Retail therapy

Generally speaking, I try not to shop very much.  That’s not to say that I’m always successful, but I do try to be very conscious of what I buy and why.  Usually it’s books or household items.  The books are because I enjoy reading, it’s inexpensive entertainment, and I think there’s great value in having a store of books on hand from fiction to reference.  The household items are because I love taking care of my home and appreciate using nice and useful house and kitchenware.  Other than that, though, I do try to keep the shopping to a minimum.

This hasn’t been the case recently, though.  As my marriage was falling apart, I was shopping myself silly.

Initially I was shopping as a distraction.  Over the past few months hitting the thrift stores meant I was getting out for a bit of exercise in the form of a bike ride and then allowing myself an hour or two of distraction where I wasn’t thinking about everything that was going on or sitting on my computer obsessively reading sites on how to save your marriage.  Then, once J. left, I was shopping as a way to remake myself and my home for what felt like a huge life transition.  I was buying some clothes (partly to make sure I had pants that fit after the nearly 20 pound weight loss), some craft supplies (stuff to do with my hands), and a whole lot of household goods (to revamp the apartment and replace things that I’d rather not have around anymore).

In my defense, all of my shopping was secondhand.  I wasn’t contributing to the market for new goods to be produced.  It was also very inexpensive, too, so there wasn’t much in the way of savings account depletion either.  But I was shopping all the same.  I was buying into the mentality that shopping was an acceptable way to deal with my problems and that because things were rough I deserved to have new things to make myself feel better.  Both mentalities are ones that I usually try to avoid, but it’s easy to see how they feel incredibly comforting when things are tough.  Shopping is easy, distracting, and feels like a form of self-care and given everything that was going on, I don’t really feel all that bad about it in context.

So, what did I buy?  Truthfully, it would probably be easier to talk about what I didn’t buy, but in the interest of full disclosure and keeping myself at least somewhat accountable, here’s a brief overview of what four months of stress-induced secondhand retail therapy looks like in my world.

Furniture: two walnut chairs, two bookcases, two pine side tables, brass floor lamp, pottery table lamp, tiered table, metal filing shelf

Kitchenware: food processor, blender, shears, two pottery plates, four pottery mugs, four pottery bowls, ten crystal glasses, two jadeite egg cups, magnetic knife rack, two pottery jugs, three tea tins, knife sharpener, four settings of cutlery

Linens: two wool blankets, wool mattress pad, five throw pillows, eight linen napkins, three towels, bathmat

Decor: dozens of candles, two pottery vases, Hermes typewriter, five picture frames, large basket, small basket

Entertainment: two cookbooks, ten novels, two board games, puzzle

Clothing and accessories: three pair of jeans, black pants, sweatshirt, canvas travel bag, two canvas tote bags, laptop bag, Converse sneakers, leather boots, running shorts, running top

Craft supplies: three pairs of knitting needles, 18 balls of wool, five yards wool fabric, five sewing patterns

I know I was just going to thrift store so often that I was bound to find things I was looking for, but there were times when it felt the thrift gods were throwing every thrift desire I’ve had over the last few months my way.  I’ve knocked jadeite, Otagiri blue horizon, metal filing unit, vintage blender, food processor, and The Flavor Bible off my ongoing “let’s keep an eye out for this at the thrift store” list. 

Of course none of this makes anything tangibly better.  Shopping was a distraction, and all the stuff in the world won’t magically fix anything.  On the positive side, I’m feeling less like shopping all the time and more like getting back to focusing on the important things in life.  But to start with, I should probably tidy up around here and figure out where to put all this stuff…





I haven’t been here much in awhile now.  Not that I suppose I’m ever here all that much, but the reasons for my absence have been a bit different this time around.  After four years of marriage, my husband and I have separated.

For what are probably pretty obvious reasons, I don’t want to go into a lot of detail here about what happened, how it happened, and all of those other things.  It suffices to say that things have been unpleasant for the last however many months, but in and amongst the crud there have been some startling moments of revelation, clarity, and grace.  And, if nothing else, I’ve been reminded of how wonderful my friends and family are as I navigate this new territory.

This is all fresh and new and things still feel rough.  But at the same time, I feel like I have more time and space and energy than I have in a long time, and I’m working to channel that into rebuilding a life for myself that is even more clearly aligned with my interests and values.  For now, that has amounted to a serious clearing out of the apartment and some pretty hefty thrift shopping, but I’m looking to more significant changes going forward, and in particular more changes that reflect my ever-present interest in sustainability and resilience and that will hopefully be reflected here.


Made for walking

River 1This past month, I’ve been walking to and from campus every chance I get.  I’ve also been walking anywhere else I need to go – to medical appointments, the hairdresser, and the bank.  Now that we’re firmly settled into autumn – easily my favourite season – I wanted to regularly spend some more time outside, enjoying the cooler weather, falling leaves, and wonderful colours.  To do this, I’ve started walking as much as I possibly can.  I started in September, with errands to the grocery and hardware store, going to visit friends, and trips to the library.  As the semester geared up and I started spending more time on campus, it made sense to try walking there as much as possible, too, and I’ve been gradually spending more time each week just walking around.

First, I think it’s actually saved me a bit of time.  If nothing else, it hasn’t taken me all that much longer to walk than it has to take the bus.  My walk to campus is about 40 minutes, door to door.  I noticed that although the bus ride is only 15 minutes, I also have a five or ten minute wait – if not more – on either end.  Plus, walking takes the place of the 40 minute run or hour long bike ride that I’d usually take for exercise while still helping to keep me healthy in a very inexpensive way.  On top of that, it’s also saved me a bit of money.  Bus tickets are about $2 each, and although I have no problem paying for transportation, every time I walk saves me a few dollars.  It’s not a lot by any stretch, but since I have to be on campus at least three days per week, it adds up.

Perhaps most importantly, though, it also helps to reduce stress and relax a bit more than I normally would.  Academic life certainly has as many difficult moments as any other job, and relaxing on my way to class and unwinding on my way home helps to manage whatever work-related anxiety I’m feeling on a given day.  It’s a chance to get grounded prior to going up in front of the group and a good way to process whatever happened in class and let go of whatever needs letting go.  The combination of long walks and beautiful scenery – like the river on the way to my doctor’s office, pictured above – really help to take the edge off whatever’s on my mind.

Not walking certainly wouldn’t be the end of the world, but I think I’d lose a lot if I were to stop.  In order to keep it up, I’ve started to consider how to best maintain this practice when the snow starts to fly and the ground ices over, as it so often does in this part of the world.  I love the combination of benefits from this one simple change, though – a bit of money and time saved, and a good deal gained in terms of pleasure and stress relief – so I’m willing to do whatever I can to maintain my walking habit even through the less desirable weather that’s likely to be headed our way very soon.