I’m on a rampage. I'm not sure how it started and I don't quite understand why it’s happening, but I’ve been purging crap from just about every area of my life. I have to say, it feels amazing and totally freeing. Is downsizing the next big thing? According to two articles in the New York Times about junk food and clutter, the answer is yes.
About a month ago, I looked around my apartment and couldn’t believe how much stuff my family and I had accumulated over just the last six months: toys, shoes, clothes, broken and obsolete electronics, a Cranberries CD I haven’t listened to since 1997, socks with big holes in them; my home may have looked semi-neat to the outside world, but to me it felt like a big, cluttered pigsty. So I started a massive clean out. First the closets, then the kid’s play space and our bedrooms, and after that there was no stopping me. Hubby, a man who embraces his clutter-loving side, seemed afraid and ran off to work. The child was enthralled. By the time I finished, our house had probably lost about 200 pounds. No more piles of paper, no boxes from work events months and months ago, and we even said goodbye to a bunch of toys my kid hadn’t played with in years. Heaven.
Around the same time, I noticed my eating habits were even messier than my sock drawer. Dinner was not a time to sit down with my family and enjoy a healthy, nourishing meal, it was fifteen minutes of anxious waiting until I could devour some cookies or a Skinny Cow ice cream. Lunch wasn’t much better. Back in February, I somehow deemed it acceptable to devour half a bag of Skinny Pop popcorn and Honey Wheat Pretzels three days in a row at 11:30 am, with nothing else to accompany it all except some lemon-infused iced tea. Sure, it was a salt-fest of the most scrumptious kind, but not the greatest idea for a gal whose cholesterol is through the roof and who still has a pouch left over from pregnancy even though her kid is about to finish kindergarten.
I decided that for thirty days I’d give up just a few items, since depriving myself too much gets me obsessed with food. Specifically, this means no pretzels, chips or crappy desserts. That’s it. Knowing I’d do better with some camaraderie (translation: peer pressure) I asked my pals on Facebook to join me. A motley crew of us quickly formed: a new friend in Chicago, an old work buddy in New Jersey, my first cousin – a dad in his 50’s whose voice I hadn’t heard much in the last 10 years – and a former classmate from a study-in-Israel program 13 years ago who now lives outside of Jerusalem with her husband and six kids.
We’re now on Day 9 and I’d love to say it’s all going swimmingly. But, in fact, it’s hell. Hell, I tell you! I want a cookie. Actually, I want a dark chocolate cupcake from Sprinkles. I know this because I had to go to Sprinkles on Day 4, so the hubby and kid could indulge in a little decadence. During the excursion, I unfortunately discovered that Sprinkles sells just the icing, so if you’re a chocoholic like me you can stuff your face with the velvety cream that makes your brain do its happy dance. You can, that is, unless you’re cutting that shit out for 30 days.
House de-cluttered? Check. Diet de-cluttered? Getting there slowly and painfully, but check. Then I turned to our spending habits and boy, was there a lot of extra crap happening there as well. When I broke it down, the most bloated area of our budget was dining out, which we do way too much. But there were also other areas that could use some trimming as well. So I put us on an austerity plan. One month of not eating out 3-4 days a week and not spending frivolously. The results have been astounding. Our credit card bill this month is half, yes half, of what it usually is. And we’re eating at home more, which means we’re eating healthier and having some fun as we prepare meals together. Oh my gosh, what the hell is going on with me?
It looks like I’m not the only one getting on the downsizing bandwagon. Michael Moss, in his disturbing and revealing article in the New York Times Magazine on February 20th called The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food, reveals what we’ve long assumed, which is that food companies have knowingly gotten us hooked on sugar, salt and even the composition of food. For years, research has shown that that junk food is bad for us. But much like Big Tobacco, leaders of the nation's biggest food companies have done nothing with the science other than churn out more shit. So it's now up to us, the consumer, to battle and beat our cravings for the foods that increase our risk for heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Though I've heard it could months, I'm hoping my 30 day fast at least gets me on the right track.
As for my home, Graham Hll, in his article, Living With Less, A Lot Less., affirmed what many of us have been thinking about all the stuff we've accumulated in the baby-making and raising period of our lives. An internet millionaire with two fancy homes filled with fancy items, Hill gave it all up when he realized all of his possessions were overwhelming him rather than making him happy. On a smaller, more middle class scale, I see what he’s saying. Getting rid of all the excess crap in my home and in my budget over the last few weeks has been incredibly freeing. Put simply: I just don't need or want so much junk in my life anymore. The author of the story quotes a study about how moms who navigate fewer items in their home feel less stress. Amen to that.
I’ve now got a few more weeks of my austerity plan. Think I can make it? Even if I slip up a bit here and there, I’m pretty sure there’s no going back. Having less just feels way too good.