Understanding Hard Times and Making the Most of Them...

Has it seriously been a week since I last posted?!  In my quest to prepare for holidays and sell all of my unneeded things, time has slipped away from me...not good.

I read a really interesting article last week that struck a chord with me.  It's title: "Income Inequality And The Oil Sands: Fort McMurray's Rich 20-Somethings Find Hard Times Hard To Understand".  I'm glad that I can still call myself a "20-something" because I feel the need to add to the message that this article is giving.

I am one of the "young people living in Alberta's northern wilderness" but I can tell you that just because I was born here, does NOT mean I've never had to worry about economic uncertainty.  I feel like the story here is once again painting a picture of "streets paved with gold" and it gives an unrealistic view of the opportunities our community holds.  Opportunities are abound, most definitely, but that doesn't mean you should pack up your only belongings with a one-way ticket and expect to start making $150K a year.

I can also tell you that I do not find hard times hard to understand.  For those of us who grew up here in the 80's, it was not always rainbows and lollipops in terms of the job market and the average family income.  I remember a time growing up when Suncor was on strike, people were being laid off left, right and centre and people were desperate for work.  My mom was a letter carrier for Canada Post and my dad drove a taxi just to make ends meet.  When money seems like it's falling from the sky, people are quick to forget that with every boom, there could be a bust...especially if they don't plan well.

I believe that having these "hard times" have benefitted me in many ways and I think it's important that we don't downplay the uncertainty that any person faces when it comes to the economy and our general financial health.  I've done a lot of soul searching in these last few weeks as I strive to let go of so many of the material things that this "it could never happen to me" mentality has provided and I must say that I'm sometimes disgusted with just how much needless stuff has accumulated.

I've been able to sell nearly everything I no longer need on various "Fort McMurray Buy & Sell" pages on Facebook or the fail-proof Kijiji...within record time, too!  I'm not going to lie, there's nothing like making some extra cash and freeing space at the same time but I can't help but wonder what all the other people in this town are going to do with that stuff?  Who really needs their own chocolate fountain?  Who really needs four digital cable boxes?  Not I.  Interestingly enough, I came across a post the other day in one of those Facebook pages and I offered my blog as an "outreach" to those who are going through the same thing I am.  You can see by the question posed that I am definitely not the only one concerned about the increasing amount of stuff that was beginning to take over my life.

My only hope is that others will see the light and spend their hard-earned money and TIME on valuable things.  "Things" they can truly be thankful an ice-cream date with their four year old, a day of swimming at the waterpark or a grocery trip that ends with items being dropped off at the Food Bank instead of the depths of a pantry's uninhabited corners.

Up Next: Rex Murphy's Coming to Town!


Learning to Live with Less Stuff & Love the Process!

I received the following post from the Minimalist Mom and it really hit home for me.  I'll be the first to admit that attempting to live a minimalist lifestyle in what seems to be one of the wealthier cities in Canada, proves to be a challenge in more ways than one.

It's awfully hard to keep picking away at purging your things and "downsizing" your material posessions when it feels like everyone is racing to keep up with Mr. and Mrs. Jones.  Having instant access into the lives of others (via Facebook and Twitter) makes it even easier to see what others are doing, where they're going and what they're buying...constantly.  It's enough to make a person crazy...but only if I let it.

The post helped me the most by affirming the reasons why I've decided to venture down this road and included helpful tips to remember when faced with pangs of envy over a friend's awesome new kitchen reno or their latest and greatest vacation.

Live Your Values

This reminder is so incredibly important that I can't even begin to describe how much of an impact it makes in terms of remembering why I'm choosing this lifestyle and what I hope to gain from it.  Chris and I had a conversation while traveling down the highway the other day about choosing to only spend money on things that aligned with our passions.  For instance, he is a huge hockey fanatic and his collection of Pittsburgh Penguins Memorabilia is noteworthy.  To me, that's okay because he's passionate about it and some may think he goes overboard but they're the same people that would drop thousands on designer clothes where we would not.  To each their own, I say.

What doesn't fit with our values is going shopping and buying things just because: a) it was on sale, b) it was neat or cool or handy or c) because we had money burning in our pocket that most likely could have been put towards RRSP's or some other money-SAVING strategy.

Envy is a Choice

Why yes...yes it is.  A choice that is sometimes naturally thrust upon you as you skim through your news feed each morning.  Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating a little because soon all of you will think I'm some crazy loon who harbours nothing but hate for my Facebook friends.  That is simply not so.  It can be difficult at times though when you're constantly bombarded with people inadvertently "bragging" about what happened to them that day and consequently, what did not happen to you.  Let's be honest now...on any given day, please tell me you can't count on at least one hand a status update or tweet that boasts how quickly and awesomely someone's kid learned to roll, crawl, walk, poop, etc.  I admit, I do it too...I think that the beauty and the curse of such social media.  Or how about the posts about someone's new digs...or new ride...or new something...  When continuously plagued with such magnificent propaganda, it's hard not to get into comparative mode...because everyone's life is  Or is it?

Stuff Does Not = Contentment

Contentment.  A state of happiness and satisfaction.  I like this word.  And I think this is something I'm going to pursue further.  How does one get to be in this state on a semi-permanent basis?  Oprah would tell you to keep a gratitude journal.  Buddha would tell you  to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles.  And I just used Oprah and Buddha in the same paragraph.  Wow, she really is amazing isn't she?

Anyway, I'm not sure where this revelation will take me but I do know this:  I plan to take more time (immediately) to count my blessings every day and be truly thankful for what I do have.  For behind closed doors, everyone's perfect life is likely not so and better to be content with all that I know I have than to wish for something I may not actually want.

Up Next: What Am I Thankful For?  (Yeah, I'm dropping the project numbers...)