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I’d like to be more like Barbara Raab. The NBC news writer temporarily traded her in her job to teach journalism at a public university. Although she took a big pay cut, she manages it in large part to her lack of stuff:

To me, having and wanting “things” just means more “stuff” to take care of, and I don’t want to be bogged down by “stuff.” Other than a second bedroom, and my own personal washer/dryer (sadly, my building does not allow the latter or I’d have it in a heartbeat), I can honestly say that I have pretty much every “thing” I want, so even though taking a giant pay cut to teach at a public university isn’t easy, I knew I could make it work for a short time without a lot of pain.

I’m in the process of moving and if my constant relocations (nine in four years) have taught me anything, it’s that I have a lot of things. This stuff is not only plentiful, but it’s also, for the most part, unused. Although I’m pretty good at avoiding the “stuff traps” at the mall, I’m still guilty of stupid souvenirs and buying too many pens. I’ve even impulsively bought records despite my lack of a record player. I am reminded of these stupid purchases every time I pack my things up and move.

Packing up and moving is a pain, but at least it forces us to stop and take stock of our belongings. We have to go through every nook and cranny of our homes and separate the things we want to lug across town/country/world from the things we don’t.This is a healthy thing. Not only do we get rid of excess in our homes, but it reminds us to think twice when we feel the impulse to buy something we don’t really need.

Stuff really weighs us down. For me, it’s an overwhelming psychological weight, the same kind of feeling I have when my apartment is so messy, I don’t want to spend time in it. It’s also an economical weight that eats away at our back accounts that has little or no return.

My goal for the rest of October and November is to get rid of stuff. So far, I’ve donated a box of kitchenware, set aside a box of books and CDs to sell or give away and freed a bag of clothing for donation. The stuff that I really hate is paper. I’ve got receipts, bills and bank statements that go back five, six, even seven years. They don’t take up much room, but when I get that organized, I’ll feel a lot lighter.

What’s weighing you down?


Photo by: nromagna

I know I wasn’t the only person who read about or watched the news of Wall Street’s chaos and felt completely confused about what happened, how it happened and why it mattered to me. To be honest, I’m still getting a grasp on it. But as I hoped it would, my favourite podcast This American Life has tried to explain it in its latest episode, “Another Frightening Show About The Economy.”

In this podcast, journalists Alex Blumberg and Adam Davidson detail the financial crisis in plan English. They start with the day the market died, specifically examining the fall of the commercial paper market, which is explained as “an industrial sized I.O.U.” They also discuss credit default swaps and examine whether the $700 billion bailout bill signed last week was a good or bad deal for the average American.

This isn’t something you’ll want to listen to while grocery shopping. It deserves your attention if you’re interested in how this affects you, which it will–even if you’re a Canadian watching the situation from north of the border.

You may also be interested in listening to Alex and Adam’s older episode “The Giant Pool of Money” which examines the American housing crisis, one of the reasons Wall St. is in this mess to begin with. Download the latest podcast for free now and stream (or pay $1 to download) the archived episodes of TAL.

If you have other resources for simpletons like me, please share them in the comments.


Photo By: Shahram Sharif

The forecast here in Toronto calls for a rainy weekend. It’s good weather for staying in and reading. Here were some of my favourite reads from the past week:

How to Live with Just 100 Things: Time Magazine reports on participants of the 100 Things challenge, including Dave Bruno of Guy Named Dave, who are taking the lead on clutter and reducing their pile of stuff to a concise list of 100 things. Could you live with only 100 things? Probably, but the question is would you want to?

Yeah, You’re Cheap Quiz: It’s its A fun quiz to see whether you’re cheap or frugal, smart or stupid with your cash. Yes, it’s Time Out NY, but it can be applied to any city.

How To Achieve Any Goal: Leo, writer of Zen Habits has a knack for making it seem so simple. Every challenge has its bigger bumps. Whether we want to be more financially fit or athletically fit, we all need motivation and the reminder that we can do it.

Advice for Starting A New Business: As a person who dreams she will one day be her own boss, I gravitate towards advice for starting my own business. J.D. of one of my favourite blogs, Get Rich Slowly, asks his knowledgeable readers on what they think a new entrepreneur should know.

Please share your favourite articles, blog entries and other links with me.