In many ways, I am able to sit back and feel fairly calm these days. I learned many of these lessons and had to make many choices several years ago, when I too was the victim of a massive corporate layoff during the last recession in 2001. The difference was, that a lack of any kind of daycare for severely disabled children like Dear Son, meant that my corporate life was essentially over. In the meantime, I learned many lessons. There are many things that I wouldn’t change, even if I were to return to work full time. I have come to enjoy many of these changes. Instead of focusing and listing everything I lost, I thought it might be interesting to focus on what I gained. I thought it might be interesting to share them with others who are going through similar times. So here goes:
LEARN TO COOK One of the first lessons I learned was that I could no longer spend a lot of money at the grocery store. I also learned that the easiest way to stretch a dollar was to cook everything from scratch. Sure I could have used some coupons, but most of the coupons are really for processed foods. At that time, I scaled my grocery bill down to $40 a week, for Dear Son and I. That meant processed or convenience foods of any kind were out of the question. Over half was for fruits and vegetables and the rest was staples to make everything else. I began to watch the Food Network to learn how to cook. I watched it religiously for six months, trying out tons of new recipes from nearly every chef. I soon learned which ones I liked best. Once I did that, I began to read about the super foods and learned to incorporate more of them into our diet. It was amazing how much more energy I had. Soon I started going to the farmer’s market and purchasing fresher food that was more local. We ate very well and he especially loved all of the home cooked meals. I consider that such a blessing today now that he can no longer eat. If I hadn’t done that, I would missed out on all of the wonderful memories today. Although Dear Son has lost his ability to swallow food, he still remembers the good meals.
Today, I still make nearly everything from scratch and am always looking for a something new I can make. Making your own food tastes a whole lot better and there isn’t anything in there that you can’t pronounce or that you need to worry about. Just recently, I got a new breadmaker for Christmas, the Zojirushi Mini Home Bakery which makes one pound loaves of bread. Now I make my own flaxseed bread, hamburger buns, jam and soon I’ll try making the pizza dough. I found a recipe for homemade ketchup in my bread cookbook so I give that a try.
SIMPLIFY. I love paying bills every month because there aren’t many. Just rent, insurance, utilities and that’s about it. Once you begin to simplify, it’s amazing how much time is freed up. Paying bills on-line is even easier, taking only seconds and no time at all if you set up your payments to go out on a certain day every month.
LIVE WITH LESS. Living with less is easy. There is less to clean and it’s less expensive. There is only one toilet to clean instead of three, only one car to drive and maintain (and it’s small at that) and fewer clothes. Living with less, doesn’t mean you still can’t have nice things. In fact, it’s often quite the opposite. Think fewer but nicer.
WASTE LESS. I am almost ashamed to think that I used to throw out leftovers. Now, I make less and waste hardly anything. I learned how to freeze foods and make single serving quantities of things.
SPEND AND CONSUME LESS. Sure it’s better for the planet but the real reason I consumed less is that I couldn’t buy as much. The best part about consuming less is that you have a lot more time on your hands. Buying less means less to maintain, less to process (no need to spend time putting away all of those items when you get home) and more time to spend on the things you love. I got a library card and started checking out books at the library instead of buying them all. Now I still buy books, but only after I have read them and only if it’s a book that I love and will read again.
MORE FAMILY TIME. I spend a lot more time with Dear Son now that I work less hours. It’s great to be able to spend time with your kids. I doubt he misses the finer things. I know that he would miss his Mom.
Kitchen "after" photo, staged by Dream Organizers.
TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF EVERY DAY. I remember when I worked full time, there were many days when I hardly had time to go to the bathroom. Every second of every day was filled to the brim so I could get everything done. Now I am certainly busy, but I’ve learned to take a few minutes to myself every day, to keep me centered and calm. I’ll never get sucked into a lifestyle where I can’t find three minutes to myself every day.
GET HEALTHY. Learning to cook was part of it. Not having access to health insurance was a driving force. I eat better and exercise more now that I have more time. When you pay out of pocket to see a doctor, you eat a lot better and take care of yourself better so you don’t get sick.
BEAUTY COMES FROM THE INSIDE OUT. I learned that beauty comes from the inside out, not the outside in. When I worked full time, I could afford expensive cosmetics. Once I scaled down my lifestyle, I learned that when you provide your body with optimum nutrition, water and exercise, you can skip the expensive wrinkle creams. You can’t purchase good skin in a bottle.
Photo of Dear Son-13,5 years old.