My shower caddy and the internet gurus

A few weeks ago I got rid of a poorly designed shower caddy. It took me five years to toss it.  I bet you’re wondering what the heck this has to do with living without a car? Well, I’ve got some life efficiency gurus on deck today to help me explain.
img_5002
This is the 2017 edition of my shower caddy. I am happy to have it, but I am more happy to not have my clumsy old 2011 version.
First, about that caddy. I purchased a shower caddy in June 2011 to make my life better. The shower caddy was purchased to solve a problem: our bathtub had no shelves. But the problem-solving caddy turned out to be a real negative in my life. A negative I ignored for five years and four months. The purported problem-solving shower caddy has, for more than five years, frequently and annoyingly slipped down the shaft of the shower head spilling my razor, soap, and overpriced curly hair products to the tub floor. In my estimate this slipping caddy action has occurred in more than 50% of my showers. (keeping in mind that the average person is not a reliable reporter of events in his or her own life because of something called social desirability bias.)

 

At least half of my showers in the past five years have been disrupted by a loud crashing noise that required me to bend over and pick up stuff. Ugh. So aggravating.
On February 10, 2017, I got rid of the horribly designed bathroom accessory. Since then, 100% of my showers have been pure, crash-free bliss. To be clear, it is the absence of that shitty shower caddy that has changed my bathing life for the better, not the addition of the far superior, clamped-on, secure caddy. Getting rid of the negative thing is what made my showers happier.
 
I read a lot about frugal living, minimalism, and early retirement. The one thing these lifestyles have in common is a basic assumption that adding things to your life (even positive things) does not necessarily make your life better. For example, I owned a pretty nice car.  It was a 2012 VW Jetta. It was fun to drive. It had a five-speed manual transmission. It had leather-ish seats. It had Sirius XM. We had a crazy-low interest rate on the loan. When we bought it, I was certain it would be a net positive in my life. We sold it a year later.  In retrospect, I did not realize how many negatives it was adding. I have always owned a car, just like everyone else, and I could not consider for one second that it could be making my life less satisfying or efficient. It’s remarkable what we humans will do out of pure habit.
 
Two gurus and a lady in her bathroom. 
Last Sunday, I was on my hands and knees painting the baseboard in the bathroom, listening to a podcast on my laptop which was balanced on a yoga block in the sink. I don’t generally listen to podcasts or put my computer in sinks, but Mr. Money Mustache was being interviewed by the 4-Hour Workweek guy here: The Tim Ferriss Show. Zero Car Mom was interested to listen (and not just because we all have cool blogging handles.) I felt like I was in the Church of Born Again Walkers and these guru-type guys were my spiritual leaders. Even the 4-Hour Workweek guy walks everywhere he can. The proselytizer with the mustache preached: “Walking is so powerful and so underrated. Your brain just goes into overdrive. All of your problems sort of start to solve themselves in the background. For people who don’t do it regularly, for like an hour a day, or walking to genuinely go somewhere, they just discount it, because they haven’t even experienced this incredible power.”  They were talking about what I have been experiencing since last April when I nominated myself to be the Zero Car guru for middle-aged parents.

 

I didn’t anticipate that not owning a car would feel this good. I figured it would be great exercise, occasionally inconvenient and a great conversation starter at parties. But, I can honestly say I feel liberated. Not having a car forced me, in the words of Mr. Money Mustache, to “optimize away my car dependence.”
My optimization took the form of moving my local office six-miles closer to home (from Beacon to Cold Spring) and eliminating one of my train commute days, thus reducing my trips to Brooklyn to two days a week.  With less commuting and no car, this winter has been positively joyful. Seasonal Affective Disorder you have met your foe!

plant-the-seed
Making the argument to “walk instead.”  Going places in winter is a snap! I put on my 3-year old Le Canadienne waterproof boots, I bundle up in my 5-year-old Patagonia coat and I walk out the door. That’s it. I just walk out the door. No digging out tires. No navigating snow piles to park. No standing in the cold pumping gas. No scraping of windows. No pre-warming the car interior. No barking at my kid to strap in. In one fell swoop, with the sale of just one car, I got rid of at least six winter negatives. I can honestly say I am happier. I am also healthier. Admittedly, I was getting a lot more exercise riding my bike (more and farther) last summer. Winter roads aren’t ideal for bicycles, and unfortunately winter walks aren’t quite strenuous enough to keep the belly fat away. But my legs are strong, my heart seems pleased, and spring is right around the corner.

The old man said to Jack, these are magic seeds. Which brings me to my second point of this post. I am planting a seed deep in the winter snow. A seed of promise and possibility. A seed that will taunt you and tease you if you ignore it. A seed that will wither and die if you drive your four-wheel drive over it.

I am inviting you to enter what psychologists call the contemplation stage of behavior change.  Get ready, mentally ready, for Zero Car Mom’s Walk Instead Challenge. The challenge starts on April 1 (your friends will think it’s an April Fool’s joke, but the positive life change joke will be on them).

stages-of-change2

I pinky promise you that at least two of these seven things will happen:

  1. You will lose a few pounds.
  2. You will feel proud of yourself.
  3. You will be less stressed out (I’ve got some science to back this one up.)
  4. People will think you are nutty.
  5. You will save money. 
  6. You will have a new perspective on what makes you genuinely happy. 
  7. You will save the earth just a tiny bit
“Voluntary hardship is a fantastic way to short-circuit hedonistic tendencies,” says Tim Ferriss, the 4-Hour Workweek guru.
Mr. Money Mustache agrees, we need to make choices that “recalibrate ourselves to experience happiness in a different way.”
 Zero Car Mom says, “try it, you just might like it.”

Author: zerocarmom

I am a 50-year-old mom with two kids (ages 7 and 24), a husband who works in our attic, a sneezy old cat, and a full-time job as the co-founder of a Brooklyn-based business. My family lives a mostly idyllic life in a small village in the Hudson Valley, sixty miles north of New York City.

4 thoughts on “My shower caddy and the internet gurus”

    1. Thanks for your article. I have goals similar to yours, including less materialism, less dependence on cars and of course FIRE. I recently came across a TED talk by Peter Singer on effective altruism that made me rethink my efforts. The MMM community are full of engineers including MMM himself. Engineers practice the 80/20% rule where the first 80% of a problem can be solved with 20% effort while the last 20% of a problem requires 80% effort. Because of real world constraints, it is often practical that solving 80% of a problem is “good enough” and use the remaining 80% effort to solve four more similar problems up to “good enough” standards. Peter Singer gave the example where the same $7500 used by “The Make a Wish” foundation to make one boy’s Bat Man wishes come true in America could have been more effectively used to prevent blindness for 100 people in Africa. This involves the concept mentioned by Tim Ferris of geoarbitrage where money from the developed world goes a lot further in the undeveloped world. After evaluating, I realized that my goal was to try to make the world a greener place and to reverse economic inequalities and biking is a small part. The 50 miles per week of driving I allow myself frees up time for other problems and is still only one fifth of what a typical American drive. I thought about the “badass” aspect, but then realize that few in America cares. If I go to other parts of the world, they would just shrug and say “not driving is normal for us”. My efforts on myself would only go so far.

      I found an organization which enables planting trees in Africa. They provide training and seedlings to help poor people transform degraded lands into forest gardens which in turn provide food and reverse climate change for these people. Because of ecoarbitrage, one dollar helps plant ten trees. After the first year of 100 trees per month, I now feel comfortable with one thousand. With my frugality, I wasn’t going to use this money anyway and I’d rather see it do something good while I’m still alive.

      I looked at your blog and thought that perhaps the time spent on the final bits of struggle can be used on getting neighborhood kids to enjoy biking which in turn could get their parents biking and biking to become a community thing. It would be great if some of your neighbors drove less because of you.

      Like

  1. Thanks Ilsa! There are some “cultures” that teach toleration (or some might say “suffering through”). It can be difficult to let those habits go. I’ve clearlly got a little of that syndrome as well. It’s a process!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s