Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Compact and Good Stewardship

This year, for the first time ever, Cliff and I made a New Year's Resolution together. We first learned of this idea together, and it's big enough where 1) we need to support one another in our efforts and 2) it makes the biggest impact when it is a full-blown team effort.

While we were driving to Florida, Cliff and I listened to Marketplace Money on NPR. Interviewed over a year's time was a California couple who decided to not buy anything new for one year. Groceries and household necessities (soap, laundry detergent, toothpaste, etc.) were the only exceptions. In the course of a year, they started out full of energy and zest, eased into a place where it seemed easy because they saw the rewards, and eventually moved into, "when will this year be over?" thinking.

Upon further research, we discovered what started this couple's actions was The Compact. What is the Compact? It is a movement of sorts, with the following goals (taken from the blog:

The Compact

1) to go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of U.S. consumer culture, to resist global corporatism, and to support local businesses, farms, etc;
2) to reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er);
3) to simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact)

As we read more and more about this, we became hooked on the idea. Not quite ready to commit to anything of this magnitude for a full year, we have decided to give it our best go for the first 3 months of the year, whereupon we will evaluate and see if we want to continue it further.

So, from January 1 to March 31, we are:
1) Not purchasing anything new: clothing, sporting equipment, electronics, games, toys, books, etc. By "new" I both mean "new" as in packaged on the shelf at Target, but also "new" as in, "new" to us (preowned items purchased at Goodwill, thrift or consignment shops).
2) Reduce our grocery budget 20%. Set aside that 20% each month for the eventually purchase of a quarter cow and chickens from a local, organic farm.
3) Purchase only those household/personal hygiene items that are absolutely required, and in lesser expensive forms if available. Meaning, I will not be running to Elizabeth Arden when I am out of cover-up or moisturizer.
4) Reduce the amount of STUFF in our home.

Today's January 10th? So far, so good.

Lately, it seems like every book I open lends itself to the support of our effort. I just began "The Organized Homeschooler," which really is a Bible-study of sorts in addition to being an organizational guide. It focuses greatly on how everything God does is purposeful, ordered and organized. Those are the things he wants from us as well. God blesses us with things, but He greatly desires for us to be good stewards of our possessions. If we have so much stuff that it's clutter, that we cannot locate it, that we cannot find a place for it in our homes, then we are not being good stewards of the blessing bestowed upon us. Chaos, stress, exhaustion ensue, and the blessing soon becomes a burden and a downfall.

Late last night, I was feeling tired and quite emotional (as I tend to get when I'm quite tired), and I was thinking of my dad. My dad passed away nearly 17 years ago, and it is so painful not to have him HERE. How I value the days I had with him. At that moment, I had Paloma curled up next to me in bed, all snuggled in, with her little head resting under my chin, so little. Hatfield was next to her, asleep, and I was reminded of all those nights I had little Hatfield snuggled up next to me, under my chin. Those days are GONE. I cannot get them back. I grabbed onto Hattie's hand and held it tight, realizing that I need to take advantage of that very moment to connect with her, because in all too short of time she will grown. These days will soon be GONE.

I am really trying to change my focus to the thought that NOTHING material matters. That I need to focus my time and attention on my husband and children. That I need to focus my time on how I can use my blessings to help those in need. It is very easy to say that and intend for that, but it is also very easy to be sidetracked. Sidetracked by "stuff."

Our hope for this resolution, the compact, is to reduce the "stuff." To help reduce the feelings of imbalance and unease in my daily life, feelings that surface when I'm letting "stuff" dictate my life. This should be interesting. I'll keep you posted.


Sawatzky Kids said...

WOW Sarah what an inspiring post! I remeber once having this talk with you while visiting your house...then it was still in the "what if" catagory. So glad to see that you are moving forward with it. OKay I realize this comment is better done ovre the phone...questions, questions, questions.
Ring ring

Small Town Girl said...

I am impressed that you and your husband made this resolution together. It's going to be an interesting experience. Keep us posted!

This Mama said...

GOOD for you guys! I think it is a really exciting challange, and really an be quite exciting to reinvent new activites/ways of thinking for the family. We are starting the same idea on Jan 15 - April 15. In the summer I read this book:

(want to read the other book by this author too) and it was a great way to reaffirm some beliefs I had and give some creative ideas for the family (such as family meetings - which really help with the organization thing you touched on, even the little guys participate even if what they say doesn't really make sense half the time (we write it all down though because it's funny to look back on).

Best wishes on your exciting family challenge guys :)

me said...

Such a great post and I agree on so many levels-just don't think I'm as brave as you are. I'm anxious to see how this goes.

ania said...

Wow, what a very encouraging post.

I have to force myself to redirect my thoughts when I'm pulled in to the righteous indignation of mentally chastising domestic Hummer owners. (But really? In 2010? Really? Who are these people?)

Anyway (see how that happens?), I have to think of how frequently my "I'm gonna be so clean and thorough but efficient and QUICK" showers end up being "How'd that manage to turn into a ## minute" showers. And how I have to fight my desire to run the ceiling fan while the air is also on.

And other stuff.

It's easy for me to point out others who ruin the earth in big or clearly evident ways, while failing to consider my seemingly understandable or pardonable - but in reality, still harmful - choices. So anyway, I'm the only person I can control - so I should direct my environmentally righteous indignation inward, yeah? (And, maybe the Hummer owners can't afford a different car at this point. With current resale values on toys such as theirs, they'd basically have to give away their vehicle these days. Mm-hmm. I'm trying to go with that one.)

Thank you for your take on the clutter facet of being Earth's stewards.