Leftovers: Getting a grip on the prime of life

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The economy. Student loans. Jacked-up finance rates for homes and cars. Increased menu prices when dining out. Gas and home heating oil. Supermarket sticker shock. Homeowner association fees. Health insurance. Parking in town or tolls on the highway.

And the inflationary beat goes on.

Is there anything essential, or otherwise, that hasn’t gone up in price? 

Natalie LaddPlease don’t come at me with air, water, and other gifts from nature. With the clear-cut path our environmental protection laws are on, we can’t take them for granted either. Not when provisions safeguarding them are pedaling backward. While much of the world is on fire, in a drought, or breathing polluted air, it seems the only thing that’s free and bottomless is our own perspective-turned-attitude, which is why I’m boycotting 2022 Amazon Prime Day(s).

I’m also tuning out the siren song of other big-box and online retailers during the “Christmas in July” season that is upon us. I won’t pretend it’s easy to avoid the “add-to-cart” and “purchase-now” buttons. The struggle is powerful because who doesn’t love a good deal? But how good can it be in these uncertain times when fear looms like a trashy neon sign that flashes “Recession Ahead”?

Do we want to ignore the garishness and be the people with a squished car or worse? The same people who’ve blindly ignored the “Loose and Falling Boulders” of a downward spiraling economy?

Truth be known, I am not frugal but I am resourceful. After giving me a silver dollar one day (only to find out it was gone the next) my Bubbie would ask if it burned a hole in my pocket. Then, right on cue my mother would say, “Natalie. Whatever you bought with that silver dollar isn’t a bargain if you don’t need it.” 

Of course, my mother, The Betty, was the same person who fondly called the clearance section “Clarence” and would rush to the back of Lord & Taylor or Neiman Marcus (aka Needless Markup) as if to embrace an old, long-lost friend. Her mixed messages turned into something like, “I just couldn’t afford not to buy it,” which made as much sense to me as the “It isn’t a bargain …” line.

But right now, there’s something bigger at play. 

Let me acknowledge that I’m aware of opening myself up to criticism of elitism and privilege, but I’m no longer spending money to save money. The clutter and sensation of “too much stuff” are bad for my mental health and are life stressors. Granted, I don’t have a large family under my roof where buying 48 rolls of toilet paper at one time makes sense. But even with free delivery, I am not going to stack them up in my bathroom to save three dollars. 

My friend Dawna Hall is a professional organizer and the owner of OrganizeME. Since 2011, she has been telling me that getting rid of stuff – or better yet, not collecting or buying in the first place – lightens up your space and your life. It isn’t about the size of your rooms, but about piles of unfiled papers that could be scanned and saved, and about the purchases (bulk or not) that contribute to brain clutter. A graphic designer in her former life, Dawna is not suggesting we forfeit aesthetics, but instead that we simplify and declutter for peace of mind. Doesn’t that sound lovely?

As for Amazon Prime Day(s), I’ll admit it is a good opportunity for one-time (or even a subscription plan) for necessary products or for gifts. But scrolling through page after page of the same type of online item is overwhelming and anything but resourceful. Don’t believe me? Just Google “bedding on sale” and be prepared to spend hours trying to decide on thread counts and fabric composition compared to costs. And forget the comforter, that’s just for sheets.

My perspective-turned-attitude cannot control the economy, but how I choose to spend my money is up to me. I’ll always love Clarence even if I don’t visit him often anymore. I’ll save the last three silver dollars my Bubbie gave me even as I declutter other things of emotional value. I’ll be mindful of recycling and protecting the earth even though I am only one person. I’ll stay strong in the wake of backlash over my anti-bulk shopping elitism, and the privilege to protect my mental health and curb brain clutter. And, I’ll be happy for others as they celebrate Christmas in July, even if I don’t fully believe or participate. 

Most importantly, in these wobbly times I’ll stay diligent for the signs that guide me. That, and I’ll do my best to make every day prime. Even without Amazon.

Natalie Ladd is an award-winning columnist, freelance writer, and Portland restaurant veteran. She loves Boston sports, California cabernets, and has never sampled a cheese she didn’t like. Reach her at [email protected].