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Where I ruminate on resolutions

by John on January 5th, 2015

As much as we can say that we’re firmly into the new year — I mean, it’s been 2014 2015 for days, now (and, almost magically, I wrote the proper year the first time I had to write a date . . . that won’t last, of course . . . heck, there was a time over last summer that I was putting “2012” on the top of status reports, but I surprised myself), but today is the first day where I’m back at work. It’s the first Monday of the new year, and it’s the first day that it feels like “I’m in a routine.” It’s also the first day where I’m half-cringing heading to the gym because, well, I like to get in, do my thing, and get out . . . and, traditionally, I find that a packed gym means that it’ll take more time for me to “do my thing”.

So, as much as “the resolutioners” weigh on me, I believe I find myself in that crowd, this year. Because there are some things that I want to change — and, well, right now seems to be the best time to do it.

Too Much Stuff

I find myself very concerned with my son’s want for “stuff.” The past few weeks, between his birthday, Christmas, and holiday parties galore, it was, essentially, a present-opening extravaganza. My mother-in-law mentioned, in passing, during one of these holiday parties, that Santa had visited her house. Without the typical routine, he hasn’t been there since before Christmas morning; now, he has been fixated on getting his present, nevermind all of the stuff that he just got, and enjoys playing with.

Over new years, some of his older friends were playing with a certain kind of toy and he, essentially, is willing to do anything to get that toy. What worries me is that I don’t know if he wants to play with the toy – but to actually have that toy. The acquisition seems to mean more than the actual items, themselves, and that worries me. So, how do I combat this? I get rid of stuff.

Slowly, but surely, I am ridding my basement man-cave of clutter. As happens in a house where you don’t need every nook & cranny of space, those superfluous nooks & crannies accumulate those things that are, simply, unneeded. The past few weeks have seen me demolish and remove furniture that the original owners left because it couldn’t be removed from the house and, simply, re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic everything to ensure that anything I decreed “would stay” was still needed, and then cleaned1.

The past few days have had me going through my closet & drawers, throwing any clothes that are either ratty or do not fit into the center of my room. Every week, with the trash, I’m filling the trash bin with anything too junky to be donated after I’ve taken care of the household trash. Every day, I’m grabbing as much as I can from the pile of clothing, putting it into my truck, and its finding its way to a donation center.

I’m hoping that my kids see that I have things that I use and that I enjoy — and not things because, dammit, I have those things. And I’m hoping that it rubs off on them.

There is the saying “everything in its place, and a place for everything.” I know myself well-enough to know that there are going to be times that I have too much to carry/too much to do/too much on my mind to ensure that I never leave something out-of-place in my car or on my desk — but, I can, every time I get home or to work, make sure that any trash in my truck is attended to, that my sunglasses are in the drop-down ceiling storage bin, and that I’m carrying as much as practical – just to ensure that there isn’t something that’s trying to live in my truck that shouldn’t live there. When I leave the office, I can ensure that anything out is left out for a specific purpose (e.g. to grab my attention for when I’m next in the office). And, goddammit, I can ensure that laundry is put away before I go to bed at night (I’m horrible about leaving a pile of folded laundry out & about).

Too Much Screen Time

It’s almost like a joke in the house. When we’re in our routine, I get up and out of bed to walk the dog. I work out, and come 6am, I head upstairs to dress my kids. At this time, almost always, they’re still sleeping. Even though they’re both hearty sleepers, the act of having your clothes removed and new clothes put on . . . well, I’m pretty sure the act might’ve woken Rip Van Winkle. Almost always, The La will groggily ask “I watch somepin’?” as she turns the corner from unconsciousness. The kids each have an iPad Mini from Christmas, provided, mainly, as a car trip strategy (getting them to agree on watching a movie together is, oftentime, difficult).

It’s easy for me to say “less TV, less iPad, less anything,” but, well, when I’m home, I’m often on my phone or on computer. I’ll put on the TV for background noise. In short, it’s just not me that is dealing with “too much screen time.”

Obviously, I work at an office, with a computer job, so I can’t simply say “I’m going to do this less,” but when I’m home? I think I can. Despite my fastidious logging of every bite of food I eat (and that’s not going to change), I’m going to not touch my phone during mealtime. I’m going to try to institute “TV-less Tuesdays” where, after work, CJ and I will head to karate together, we’ll head out for a relatively inexpensive meal, then we’ll do something as a family (swim, bowl, etc) that doesn’t involve “watching sumpin”. These nights will involve a bedtime of reading books and then bed (typically, we allow the kids to each watch a 30 minute show to help unwind . . . the hope being that whatever the “something” that isn’t “watching somepin” might be, it’s enough to wear the kids out).

My wife has also turned into a amigurumi wizard, and she spends her free time crocheting little guys . . . now, she can do it while mostly watching a TV show, but it’s something physical – they’re something tangible that she’s working with . . . and I think that resonates with the kids. I’m going to resolve to find something to actually work on so that, at the end of the day, even if I did watch a movie, I have something in my hands to show what I did that day, rather than just the memory of the movie/sporting event/video game.

Too Cranky / Too Hungry / Too Much Food

I love to eat. Truly. But I’m very careful about what I eat . . . during a typical day, I’m very careful about the amount of food that I allow myself to eat before I’m home. Honestly, I’m regimented, and it’s worked for me. But, far too often, when I do get home, I find myself with a tremendous amount of calories still available to me, and I’m cranky. So, I eat — and I eat within the boundaries that I’ve set . . . but I eat a lot.

Now, my kids are grazers . . . but I worry about them seeing the way that daddy eats dinner and them thinking that they’ll mimic the behavior at some point. So I’m resolving to eat more during the day — I’ll still be strict about logging, I’ll refrain from eating junk (heck, I’m making a concerted effort to eat far more fermented foods: making my own yogurt for breakfast, going to buy homemade kimchi from a local asian market for lunches), but dinners will involve “less for daddy.” And, hopefully, a bit more pleasant daddy between the time he walks in the door and dinner is on the table. Though there will still be plenty of steak – because daddy likes steak.

I do not believe this resolution will affect my behavior at a Chinese buffet. Because each one of them is evil and it’s only in full-frontal assault will such buffets not consume their own customers.

At the same time – my wife just got me a winemaking kit, and I fully plan to make, and enjoy, my own wine . . . only, for the most part, I plan to partake of said wine at a very modest pace (a glass, maybe a glass & a half a night), because, well, I enjoy wine, and I think it’s important for my kids to see an adult drinking responsibly.

Too Disposable

Whenever a toy breaks, CJ rushes to throw it away. There are times that, truthfully, this is the best course of action. But, recently, it’s moved onto things like Legos – where whatever he has built simply falls apart due to his lack of knowledge of engineering won’t go together the right way — nothing is broken, but he gets pissed. I worry that there’s enough in my life that “oh, this isn’t doing exactly what I want, let me get rid of it” that he’s just copying what I’m doing. Yes, right now, I’m purging a lot in my life. But, at the same time, I need to start ensuring that anything new that enters my life, enters with a reason. I needn’t buy things because I fancy something, or choose something on a whim — a little research to ensure that I have the right thing, and then holding off until I actually need the item, well, it means that I should end up with less in my life, and those things that enter my life will be necessary, and thus, not-disposable.

Will this one work? I haven’t the foggiest idea – but it seems good on the surface. If nothing else, I think it means that I’ll end up on more-sound financial footing.


Gonna get rid of shit I don’t need. Gonna cut back on TV watching and see if there’s some kind of craft that I can start. Gonna eat more during the day (making sure I’m eating right, though). Gonna try to only ever buy what I need.

1 To be fair, I’m allowing CJ to get those Hex Bugs that he wants so very badly . . . to “earn” them, despite the mountain of toys that he finds himself sitting on, he “helped” me move stuff about and sweep up my basement.
  1. Growing up, I often did something with my hands while watching TV. I polished the silver (my mother said that if she’d known she’d have a child who would do that, she wouldn’t have worried so much about acquiring storage that didn’t have glass doors). I repaired old paperback books (I used Elmer’s glue, which probably wasn’t the perfect answer, but kept them from falling apart). In grad school and beyond, I embroidered and crocheted, making wedding and baby gifts for people.

    When I got pregnant with Baguette, I got mild carpal tunnel and couldn’t crochet (I still can’t, for long, or my hands go numb). And then our house became too untidy for me to spread out embroidery silks, and Baguette is too active to avoid becoming entangled in them (literally or figuratively).

    But I miss it. I liked that sense of doing something useful while I was enjoying myself. It wasn’t a constant, but it was there, part of the mix.

    • I’ve *always* considered TV-watching time a “missed opportunity.” It used to be that I would commit to doing push-ups during commercial breaks, or something like that, but it would always fall through after a week, or an hour, or something.

      But, when push comes to shove, I actually enjoy crafting with the kids (and, back when I made those promises, in the days where I actually watched television and we had TV service that contained commercials — which was a different life, almost, than the life I lead now) — I think something tangible would actually work.

      Once I figure out what (I’m leaning toward leatherwork for some reason), I’ll be sure to post it here.

  2. I knit or edit while the TV is on at night. I might have to learn to crochet, though, because the amigurumi is SO. FLIPPIN’. CUTE. I am facing a lot of the same issues you are, and I love that you’re able to take the idea of “less,” and flip it up for the greater good.

    Also, purging means more room for when you and D throw me a party when I come to PA this year, right? 😉

    • When are you coming to PA? Seriously. I’m clearing my calendar now & getting ready to throw the party of parties. I’m deathly serious about this.

      As far as amigurumi, isn’t it cute? I mean, I think Duffy started with it as a whim, as “those look neat, can I do it?” and now, well, she’s gotten REALLY GOOD and she’s having a blast making them.

  3. I have such an urge to purge, but I have to do it at a time when I can complete a portion of the house and not leave it in a state of chaos (what’s funny is that my house is always in some state of chaos). So if I can’t start AND finish, I don’t start. It’s not going well.

    My husband is a thrower away of broken things, which drives me crazy, because my dad and mother-in-law are not. I think it’s because he grew up with not a lot of money, and he’s a little too comfortable with the fact that he CAN just go out and buy another of most reasonable items. It makes the frugal me twitch though.

    • I’ll admit that I’m purging from areas that I do not reside, all that often. My two fronts are the basement (I head down there to workout) and my bedroom (I’m seldom there, save when I head to bed). And, even though I’m hardly ever in either place, I find that, between sets in the basement, I’m re-arranging things, getting in the way of my sets. And, in the bedroom, I’m figuring out what I need to do next, getting in the way of sleep. So, we are not that much apart. That said, the front has started in both places, and it’s driving me crazy.

      I’ll admit that I’m in your husband’s camp — that I CAN buy the replacement leads me to a place of comfort. But, I hate that I find comfort there. Just yesterday, the blender we got for our wedding broke — the plastic on the bottom wore too thin and the damn thing, simply, will not hold liquid or turn the blade quickly enough to effectively blend. I’m kicking myself for buying a $25 replacement.

  4. ahhh …. see, I think you found your word – simplify 😉
    Idea for the kids for less tv, will still entertain them and they will learn at the same time.
    Hit up your local library for books on cd, they have a gazillion for sure.
    Then settle the kids with headphones or earbuds, buy new sketch pads and have them create a book of art by creating a picture each time they are listening to a story. Keeps them busy, keeps them quiet, it is creative and it increases their vocabulary … also, no tv blaring for you!
    Cannot wait to hear about the wine!

    • Yes — I think you’re right. Simplify is better than “less,” though the theme is the same: make more of what’s there, even if that means that the quantity of “what’s there” is reduced.

      We have plenty of books on CD already (I’ve been a member of for YEARS – amassing quite the library), and the kids now do have iPads . . . I may see what I can make of this “use your tablets for audiobooks and make art” thing. As it stands, when my daughter isn’t fixated on the TV, she’s, usually, trying to do something artsy — so maybe we can do this. Though without the earbuds may be the better start, so that I can do the art, as well.

      But you’re onto something.

      And I’ll be posting on the wine. Believe you me.

  5. I really like that you included thinking about disposing too much. It really is important to think about how we can reuse and recycle things, not just throw them out. I live in a super tiny house and fight with my kids about throwing things out. My first reaction is to just pitch everything. This isn’t always the best solution. I just heard a bit on the radio about food waste here in the States and that got me feeling super guilty too. I guess it means thinking about how wasteful I am needs to be on my list for the new year too. Thanks for helping shine some light on this.

    • Why hello new reader!

      Not too long ago, I listened to an NPR story about the level of clothing that the nation disposes of . . . and I resolved to buy less from retail outlets and more from goodwill. My issue with this task (and I have purchased very little since this story) is that I’m having issues finding anything in my size at Goodwill (I’ve lost between 60-70 pounds over the last two years, and, apparently, while I’m loathe to say it, I need to consider myself in the “tall and skinny” camp — and there just aren’t a lot of “tall & skinny” people donating clothing).

      For food? Yeah, there’s a small part of me that weeps whenever I have to throw any food away . . . actually, that’s a big part of why I started with the wine — I ended up having to toss a fair number of tomatoes from my garden because they, simply had gone bad . . . so I decided to see if there was a way I could ferment tomatoes, for the future, and then I ran across a recipe for tomato wine . . . and I thought I, at least, had to TRY making it. Because letting anything go to waste two years in a row seemed downright irresponsible.

  6. Does it feel daunting? This year we have a goal of selling the house. And moving in something smaller and less expensive. But that means downsizing our 4 bedroom life. It seems daunting to me. But I look around and see so much stuff. Stuff in the garage too. Stuff I still haven’t unpacked from when we bought the house (so why do I keep it?).

    But I want to do it. I built a life that requires a certain amount of money to maintain, but I am tired of the cost of it. It was good for raising kids, but now we don’t need it all.

    • It does seem daunting, yes. Incredibly so.

      But, at the same time, it feels good as I made progress . . . actually selling the house & going “smaller,” while I’d love to, just isn’t feasible with the kids at their current ages. Though, in time, I’m sure that will be in the cards for us, as well.

      For now, though, I don’t have an end-game. There’s not a “need to sell the house / find a new place / move.” Not having a calendar to abide by – simply reduce what I do have? It does wonders in keeping the level of daunt at bay.

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