Monday, June 23, 2008

Embracing My Inner Hippie

Those of you who have spoken to me in person lately have surely heard me talk about a little initiative called "Daniel and Micah's 100 Thing Challenge." The basic idea (okay, even most of the name) came from this guy, who was recently featured in Time magazine for his efforts to rid himself of all but 100 personal items. He purports, correctly in my opinion, that we Americans have become obsessed with "stuff" to a pathetic degree, and our excessive consumerism has given us a twisted view of what is really important.

And dadgum if that concept didn't hit a little close to home for me.

Like most people, I spent the first 22 years of my life with only a single room to hold the majority of my stuff -- first my bedroom in my parents' house, then college dorm rooms. But in the mere TWO YEARS since my stuff-holding capacity has increased to multiple rooms, I have acquired a veritable crap-load of stuff.

I noticed this about a year and a half ago when Daniel and I bought our current house. We were moving out of a rental house whose approximate square footage was a double-digit number (I jest -- but it was super small), but we just kept hauling more and more stuff out of that place. It was a little embarrassing to discover the degree to which we had defied all storage capacity odds.

But then we moved into a house with ENTIRE ROOMS that we didn't really need for anything besides holding our stuff, so our massive collection of worldly goods seemed pretty insignificant, and I continued buying stuff we didn't need. Particularly stuff on clearance -- because who cares that you don't need it if it's cheap, right? And that brings us up to about two weeks ago when I read the article about this guy in Time.

The 100 Thing Challenge idea struck me as sheer brilliance, but Daniel and I were both raised by People Who Dwell Amongst Lots of Stuff (love you, Mom!), so we needed a less extreme alternative. Thus, I instituted our modified version of the challenge, in which we get rid of 100 things by the end of the month.

This started right after I finished up the school year and suddenly had like twelve more hours than I previously had at my disposal every weekday, so I got pretty into this whole stuff-shedding process. Okay, that's an understatement. I actually lost sleep one night because I couldn't stop thinking about all the stuff I wanted to get rid of. And I know it sounds ridiculous, but this little challenge has sort of changed my life.

Quit laughing.

I just feel so liberated now from my desire to get and hang on to stuff. In the past, I've had trouble with attempts to de-clutter because I felt bad about getting rid of anything that I thought was mildly useful or cool. Like the plethora of fancy crystal things people gave us as wedding gifts. Or the dozens of writing utensils spewing forth from every drawer in the house. Or the chocolate fountain. Seriously. But now that I have labeled that "feeling bad" for what it is -- materialism! -- it's very simple to put those items in a box and haul them to Goodwill.

Besides the extra space that has magically appeared in our house as a result of the 100 Thing Challenge, I think my life is slightly more in line with my values now. I am more in control of my consumerism, which makes me a better steward of my money and even spurs me on to think about social justice-type issues -- like, What can I do about the fact that I have enough money to buy things I don't need while other people don't have enough money to buy the things they do need? And stuff like that.

So to recap:
-Go visit this guy's blog.
-Work on conquering your addiction to stuff.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Gainful Unemployment

As of last week, I am no longer a teacher. I'll spare you the blow-by-blow (Unhappy Teacher Micah vs. Idealistic Always-Wanted-to-Be-a-Teacher Micah) of how this came to be -- because, despite all the mental anguish that led up to this point, I am quite happy not being a teacher right now. Really, ridiculously happy. So happy that I'm tempted to get up early just to enjoy a full day of not having to work.

But the best part? The best part is that I'M STILL GETTING PAID! Until the end of July, I'm making the same amount of money for doing NOTHING that I was making for allowing middle school students to sap every ounce of physical and emotional energy I possessed. That's right.

I spent the first week of my new-found freedom being a housewife. This was perhaps the most domestically productive week of my life, as I organized every space in our house (including the garage, which had previously never even occurred to me) and cleaned most of said spaces. There were even a few nights that I cooked things for dinner.

This week, however, I have wised up and am no longer calling myself a housewife. Now I am unemployed. Though this label sometimes carries negative connotations, I'm regarding those with an "I'm rubber, you're glue" attitude because, as mentioned above, I'M STILL GETTING PAID.

And I get to reap the psychological benefits of the unemployed label by completely absolving myself of any responsibility whatsoever. I don't have to feel bad if the bathroom that was sparkling last week is kind of not very clean this week. That overflowing hamper of dirty clothes? Gee, it's a shame nobody around here is a housewife. But on the off chance that I actually do perform some task that makes our house a more pleasant place to live, I can congratulate myself shamelessly. Good for you, Micah -- aren't you ambitious! You should go play on the Internet and eat spumoni for the rest of the afternoon!

True, it's a little embarrassing when someone asks what I've done today, and I have to rack my brain to come up with something that's a little more socially acceptable than NOTHING! SWEET, GLORIOUS NOTHING. And true, this will probably get old after another week or two. Or twelve. I'm sure the motivated, achieving part of me will start to get restless one of these days.

But for the moment -- this is the life, baby.