THE BLOG

Remedies For The Recession

03/30/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

With the current economic downturn, the mantra is save, save, save. Downsize, stop spending, and, well, freak out. But there is another way to go. Things you can do, not not do. Purchases that will help, not hurt. Having your way out of being a have-not.

There are pro-active ways to save money in a recession. And to save yourself. Not by doing nothing, stopping, hiding, shrinking, and withdrawing from life, but actually finding a way to get more for less, with a positive mindset, not a negative retreat. How to find abundance and luxury without feeling guilty. Ways to feel cleaner, simpler and stronger. And yes, save money.

Imagine it's a snow day and you're stuck inside - latch onto that good feeling when you are forced to stay indoors, cook whatever is in the kitchen, pull out old photo albums, games, favorite DVDs, pause, and enjoy all the gifts in your life because you can't get out and buy more.

My mother had a resale clothing store for many years and I often helped out. Time and again women in their 50s would come in with bags and bags of clothes in perfect condition, some brand new. "I don't need fifteen cashmere sweaters," one would say, "I need five. Sell them!" At the time I couldn't believe anyone wouldn't want something beautiful in all the colors of the rainbow, but now that I'm older, and times are tight, I get it.

So many of us, particularly women running households and families, are so used to moving forward - getting the next thing, adding to the collection, hunting and gathering, if you will, working from to-do lists, running errands and getting things done that we feel stuck and stymied and lost with the new reality of less to spend. It doesn't have to mean there is less to do. Or have.

On the other hand, many have been hit more drastically than others, and while I wouldn't presume to offer advice to people facing bottom line challenges, I do think these ideas can help all of us.

It's sort of a prescription, an RX, a remedy for the recession - with the emphasis on the RE....

REVIEW: This is the act of literally eye-balling everything you have - go through everything. Look at it all. Sort through it, weed it out, take it all in. You have a lot. We all do. Go from the very top part of the house to the bottom and make a mental or literal inventory.

The truth is many of us have so much already. It drives Europeans crazy. If something breaks or we just get tired of it we get another. Ads on TV, magazines and the internet tell us we need new. All the time. Despite our new President's claim that we Americans are not ashamed of our lifestyle- we have a lot and we shop a lot - we replace without thought and we discard without sentiment. This can be stalled and reversed. And the fact is our closets, drawers, toy chests, and cabinets are most likely full to brimming. And full of pretty much the same purchases over and over...

REFLECT: On all you have. Remember where you got something - a special purchase or outing. A souvenir or memento of a wonderful time. The beautiful party you wore the dress to. Shoes purchased when your best friend needed your company. Your child's Mother's Day cards. Objects are just that unless infused with our memories of obtaining them and enjoying them. Then they have a story and a soul. Reflect upon all the gifts, remember, we can't look forward without looking back. But then get to work.

RECOVER: Enjoy the beauty of a found object. Again. Find a renewed purpose or pleasure from it. Share, trade, and rediscover. More metaphorically, use this time to find things lost, whether it's pictures, a favorite book from high school or college or an old acquaintance or long-lost friend. Paperwork: old letters, diaries, papers, yearbooks, manuscripts...look at it with new eyes.

And you can literally recover too - the way new fabric brings an old chair to life - a new use for or way to wear something you've had forever makes it new again. Or give it away.

RECYCLE: It's not just for trash anymore. It's a revolutionary concept that is changing our world and can also change your life. Re-use, send along, move it forward. Organize a weekend afternoon with a bunch of like-minded friends and bring your stuff - GOOD stuff you just don't need anymore and swap it out.

And if you can't trade it, give it away. Find use again for what you no longer need. And if not - if its use, beauty or meaning is done for you - pass it along to someone else. It not only helps everyone, it's good for you and you will feel better.

REDUCE -- Get rid of clutter, duplicates, things that upon reflection mean nothing and do nothing for you. The aesthetics of simplicity can truly bring clarity and freedom. Work to have less and you will have so much more. Guess what else costs nothing, but has a big return - losing weight. Eating less, exercising more - all cost-efficient, and buying a new pair of pants one size smaller will be one of the best buys of your life.

REJOICE! You have so much. We all do. Gifts, treasures, precious, precious things that once satisfied you so much - they can again. Truly more than enough. And taking simple, joyous pleasure in what you have not only creates less and less need for more, it helps you let it go. Gratitude makes you feel rich.

You can have abundance, you can treat yourself, there are pleasures to have. Enjoy your gifts. It's not a sin - it's medicinal.

REWARDS - The upbeat in downsizing - the fun and the new. It's ok to look forward to something, to be tempted, to imagine, anticipate, even lust. It's simply a matter of scale. Dine out once a month at the more expensive restaurant instead of several times at the local eatery. Buy chocolate from a specialty store. Research and contemplate a perfect pinot noir. Shop online exhaustively until you find the best price for one new accessory per season (after swapping out your old bag or shoes first, of course) And if you have to indulge and overdo or splurge - go to the drug store for a brand new skin care regimen or get 12 new pairs of athletic socks at Costco. Go wild!

Just remember - REPLACE, don't REPLICATE.

Find joy and abundance in what you have - simply rearranging, reorganizing, and reprioritizing can bring riches and satisfaction to the new downscale lifestyle. Simplicity - of ownership, of intent, and of your soul will get you though these difficult times. Restore, Repair, Return, Reboot and Redeem yourself.