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Joy-filled New Year

As far as my husband, Scott, is concerned, one of the most desirable qualities about his life partner is that she’s frugal. Romantic, I know.

“You’re not cheap,” he’ll insist. “You do a wonderful job managing our family spending.” Talk like this might have you thinking we’re crazy in love (which we are) and that I know my way around a budget, when, in reality, I’m just not a big shopper. In fact, here’s a funny (and short) story about me and shopping of most any kind. I don’t like it.

It is for this reason that I sometimes think I would have been a good mom of boys. Boys, I have been told, aren’t into fashion or shopping or the latest trends. It’s just roll out of bed and off to school for boys, right? Boys don’t spend hours walking around malls or browsing websites. Boys don’t care how they look.

All of this has been disproved, of course, by practically every single boy I have met through my daughters over the years. Lucky for me then, that
my women-children, who for the record, also care how they look, inherited  my anti-shopping gene. I’ve raised three daughters, who like their mother, go to a mall with a singular purchase in mind, make the purchase, and exit the mall. The oldest does find joy in thrifting, however. So maybe she’s the frugal one.

In any case, this aversion to shopping has saved me not only time, but also a lot of money over the years. For example, the other day I saw a trendy 30-something woman wearing platform shoes – a style, which admittedly hasn’t been on my radar for well over fifteen years. They have, however, been in the back of my closet, patiently waiting for a revival. When I saw this woman rocking those platforms, instead of trotting off to the mall or scouring the Internet hoping to buy the 2016 reboot, I poked around in my closet and I found the shoes – yes, holdovers from the previous millennium – ready and waiting for me. And joy for me! They still fit because you don’t grow out of shoes even though you have gained a few pounds. And more joy! My medium-sized daughter even said they looked pretty good on me.

This anti-shopping pseudo-frugality, if you will, goes beyond clothing. Is it crazy that we use the same dinnerware we received as a wedding present twenty years ago? Maybe, but I’m not picking out a new pattern, that’s for sure. Is it a sad state of affairs that I wouldn’t approve the purchase of a new-fangled Crock-Pot as a gift when the effective, but fangleless one we already owned was working just fine? Perhaps, but seriously, does your average family really need two Crock-Pots? (Thanks by the way. I really do love it.)

By now, you may have figured out that along with my reluctance to shop for new things comes a reluctance to get rid of old stuff. I have to admit, the more I read about the KonMari Method (see page 14), the more intrigued I became. This system of tidying doesn’t ask you to focus on reducing what
you have, or on efficiently organizing your things. Instead, you look at choosing to surround yourself with the things that inspire joy in your life.

I tried it on my oldest daughter. “Does this spark joy in you?” I asked, holding up a small denim tote bag with a daisy stenciled on it that I may have brought home from a wedding shower I attended twelve years ago. “Was that under the washing machine?” she replied. I had my answer.

Just like 60 percent of RFM readers who answered the poll last month, I gave up making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. But I’m leaving the door open to this joy question and we’ll see where it leads. As I adjust to a less-frenzied January lifestyle – that includes considerably less shopping – I might find myself going beyond the KonMari model and asking “Does this spark joy?” about concepts, as opposed to things. Does cooking spark joy? Does cleaning spark joy?

Who knows? Using the KonMari question to tidy and declutter our home, by June I might have gotten rid of so much stuff that I’ll have to give shopping another chance. Or maybe I’ll just see what kind of joy actually making that budget can spark in my marriage.

Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family, including husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director. You can read Karen’s take on parenting her three daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey, also known as the women-children – in the Editor’s Voice.
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