This week I started a minimizing task that has felt daunting: the daytimers I have used since 2001. Two pages a day for 15 years.
I want to keep any personal insights but get rid of the documented daily schedules and tasks. So I’ve been reading any notes to catch things I want to save before slipping the pages into the shredder.
My memory had generalized the years 2002-2005 with me worrying about $, unhappy in an unhealthy relationship, and too stubborn to ask for help*.
Page after page backed up my memory.
I went back to school so I could save money to buy [a] restaurant or do something meaningful. All I’m doing 4 years later is paying off debt. 10/20/2004
I was not surprised to see the frequent notes about the price fluctuations of my RRSP investments, budget tweaks, debt balances, and reminders to stop using the credit cards.
I was not even surprised to see how often we ate out.
What did surprise me were the frequent reminders about buying a gift for a family member: wedding, anniversary, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and all the birthdays for two families.
The amounts were not huge (generally no more than $50), but probably added up to around $2000/year, a huge amount for two people carrying a lot of consumer debt.
I don’t remember it feeling like an act of generosity. I remember it feeling like an unquestioned item on the To Do list. Time required in a busy work day or too-short weekend to shop for a gift that was probably put on a credit card carrying a balance I was trying to pay off within two years. Seeing it on paper year after year, it looks so crazy. Surely doing something like “In honoUr of your birthday, I have paid off $50 of my high-interest credit card debt” would have been less crazy.
I felt saddened remembering all the time and energy spent worrying and unhappy. I hope reading then shredding those pages was a cathartic letting go.
I’m fortunate that my family is onboard with further reducing and simplifying Christmas gift-giving now. I’ll be with them next year for Christmas 2017, the first time since 1999 (!) that I have enjoyed the holiday in Nova Scotia as a resident, not a visitor. Excluding gifts for the young folk, along with consumables I’ll be focusing on that old-fashioned generosity that I can’t order online and haven’t been able to give as a visitor (and I’m sure I ignorantly thought was a sign of cheapness when I was younger): the precious gift of TIME. Gardening and DIY help, childcare, transport to appointments.
This year, the Christmas holiday will be about taking a two week staycation to unwind and also get some tasks completed in preparation of listing the condo in the spring. The gifts I’d appreciate most right now are having less things on the To Do list and getting more help. I promise to re-gift them.
*I am grateful to my parents for the assistance they provided me through those years, but I was too embarrassed to discuss honestly the situation and ask for the help I really needed. Tidying up other papers earlier this year, I came across a magazine from 2006 that has an article about me and my request for financial advice. Not realizing when I initially did the interview that they would use my real name, when the article was published I anxiously hoped none of my family or friends would see it.
References and related posts:
- RRSP: registered retirement savings plan, tax sheltered retirement savings, similar to a 401K in the US.
- previous post: Simpler Gifting