There is an old joke or piece of advice that has been floating around my head the last few days. It’s something along the lines of products and services all come in three flavors: quality, speed and affordability. However, you can only pick two flavors at a time.
In some ways it’s just a rephrasing of “you can’t have everything.” However, what has made it more powerful for me lately is that it is more specific and less dismissive. You are empowered to choose which two are right for you at the given moment. It’s not just the ether denying you something, maybe the thing you want most. You can choose which one to sacrifice: time, money, or quality.
For example, you can get the best quality craftsmanship conveniently completed in a fast time frame, but you are going to have to pay a lot for it. You could do it yourself, which would be much more affordable, but will likely rank lower on the quality and speed scales.
I’ve been thinking about that because I have a weird conglomeration of thoughts, values, and priorities that are seeming, at times, to be in conflict with each-other.
Values that Sometimes Compete with Each Other
- Financial responsibility
- Creating joy in my life
- Kindness towards myself (and those around me)
- Efficiency and streamlined processes
- Timeliness and completing things quickly
- Time and making the most of it
- Planning and Structure
- Flexibility and Adaptation
- Environmental stewardship- I am by no means a queen of green living, but we recycle and try to minimize our waste and chemicals we put into the environment
I’ve been going through our stuff and I have, so far, gathered 10 bags of clothing to donate. I am incredibly joyous over this fact. It felt so good to see those bags all piled up. It felt even better walking down the hallway again once they were gone.
However, I have had this thing nagging the back of my mind. Some of those clothes were brand new, some had hardly ever been worn. No, this isn’t a story about regretting getting rid of them. It’s a story about the frugal voice in my head telling me I could have sold them. I could have consigned them. I could have had a clothing swap with friends. But I didn’t.
Different Values for Different Tasks or Different Times
I have a different priority at the moment. I’m not a frugal weirdo. I’m looking to make my life better. We have the joy to be financially stable. We are not in dire need of cash. The $100 we might have made for the best clothing was not worth the hours of extra sorting and triaging and transporting and retaining items for unknown weeks to get them sold. I got much more satisfaction from being able to donate them to a local non-profit thrift store. Bonus, this thrift store recycles and sells the fabric of clothing unfit for resale. So those jeans with the holes in them still end up in a better place than my garbage bin or the landfill.
Two out of my three objectives were met. I got the clothing from our closet out of the house quickly, and I got it going to a high-quality organization. I didn’t get a gold star for the frugal meter, however I did get the receipt for tax time next year to deduct my donation.
Acceptance, You Really Can’t Do Everything
I’m working to accept that I cannot do it all. I got two out of the three and that’s good enough. If you look at my current list of priorities, I met more than two of them. I was efficient, donating to one place with the nuance to treat items differently. This is something I consider an environmental win. I was kind to myself by letting myself and my husband only have to decide if we wanted to keep or discard an item, not needing to decide to keep, toss, mend, donate, etc. I achieved an early win by removing everything quickly. There is a huge sense of accomplishment for having it done!
And lastly, I prioritized my time, not just as in getting it done quickly but saving myself the hours of work and trekking around or taking photos and meeting people or places. I got to spend my time doing other things that I value as well.
You Can’t Do It All At Once
In addition to the tradeoffs between values for a certain task, there is also the truth that you can’t do everything at once. I can’t start this blog, clean out and setup the game room, go through the basement boxes, plan a birthday party, restart our budgeting process, start calorie counting, start going to the gym, start planning an interviewing contractors, refinishing our basement, be more social and make more plans with friends, research container gardening, caulk around the windows and doors, finish the wedding thank-you notes, create and stick to a super frugal meal planning schedule, and be a good partner who is present in life, all at once.
While those are all things I want to do in some capacity, and with some sense of urgency, I know that I will be setting myself up for failure if I were to start all them at once.