My recent stint of re-selling, trying to find value in old things, getting less than I hoped, and so on, has inspired me to write about the green at the center of it all.
When I look around these days, seeing old toy Barbie cars for toddlers turning pale in a pile of grass in someone’s backyard, or watching collectibles go through their cycles on Antique’s road show…I can’t help but feel burdened by the objects. Ever since finding the beauty in simplicity- making music around a campfire with friends, cooking in a kitchen with family, and perhaps just from growing up, I no longer have a will to own anything besides what I will use. Even after all my trips to goodwill and posts on ebay, I have far more things than most people in the world*. An old co-worker who hadn’t yet graduated college told me of her pairing down to 100 items. About 20 of them were clothing related—I think “underwear” counted as one, but the rest were things like pen and notebook, and an iPod. I have substantially more than that, and I have noticed that when I have too much to do, I’m likely not to do anything.
Anyway, this was supposed to be about money.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of money lately. We prescribe a value to our currency, but the true value differs from person to person, and even throughout that person’s life. 5 dollars to me as a 10 year old would be likened to $20 now. I was thinking today that spending $60 on a bouquet of flowers for someone isn’t completely out of the price range, but I remember looking through webpages in high school and college and being shocked at how unaffordable a bundle of plants are.
Now, though I have more money now than I ever have, I think I value it less. I see money as the means or the vehicle to help me achieve certain things, like experiences at Cirque de Soleil, or gas to get me across the country. But while flipping channels this morning, I saw a rap singer in a monstrously large white fur coat. To him, money means more than experiences, it is just a show, and that aspect of money is completely unappealing to me.
These last few weeks of living on my own, or as a “real” adult as some of my friends and old co-workers would say, I have felt the annoyance of money more than ever. One day I had to stand in line in two different buildings across town just so to sign my name to a page that says that I will pay tax to the state on the measley money I’m earning. Although it feels good to exchange our currency for things like the Over Easy burger and a drink during happy hour at Blackbird Buvette, or the new bike I’ll be commuting with around town, it can seem like a pain, especially in the “real world.”
In college, I was introduced to the concept of Time Interchange. There’s a new York city chapter, but I haven’t found one yet in NM*. The idea is that all of our time is equally valuable, so I could trade an hour of babysitting for an hour of you fixing my dishwasher. The time you spend on something goes into a “bank” and can be redeemed by anyone within the program.
I have been playing with this idea in the last few weeks- without the online market. I’ve simply been spending some of my free time volunteering, and reeking various benefits from new opportunities. While we were still in Texas I had this realization that a lot of people spend money on things that they don’t have time for- fancy mustards, sour kraut, chocolate- are all things that could be made at home, but if you want all three, it takes some committed time and counter space. But here in our new job… we have that kind of time. As well as a deep curiosity in how many of those things work. And a deep yearning for fresh sour kraut and homemade mustards. So that’s what we’ve been trying to do. Certainly it’s tempting to buy the newest chocolates that the co-op has coupons for, or a bag of tortilla chips on a special, and we have enjoyed some of these products…but it’s also fun to figure out what to do with 20 apples that we dumpstered, or the two dozen eggs that have been given to us from friends with chickens.
I understand that money is just a form of currency that we trade…and with any trade, there are going to be trade-offs. Right now in our lives, I’m appreciating spending more time on things and learning how to live with a little less money- which has taken a little trial and error. :)