I do not really consider myself a control freak. This is not to say that there have not been definite times in my life when I probably was closer to being one than others. Whether you have control-freak tendencies or not certainly comes in part from personality, some I think is maturity. The older I’ve gotten and the more I’ve learned about myself and the world, the more I have seen my perspective shift. Things I thought were important (read: life and death) at 24 are not the same things I concern myself with today…and thank God for that! Can you imagine if we all ran around our whole lives with the priorities of a 20-year-old?
Some of my control freak tendencies as a younger me stemmed from trying to figure out how to survive in the “real world”. Prior to leaving my parents house, there wasn’t much I had to worry about, so I think I had more time and energy to spend being controlling about stupid things in life like the organization of my CDs.
Once I got out on my own, suddenly there were more real concerns…and these were concerns I had to face not as part of a newly married couple (as so many of my friends were), but as a single 22-year-old with no clue. I was plagued with questions like: How do I get my utilities turned on for my new apartment? Where’s the nearest laundromat? What do you cook with when you have no money to buy pots & pans? Can the human body truly subsist on mac & cheese alone?
Initially, I was also still concerned with the mundane issues like having my CDs in alphabetical order by artist, but the more busy I got with attending to the bigger picture, the more those cares and tendencies towards trying to control the little things slip away. Today, my CDs are still more-or-less arranged by artist, but are not alphabetical and are spread across at least 5 different locations in my home so if you’re looking for a particular CD, good luck because unless it’s U2, I probably can’t tell you where it is.
I think if I were a true Type-A individual (which, as we all know is just a nice way of saying “control freak”), something like coming over and messing with my kitchen drawers or cabinets, would totally rock my world. However, I can say with a pretty high degree of confidence that you could go ahead and do this and I wouldn’t really care. This is not to say that I don’t try to keep my kitchen organized – I do, but not because I feel the need to be in control of my kitchen. Rather, I just think it’s easier when all the pots, plates, glasses, and bowls are with more of their own kind. Call me crazy, but I like not having to hunt for lids to my Tupperware. I’m also somewhat limited in cabinet space, so things have to remain somewhat organized or else it wouldn’t all fit. Actually, the more I write about this, the more I realize that my kitchen may not really be the best illustration.
Let’s try the pantry instead.
My pantry is a crazy, assorted array of dry food and spices. There is pasta, cans of soup, cereal, boxes of 100 Calorie packs, pudding, taco seasoning packets, and God-knows-what-else. The only things remotely organized about it are that the spices are all together on a rack and I think that the cereal is more or less on the same shelf. That’s it. My pantry is definitely NOT the pantry of a control freak. Monica Geller would probably need to be hospitalized if she saw it. My pantry is more representative of my approach to life than any other part of my house: As long as I can find things and nothing is in danger of falling off the shelf, I’m good.
The problem with this approach to life is that it may work for my pantry, but doesn’t really fly when you’re trying to do things like a budget. Until I started the Dave Ramsey plan in February, I’d go literally years without balancing my checkbook. My sister would say she couldn’t understand how I could NOT balance my checkbook and I would try to explain to her how it was just one of those things I found tiresome and tedious and really not all that important. I realize now that, while still tiresome and tedious, the balancing of the checkbook is actually very important. Essential even. Being on a budget and along the path to becoming debt free has forced me into a behavior pattern that does not come naturally to me – surprisingly I’m pretty good at it, but that doesn’t make it easy. Needless to say, this has been a difficult albeit necessary shift for me.
Dave Ramsey calls people like me a “Free Spirit” (read: non-control freak) which is essentially the antithesis of what he calls a “Nerd” (read: control freak). Marriages, he says, are generally made up with one of each. As a Free Spirit single, having to take on Nerd activities is a real challenge for sure, but where I’m finding myself struggle the most these days is in keeping up my motivation. 9-months into my debt-free path, my interest is waning. It was easy enough when I first started out and kicked some major debt-ass with my year-end bonus and tax refund, but the day-to-day grind is what’s bringing me down. My monthly committee meetings with my budget accountability partner (Shanna) is a great help. She gives me some much needed “Atta-girls” and reminds me to look at how far I’ve come since the starting point, not get caught up in how far away the finish line feels (“Are we there yet, Papa Smurf?”)
So Shanna helps. Reading through old posts from when I first started my budget also helps. But what I’m really getting excited about is what the next few months hold. There are some things coming up which I feel will give me a much-needed ‘Matt Foley‘ motivational speech…and not a moment too soon.
First is a one-day seminar on Personal Finance we’re holding at The Well in November followed by a full run of Financial Peace University which we’re starting in February 2009. In general I find there is nothing like feeding off the inspiration that comes from being surrounded by others on the same journey…
Additionally I know that as I get more involved in this area, I will be able to help encourage and support others which I think is the best form of motivation there is… Well, that and not waiting to end up living in a van down by the river.