November 17, 2016

Thrifty Thursday

It is a good day here in Phoenix. I woke up feeling chilled, so much so that I thought I needed to put my flannel sheets on the bed! I know, I know. Our high today is supposed to be right around 70. Our low last night, however, was 48. My cotton sheets were quite cold this morning as I wrestled waking up. Hmm...perhaps fall is really here? I sure do hope so.

So it is Thursday, almost the end of the week, and my fall break is right around the corner. I am so ready for a break, and I am anxious to get started on my research. I also want to spend some time working on my room, sort of rearranging some things, simplifying some things. I blogged about purchasing Marie Kondo's book, "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" a month or so ago. I haven't really had time to read this book or the companion book, "Spark Joy," but I hope to do so while I am off. I need to make more room in my room, but I have such limited space that I really don't know what do keep or toss.

And, of course, next week (after Thanksgiving), is prime Christmas decorating time. I normally decorate my house and tree the day after or the weekend after Thanksgiving. This means putting the house lights up, the tree, and all the lovely things we have stored away. I won't have much time between Thanksgiving and the end of the semester to do these things, and since my week off is mostly devoted to research, I will have little time to invest in holiday trimmings. Still, I enjoy this time of the year most, and it simply is not Christmas without all the "fixings."

Live Simply

My new motto is to live simply. I guess you could say that over the course of the past 10-20 years, I have learned what it means to live simply. My former life was not well-set by any means so I learned to live simply out of necessity. My current life as a teacher and professor has provided a better quality of life, but I am still not where I long to be. I am closer to my goal, but not there yet. Furthermore, as I struggle with finishing my PhD, I am in this weird place where I exist between two planes. I don't have the financial resources to live on my own, but I also don't have the time to pursue such resources because of my doctoral study. I am living in student mode, and that means that I share a home with my parents, and for all intents and purposes, I live in my room. I have my space, and it consists of a room about the 11x11. My entire life is contained with the 110 SQ FT.

Living simply, then, has become even more of a necessity because I must learn how to manage my needs within a confined space. I don't have the freedom to move about, to rearrange my furniture because the walls, windows, closet and door are permanent boundaries that remind me that I can not move. I must live within this framework, and I must learn to be content with little.

Lately, I have been thinking about whether my next life, my professional grown up life, should manifest itself outwardly as high-end or low-end when it comes to design, style, and character. I mean, should I choose to settle for the hodge-podge, mish-mash style that has been my life for now on 35 years or should I attempt to create a new style that represents the "new me?" You see, over the past five years, since I have been living on my own, I have flitted and flirted with different styles of design. I have longed to decorate my own place, and when I finally was able to move out and live on my own, I didn't have the money to invest in new furniture or things. I did purchase a few small things, but mostly I made do with cast-offs (like before). I was content to take all my things, everything leftover from my marriage, and rearrange them, clean them and repurpose them to suit my needs. It worked for me, and for the almost 2 years I lived on my own, I was happy and content in my little space. 

Then, I returned to graduate school, and I moved in with my parents. My home was pared down to just the necessities, and I was forced to keep only those things that would fit into my tiny room. I saved what was needed, mostly, and the rest were given away, stored away, or trashed. Now, though, I am at the end of that student-life journey, and I have before me a wide open selection of styles to choose from as I consider building, styling, and living in my new professional life. I've never had the power, the position, or the possibility of shopping for furniture. I've only dreamed about design previously, and I have formed opinions about what I like and don't like over the many years I have thought about it deeply, considered it, desired it, and wanted it. So, what do I purchase now that I can begin to realistically choose a style to fit my next life?

This decision has been difficult for me. I have spent the past 3-4 months on Pinterest looking at various design styles, furniture, decor, etc. It has been fun to collect "pins," and right now I have two major styles defined. My Pinterest board "Farmhouse" has 2,076 pins whereas my "New Century Modern" board has 2,434 pins. My interests range from art, architecture, glitz and glam (restrained, more refined) to rustic, industrial and very midwestern farm house (with a Norwegian/Swedish flair). This means that I like two very distinct styles, two very different approaches to creating an environment, a home life. I have struggled to make up my mind, and in truth, I like both styles. I have prayed about my style (1 Thess. 4:1), asking the Lord to help guide me, because I feel like I want to make a good choice, a good investment, and a long-term decision that I will be happy with for the next 10-20 or 30 years. I don't want to be "kitchy" (aka, "quite cool, nifty, but still cheesy" -- Urban Dictionary).

My style has always been a bit eclectic, so as I consider what I want my life to look like on the outside, I have to remember what my life should look like on the inside. Proverbs 13:7 MSG reminds us that "A pretentious, showy life is an empty life; a plain and simple life is a full life" and "A simple life in the Fear-of-God is better than a rich life with a ton of headaches" (Prov. 15:15 MSG). I lean toward plain (hence the Norwegian/Swedish influence -- pared down, peaceful, plain) more than glitz or glam, but I appreciate fine design. I appreciate fine furniture, fine craft, and fine style. 

I think what has troubled me the most is the fact that I don't really know where the Lord intends to move me yet. I feel confident that I will not remain in Phoenix past 2017. However, the place where He wants me to go, the landing, so to speak, could very well determine the outcome of my life. Thus, it is difficult to choose a style without a home, know what I mean? I mean, if I end up in a rural place, in a white farmhouse, then my natural inclination is to purchase items that reflect this style (farmhouse). However, if I end up in a modern or mid-century home, then my style will definitely go modern. The design of the house, while it doesn't have to match the interior spot-on, should guide the decision in my view. This means that since I don't know where I will live (as in city or town) or what type of home I will rent or purchase, right now, it is difficult to decide on a style.

Why is this necessary? Why am I worried about this now? Good questions. Well, I have to make some fundamental changes to my small space, and being the frugal monster that I am, I do not want to purchase anything that will go to waste. A case in point, I need a new desk and another set of bookcases for my room. My teaching responsibilities and doctoral program have blasted the last remaining space I have for my books. I need more shelves to house them, and as I explained to my Mom yesterday, each new class I am offered will come with a set of books. I need to keep all these books (her suggestion was to get rid of some) for reference. My life as a professor includes the need for a library, and that means, ta-da, I need wall space for books. Yes, I need more space!

Furthermore, I need a better setup for my desk. My current corner desk from Walmart has done its duty. It is 3 years old, and frankly, it looks beat up. I barely can walk around my bed because it takes up so much room. I need a better set up. But, I don't want to invest in a desk now that might not work down the road. I mean, what if I end up with a room for an office? I will have more space for a nicer desk. I think to myself, "just wait, Carol. Be patient." Yet, I am barely able to function with these tight parameters.

Remember those books by Marie Kondo? Well, there is method to my madness, and that method is simplifying and removing everything that is extraneous to my life right now. I have to create more space, and if the Lord chooses to keep me in this situation for longer than 6-8 months, I need to have my life in order. I need a peaceful and quiet space to do my work.

Choosing Wisely

I know many people do not really struggle with decisions the way I do. I have always been fairly decisive, and I would say that I am quick when faced with difficult decisions. I can decide rightly when pressed; however, I often struggle when I have time to consider options. I will analyze, rationalize, and justify options until I am worn out. I need to be as decisive in this area of my life as I am in other more important areas. Take for example the need of a second car for my son. I have vacillated about needing a second car for some time. His Honda bit the dust last spring, and rather than invest $3K for a rebuilt engine, we simply sold it for scrap. I felt the $3K would be better spent on a new car (or newer). Since that time, we have been ride-sharing, and while it has worked for us, I am ready to have my car back. I need to get my son a second car. He is saving his money, but he works at school, and mostly what he makes he uses for his expenses. 

We have considered purchasing a newer used car, like an SUV, for a while. He wanted one and felt that the cargo space was needed for his gear. However, lately, he has changed his tune. He has said that he just needs a good car to get him from point A to B. I agree. I would love to get him an SUV, but frankly, they are just too expensive, even used.

Secondly, we said no to leasing a car. I was offered a lease not long ago, but I turned it down because I simply see little value in leasing a car. Lately, my mind has been changed, but only in this regard. If we were to lease a car, more than likely my son could qualify on his own. Furthermore, the down payment would be less for us to cough up (around $1K versus $3K). Moreover, the lease payment would be less than a purchase payment and he could get a newer car -- possibly make the payment on his part-time job. Next, he will be graduated soon, so that means he will be working full-time. In three years, he could buy out the lease. It would work.

For now, though, I cannot see any hope for a new car until I buy my loan out. I owe $6K on my Nissan, and I would really like to pay this loan off so that I would have more money in my pocket to make some other purchase decisions (namely, help my son pay for a car). 

The whole process of deciding what to do is taxing. I know we need a car, but the last car we purchased had a limited run. It had over 150K on it, and even though it was a Honda, the engine blew at 200K, and we were sunk. I don't want to do that again. I want him to have a good vehicle that will last him for 5-10 years. That is my hope and my plan at this point.

My fear about choosing poorly has been rammed down my throat over the course of my life. I have always been blamed as being "foolish" when it comes to making decisions. Yet, here I am today, the recipient of the Lord's favor and grace, and frankly my life as a teacher and professor is good. I am comfortable with this outcome. I am trusting the Lord, and I believe that the plans He has for me are to establish me, to settle me, and to give me a good life. I want to live in a way that pleases Him, thus my focus on choosing wisely is simply my way of submitting my life, all of my life, to His guidance and His rule over me. I am submitting to His headship, and by that I simply mean, to the fact that I believe everything I have comes from the Lord. Everything I have -- everything I have done, achieved, and worked so hard for -- has come from His marvelous hand of blessing.

In Closing

As I consider some of the less important decisions I have to make soon, one thing is for certain: the plans the Lord has for my life are good (Jer. 29:11). I am confident that what the Lord intends for my life will be for my good, to bless me, to continue to show me His favor, and to share His goodness with me. I see nothing that is disturbing or distressing on my horizon; I only see His goodness, His glory, and His light. I look forward now, pressing on, continuing to press on toward that upward calling, knowing all the while that what I do today is for His name, His praise, and to bring Him honor. He is my support, my everything. He is my good fortune, and I need nothing save His complete and utter sufficiency in and through my life. He is good. He is so very good to me.

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