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New year, new commitments

The news of a friend's book deal was paired on a writers' site with an announcement of a book on "My year of living within my means." I had to laugh to keep from crying, because, seriously: isn't that what many of us have been doing forever? It's been several years since I used a credit card (and it's not just because I'm disciplined, but that's another story). Why not a life of living within your means?Old_and_new_books

All ranting aside, it made me think of all the other "year-of" books that I'd prefer to adopt, at least mostly, as a life and not just a year -- or not just a New Year's resolution. I think of the "resolution" concept as something that should be applied to the moment, not a turn of the page on a calender, a new digit. Every moment is worth starting anew (or else, perhaps I'm just habitually late and this is my mantra of excusal). I'd like to re-commit this year to:

  • The year of eating local. I continue to strive for better pathways to eat local, sustainably-produced food, and part of that this year will be to figure out how to do it without paying a lot -- and how to spread local foods beyond their "elite" label. I love what the Portland Fruit Tree Project is doing; part of local eating could be gleaning figs from a neighbor's tree or helping me harvest my cherries!
  • The year without a car. It's been two-and-a-half years since our car was last insured and this year I'm going to join the BTA instead of the Zoo (it's cheaper!) and finally sell the car. No, really. My mission is to convince as many families as possible that biking can work for them.
  • The year of living within my means. Well, I had to say it. But with a freelance career, I'm hoping to spend a little more time budgeting appropriately (and spending my money more wisely at the farmer's market).
  • The year without stuff. While I'm not committing to buying nothing new, I'm certainly limiting it to necessities (a new pair of shoes for Everett, the odd piece of photographic equipment, socks), and yarn. I can't do without new yarn.
  • The year without trash. OK, this one is a stretch, I'm only reducing, not eliminating: I've been striving to refill containers instead of buying products with new ones, compost all my kitchen scraps and feed the chickens what won't go in the compost, and avoid buying products which have packaging I can't re-use, recycle, or compost. This means paying close attention when I'm leaving the house to pack reusable containers, plastic bags, etc; and going without certain products (paper towels, for instance). I still do disposable diapers (because I have inertia, ick) and plastic wrap, but I want to figure out a few ways to reduce my trash further.

What other 'the year of' books am I missing? What are your ongoing 'year of' efforts that have turned into 'life of' instead?


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I agree with you why wait for a new year to start doing something. I once saw an interview with Will Smith about how did he get in shape for "I am Legend" and he said, people always say "I am going to start going to the gym on Monday" and I always think why what are you doing right now. You could just go right now but your going to wait 'til Monday? That doesn't make much sense. I thought I am that silly person waiting til Monday. From then on I if there is a change that is needed, I make it!

Year of eating healthy has certainly turned into a life for me.

There's actually a book called The Year of Living Withing My Means???! Shouldn't we all be living within our means all the time? The title of that book is sadly telling about our society in general. What's next? "The Year of Actually Burning the Calories I Consume?"?

My husband & I joke about his resolutions. For the past 10 years, they are the same resolutions that were written on a post-it note. He takes out the post-it every January, tries it out for a few weeks, then forgets about it.

This year, I think we agreed we would try to come up with "life of" type commitments with some kind of metrics or something measurable so we can see how successful we are.

Two years ago, I made a couple of commitments to re-focus on myself. My kids were then beyond the todder age, and I felt I could allow myself time and energy to devote to my interest and, more significantly, my career. I feel like I've accomplished that.

This year, I think my commitment is to work on my marriage. It's not that I have a trouble relationship, but - after over 10 years together - we start to notice chronic problems, the same tension points, repeated differences. I want to take a few of them and get past them.

The second big thing I want to work on is sharing easy-going learning time with the kids. They are both going to be elementary-school kids this year, and I want to spend time working on projects and exploring how things work with them.

I guess those are the two big things I want to do.

Again, I have a different view on this. Many folks with limited incomes end up living beyond their means. Look at what a living wage job is supposed to be and how many families actually earn that. I think a single parent headed household was supposed to earn somewhere around $15-17 per hour to be able to afford an apartment and living expenses, according to living wage advocates and this was a couple years back. Rentals are much more expensive now. Maybe not around here, many people earn much less than that. And still have to pay half of their income for child care, half for housing and guess what? Out comes the charge card for groceries, utilities, and that dinner to go because you're exhausted after 12 hours of work, commuting to child care and back, etc.

So I think that it's great if you have the resources to live within your means (one parent can flex work instead of paying a bazillion dollars for child care, or auto commute costs, grandparents pay child care or provide it)

I think a great new year's committment would be to help out someone without those resources. Make a dinner for a single parent or working poor two-parent neighbor. Offer to watch a kid on a non-instructional day. I know most of my volunteering has been through organizations rather than with individuals. Imma work on that one myself.

I know that folks don't mean to, but it can feel kinda judgy sometimes.

I haven't purchased paper towels for years. a choice made based on finances that became a lifestyle after several months and now I don't even think about it until my mom comes to stay and she stocks the cupboards with paper towels and twinkies...both of which go unopened and home with her after her visits.

Last year we made a commitment to only use cloth napkins and to reuse our bath towels three times each before throwing them in the hamper. The towel transition was a tough sell to the teenager but it eventually took.

We also have a three almost four year old and our commitment to her is to organize more play dates...and actually it's a commitment to ourselves as well.

And living within our means...well we're artists so we know this lifestyle very well!

Sometimes I'm "judgy" when I hear news reports about people spending lots of money on what I consider luxuries and then finding themselves in financial trouble. I try to steer myself away from that attitude, though. It's very Victorian to only want to help the "deserving poor" and let people who have made mistakes just suffer, but I have to admit that I struggle with it. One of my commitments should be to work on my attitude. That and I'm going to increase my donations to Oregon Food Bank and to my church's rental-assistance program. Thank you for giving me a little kick in the pants to think about life outside my own household. The last thing I need is to make yet another New Year's resolution about losing weight.

2009 will be another new beginning for our family as we are in the process of relocating to my hometown. I have mixed feelings about leaving Portland and going "home" but we feel strongly that this is the right move for us for right now. It brings a wonderful career opportunity for my husband, a chance to give my boys a close relationship with the my parents and extended family, and a different quality of life. This year I know that I will have to put myself out there for myself and my boys, to revisit old relationships here, and to reach out to make new friendships and create new routines. It's hard to do, to put yourself in an uncomfortable position, to make yourself vulnerable, but I believe this is how we grow. I need to remind myself to be patient, to have an open mind, and to be flexible. I am also committed to trying to bring our greener lifestyle that we've adopted in Portland to Tucson. Not sure how successful we're going to be, but we're going to try! We're staying in a corporate apartment at the moment that has NO recycling! I can't believe it. I'm wondering if I should stockpile my recyclables and haul them to my mom's house every week....

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