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Mental Models

November 9, 2012

This week I made a “luxury” purchase. And it felt so good, yet notable. Hence my telling you all about it!

I bought 3 toilet bowl brushes. And it was such an unusual purchase (for reasons I will get to) that I have been mulling it over for days.

Here’s the brutal reality: I have developed a poverty mental model and am just now realizing it and trying to adjust it to the kind of reality I think is healthier. When we left Turkey 5.5 years ago to attend graduate school we took a huge financial risk. We went to private schools in the expensive Pacific Northwest where our rent was more than our current mortgage. To make it work, besides praying a lot, we had to get very very creative.

I got hair cuts because I cleaned the salon. We went out to eat only if we were on a mystery shopper assignment. Our kids played sports because of scholarships. We nannied, tutored, scrubbed toilets, hung up long underwear at REI, sold stuff on ebay, joined research groups at Microsoft, drove junker cars, and constantly said “no” to the kids. By the grace of God, we made it. Debt free.

But we had to think like we were broke. And as a result, the kids and I still do.

So when I finally conclude the grime is not going to bleach out of the toilet bowl brushes and I can spend/waste the $7 on 3 new ones (not the containers mind you, those still can be bleached back to white oblivion), it’s a BIG deal. Not because we finally have $7 to spare, but because I finally deem them a necessity again.

Funny how “spare room” in the budget changes our necessities.

And here is where I’m cautious. I am ready to not say no so much, to not feel chest constriction over the endless requirements of kids’ school activities (band needs khakis, choir needs white shirts, basketball needs a tie… all things they’ll never wear again). I want to buy snow boots for my son’s always.growing.enormous.feet with gladness that we can, while at the same time not have him beg for a hat and soccer sandals! I want a healthy sense of “necessity” that includes gratitude and good stewardship, for me and the kids!

I remember a friend once saying how “whacked out” she became when her husband got a new job that offered that “spare room.” Suddenly, the jolt of a new mental model almost made her come undone. I get it now! When you live a certain way long enough, it is unnerving to recalibrate. And when you want to do it wisely, with caution, and are ever conscious of how it affects and shapes your kids, it is even harder.

And of course, the irony is that I learned about mental models at a training called Bridges out of Poverty based on this article. Comparatively, I am far from poverty. Even in my “we’re broke” mental model I had middle class rules dictating my thinking.

What’s my point? I’m on a journey to find a healthy God-smiling mental model. Any suggestions?

One Comment leave one →
  1. SusanInWords permalink
    November 10, 2012 3:38 pm

    My analysis is a LOT less sophisticated than yours, but I’ve been thinking about this. Have you seen The Story of Stuff (20-minute video on you tube)? It was eye-opening and, for a little while, overwhelming. The problem of consumption is SO BIG… where is my sensible place in it? These days I’m trying out this filter question: Who am I loving when I buy this? (e.g., fair trade coffee = loving the folks who produce the coffee.) Margot Starbuck suggested noticing where our stuff is made and praying for the people who made it. Seems like a good way to try out a different attitude.

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