Posted by: susanideus | August 15, 2009

Letting Go…of What?

Two occurrences yesterday started my thinking of my current work and financial situation. I brought work home with me to do over the weekend, and I read a review of The Year I Saved My (downsized) Soul by Carol Orsborn.

Now I’ve been told that having so much work to do, and running always behind are signs of job security.  I suppose in today’s job market that’s something to be grateful for.  Still, I’d like to be able to live like job security isn’t all that important.  Unfortunately, it seems right now to be vital. I always believed before this present crisis that my faith and beliefs would keep me secure, but now…today I reread this passage in the Bible:

“God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into a fire tomorrow. He will surely do even more for you! Why do you have such little faith? Don’t worry and ask yourselves, “Will we have anything to eat? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have any clothes to wear?” Only people who don’t know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these.”  (Matthew 6:30-32 CEV)

Have I lost my faith?  I hope not; I pray not.  But I am struggling: still I know that God takes my questions and my doubts in stride. I do worry, worry that we’ll ever see the end of the bills and the living paycheck to paycheck.  These don’t seem like such little things.  I don’t want to just whine about our circumstances.  I’d like them to change.  So, since working at home is overtime, I try to accept the loss of weekend freedom with some grace.  Not doing so well at that though.

What else can I do?  That’s where the book comes in.  Downsizing?  Can I (we) do that?  Of course I (we) can.  It’s just that when I think of what to give up, even for a goal of more financial leeway, I struggle with that too.  Maybe I feel like I’ve already given up too much–my SUV, going out to eat, taking trips, shopping for clothes and for fun, attending classes and workshops, etc.  Then I begin to feel guilty about being selfish.  None of those things are essential to life, are they?  I do have enough to eat, I have plenty of clothes and I still buy the occasional book (usually at bargain prices).

I also miss the spontaneity of going out on a whim.  Instead we have to consider each act carefully–if we eat out today, will it cause us not to be able to pay something due tomorrow?  I balance the checkbook almost nightly.  Yes, I’m complaining. I seem to do a lot of that of late.

Back to downsizing.  What am I willing to forgo, to relinquish?  OK, this is tough.  We have so much “stuff” that I’d love to get rid of, but that would only unclutter the place; it wouldn’t be financial gain.  Let me think…  Internet–never!  iPhone–never!  Computer–never!  Cable TV–on most days, most assuredly, but then I’d have a war with Harold. Could I (we) live in a smaller, less expensive place–probably (but see reference to “stuff”).  I’m still thinking… Can’t give up cell phone.  We don’t have a land line. Think…think some more…

But I’m being disingenuous. Of course, there are ways to save and downsize.  I have only to look at that check register I balance nightly.  DIdn’t someone say you could tell what is important to a person by observing what he/she spends money on? Too much junk food, too many “let’s just stop for a Coke” times, too many (ouch) entries to Amazon.  I can cook, we have things to drink at home and we live a few miles from a small library and not too many more from a big one.  These would all be small steps, but they would be a start. Part of it, I think, is just being aware and being deliberate.  Ok, so maybe I should have learned that earlier in life (there’s a story there to be sure), but I can do it now going forward.

Changing habits is hard, but hard times demand sacrifice.  It occurs to me that I’ve never really had to do that.  When we had enough money, I didn’t think much about it.  Now I have to re-evaluate what enough really is.  I’ll admit it–it’s tough.  I’ve always enjoyed spending money, on myself and especially on others.  Now I find myself a counter of pennies.

Financially, we’ll have to set new goals.  I will have to work for a while yet before I can retire.  That’s reality.  Perhaps another goal is to change the way I think and react to all of this.  There’s another passage from one of the Wisdom books in the Bible.  I can start by downsizing my worries and fears.

“Better one handful with tranquility
than two handfuls with toil
and chasing after the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:6)

What about you?  Are you struggling in this recession?  Are you having to cut back?  Visit again–we’ll go down that road together.



  1. Susan, I went through a hugely similar thing when I left my job in 1985 and began living on what I made as a writer. It’s hard! But looking/measuring/evaluating everything you do/spend is wonderful discipline (IMO). At first, it feels unnatural (we’ve been taught to value spontaneity). But after a while, it’s second nature–a new paradigm replaces the old, and the world feels different. I also found that getting rid of stuff felt GOOD even when it didn’t earn me $$. I was rid of it, and when we decided to live in a 12×53′ single-wide, I could do it. (Need to do it again, too!–it keeps on accumulating!)

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