You may recall that in the first two posts in the Simplified Triathlete series I talked about de-cluttering and saying no to things that take up your time but don’t matter to you passionately. Today we get to put those things together with a real-life skill to practice: saying no to freebies.
Race freebies cause me a lot of problems:
- I have to sort through the race bag and decide what to keep
- I have to find a place for all the random little things I might choose to keep
- I have to put all those random things someplace
- I have to throw things away I don’t want but feel guilty about throwing away
- I have to remember where I keep all my medals and bibs and put the new ones with the old ones
- I just ignore the bag full of stuff for 6 months while it lies on my garage floor.
So maybe I should just STOP TAKING the stuff! And in fact, I have made great strides in this department but it’s really not easy. At the half marathon I did in December, I got talked into taking a medal at the finish line but then ended up throwing it away a few weeks later after it floated around my living room for weeks. I hated throwing it away. Once that medal came into my possession, I felt guilty throwing it away. But if I never take it in the first place, I feel perfectly fine! Same goes for t-shirts. I threw that race t-shirt away, too. It didn’t fit me well and developed a rip on a seam not long after I got it. In fact, I cannot think of a single race t-shirt I have ever gotten that brought me joy and looked fabulous on me.
The next half marathon I did had no t-shirts and no medals – my kind of race!!
Then when I did a 33 mile race, I took the t-shirt/goody bag AND I took the medal because
a. I had been running for 7 hours and was about to die
b. Little kids were passing them out. I can’t say no to a little kid.
The medal was HUGE and my plan was to surreptitiously “forget” it on a picnic table, but I was SO dead and not functioning properly and it ended up coming back to the hotel with us because I would have had to walk an extra 20 feet to the nearest picnic table to leave it. I threw it away in the hotel room garbage a couple of days later. Oh, it hurt. I felt so guilty. It was SO BIG (see image above). But I also knew that it was stupid, ridiculous, and irrational to feel guilty for throwing out something I didn’t want and that had no use to anyone else. My memories of that event were not in the medal, nor the t-shirt. So why hold onto them as mementos? My memory will serve me just fine and doesn’t take up any space.
I’ve been thinking about those medals and those t-shirts a lot recently. If you really think about it, it makes no sense that we take these free t-shirts and let other people decide what should be in our closets. I don’t let other people pick any of my other clothes (oh wait, yes I do…I use Stitch Fix and I LOVE it but I am paying them to pick clothes for me based on MY STYLE and preferences). Why let a race director choose what you wear? Why get upset if there isn’t a t-shirt in the first place? I’d rather wear something nice, without advertisements all over it, that I picked out myself. I also don’t want all those t-shirts cluttering up my closets. Do you hate clutter as much as I do? Then stop adding to it!
My mission from now on is to say no to every t-shirt, every medal, and every swag bag before it touches my hands. If I want to do a race, it’s because I want to do a race, not because of the medal or the t-shirt or any other material consideration. Do I think you need to do the same? Not necessarily, but I do think everyone can benefit from being conscious of what they choose to bring into their homes. Clutter is stressful. Having an overstuffed closet filled with clothes you didn’t love enough to buy but instead got for free is stressful. And signing up for races for the cool medal? That seems like such a tiny part of what a race is all about. What about the opportunity to visit a new place, the scenery, the people you race with, the experience you have, or the charity is supports? A trinket seems meaningless to me compared to all that.
It’s not my concern whether you take free stuff or not. What’s important to me is spreading the idea of awareness, that you don’t have to take this stuff, that it doesn’t have to be important to you. The race itself is what is important – try not to forget that. But if you love the free stuff, keep taking it. Just make sure you have a plan and a place for it all so it can bring you continued happiness.