I write about saving things here. Saving time, saving money, saving the planet. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the why of it all. Part of this is because I’ve just finished Gail Blanke’s book, Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life. In it, she talks about getting rid of both the physical and mental clutter in your life so you’re free to be the person you were meant to be. To do that, though, you have to know who you want to be and why.
That same concept is important when it comes to saving the three things I mentioned above. Why do we want to save time? What are we going to do with it? Why do we want to save money? What are we saving it for? Why do we care about saving the planet? Unless we can tie these things to some greater purpose, or view them as integral parts of the person we wish to be, then they’re really nothing more than chores. And chores stink. They feel like work. They’re no fun.
If we base our lives around nothing but chores, we take the fun, and often the happiness, out of everyday living. Life becomes a series of days in which we labor for something (what?) at some undefined point down the line. That’s no way to live.
As I’ve been turning these ideas over in my mind, I’ve come up with a few things to ask yourself (and things I’ve been asking myself) with regard to the three areas most dealt with here: time, money, and the planet.
It seems that everyone wants to save some time these days. There are countless books and seminars on time management. We constantly hear phrases like “work smarter, not harder.” Efficiency is something we value in this society. Let’s assume you could become your absolute most productive. What are you going to do with all that time you save? The problem with generically thinking about saving time is that, if we’re not careful, the time we save is frittered away on something pointless. If you’re saving yourself some time on things you don’t really want to be doing, take some time to figure out how to use it on things you really do want to be doing? If you had an extra 15 minutes a day, what would you do with it? How about 30 minutes? How about an hour? Think about how you really want to spend your time (exercising, reading, watching that movie you’ve been meaning to get to, spending some quiet time alone, learning a new skill, hanging out with friends) and make sure you end up doing those things. When you have a purpose or a goal, suddenly that free time breeds happiness.
Saving and cutting costs can feel like denial. Most of us would like to have more money now to do the things we want to do. But, if we can view saving as a way to accomplish larger goals, it can feel like fun. Each dollar added to your dream, can create the excitement of being one step closer to it. The key is to identify your dreams. Determine, as specifically as possible, what you’re saving for. Do you want to pay off debt? Trust me, your whole person will feel lighter when you do. Do you want to be able to pay cash for your next car? Do you want to buy a house? Do you want to go on a really great vacation? What is it that matters to you? Once you’ve identified that dream (or those dreams, if you have several), write them down. Cut out pictures of your dreams and post them where you’ll see them every day. Trent, at The Simple Dollar, used to wrap a picture of his son around his credit card when he was trying to cut back on his spending. Every time he was tempted to buy something, he saw the photo of his son and knew that if the purchase was frivolous, it just wasn’t worth sacrificing his family’s goals for it. Once you know what you want, and how much it will cost to get it, saving is no longer a drag, it’s quite literally a dream coming true.
Saving the planet sounds great–very noble. Who wouldn’t want to save the planet? But the fact is, though it’s not as difficult as some might imagine to make changes in your daily life, we’re all busy. Unless you view helping the planet as something that you value, you’re not going to make much progress. I became more interested in my impact on the world around me when I had children. When they arrived, I was suddenly forced to think about the world I want them to grow up in, and the world I want to leave behind for them and their children. Every time I recycle something, I think of it as one less piece of trash my kids will have to clean up.
It’s also about teaching my children to look beyond themselves. If we focus only on ourselves and our stuff, we become extremely selfish. By thinking about our impact on the world and the people around us, we become better stewards, better people.
Simple Mom created a Back to Basics series that will cover all manner of basic homemaking tasks. The very first post in her series isn’t about a skill at all, but a call to first define why you want to learn these skills. She asks her readers to figure out what they value individually and as families. Because, she writes, “All the canning, ironing, and meal planning in the world will matter a hill of beans if they’re done out of obligation, or accomplished aimlessly out of not knowing what to do next. . .unless there’s a motivating reason behind doing our day-to-day chores, we’ll lose heart, and we won’t care about our results.” I couldn’t agree more.
I’d love to hear about how you bring meaning to the things you do in your everyday lives.
This post was submitted to the Link Party at Remodeling This Life. Check it out to read posts from some great blogs.