My Name Is Pollyanna And I Am A Disposaholic

My mantra became “Am I willing to carry this to the next moving truck?”

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Hi, my name is Pollyanna and I am a disposaholic.

Since I was in my 20’s I’ve moved house roughly every 18-24 months and I reached a state of mind where if I was considering buying a new item I would stop and think “Am I Willing To Carry This To The Next Moving Truck Again?” and “Have I Got Spare Money To Buy This?”.  If the answer was yes, I bought the item but most frequently the answer was no, this is not something that I feel passionately needs to be in my life, it is identified prior to purchase as clutter or a financial burden and has no place in the Whyte House.

I prefer to have very few possessions.  The fewer the better.  It’s a little bit trauma based but I pretend it is a lifestyle choice!  I prefer to have exactly what I need and be able to lay my hands upon it.  I am not a minimalist and like a home to be cozy but everything needs to be useful.

I like to know that everything I own is paid for, that there are no repayments due this month or for 60 months at a reasonable APR.  We don’t have fancy things, my car is 7 years old but new to me and I have a £60 per month payment interest free which is doing my head in because it is the only non-bill bill our house is carrying.

At present I have two sock drawers and that is distracting me from peace of mind, two is too many.  Sock drawers are having an effect on my peace of mind!  That is ridiculous.

I prefer to have very little artwork on the wall because it clutters my thoughts but I really love seeing what other people do to beautify their home.

This weekend I gathered all my gumption and tackled something over which I have a little phobia – paperwork.

I gathered all the post and paperwork from around the house, and was able to dispose of a bin bag of empty envelopes and circulars.  It’s only been 2-3 months since the last time I undertook the same activity.

It had felt like no matter where I turned my head there was Post and paperwork which needed my attention, there was no brain-break from bills because they had been in every line of sight.  But no more.  At least not for a few weeks anyway.

I have some rebates to claim and I have managed to prove that I cancelled a rolling contract in May but the charge was still coming out of my account in October for a portable Wi-Fi hub from EE, how cheeky!  But the service provider was great about it and a refund will be in my account within a week.

I found cheques!  I didn’t realise they had been sent to me for previous overpayments – they were sitting in unopened envelopes which had looked like more bills.

I gathered together pieces of correspondence I need to keep but don’t want to see again. I put them in a series of A4 envelopes without windows so that I don’t have to see those letter headed pages from solicitors again but they are to hand should the need arise at a later date.

There were so many other bits that are now in their rightful place that I can’t even begin to adequately convey the peace of mind and lightening of responsibilities this activity has blessed me with.

We all have coping strategies, mine is to blitz clutter and paperwork and to keep an appointment diary, on paper, in my handbag.

K.I.S.S.

Keep It Simple, Sweetheart!

The less stuff I have, the less I have to move, tidy, or maintain.  It’s a recipe for success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zen During Turmoil

Occasionally there comes a time in personal turmoil that you reach a state of Zen.  You reach a point of “oh well” and start to calm into the trouble rather than fighting it and getting nowhere.

In the Urban Dictionary (a highly reputable source!!!) Zen is defined as thus:

“One way to think of Zen is this: a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind.  Zen is a way of being.  It is also a state of mind.  Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts”.

Now, I am no Japanese Master of Eastern Philosophies yet there comes a point in seeking Continue reading “Zen During Turmoil”

Idolatry, Money, Military

The pendulum has swung too far back after the vitriol military experience post-Vietnam.

The levels of hero worship and idolatry from what we are seeing out of the extremely posturing nations is rampant right now.  If you are religious you’ll have heard that one of the Ten Commandments is to have no other Gods before (Him).  It is right up there in the top 5.  It is pretty important.  If you are secular you will have seen in generations past when things became mighty tense when one person or an idea caught hold and a fever infected the nation – often leading to civil or international wars.  People profess to be reasonable and level headed but their narrative and actions betray them, even among my friendship groups.

I am fiscally a conservative (little C), and socially a liberal (little L).  My stance is that drugs harm society and ruin lives, gun owners or users kill people, that if people are of legal age and appropriate age gap they should be able to date and marry.  My stance is also that Business (big B) is good, industry is necessary, someone needs to keep the lights on and the infrastructure needs to be paid for and maintained, that investment is needed in the Arts and in the Sciences, that innovation is crucial to preserve and improve the lifestyle of the inhabitants of this nation.  It is my stance that manners are essential to grease the wheels of civility.

It is my observation that there is a role for emergency services and the Military.  It is my observation that the whole “Thank you for your service” is cringe worthy and dangerous.  It is my observation that people are being placed on a pedestal as great servants of a nation when they are actually in paid employ and chose to do this.  Hero worship is rampant, emergency services and military personnel are deified and just because they wear a uniform are held in highest esteem.  We don’t know who they are, they are, by definition, Uniform.  Unless there is a stand out act of service or courage, they’re just employees.  Many are nice, a few are nasty, but they are paid to do what they do.  That’s not a hero.

The pursuit of someone to worship is filling a void and is acting as a sticking plaster to cover an emotionally grazed knee of a nation.  Accept that the world is a harsh place and both the East, Middle and West are having a hard time with each other and we send our delegates to resolve our conflicts for us.  Military folks don’t deserve special treatment.  They’re pretty regular people who have been taught how to do their job.  Idolising them diminishes them as a person.  The reception for Vietnam Veterans upon repatriation was brutally harsh, it is my stance that perhaps after feeling guilty in hindsight people have let the pendulum swing too far the other way and there it hangs in the air, precarious and fragile.

Don’t get me started on the pursuit of money and how Darwinian the current strain of Capitalism lays.  A nation who is blinded by their rights and unwillingness to stand up to Medical Insurance companies who are actually gouging them and keeping premiums high in pursuit of profit is a sorrowful thing to witness.

In the mean time, someone needs to work, pay a fair level of tax, have access to housing, water, medicine, food and the rule of law.

 

Redundancy or not? That is the question.

I may or may not have Christmas off but people keep telling me to wait and see. I dislike.

For the love of Sundays!!  I dislike not knowing, if I know there is something I need to know and I don’t know, I dislike that feeling.  I can deal with almost anything so long as I know.  Right now, the place I work is going through a restructure.  Restructures are necessary.  The company I work for is very profitable in a hard working, won every penny way.  It’s a $2bn company set up 80 years ago by two people in London.  It deserves continued success.  Waiting for news is unpleasant.  It would be even more unpleasant if the income protection insurance I purchased a year and a half ago wasn’t (hopefully) in place.  The insurance (hopefully) gives me a degree of solace.  Waiting for the shoe to fall is not a hoot, it is not easy or comfortable.

I have mentally made plans for if my number is up.  I just really would like to know.  Having November and December off would be welcome.  I have not had a happy time off work between jobs since I was 12 years old.  I could finish tidying and decorating the house, build a shed, re-train in a new industry, have a loft ladder installed, sell all the bits of tools and electronics cluttering up the place, and start a little side business which hopefully would set me up for a comfy-ish retirement in 20 years.  There’s a lot to do.  I just really would like to know.  I know the news will arrive when it arrives and that nothing I do in the meantime will change that.  It is a frustrating situation for everybody concerned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere between here and infinity

If all your peace of mind is gone, and is replaced by hypothetical money worries, you need to speak with your friends.

Don’t you love friends who talk you down from the emotional ledge?  (The correct answer is yes, yes we do love those friends).  I’ve been using much of my spare time to ponder next steps now that we are in the privileged position of being in credit for the first time in almost ever, and for the first time since becoming a fully fledged adult taking care of adult responsibilities.  For clarity, it’s not much in credit but there is a plus sign not minus on the ol’ bank account and that’s a good enough start for me.

When I was working toward bringing credit agreements down to a zero balance, there was a definite goal, a specific figure had to be reached for that to be successful, there was a stopping point.  While the task was immensely difficult, the actual ability to quantify the required outcome was simple.  Keep paying for stuff until there is no more to pay.  Reducing to a nought.  Simple to keep straight, eh.  If there was more than a nought on the balance of the credit agreement, I wasn’t there yet and had to keep going.  Simple.

What has had me vexed is the next step.  The next baby step.  It has kept my mind occupied while I pondered, cogitated, and strategized.

Now that the little number is increasing there is no ceiling, no natural end goal.  Numbers go up to infinity plus one as any clued up 8 year old will tell you.  It vexes me because there is no way to know how much is enough.  How much will we need to have set aside to get by in the next month, year, few years, decade, until retirement or until the end of my natural life.  There is no figure.  It will always be too little.  It will always be more than we had.

With no natural end result my mind has been in a spin.  It has in actuality been quite a little more difficult than dealing with paying down credit.  At least if we had almost nothing we knew what we could do with our little porridge pot.  At least if the money ran out we knew or at least hoped that we had food storage and petrol in the car and the bills were paid.  Although awfully difficult, there were specifics and I am a lady who loves specifics.  I need to know the end from the beginning and if I don’t then all merry emotional hell breaks loose.  Uncertainty does not sit well with me, never has, likely never will.

So, all merry emotional hell has been breaking loose as a consequence of feeling somewhat untethered.  Which is ridiculous.  How can success make a person uneasy?  It’s daft.  I felt like a fool.  I’d met a target, a stretch target as we like to say at work, and yet I was managing feelings larger than before I started.

Anyway, with a sky’s the limit, no end in sight, don’t know how much is enough mind-set I wasn’t feeling very settled.  Until in walks a buddy called Sinead, who herself was hot on the heels of a friend called Mel.

When I was in a tailspin and worrying out loud “what if the roof falls off?”, Mel had quizzically looked at me and said “you have house insurance”.  I slapped my forehead, of course I have insurance, of course if there is a disaster at the home not of my doing and that I cannot fix myself I can rest well knowing we are covered.  It soothed my troubled heart.  That worked for a few days.

Then I went on to fretting on the topic of “how much is enough to have set aside and when do I need to have it by?” because bills have due dates, don’t you know!  I was and still am in a due date mentality.

After confiding in Sinead in the corridor at Church between classes (sorry, missus!) who had only congratulated us on getting to where we were, she came up with the plan of having an account with a specific goal or figure in mind, like £500 for example, and when that is achieved, that is full.  I’ll have done it, it would be completed.  Then open another goal with a slightly increased figure in mind, work toward that and when that reaches the pre-determined figure, I’ve succeeded in that too, and it is done.  Then do it again and so on.  Effectively, we cannot determine the future but we can set goals and work toward them and tick them off when they are completed.  Is this making any sense?  Add a finite factor to an infinite problem.

It had the immediate impact of settling my troubled heart.  How simple.  How insightful of her to realise I wasn’t faux-probleming and that this really was a big deal to my family.  To both these ladies I doff my hat and say thank you in writing as well as in person.  Complex worries had simple solutions, these ladies comprehended the worries and helped by suggesting ways through.  How beautifully hearted of them.  Aren’t they lovely?

I was told a few years ago that someone perceived me to be a Solution Oriented Optimist.  Someone who could see the genuine problem, review, decide, act and stay positive when possible and even stay positive when highly improbable but never deluded.  Their opinion of my was a surprise because I knew what went round in my head at pace to get to the Solution they saw in front of them.  I think this experience over the past couple of weeks has fallen in to this category, without my friends I couldn’t see the solution.  They helped me peep through the fog of worry.  A fog which was of my own making but real to me none the less.  A solution has been formatted and we are making great headway.  Thanks for listening while I got this out of my head and on to electronic paper so to speak.

DEBT FREE AT LAST!

Debt, significant debt, followed me for decades but I just made the final payment! *Pulls kilt over head and screams FREEDOM!*

Only gone and blinking done it! Decades of debt finally all gone, all paid down, every penny. I await a bill for some car repairs but otherwise and aside from a mortgage and regular bills, I owe nobody anything. The money in the bank is mine to do with as I please. I cannot remember back when this was the case previously. It has been my constant companion, my lullaby at night, my alarm call in the morning, it has been my travelling companion and as close to me as my own heartbeat. It has been a motivation to focus on what matters. We had a good life none the less but this is a legacy I didn’t want to pass to the next generation. I wanted the next generation to be free to take chances and be bold if they choose to be. It would have been easy to pay off minimums for the rest of my life and ignore the freedoms afforded to those who are not thus shackled. Easy. The hard decision was to live up to what I though was right for us. To actually decide that my life work until it was completed was to be free of things which erode my freedom to choose, and debt was right up there at the top. Each month it would eat away at my disposable income. It was a constant reminder of mistakes made. It annoyed me.

If you are minded to make the same decision and become debt free, hats off to you.

If you are minded to make a different decision and stick with minimum payments, more power to your elbow.

Shakespeare in Hamlet wrote:

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. This above all: to thine ownself be true,”

The whole phrase resonated with me but it’s the “This above all: to thine ownself be true” part which always rang in my ears since my days at the Provo Missionary Training Centre (MTC) and our District Leader, David Muntinga would repeat this phrase out loud to himself frequently. It stuck like an earworm and shaped my personal philosophy. So, thanks Dave!

My philosophy is based on strength of character, freedom to choose, kindness where possible, resilience to weather the storms, and a passion to embrace opportunities.

I think the experiences we have gone through as a family, particularly in the last 4.5 years should act as a cautionary tale to young people making life choices!

At any point we can make a different decision and choose a different path. The principle is called Agency. We all have it and it is like a muscle in the body, we either use it and it strengthens or we don’t and it weakens. Making a different decision feels awkward, clumsy and ungainly. It is not a pretty sight at first but I liken it to watching a class of 4 year old children learning ballet who look like cats on roller-skates at first vs that same group 5 or 10 years later with a gracefulness which is inspiring. Work through the kittens on roller-skates phase, it doesn’t last forever.

If I had my time over, these are some of the things I wish I’d adopted earlier.

  • Choose your path of study – does it get you where you need to be for your next life steps? Does it open or close doors?
  • Choose your career well – will it provide for you and your dependents. The higher qualified you are, the more freedom there is to make your own schedule. Qualify young, qualify highly.
  • Choose your partner well – if you choose to have a partner do they have complimentary goals and philosophies, are they equally carrying the load, are they easy to be around, can you talk about the specifics of budgeting without fighting or someone becoming moody?
  • Choose your financial strategy early in life – are you a spender, are you a saver, what did your parents do and did it work for them, if you don’t know about money, learn! There are endless resources available online or in your library. How many hours can you put in to your career. Do you have other priorities which draw away your attention. Is your strategy working for you?
  • Choose to budget – know what is coming in and what is going out. Know the dates of payments. Write it down.
  • Choose to recognise the true cost – I mentally add the time away from my family to earn the money and the tax already taken by the government into the cost of the product and think to myself “is it still worth it?” Conversely, if you have financial woes and plenty of possessions, know their value and sell them! Generate revenue, get back some of the cash and pay down expenses.
  • Choose to find the best deals for you – as contracts come to an end, shop around. As birthdays come up, buy early and allow time for shipping at a reduced rate. As utility prices fluctuate, move deals or suppliers. As tools become needed for a DIY project check the internet vs the high street prices and make good choices.
  • Choose to cancel duff subscriptions – FREE MONEY! Who doesn’t love free money. That’s what it feels like when you find a subscription you’d forgotten about on your statement and cancel it down.
  • Choose to continue learning and growing – there will be wise people around you in your life, listen as they chat, ask questions when appropriate, learn from them, use them as a mentor.
  • Choose to ask for help – if you are in over your head, ask for help. Call the companies and tell them. Tell a friend. Approach organisations who manage these situations daily. You are in it on your own, your choices got you here and your choices are going to get you out of it, but if it all gets too much and you need expert help, ask.
  • Choose to build a reserve – if you are debt free, build a slush fund, a reserve, a cushion, whatever you want to call it, to fall back upon in tough times. Tough times always come. It’s prudent to have done what you can to make those times a little easier.

My experience has reached the Build A Reserve phase. It is quite exciting to build rather than be repairing. Feels completely different and it is actually a little scary which is silly. What if I do the next phase wrong! Anything new can be daunting so I choose to push through, carry on learning, carry on listening and carry on trying to make good choices. I may never rival the likes of a billionaire, people who I do not envy at all, they worked hard for what they have and I am pleased for them, but I can build from this point forth and can be pleased that I got my little family this far in the journey. It is hard. Oh so difficult in ways that I cannot find words to articulate. It is possibly one of the most challenging experiences of my life. I’m hoping that the effort one day feels worth it. Right now it is all a little raw and a little new so I have to let it settle in to the new normal before I can speak on that with any degree of confidence. This is my new Kittens On Roller-skates phase!

Now hopefully you’ve had a charmed life and never have to consider much of the above. You people who are adulting successfully have been a quiet inspiration over the past few years so thank you.

Debt Free At Last, Free At Last!

Debt is a form of modern day slavery. Well, with a little luck, this Woman is about to get her freedom papers.

If I have my numbers right, and I am quietly confident that I most likely have, in 2 months I will be completely without debt excluding a mortgage and regular bills. Did you hear that?  (knock on wood)! *runs around the house with her shirt over her head screeching hallelujah’s*.  

I have within my grasp the idea of being debt free for possibly the first time in a long time. I am excited to start building rather than repairing. I am excited at the idea of getting out in front rather than keeping up.  I am excited that the £28100 rent in the past four years didn’t quite pull us under. I am excited that elbow grease and value for money service providers were the biggest component in fixing this home, I am grateful for a wizard of a Mortgage advisor who negotiated a very manageable deal. 

Now, in among this happiness let us not start planning a new wing on the house, or moving to Kensington SW1 in London, or buying fancy things. We will, by the grace of whatever we believe in, and with a trade wind in the right direction, have enough to get by. We will, putting aside the obligatory emergencies, be able to live comfortably enough to to have everything we need and a little of what we want after building up a little reserve for the future.  I will not have to do mathematical gymnastics and keep a mental and physical spreadsheet log of everything draining our resources and their current APR.

Now, although exciting to me and joyful, it is also a little embarrassing to have been in this predicament.  Lesson number one, when the boy says he needs all your money and you have to pay the daycare fees and household bills too, don’t do it. He will have nice clothes and you will not. He will go out with friends and you will not. He will put your shared houses in his sole name. He will be a toe rag but you will not. 

In a month the divorce will be through. I am going to see if I can push and have this all knocked off before then. It is a big ask but wouldn’t it be grand to have matrimonial and financial freedom occur simultaneously?!  A woman can dream and then wake up and get to work to make her dreams come true.