I believed that having more perfect stuff would create a more perfect me. I started spending money in a passionate, but albeit unconscious, effort to fill the gap between who I was and who I believed I needed to be. I wanted my pantry to look exactly like the ones I had seen in the Tupperware catalog. I spent hundreds of dollars on perfect plastic containers that fit into perfect modular shapes for my obviously imperfect doublewide trailer. Heaven forbid that I should use inexpensive, possibly mismatched plasticware, or that my flour should sit naked in its original bag on the pantry shelf! In my kids' rooms every set of toys was organized in perfectly labeled plastic baskets from the dollar store. From both an organizationally and fiscally responsible point of view, this was a very good thing. My problem was that, as a homeschooling parent, I was inundated with dozens of educational supply catalogs which featured more brightly colored, aesthetically pleasing organizational systems for children. They also sold intellectually stimulating toys which were obviously essential for enhancing my children's development. My poor kids were stuck playing with uninspiring stuff like Barbie dolls and Happy Meal prizes. I habitually put myself down for not having the best. I bought every organizational book that I could lay my hands on, and I filled my bookshelves not only with them, but also with classic children’s literature, encyclopedias, and how-to’s. I joined two or three different book of the month clubs. Even if I never got around to reading them all, an extensive library made me feel empowered. I also spent thousands of dollars on home décor items to cover the shame of my cheap trailer-house faux wood paneling. I faithfully subscribed to stacks of women’s magazines, each one promising that I could “walk my way fit,” “find out what he really wants in bed,” and make the “best chocolate cake ever” all at the same time. I filled the empty space in my character with possessions, and I did it with amazing skill. No one looking at me from the outside would have guessed how addicted I was to stuff.
I bought all these things with money that I did not have to spend. My priorities were badly messed up. We were always behind on our house payment and medical bills. Collection agencies were ringing our phone off the hook while I buried my head in the latest catalogs and yearned to buy my children everything I thought that they should want. I got into the insane habit of “floating” checks. I would go to the grocery store and request money over the amount of purchase. Then I would run to the bank and deposit that cash to cover another check that I had written the day before. Time and again, it never really worked, and I never really learned. When one bank grew tired of my shenanigans, I opened a new account at another.