You're probably wondering about the title...my daughter Isabella loves to clean-she comes by it honestly. I am a shameless clean freak. One morning I was working away in the kitchen while she had the mop I'd left out overnight to dry. And I look over to check on her and my then-7-month-old son, and say the five words I never thought I'd say as a parent, "Isabella, don't mop your brother!" He didn't mind, and she just wanted to make sure he was sparkly. So welcome to my world!
Monday, January 24, 2011
Just Enough and Not Too Much
I grabbed this book from the library once and it became a favorite of my daughter. It's a great little story. Amazon has it, but we've checked ours out of the library a few times. In fact, Isabella requested it just last week and I just left her room, having read it to her before quiet time. The story is about Simon the Fiddler who has everything he needs, but then decides it's not enough. He gets more chairs. He finds more toys. He buys more hats. And then he trips over all this stuff in his house and decides he doesn't need it. He gives it all away and realizes in the end that he has just enough and not too much. I love that Bella likes this book and I hope it becomes a way of life for her, as much as for us as a family.
You see, one of our family goals this year is to reduce our debt. For a while, my husband's job literally did not pay the bills. Times were tight and we watched every penny (which was easy because we had so few). We racked up a lot of credit card debt simply because we needed crazy things like diapers, gas and food. However, when he got a better job that paid more, we felt the restrictions of that lifestyle fall away and soon we were getting whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. Every month we would regret this when the credit card bill came in, but we'd soon forget and go back to whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted it. It will take us years to live with the consequences of those actions.
The dictionary defines gluttony as excessive eating or drinking. And while that doesn't apply to us (except when it comes to warm cookies from the oven and who can blame us?), we were material gluttons. No self control. It's not a pretty picture. We never had the "just enough and not too much" mindset. It's painful to admit and even more painful to live with.
With all this in mind, we sat down in early January and took an honest, hard look at our finances. We looked at the money coming in and the money going out. We determined, committed if you will, as a couple that this would be the year of no more credit card debt. We took our credit cards out of our wallets in fact-one of the keys for us to delayed gratification-something neither of us is very good at. Our kids are still young enough that they will never know this period in our lives, and they will never know the "more and right now!" mindset that we've developed. I can tell this is kicking in because Bella and I went to Old Navy this morning to buy her a new winter coat. We headed to the back wall and found an adorable coat on clearance. Normally a $35 coat, it was marked down to $15! Well, all their clearance items were 40% off the lowest price. Bella oohed and aahed at some velour pants and a matching hoodie. $10 for the pair! I grabbed her size and laid them over my arm. I had picked up a whisper-soft hoodie for her at Christmas and now the same kind was marked down to $4.99! I added it to the stack. An adorable pink tutu-type skirt for $2.69 (size 5, so it could last for years!) was loaded on my arm as well. I scanned the wall for more bargains. The associate brought me a bag (we had planned on getting just the coat so I didn't grab anything to put all my stuff in!). Boots! Bella had a purple pair, but the tan ones could be worn with everything and at $8, were more than half the original price.
And then I stopped.
And I thought about the bins of clothes we already have at home. I thought about the two pairs of black pants she already has. The new brown Dora sneakers we bought last week. The hoodie she already owns (how many does a kid need?) and I started putting things back. I did get the skirt (come on, $2.69! for a 5T!) and the coat. According to the receipt, I saved $23.30 (actually more, considering the original price on the skirt was $16.50) but I also saved myself regret, I saved myself from falling into the same old patterns, and I saved my view of God as Provider and me as steward. I admit that in our quest for "more and right now!" we've ignored all the Biblical wisdom about possessions and where to place our treasure (Matt. 6:20). Joshua filled two and a half bags of clothes for GoodWill. We have more than enough (Eph. 3:20) and sometimes too much.
But wouldn't it be great to get to the point of "just enough and not too much?"
That's where we're heading this year. Reaping what we've sown, but looking at what we already have, and implementing a "thinking time" for purchases. I received some money for Christmas and have already spent it a million times in my head. Part of me wants new jeans (ones that are actually long enough), but I look at my closet and see the two pair that already do fit. Maybe a new sweater or two? How many does a stay-at-home mom need? My kids don't know that I wear the same clothes each week. Shoes! But really...the ones I have are good enough. I really do have just enough and not too much.