Over the course of about 2 years, my personal pendulum swung from certified craft hoarder to minimalist nomad. A big part of this transition and transformation had to do with a difficult financial, emotional, and health challenged period in my life. Multiple accidents and surgeries, too much time off work, and bad spending habits led my family to a point where we found ourselves behind on all of our bills, getting calls from creditors, and crying as we read an unexpected foreclosure notice. And I am not one to cry. This situation is overwhelming for anyone and it is hard to understand unless you have been there (which I hope you haven't been there!). I disclosed this in a recent newsletter I sent out and got so many responses from people who lost their homes, have gone through similar hardships, or who are currently in similar situations.
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I thought long and hard about doing this kind of post and sharing all the things that came together to catalyze this metamorphosis from being a certified poster child for craft excess (eight diecutting systems, anyone?) to nearly giving it all up and finally resulting in a conscientious, strategic, and practical approach to creativity in life, business, and craft. To grow is hard. And then to reconcile that transformation with my work in an industry that is dependent on people buying things, lots and lots of pretty things, well, that seemed impossible but I figured it out and I am doing it. It is something I think about and focus on daily as I make things to blog about. How much storage space do I need for this? Is this smart? Is it affordable? Is it useful?
Faced with losing my house, I came to a place where “things” did not matter to me anymore. The crossroads I found myself standing at had two paths, both of which came with the caveat of fewer things in my life.
The way foreclosure works is that the bank sends you a notice or two or forty. Every mortgage company does it differently. They try to work out completely unreasonable payment plans with you, like expect you to agree to make triple mortgage payments each month to catch things up. When you're living on 40% of your pay due to disability and the other wage earner has lost clients and money due someone embezzling money from the business and just a bad economy, well, single mortgage payments are a problem. That's how we got in that trouble, right? When you can't make the impossible payment arrangements because you actually need some money to eat and put gas in the car to take kids to school, the bank gets nasty. They told me on a Friday that we had worked out a payment arrangement. On Saturday I got a foreclosure notice in the mail. They KNEW they were foreclosing when I spent hours on the phone trying to massage the finances to make it all work. That was one of many hours long phone calls of me trying to work with them. It was devastating.
I got what I deserved. I was a straight up jerk to people who were losing their homes during 2007-2009. I said asinine, rude things like, “they should have saved more” or “they were irresponsible with the loan they got.” Karma kicked me when I was down, when it probably should have. I took my lumps. And grew. But it was an incredibly painful lesson I wish on no one; there is so much more to it than saving money or being responsible. Sometimes, crap just happens, all at once, in an avalanche, to where you can't even come up for air until it is all over. This episode in my life also forced me to take stock of my life and make some hard decisions. We all have our moments when we have to learn from the school of hard knocks. And just because bad things happen to someone, doesn't mean they are a bad person. And just because bad things happen to someone, that doesn't make them a good person either. It makes them a human. Some people might think I am sharing too much. I am also aware of the sad, petty mean girls who talk smack and will revel in glee about my sharing this difficult story. This post isn't for them. This post isn't for haters, naysayers, or the Joneses. This post is for the people who are going through something hard and embarrassing and difficult to talk about for fear of judgement. We all need to know someone went through it, survived, and came out the other side. This post is for the people who are buried under guilt and mountains of stuff and are paralyzed to do anything about it, even when they know those things are not bringing them happiness anymore. This post is for the people who are ready to hear about and maybe take the next step on a journey of self-discovery, happiness, and putting the joy back into their crafting. Now, back to the story.
After meeting with a lawyer, we knew we had two rocky, treacherous paths to choose.
One path was to let the foreclosure occur. We could live in our old fifth wheel trailer temporarily and put our stuff in storage. Less stuff meant saving money on moving and storage fees. We could take the money we had already saved and pay off other bills and create a better savings account. We could buy the new car we so desperately needed.
The other path involved keeping the house. In order to do that, I needed to raise alot of money fast to pay the arrears on the home loan and stop the foreclosure process. My husband still wasn't back to work at this point and Christmas was right around the corner. I started to see the things in my house as opportunities to make money. In calculating the price I could sell them for, I also realized there had been incredible waste. Why did I buy $10,000 worth of Quickutz dies that I never used? I didn't buy them all at once but if I had never bought them at all and just saved that money, I would have been able to weather this financial, health, and emotional storm much better. At the same time, I saw things that came as a result of my work in the craft industry. I had multiple photo printers I was able to sell because of work I had done with a printer company at one point. Going through these items was a double-edged sword of extremes – it was painful and I felt guilt on one hand and on the other hand I felt incredibly blessed and fortunate.
In choosing either path, I was forced to confront and deal with the things I didn't want to deal with. I kept buying craft supplies and stuff to put salve on a wound that kept getting deeper every time I bought something new. I'll go into those details more in the next post.
We chose the second path, sold off an incredible amount of stuff, and got out of debt. It was because I had amassed all of this stuff and had a BUNCH of etsy inventory that we were able to sell a great majority of the stuff off and in 20 days, raise the over $14,000+ we needed to close the gap between what we had already saved and the arrears amount the bank needed. I am very grateful for the people who helped me through this process and for every single customer, friend, and family member who bought things from us so we could make the deadline. It was one of the most incredibly difficult times in my life and tested the bonds of all of my relationships.
The process of determining which path to choose was a formative moment in my adulthood. It signified a change in where I looked for happiness. I'll continue this story throughout the next few days. It is a long one. I am sharing this story because it fully explains where I am at now with crafting, why it seems things here at Hydrangea Hippo have changed, and where I am going next. I know things are different here than when you first came for a visit. I hope you'll continue on the journey with me.
- Part One: Why I Almost Threw All Of My Craft Supplies Away
- Part Two: How I Stopped Being a Craft Hoarder
- Part Three: A New Mantra: Make Enjoy Buy Repeat
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