Simplifying Your Shit

This is not a guide for how to simplify your life. Nor is it chock-full of links for simplifying advice. It’s just one person’s struggle through the reality of this crappy economy.

I haven’t posted in a while, even though I’ve had the time to post. I’ve lacked material, or maybe motivation. I’ve also lacked the motivation to unburden my life, but now have to face the reality that my part-time job has relegated me to.

The job is second shift, so not a lot of prime-time TV gets watched around here. Programs are available on time-shifting services like Hulu and network websites. There’s nothing on during the day that interests me. So, why not yank out the cable?

The sensible thing to do now is cut expenses. So, not being sensible, it of course took me two months to finally pull the plug. But why stop there? Maybe simplifying my shit will help me accept this shitty economy and my vast underemployment. Three categories need attention: reducing costs, purging stuff, and using free time constructively.

Reduce costs

Travel: Work is a block away. The car gets used maybe twice a week. Winning!

Food: My weekly grocery bill used to top $100. For one person. Yes, I’m a fat body and kept fueling that fire. On top of the weekly groceries, I used to buy sodas and crap out of the vending machines at work. Now, my grocery bill is between $50 and $60 each week, and I usually buy just one soda per workday from the machine. (Drink of choice is Diet Pepsi Wild Cherry, necessary for the caffeine.) Last week, I splurged a little, but I’m back to the low-cost regimen this week.

Movies: Last movie I saw in the theater was Limitless, thanks to a gift card from a dear friend. There’s enough left on the card to see Thor, which is the plan for this weekend.

Cable: As stated above, today I canceled cable. The same company, Mediacom, provides my broadband service, which I’m keeping.

Telephone: Long distance? Don’t really need it. Skype is handy for brief long distance calls. So the next move is to cut phone service down to local-only metered. Should shave the bill in half. Plus I’ll pick up the occasional long distance calling-card for necessity’s sake.

Insurance: May have to get rid of renter’s insurance, though that could be a bad idea. I’ll mull it over for a while. The car, on the other hand … well, the Blue Devil is over ten years old and a little beat-up, so carrying comprehensive coverage isn’t necessary anymore. That’ll be cut down to liability.

Not much more I can cut after these. Turn things off when not using them. No more impulse buying, no more eating out, no more movies (aside from Thor). For the near future, at least.

Stuff Purge

I’ve gone through two major stuff purges in my life. The first time happened when my business failed back in 1992. The second time happened when I decided to move from the DFW area in Texas back home to the Quad Cities in the Midwest. The first time involved selling off a lot of stuff to friends, pawn shops, and through a yard sale. The second time involved hauling a lot of stuff to Half Price Books locations in Dallas and donating a ton of shit to Goodwill, including furniture. I stripped myself down to practically the bare essentials, mailed twenty boxes of shit back home for storage, and filled my car with the rest of it. I even sold the TV and the VCR. But not the computer. Never the computer.

What do I miss most from these two stuff purges? My comic books, my filk and celtic music tapes (filk to be explained in another post), my 35mm Canon (haven’t owned a camera since, more’s the pity), and my three and a half shelves of King Arthur books. Sigh.

Recently, I’ve gone through a minor stuff purge, getting rid of old DVDs and clothing and such. Still a ways to go, including papers from 30 years ago. I may even donate some of my books to the library or take them to secondhand shops. The previous stuff purges took place just before major moves. Since I’m not planning on moving from my current address, the current purge will remain minor.

The less stuff I own, the less stuff that owns me.

Use Free Time Constructively

Here’s where the plan falls apart. I’m horrible at being constructive when left to my own devices. One thing I have to use my time constructively for is job hunting. Even just for a second part-time job, the hunt eats up a lot of the schedule. Ways I waste time include sitting for hours chatting on Facebook, watching pointless TV (another reason to cut the cable), and combing through Youtube videos for my next Crappy Music post. Gradually, I hope to carve out time to write, not just here, but creatively again. The last fiction I wrote was a few paragraphs in a collaborative novel my partner and I have been writing for the last ten years. At this rate, it’ll never be finished. Which makes me sad.

Simplifying your life isn’t hard, really. Sticking to the plan is. Wish me luck.

Today’s Prevarication: When I do land a second part-time job, I’ll still keep my life simple.

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About Bruce Diamond

Despicably proud old man. Text-extruding asshole (thank you, John Scalzi) with a skewed vision on life, pop culture, writing and general assholiness. Not a scholar, not a gentleman, not Martin or Lewis. But still trying to make life fun and funny.
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