2.07.2012

Lessons from the Office

I never want to shop again. Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, and I don't want to set myself up to fail. However, when I shop from now on, my money will only go towards quality stuff that will last for years (like real leather boots, or the couch we actually like), quality cooking ingredients, or something I know I’m going to use up right away (like soap - not that I need any for the next 6.3 years).

While cleaning out the office last month, I kept thinking, "THIS.IS.RIDICULOUS." No, it's not...it’s BEYOND ridiculous. Stocking up on something when a price is good is a nice idea, but what happens when you get so much of it that you forget what you have (like, oh, 23 rolls of Scotch tape) and you just keep buying it?

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How about this idea: Instead of hoarding like there's no tomorrow, I simply pay attention to when we’re getting low on something (i.e. we have 1 large pack of toilet paper left or I just opened my last deodorant), and then start looking for deals on that item? I don’t want to get to the point where I’m paying full price because I wasn’t paying attention and I ran out of something, but I don’t think a lifetime supply of tissue paper is necessary either.

Just like everything else in life, it's about finding a balance. It seems that we can get so caught up in the deal-finding game and "spending to save", that we forget about the idea of being frugal in the most simple way of all: not shopping. Quite honestly, with the exception of things like milk and cream and eggs, we could probably stay in our house and live off what we have stored up for at least 6 months. Possibly longer. That, my friends, is simply wrong. I have failed to be a good steward of what the Lord has placed in my care.

After working in the office for several days straight, I sent the following email to my husband, first, because I know I'll weaken at some point and second, because he needed to know that I was serious.

"Bath and Body Works sale this summer? Stop me. I won’t like it, but you can even save this email and wave it in my face. After Christmas clearance? If I look at the tissue paper, remind me that we have 6,742 packs at home. And yes, we have white. Hallmark Christmas Open House? We don’t need Christmas cards, wrapping paper, doodads, Christmas ornaments, or one more stuffed Charlie Brown character. I don’t care if the bag of goodies is “Free” when you spend $50 – NO! NO! NO!"

And you know what? I’m guessing he's not going to have to remind me about that email. After hours of digging through enough tissue paper to last a lifetime, roll after roll of tape that I didn't know I had (thus the end count of 23 rolls), and stuff that I purchased "just in case" I needed a gift, I sat back, stunned. Do you know what all the unnecessary stuff surrounding me represented? What could have been a paid off mortgage with enough interest saved to take a VERY nice trip to Europe as a reward. Instead, Europe is in my office closet and it has a clearance sticker on it.

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But you know what? It doesn't have to represent something as large as a European vacation. The basket of  "just in case" hostess gifts (for all those meal invitations we don't get) could be more dinners out at Carrabba’s with my husband – guilt free! {le sigh}

Let me be clear: shopping isn't an evil activity. However, when there are people around the world who don't know where their next meal is going to come from, it makes me think twice about buying one more "just in case" gift that, if it was ever needed, would probably be going to someone with bulging closets of their own.

Have you gone through your stuff and really, honestly, taken a look at it all? Like me, you might be stunned by the amount of wasted money it represents. Now that my desk is cleaned off and my office is a working space again (thanks to Jules' William Morris inspiration), I've put this framed quote (that I found while cleaning out the closet) next to my computer as a daily reminder...

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So, all of that to say, I'm not 100% ready for the Big Office Reveal, but it's 96% done (including new art on the walls), so come back next Thursday for some pretty amazing Before, During, and After photos! And for more inspiration this week, make sure you visit Jules and the other participants in the William Morris Project!

22 comments:

  1. This is a GREAT POST, probably one of my very favorites that you have written! : ) Thanks -- I needed that!

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  2. I want to agree with Sandy B. Tis indeed a super great post!

    I also want to say, don't be too harsh on yourself for "mistakes" of the past... it is precisely because you have 23 rolls of scotch tape now that you have learnt a lesson. Had you always been semi-reasonable on scotch purchases, you may not have learnt this month's lessons, which will probably see you living simpler for the whole rest of your life. That's cool! This is what younger-adulthood is for, I am convinced: learning lessons to take into our older-adulthood!

    I am still jealous of your Zebra Drive familiarity! :-)

    Kind regards, once more, across the Atlantic from Switzerland,
    Ali

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  3. Sandy & Ali - I appreciate your kind comments. Indeed, Ali, as I put on Facebook today, the office clean out project is almost finished, but the life lessons that have been learned from it, will continue!

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  4. Carrie,

    Just out of interest... I tried your office-clean-up timer idea tonight... 20 minutes only of office clean up and anything after that is voluntary. It is brilliant.

    I have been using a little (hen shaped) timer for a year to help me take short breaks when I am working from home, but I never thought to use it for SHORT times only for office admin which I normally cant get started on because it is "too big". Your method is probably going to actually work for me (gotta try it a bit more before I can be sure I will do as well as you!).

    Oh, thanks, thanks, thanks!

    Ali

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  5. Ali - I LOVE hearing that feedback! Keep up the good work!

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  6. Bet you don't love the feedback as much as my accountant is going to love the results! Not to mention, the relieving of my guilty conscience over business admin left undone... You may be the making of me! :-)

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  7. Awesome, Ali! {Happy Dance} :-)

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  8. (If we don't stop happy dancing and communicating and clapping hands and feeling good, I am going to have to set the hen-shaped timer again to remind myself to get to bed! Late over here! :-) )

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  9. Right, that's it. The timer's going on again! :-))))))

    Enjoy the rest of your day, Carrie "I've been on Zebra-Drive" Girl*.


    * residual jealousy

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  10. Awesome post, Carrie! I am looking forward to the reveal.

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  11. I don't think I have 23 rolls of Scotch tape, but I have other items that I hoard, and I feel guilty every time I stumble across them. I think it might be time to do another "No Spend"month in my house - where we buy necessities (grocery store food and fuel), but NOTHING ELSE.

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  12. Great post. Very inspirational. I agree with Ms. Amy. Another no spend month is in order for me!

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  13. You have given me much to consider today. And you have nudged me closer to the closet down the hall that holds all the grooming supplies. Time for a good cleaning!

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  14. Your resolve is inspiring!
    I am off to the store today and will keep this post in mind as a form of resistance!

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  15. I love it. Not shopping! Don't we always forget about the fourth 'R'> Refuse? Then reduce, then re-use, and so on. You are so right, if you're not using it, it's not useful. Way to go! Wonderful post!

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  16. Thanks for the reminder about balance. No, I don't want to be a hoarder, but I also want my home to be well-stocked so that we don't have to run out at the last minute for every little need as it arises. A well-organized home is certainly one piece of the puzzle!

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  17. Awesome post and so true! Looking forward to the big reveal next week.

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  18. This is SO INSPIRING!!! I need to stop wasting the free time I have at home and start diving into this kind of project myself. Seeing just previews of your freshly organized office makes me drool! =)

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  19. This is a great post. Can't wait for the big reveal.

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  20. Good for you, Carrie. This might be my favorite post you've ever written. It is pure brilliance and purely inspiring.

    {Although I will admit to doing a spit take when I read 23 rolls of tape. Girl, that's got to be some kind of record.}

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  21. Well done, Carrie. You've done an INCREDIBLE job. I love what you said about the lessons continuing after the office is cleaned out. I couldn't have said it better myself. :)

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There are more than 400,000 words in the English language. My only request of you is this: Use them wisely.

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