Saturday, June 21, 2008

Less is more

Lately, I feel as though I’m constantly running errands. Things keep cropping up, from swimming goggles to running low on milk.

It is extraordinarily annoying. And time consuming. And expensive. Between the cost of the stuff itself and the cost of a gallon of gas to go out and buy it – I’m starting to feel the sting.

The list of stuff we’re short of or missing just never ends. You cross off the last thing on the list, and immediately somebody rushes in and slaps another five things onto it!

I spent the entire day yesterday running errands. The mall, the bank, the doctor’s office, the pharmacy, the supermarket…ugh. Today as I was going about my business, I found myself adding yet more to the list.

Almost out of milk, and eggs, and…

I started thinking about when and how I’d take care of that. What time is Denizen drop-off, what time does Costco open, do I need anything else while I’m over there…

I’ll admit it, I was grousing. Why me? And why every cotton pickin’ week? Almost every day, for carp’s sake!

Every time I run to the supermarket, I’m burning time and gas. Then as I go through the store, inevitably, I “remember” that I needed something that isn’t on my list. Or I see something on sale and I say, “Oh! I could make {recipe}! All I need is this…and some ham…and some diced scallions…and…”

The girls need t-shirts. (Runs an errand.)
The boy is out of pants that fit. (Runs another errand.)
I have a couple checks to deposit (Yay! And, another errand!)
I need to pick up my new Treo (YAY! AND! Another errand!) (Ridiculously long one, too.)
Swim coach sez they need goggles!
Camp sez they should wear wigs next Friday for Crazy Hair Day!
…and so on, and so on, and so on…

So I was grouchily deciding that I was going to pick one (1) day each week and make that one (1) day Errand Day (hmm…maybe Wednesday…) when suddenly I thought – boldly! – what if I made it every OTHER Wednesday?!

Seriously. What if I put the kibosh not only on daily running around buying stuff we “need”, but on weekly runs? What if I took one day every other week for all the errand-running?

I’ve been mulling it over all day, as I refused to dart out for Just! One! More! Thing!

I thought of a million and one reasons why it would never work. I thought of all the things that just sort of come up in the average week. Things we need or want or ought to have or do.

But as I thought about each one, I was struck by how non-urgent they really are. With the exception of medications, there really wasn’t a single thing on that list that we could not live without.

The more I tried to tell myself it couldn’t possibly work, the more I found myself thinking, Why not? How do you KNOW it wouldn’t work?

Fewer trips out will burn less gas. Even if I am “almost clear over there anyway” due to driving the Denizens to camp in the morning, not taking those extra two or three miles to run into {Retailer of Choice} real quick for just a couple two-three things will be a gasoline savings. And given a bit of time to stew about what I intend to buy gives us time to take it back…maybe we don’t need that whatnot, after all.

It’s been a good tool for us for a lot of years, putting our Wannits on a list and just…staring at them…for a while. In the heat of the moment, all kinds of things look like wonderful investments. Artwork! iPhones! Towels with our initials on them!

But as time passes and the rational part of our brains are given a chance to mull it over, it is astonishing how often the passionate need becomes would be awfully nice and then eh, whatever.

So. Next week, I’m not running any errands. No groceries, no clothes, no ink cartridges, nothing. No Internet purchasing, either. Anything that comes up as being needed can go on the list on the fridge until Errand Day, which I’ve tentatively scheduled for July 2. The only exceptions are prescription refills, which happen when they happen…and there is that remote chance that doing without them could actually result in somebody around here curling up and dying. Or at least being extremely uncomfortable.

There are limits to my little experiments.

We may run out of soda. It is even possible that we will run out of milk. Undoubtedly there will be a thousand and one things that the Denizens need for camp. It can go on the list. If you still need it in two weeks, I’ll schedule a stop at the appropriate store.

Until then, we’re essentially on a spending fast. No more errands. No more running hither and yon with my hair on fire for just one or two little essentials.

We’ll see how it works out. Hopefully, it will exchange daily crazy for biweekly, reduce our fuel consumption and lower my gripes-per-hour considerably.

Also, running a whack of errands all on one day…when I know well in advance that I’m going to do so…there should be a greater-than-average chance that I’ll remember my wonderful, ecologically sound, heavy duty, extra-large canvas bags, right? And come home with few or even (dare I hope for it) no plastic bags in tow?




Lydee said...

Right! It's an ingenious idea. It would save my family a lot of money, and impulse buying to wait until errand day instead of saying, well, while we're out, let's stop and buy....honestly it's turned into a habit for me.

I am going to join you in your challenge! only I'm going to have errand day once a week, instead of once every two.

Woo Hoo!

Anonymous said...

Idon't have kids at home anymore but I am with you on this one. I found my days were disjointed and frustrating and in spite of the many trips STILL not adequately stocked for daily life. So I stopped. And I love it.

I have a friend that probably puts 60 miles a day on her car and we live in a small town! She can't figure out why she doesn't have time to do anything - it's because she is always driving somewhere.

Anonymous said...

You are SO right about this! Lately I've been trying harder to combine/reduce my errand runs, because I too grow weary of "needing" to go somewhere every single day. I think I'm going to jump on the bandwagon and aim for once a week also. Since the darn money-tree isn't producing, we've gotta save some one way or another! :-)

Anonymous said...

Amen! Today I was having a tough time with a hormonal preteen (boy, no less!!), and when the "opportunity" came for me to need an explanation on a knitting project I bolted. And, I didn't enjoy it. The stress of know I was on a non-urgent car trip made it really difficult to enjoy my time away. I applaud your efforts, and I can't wait to hear how it goes. Elizabeth L. in Apex, NC

Nicole said...

that sounds like a fantastic idea. a tip for the canvas bags that my mom does. we have bags form a bunch of different stores, plus some that ive sewn, she puts the all in the biggest bag, folded up, and she puts the right behind her seat, and sits her purse on top of them every time she gets in the car. that way, when she grabs the purse, she will touch the bags, and take them out with her.

Quilty bird said...

I think this is a great idea. I could never go without milk though. Those 3-4 cups of tea a day are what keep me going.

I have limited my "big-box" stops to a few times a month though. Mostly because I hate shopping.

I will be reading/lurking and silently cheering you on.

Anonymous said...

I live 30 minutes from the nearest grocery store, bank, etc. so I have always had to plan my trips, and I only do them once a week. Now that I work "over the hill" grocery shopping can be done more often, but errands are still only once a week.

It's the only way that I'm sure to have any days that I don't have to go anywhere!

Anonymous said...

OOOoo, I totally agree with everything you say. I'm not a materialist. I don't even like stores and my kids are so small that I have to belt them in and out for every errand, so that cuts down already...

And yet, I'm thinking "oo, she's brave," like you're facing wolves at the door, or something.

Stay strong, sistah!

Anonymous said...

We actually have a tip in a book I just published (Mothers Need Time-Outs, Too) that suggests doing NO SHOPPING FOR TWO WEEKS so that you can get a grip on the clutter in your pantry. It's in our chapter about how to feel organized and in control (and how to "let go"!) and of the 500+ moms we interviewed, the huge majority of them said they felt overwhelmed by clutter.

Taking some time off from filling our houses with stuff (whether it's food, magazines or junk) really does feel good. It shows you just how much precious time we waste doing unnecessary errands when we could be savoring the moment doing something we find truly valuable!