-for-ounce, than the  half-size bag, but buy the half-size bag anyway because it just sounds cheaper right now?


Spend out, Rubin urges. Which is not the same as, live beyond your means. She's talking about losing your fear of stocking up, of having what you need on hand before the need becomes dire. About using the good things (the nicer china, for example) now instead of leaving it stored away for that pie-in-the-sky "some day." And also, about letting of the need to obsess over whether every single expenditure of time and money is "worth it."

I remembered these words the other day when it became clear to me that 75% of the large batch of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies I had made had mysteriously disappeared during a  window of time when about ten different children had occupied my home. I wanted to sputter, "HEY! Don't you guys know that we have to SAVE those cookies?! Can't you make a batch of cookies LAST more than twenty four hours?!"

Spend out, a voice in my head whispered.

As if my cookie-making time is just sooooo valuable. I could have been calming the riots in Egypt or bringing lasting peace to Afghanistan during that time, you know. Oh, and those ingredients! So expensive! The hidden caviar and cardamom  tucked inside each cookie! What ever will I do if Michelle Obama  stops by for tea and I don't have a day-old cookie to offer her ... because my kids and their friends were happily wolfing them down???

Now, if you'll excuse me, I hear there's a sale on milk at my neighborhood grocery store. With all those little cookie eaters running around here, I'd better go stock up. Happily.

(Cookie photo from Yum.) 


Eclectic Mama said...

Funny, I'm the opposite. I come from Depression-era parents, so I'm always in the mode of "buy the best deal." So if it's a 20 lb bag of chicken that's a dollar cheaper per lb than the 10 lb bag, I buy the bigger one, knowing that part of it'll probably go to waste. I'm working on it, though!

Stephanie said...

Sometimes I don't know what to comment, but I want to leave something so you know that I was here and thoroughly enjoyed your humorous insights, as always.

Hannah said...

Oh, Stephanie! I always, always appreciate it. :-)

Vanessa said...

I don't know what to comment either. Maybe I should reinforce the message "spend out." Spend out my dear! When Randall's went out of business near my house, I stocked up on toothpaste and chicken broth. It was 50% off. I felt guilty for spending the large amount of money until the day I ran out of toothpaste and whipped out my new tube that cost half the price.

Tamara said...

Michelle Obama stopping over for tea was too perfect! I love your perspective and humor. I've also heard of the book and wondered about it. I like the nuggets you shared from it.

Anne said...

I'm an "underbuyer," too!

I've heard other people talking about that book - I guess I should check it out!

Julie said...

Can you be an under buyer and a spend out person at the same time? I am an under buyer when it comes to myself..waiting till I absolutely have to buy it, but I will buy the huge bag Costco to save some dollars...

Karen said...

I don't think I'm an underbuyer because I have no problems stocking up. But then I'm an underspender because I stock up and stock up and never use it until I can't close my freezers (both of them) or accomodate anything new. And the time thing was insightful. I definitely am trapped by having to spend time in a way that is worth it. If I accidentally miss a turn and it will take a whole 2 minutes longer to get home, I tell myself not to be bothered by it. Thanks for pointing these things out.