The year that I turned 40 I left my husband. My life savings were invested in his farm and I walked away from the money and most of my stuff. I left with the children ages 16, 5, 4, 1 years, a weeks worth of clothing for us all, a couch and a few dishes.
I liked the sense of freedom that I felt without all the stuff weighing me down and determined to keep my possessions to a minimum. Thus the annual counting of stuff was begun. It has been a continual learning process.
Before I ever heard of the Pareto Principle and the 80/20 rule, I lived it with my clothing. I was figuring out how much clothing is enough, and noticed that I wore my favorite clothing most of the time, even though there were other items that I almost never wore. Usually the unworn items had some small flaw: they didn’t fit well, they didn’t go with anything else in the closet, they weren’t flattering. Money poorly spent, I told myself.
Overtime, I developed a simple system of clothing purchasing so there was little waste in the process. The rules were general: buy clothing that can be worn to work, when it starts to get a little worn, wear it for non-work days. Don’t buy anything that doesn’t go with at least two other items in the closet. Buy only black shoes and black socks. This system worked pretty well, still does.
Several years ago, I did something silly and inexplicable. I bought a pair of lime green silk heels. They had an open toe (so I couldn’t wear them to work,) about a 3 1/2 inch heel (so I was not likely to wear them to the grocery store,) and they did not match any clothes that I had at the time (so I wasn’t going to wear them to a parent-teacher conference.) Mostly they sat in my closet on a shelf at eye level and I saw them every time I opened the closet door. They made me happy.
At that time my life was little besides work and parent responsibilities. My children were fairly young and need help with baths, homework and the floor had to be wiped down after every meal. I took three-minute showers instead of soaks in the tub. I exercised during my lunch break. My library card languished. I had no practical use for “date shoes.” But they made me happy.
Those shoes were a colorful reminder that life was not all work, that I could choose a different path if I wanted to. All I had to do was put them on and I would become an impractical girly girl. It was as if I had an open-ended ticket to Europe and could leave anytime I wanted.
Those years were filled with hard work and not enough rest. The bright green shoes were a nourishment for my spirit, a reminder that I was more than just a mom. Single parents have to take care of themselves as well as the kids. We need good food, sleep, exercise for the body. We need fun, beauty and connection to others for the soul.
Don’t forget the fun.