This past week my husband, Little M, and I have been on vacation. We rented a smaller, older house on the beach and have been enjoying a bit of quiet time together without the distractions of everyday life and the hassle of in season crowds.

Thursday we took a day trip up to Manteo to visit one of my all-time favorite places to shop – The Island Gallery and The Christmas Shop. For those who aren’t familiar with it, The Christmas Shop has been a much beloved institution on the island since 1978. (I’ve been going there since the 80s.) A few years ago the owners decided to call it quits, retire and do other things. They sold off everything and closed down. Then following a public outcry, they brought the store back to life and reopened.

The new version of the store has the same flavor as the old, but with differences that only a seasoned veteran would notice. But this post isn’t about the changes to my favorite store, instead its about the changes in me it forced me to acknowledge this week.

In the old days I would have walked through that maze of passageways and old rooms oohing and aahing in every nook and cranny and trying to narrow down what I wanted to leave with to a reasonable amount. There would have been ornaments, snowmen, nutcrackers, jewelry, and prints all vying for my attention and any number of things in the upstairs Halloween room screaming to go home with me.

This time? Didn’t happen. My heart didn’t race, nothing begged to be bought. I realized as I walked through the shop that I felt detached from it all. At first I thought it was because the store had lost it’s “aura” for me. Then I realized it wasn’t the store, it was shopping that had lost it’s “aura.” That’s when I knew I had truly turned the corner and that something more important had taken over the spot that the “desire to acquire” had formerly held. I told my husband as we drove away with my one tiny purchase, that I’ve come to realize that there are too many things that I want to do and that moving crap – I’m mean clutter – around, isn’t one of them anymore. I’ve even announced that as the holiday decorations come out this season, they will get severely edited. No more holding on to things out of guilt or  habit. If we don’t love it, it goes. Just thinking about it makes me feel like the Grinch – not when he stole Christmas, but when his heart grew ten sizes because he discovered the meaning of Christmas…and it ain’t about the stuff.

When did you turn the corner? When did you know that shopping and acquiring had lost its hold on you?

Yesterday evening as I was picking up my daughter from childcare, I happened to overhear another Mom ask the teacher about the “nap mat” she needed to buy for her son as he was moving up to the next class on Monday. This caught my attention because Little M will move up in a little over three months.

In their current class Little M and her classmates sleep on stackable molded cots with their own favorite blankets from home. In the next class up parents are required to provide nap mats that are much larger to accomodate growing children. The mats are also machine washable, as the children will be in potty training mode. The school also suggests that you buy two mats so that in the event of accidents, you aren’t scrambling to wash and return a single mat everyday.

Further research determined that the school sold mats in several standard theme patterns for $30 each, but the fabric seemed very stiff and not the least bit “snuggly.” I found similar mats with better fabric on the Internet but they were $50 for mats for boys and $75 for mats for girls.

Sidebar: Why are girl items always more expensive??? (Don’t worry, you don’t have to answer. The question is rhetorical – it’s because we’re girls, we like pretty stuff, and we pay a premium for it.)

Taking a look at the construction of the ones for sale at school, and then studying the ones sold on line, it would not be a difficult project to make. Fabric for the mat itself – back and front, foam padding, sheet material, a pillow, some nice binding, and velcro or buckles to secure it when its rolled up. Plus, making them myself would be considerably cheaper.

Hmmm. Buy overpriced, boring, and questionable quality, or make them myself?

I think it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that I will be taking door number three. Mama will make the nap mats and will use warm, snuggly cute fabrics, make the pillow removeable for easy cleaning, add a nice closure, and, if she’s really, really good, perhaps she can get her BFF to monogram them with Little M’s name.  That would be sweet.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go check my fabric stock.

Stress works on people in different ways. Some people eat to deal with their emotions, some people shop. I never considered myself a person who did either of those things until today.

This week was a stressful week and I plugged along through it as I normally would, but by the end of the week I was a bit brain fried and hit the fabric store…twice. This despite the fact that some time ago I had put myself on a spending moratorium until I had used up some of my in-house craft supplies. Mulling over my purchases today I realized my emotional spending weakness – craft supplies.

When I was a kid and felt stressed or frustrated, I cleaned my room. I mean REALLY cleaned my room. Moved furniture in or out. Pulled everything out of my closet. Threw things out. Basically I worked until I was tired and had worked out my problems in my head.

I still do the same thing. When I’m home and stressed, or have an issue I’m stewing on, I’ll start doing the same thing as I did when I was a kid. I’ll move things around, clean out cabinets. Take out the trash. Anything physical that helps me work through the emotional.

The problem with this method arises when I’m not at home. During the work week, my lunch hour is when the emotional crime sprees happen. There are two fabric stores and two craft stores within a short distance of my office, and if I’m stressed out or would just rather be at home, one of those shops is where I’ll end up. Luckily I’m a pretty practical person so my emotional spending usually stays in check – my spree this week cost me a total of less than $30.

It’s interesting to note that I never emotionally buy completed items – no shoes, bags, or clothing for me (though I do love all those things). I buy ideas. Projects that need to be thought through, worked on, physically completed. I’m buying the emotional equivalent of what I would be doing at home – a physical project. It’s reassuring to learn a little bit more about myself, and in thinking it through, it has helped me come up with a solution.

I used to always carry a cross-stitch project with me wherever I went, but somewhere along the line I got out of the habit. A new habit to begin will be to always make sure I have a small project – doable anywhere – with me in the car (have I mentioned I’m on the road a lot?). A pattern that needs trimming, a cross-stitch picture that needs finishing, a bracelet or earrings to be worked. The possibilities are endless.  And I know just the bag to carry them in…