So glad to be home! We survived our trip to Europe.
I think overall things went as smooth as could be. Phew!
We did have a huge flight delay on our way home. I am starting to think that is our jinx. This seems to happen more often than not to us, that our flights home are canceled or delayed. Anyway, accordingly (since we are so used to canceled flights), and not knowing how up we'd be for the 100-mile drive home, we didn't expect to get home until today anyway. So maybe that part wasn't very "smooth" but we were pretty mellow about it.
The only other trip hiccup was that our tour for Stonehenge/Avebury was canceled. We got this news late one night when we got back to the hotel. Ack! We were relieved that we were easily able to book a last minute Stonehenge tour. Phew! But I am bummed that we had to skip Avebury. Neither of us had any desire whatsoever to drive abroad or to pay for a more private tour, so we just let it go. (Our tour was apparently the only bus tour to Avebury, and they had some "technical difficulties").
That whole thing is going to be a bit of a mess because we paid for it with a reward credit card (with rewards). I didn't do much today but I did spend a few minutes making sure that getting a refund for that tour doesn't mess up our rewards. It looks like it should be okay but I just don't know how they will hash it all out. We will get a cash refund, but they are going to have to realize we never actually paid any cash for that trip which means they will probably refund us in rewards. & then I can just apply to other travel expenses we booked on that card. We are lucky that it will probably work out. For most credit rewards I just book the bare minimum for the reward but in this case we had booked some tours up (spent more than minimum for reward) and we have some new travel spending to offset these rewards. They count the tube expense and the new bus tour as "travel expenses" that we can pay with rewards. So it should all work out, but I just don't know exactly how. First things first, still waiting for our refund. (I actually applied all our rewards for tours because they were non-refundable. So yeah, I never expected any scenario where we would get a refund. I tried to be smart about it, but it is what it is).
I think we kept the entire trip to $2,000 per person, which is incredible! I will do an accounting and share some pictures later. Maybe tomorrow. (In the end I started typing this around 9am yesterday but crashed for the rest of the day. We did get back home about 1am on Wednesday morning. Just woke up and it is early Thursday now).
I am always in awe of other big city public transportation, but London takes the cake. We pretty much just did the Tube but I don't remember ever waiting more than like 1 minute for a train. We were really lucky and seemed to miss all the crowds. & everyone warned me that we would walk so much, but we really didn't. The transport is *everywhere*. For comparison we did DC last year mostly on their subway and that was a LOT of walking. The stations just aren't as close together. The Tube cost about half as much as DC subway did.
I just think it's all relative. The other thing is I really didn't find London to be that expensive, but I am from San Francisco. So, just more relativity. I thought the transport was insane cheap, and the food was much more reasonable than I had expected. & then all the museums are mostly free, so what else is there? Even the hotel was much cheaper than I would have expected for London. Our flights were cheap too, but that is what motivated the entire trip in the first place.
All this to say that we had a very pleasant/frugal-ish holiday.
(We would mostly never travel during summer and I thought we were probably insane, but we somehow seemed to miss a lot of the crowds. For example, when we went to Parliament there was a huge mass going towards Westminster Abbey and so on. Even MH was super annoyed I wanted to walk along the canal first, but NO ONE WAS THERE and we had the entire place to ourselves. Unreal! So we seemed to luck into some off-peak somehow throughout the trip).
On the flip side, there are a lot of reasons I don't particularly care for traveling. But one of the biggest is that I just don't deal with it well physically. On this trip I think I did pretty well with the sleeping, but I absolutely never adjusted to the time change otherwise. I thought we planned bad when we made big dinner reservations on our second full day there. We both just picked at our food and it was just really bad planning. But now 10 days later I can't say I would have done any better on our last day. I LOVE to eat and so I was really bummed that I mostly felt like crap the whole time and couldn't even enjoy any food. I picked at food the *entire* time and I know this is some of why we ended up spending very little on food. We also had a kitchen/apartment which helped to keep our costs down. I suppose this part was harder than usual for me since we expected this to be a bit more of a culinary trip.
I am hoping the adjustment is easier on the US side, since I never really adjusted to the time zone anyway.
I think I could have packed lighter if I put more effort into it, but overall we are super light packers. I noticed this a lot particularly on our Paris trip. We went on a tour because we wanted to see *everything* that we could in one day. That was one day our weirdness really shone through because someone had lost her luggage (on her flight) and everyone was going on and on about that. Yeah, it sounds horrible, but I don't understand why you'd need to check baggage in the first place. I don't know what other people pack. We really keep it to the essentials. (Everyone else had clearly checked bags as they went on and on how they kept some stuff on their carry on and made sure not to check this or that).
I *really* appreciated this when we got home. I swear it took me like 5 minutes to unpack. We did all the laundry when we woke up. I don't know if I've ever packed so light before for such a big trip and so I really noticed what a non-event it was to unpack. (Mostly dumping my suitcase into a laundry basket). I admittedly still have to sort through toiletries but that is about it.
It was on the same trip, Paris, that most the tour group skipped the Louvre in favor of shopping. Seriously!? I do not get people! The Louvre was just amazing. We only had a couple of hours there, which is just sad. (We maybe saw 0.001% of the museum?) But was definitely better than not seeing it at all. So glad we went.
I just can not fathom going to the Louvre to shop. I am sure many can not fathom going to Paris and not shopping. I am well aware that we are the weird ones.
I will post later more about the trip, pictures, and cost breakdown.
Oh, and we toyed with the idea of seeing An American in Paris. We decided not to go. One day when I saw a bunch of advertisements I told MH I wanted to see that one back at home some time. Wouldn't you know it? Went through the mail yesterday a.m. (also very light because we do most things electronically) and it's one of the musicals they will do in our city next spring! The tickets go on sale January and so I told MH that's my birthday/Christmas.
I don't go back to work until Tuesday, thank goodness! Glad I can squeeze in some quiet down time at home. It is long overdue. I was dreading even getting kids to/from school but that just seems silly now. I can take them (since MH is not a morning person) and he can deal with the afternoon insanity like he always does. I guess that's maybe 1/2 hour commitment for a couple of days. I will survive. We may go grocery shopping today, but we had left a ton of food for the kids and in-laws and still have some left. MH starts back work on Tuesday (the end of his summer break). I forget how easy this is when we are both home.
Viewing the 'Minimalism' Category
So glad to be home! We survived our trip to Europe.
Post from January:
MH ended up buying me a very small computer. He kept seeing sales in the $100 range. This is an incredible deal if you already have all the accessories. But I haven't had a desktop since I've been displaced by kids. So... $500 later. The motivation was not "minimalism" but I am LOVING it from that standpoint. The computer is about the size of the original roku? (Or how I recall the original roku to have been). It just hangs off the back of the monitor. & I told MH several times that I did not need speakers. He did not believe me, so he ended up getting me a monitor with built-in speakers. So it looks like I just have a monitor/keyboard/mouse. We got it set up in our bedroom, for now. Glad it is so compact, because I might want to move downstairs in the summer.
To be clear, we just put the computer in our bedroom. I just used MM's old desk.
In the end, I have surprisingly not needed to move downstairs. I recall that we *never* used the upstairs A/C until we had kids. Now I remember why. All the cool air (and heat in the winter) seems to float up our bedroom. So it's been okay.
I realized that I never showed any pictures of my tiny computer:
This is the computer, just hanging off the back of the monitor:
I came across this beautiful article today:
GIVE ME GRATITUDE OR GIVE ME DEBT
"Recently I posted a picture of myself in my kitchen, and I immediately started receiving generous messages from people wanting to help me “update” it. Along with their messages came pictures of how my kitchen could look, if I’d just put some effort and money into it."
"You guys. I have a REFRIGERATOR.
This thing MAGICALLY MAKES FOOD COLD. I’m pretty sure in the olden days, frontierswomen had to drink warm Diet Coke. Sweet Jesus. Thank you, precious kitchen.
Inside my refrigerator is FOOD. Healthy food that so many parents would give anything to be able to feed their children. Not me. When this food runs out, I’ll just jump in my car to get more. It’s ludicrous, really. It’s like my family hits the lottery every freaking morning."
"Sometimes it seems that our entire economy is based on distracting women from their blessings. Producers of STUFF NEED to find 10,000 ways to make women feel less than about our clothes, kitchens, selves so that we will keep buying more. So maybe freeing ourselves just a little from the Tyranny of Trend is a women’s issue – because we certainly aren’t going to get much world changing done if we spend all of our time and money on wardrobe and kitchen changing."
I will say that gratitude is an important ingredient to living debt-free. I am often bemused by the "sacrifice" people project on to our choices. We are so incredibly blessed, so the bemoaning of our very minor sacrifices always sounds so melodramatic to me. We will survive. We've always been very blessed. We haven't always had the latest and greatest, but we've always had everything we needed and then some.
--Murphy has moved into our home. Something about summer months and trips to the UK. Yeesh! (See my blog July/August 2013. That whole year was some Murphy year from hell but those months were particularly absurd).
I'll have to post more about that later.
--We are knee deep in back-to-school. Since we keep things simple, not too much to do. But MM starts high school and has a lot of orientation type stuff next week.
I don't foresee spending much. The most of it is going to be funding their lunch accounts, which I haven't had to do in a while.
This is the first year we will have a child in regular public school. Our state is pretty strict about not requiring money to be spent to attend public schools. The public charters have been more lax on this and both my kids' schools have at times "required" that donations be made for this or that supplies. I feel like the public high school won't do this, but will see. (So far they have just asked for supplies directly, and not in a "this is required" kind of tone. This is what I expected).
--I am just in chore mode with trying to get caught up at work and getting the house ready for our trip. I guess a lot of the house stuff isn't entirely necessary, but was trying to use it as a motivational deadline since I am behind on all things domestic. I am so behind because the last year has been totally insane, including being off my feet for several months.
My default is to dread a big trip like this, so I am fine with the distraction and busy-ness. (If I thought about the trip too much I'd just stress. Really not much to do but pack, which I will probably do the day we leave).
Ting (Cell) Update:
Here's my Ting referral code (for $25-off), if this post entices you at all:
So yeah, I saw a discussion about cell phone costs in another forum. Ting is clearly cheaper than any other provider. (Though of course, it depends on your phone usage). I am just saying I saw 100+ other people recommending more expensive cell service than what we pay for Ting.
Someone in that discussion did mention that they had got a Ting credit from Ting customer service for "being awesome". Too funny!
In the end, the kids have been on our Ting for a while and it's been of basically no financial consequence. They've only been on one at a time, so MM is the only one with cell coverage right now. I expect to add back DL any minute now. It's $6/month per line to add each of them. So we are paying $12/month when they both have cell service.
With Ting you pay for what you use. The kids just don't use anything, so we aren't paying anything else to add them to our cell bill. We were absolutely genius in the way we set up our kids with cell phones. We gave them cell phones years ago and set them up with google hangouts. With hangouts, you can call and text anyone over wifi. So this put them in the HABIT of seeking out wifi. They had to if they wanted to use their phones. *This* is why they don't use any data.
I just checked last month's bill and MM used -0- minutes -0- texts and about 12MB of data. (You need to use 500-1000 MB to bump up to a more expensive tier, for reference. An extra 12MB isn't going to cost us anything. Ting even has a grace amount if you go over by just a wee little bit. They don't charge you for that).
This of course does not mean that my 13yo has no friends and never texts anyone. He just did all his texting over wifi.
In contrast, we told him to go crazy when he was in DC/NYC trip with his class. Just, you know, he has cell service and won't get wifi everywhere. To not worry about using what he needs. According to Ting he used no minutes or texts, but used 182MB of data that month. Since we generally pay $20 to use 1000-2000MB of data (for 5 devices), his 182MB did not increase our phone bill that month. (I am not sure how he texted us during that time, since I had tons of texts from him while he was out and about. ???) Not sure what that is about. But Ting barely charges anything for texts so not that it would matter. It's $5 to send 1,000 texts. We all use google hangouts/wifi mostly, so we've never been anywhere close to 1,000+ texts.
EDITED TO ADD: DOH. He was using data to send texts, I just realized, so maybe that part backfired a bit. (The google hangouts calls/texts will go over data if you are not on wifi).
The above ties in to my recent posts and an article I saw from MMM:
A Lifetime of Riches – Is it as Simple as a Few Habits?
"As it turns out, habits are little chunks of auto-pilot behavior that get burned right into your neurology – permanently. Once you develop a habit, you can never truly erase the program, even if you manage to deactivate it.
It gets even crazier than that: when your brain starts running one of its many habit scripts, a good part of your conscious judgement is shut off for the duration. The habit takes over, controls you until you get to the end of the script, and then dumps you out at the end. And this is not just a rare occurence – depending on who you ask, habits are in at least partially in control for between 50 and 90% of our waking hours."
I guess I have been thinking about this a lot lately. As people ask me how we raise kids that don't seem to have any spending habits. It's what we've modeled for them.
I am SO thankful to my parents, who did the same for us. They taught us not to buy things we can't afford; only pay with cash. That buying cars on credit is WEIRD to us. Someone told me a while back that it must have felt so awesome to pay cash for my last car (this was in the forums). The reality is: *Shrugs* That wonder-ment about it presumes that you are in the car debt habit. We've never been in the car debt habit so it all feels very normal and boring to pay cash. It's all we've ever known. Entrenched habits aren't very exciting. (I didn't even know this was "weird" at all until we were well into our 20s).
It's the big and the small things. I've been kind of fascinated by talks about food delivery in recent months. I've absolutely never paid for food delivery? It's not a habit we ever established. Honestly, it just sounds WEIRD to me. I am so entrenched in my habit of not getting food delivery. So it goes the opposite way for me.
What I am really noticing lately is the Starbucks habit. When I was in middle school no one drank coffee. ??? I am sure those were still the "coffee stunts your growth" days. It was when I was in high school and college that the coffee shops really started to take off. My friends tried their hardest to get me on the coffee habit, but I can't stand coffee and had been raised in a house with no coffee.
I've been noticing this since MM's DC trip. They made a big to-do about making stops at Starbucks. (Which honestly just annoys me, because took chunks of time from seeing the sights and so on. My kid had absolutely no interest in taking a Starbucks break). So I was kind of incredulous. The middle schoolers drink coffee? I mentioned to my MIL at some point and she told me of course they drink coffee! That my super frugal SIL stops there with her kids on the way to school. Seriously!? My niece is 12.
We are so removed from that habit, I just had no idea. If you think about it, it's not surprising. There's only so much "Do as I say and not as I do" that's going to fly. If you stop at Starbucks every day (or week, or however often) at some point your kids are going to become part of that equation. Apparently by the time they are 12.
If you want to give your kids a financial leg up, think about the example you are setting. I think the other thing is too if you are making six figures and you are annoyed about these discussions about the latte factor, that's totally cool. But remember that your kids are going to have to start basically from scratch at some point. I am grateful that I didn't have to battle habits like this in my teens and 20s. At 40, if I want to go start buying lattes every day, it's not like it's going to make much financial difference at this point in my life. But it would have made ALL the difference when just starting out.
When we asked what our kids wanted for their birthday they both said, "nothing." For Christmas they were both absolutely delighted with their one simple gift. We bought DL(11) a blanket and he made a point last month to tell me how much he loved it and it is the BEST gift. Six months later!
I've been pondering this a bit. This is nothing I expected from my kids. (Much like my last post, where I didn't necessarily expect them to be "super frugal" through their childhood). The best I can guess is that all their needs are WELL met (can't help but think of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs). & beyond that, they just absorb what they see. We are VERY content. We like our toys and we have our stuff but we aren't constantly shopping/spending.
& let me make it real clear. My kids have computers and cell phones and a virtual reality system. (Which I know many people think would cause kids to go the opposite way). There is no deprivation going on in this house. But they aren't over-saturated. They can appreciate something as simple as a blanket.
In fact, I received a big box with the new pots and pans I bought. My kids (12 and 14!) are having a BLAST with the box. It's cracking me up. I encouraged MH to just leave it be for the cat to play with. The kids seem to have the same wonder and excitement about it as the cat does. It's along the same lines. We haven't over-saturated them so much that they can't appreciate the small things.
Anyway, I saw the most amazing article from Frugalwoods today, that ties into this.
How Making Luxuries Rare Increases Our Happiness
"Repeated exposure to stimulants deadens our ability to derive pleasure from them. These stimulants range from shopping for stuff we don’t need to sugar to dining out. Anything designed to deliver jolts of dopamine and excitement are best if used sparingly."
"After embarking on our extreme frugality journey, I was suddenly awakened to a slew of behaviors that I performed ritualistically without much consideration for whether: a) they were good for me; b) I needed them; c) I actually derived any true, lasting pleasure from them. I was a consumer automaton, ritualistically buying new clothes every season, automatically getting a latte if I happened to walk past a coffee shop, dumping a ludicrous amount of ersatz sugar into my coffee mug."
"Spending money works in precisely the same way and impacts the same pleasure centers in our brains. We humans have the remarkable ability to acclimate ourselves to almost any level of comfort or deprivation. We can all craft a reality in which we’re deprived or in which we’re surrounded by abundance (with caveats for privilege and the understanding that not everyone enjoys the basic necessities of shelter, food, and safety required for this exercise). Abundance denial is exactly what it sounds like: a failure–or inability–to appreciate our blessings."
"When we sign-up for our culture’s materialistic consumer carousel, we’re signing up for a lifetime of spending money. There is always more to buy, more to crave, and more to convince ourselves we “need.” There is no path to lasting happiness through excessive consumption because you’ll never reach a point of enough. You’ll never look around your home and experience the gratitude of wanting what you already have; rather, you’ll look around your home and constantly identify more things you can buy. Marketing is designed to continually create these false needs for us and to continually convince us that we are lacking and deprived and uncool if we don’t consume at the level that’s advertised to us."
"“But buying things makes me happy!” you might be thinking. And you’re right, it does make you happy, but only for a brief period of time. That’s the key–the adrenaline and pleasure of making a purchase fades quite quickly and leaves you casting about for something else to buy. There’s a deeper, more permanent happiness to be had when you stop this cycle and instead start to focus your energies on people, activities, and experiences that are meaningful to you.
It’s also true that you’ll have more time. I often hear the complaint that frugality takes too much time, but I find it’s quite the opposite: frugality takes far less time and frees up your physical and mental energy for fulfilling pursuits. Imagine for a moment if you didn’t have to run a million errands this week: no dry cleaners, no haircuts, no manicures, no dog groomer, no shopping (other than for groceries)… that’s what my weeks are like. I’ve created time and space for myself by ceasing to participate in the consumer carousel.
When we instead acknowledge that we do, in fact, have enough, we surrender to a default position of gratitude. We look around our house–that very same house–and think “I am so grateful to have a couch for my kids to snuggle on. I am so thankful we have a roof that doesn’t leak.” We no longer notice the stains on the couch and the scuffs on our furniture or our non-trendy-looking appliances. Instead, we see all of these things as benefits in our lives and evidence of how fortunate we are to have running water and electricity and the ability to safely cook inside our home–all things that many people in the world so desperately need."
"Our culture writ large doesn’t encourage temperance or restraint. Frugality is viewed as miserly and boring. But in reality, it’s the golden ticket that delivers us off the hedonic treadmill and out of the “you never have enough” mentality and away from the buy-your-way-to-happiness prompts that we’re all old enough to know are empty, false promises.
Frugality is not about depriving yourself, it’s about reconstructing your worldview so that you need less, want less, and spend less in order to achieve a higher level of happiness. Spending is a vicious cycle of always feeling that happiness is out of your reach whereas frugality engenders a virtuous cycle of knowing that what you have is indeed enough."
In the end I tossed two pans (the ones we used the most, but should have been tossed a long time ago). & I freecycled 8 pans. One of them was actually pretty nice but just too high maintenance for me. The rest were crap though some of the stainless steel maybe could have been cleaned up. Again, just too high maintenance for us.
So that's minus 10 pots and pans? I purchased 7 new ones. So I guess that's a bit of a downsize. Besides replacing frying pans, the rest was more just doubling up on what we use the most. I did not go super high-end because convenience is the bigger factor for us right now. I Want something we can use and abuse and put in the dishwasher every day. (We cook and dishwash pots and pans probably every single day). I was not willing to literally pay 5 times as much for handwash-only pots and pans, in contrast. Doubling up on the frequently used pots will save us a lot of energy; we spend way too much energy co-ordinating cooking and dishes.
I didn't even realize until I typed this out that we ended up with less pots and pans in the end. My husband is a minimalist of sorts (he just has his things, he is also a hoarder so depends on what we are talking about). So he didn't seem to understand why I wanted to double up. But it could also be that only so much fits in the washer. The new pans are so easy to clean, I don't mind volunteering to handwash any excess pans. I suppose he'd rather just use what fits in the dishwasher, but that approach drives me a little crazy.
These are all high enough quality that they should last 10+ years of heavy use. If I had really thought about it, I would have just replaced those pans a long time ago. A whole whopping $20 for a really nice mid-range pan. Lesson learned.
Put this in the "Working smarter" category.
I also had it on my radar to get rid of some old humidifier that we never use (maybe used once?). I saw it in the kids' bathroom cabinet a while ago. I freecycled that yesterday. I had some other odds and ends that I tossed and freecycled.
My next task is a pile of returns. I'd like to get the cash back before our credit cards close for the month. I did okay on swimsuits (nothing perfect, but stuff that will work). & I am not returning any of the pots or pans. Shoes were a bust so I will just give up for now. Mostly I need to just print return stuff and box it up. MH will run it all to the postal place later. There's a business down the street that accepts UPS returns (Zappos free returns). They may mail out my other return for me (I will have to pay postage) or MH can do that at the grocery store where we have some post office services. I have NO IDEA. I just give MH the boxes and he is the post office fairy.
I am waiting for one Kohls order that I expect to partially return. I will do that return in person.
Oh, and I did list a couple of items for sale on local neighborhood website. Not getting bites there for anything (not even the free stuff). So I will move my for-sale items to Craigslist this weekend. Might make some cash??
I have some other clean-up and de-clutter goals for the summer but not expecting to make much progress this week. Too many birthday festivities this weekend. I will be happy to get all returns returned and to attempt some sales for cash. I am usually more of a fall cleaner but I got sidelined about one year ago with a broken foot and then work was *crazy* after that. So I feel some extra motivation now I guess. (Will see if the heat changes my mind. There is a reason that I do "fall cleaning").
Edited to add: I did get kitchen island cabinets all cleaned out and wiped down and hand-washed all new pots/pans before putting them away. That is all I accomplished in the kitchen but it's a start. I could probably do an upgrade/purge with bakeware. It should be less significant (I need maybe a higher quality muffin tin and a couple of higher quality baking sheets). It can wait until the fall (baking season).
Interesting Article seen today:
Today’s families are prisoners of their own clutter
"That sums up Boston parents’ reaction to new research by UCLA-affiliated social scientists concluding that American families are overwhelmed by clutter, too busy to go in their own backyards, rarely eat dinner together even though they claim family meals as a goal, and can’t park their cars in the garage because they’re crammed with non-vehicular stuff."
"Managing the volume of possessions is such a crushing problem in many homes that it elevates levels of stress hormones for mothers."
"Most families rely heavily on convenience foods even though all those frozen stir-frys and pot stickers saved them only about 11 minutes per meal."
"Let’s let Katy Colthart, a social worker from Watertown, take it from here. Shopping at Target on a recent Sunday afternoon, she said with some remorse that she finds herself popping frozen chicken nuggets into the oven for dinner — even though she knows they don’t save her much time. But with a job and two young children to pick up from day care, things get hectic at the end of the day, and prepared foods give her a much-needed mental break.
“They give me the illusion of saving time and energy,” she said."
I really loved that last part. BINGO! That's how I have always felt about it, the way people act like we must spend a billion hours cooking. I always think, "It would take more time to go out." Or even if it really averages to 11 more minutes per day (to home cook), as quoted, it doesn't warrant the melodrama I get about it. I think people are just defensive about their illusion. But it makes it hard to have a realistic conversation about it. & though I see that it's not a real and true time saver to eat out, I understand the "turn off your brain and just barrel through" aspect of it. I think it's more about mental energy than time. & (mostly) no one knows how to cook, so there is also that. Maybe no idea where to begin.
It's all very correlated to lack of time. People clutter up their time just as much as they do their homes. & they speak to that in the article.
**We received a $5 statement credit for checking AmEx account on mobile app.
**I bought ahead $100 of Target gift cards, 10% off. MH later asked me if we should buy up gift cards for kids' to gift for their friends' birthday parties. Smart! We bought 5 Target gift cards during 2016, so I just bought up 5 ($15) gift cards at 10% off.
We probably could/should have done the $300 max, but we already get 5% off our purchases and it is a bit of a hassle. This is the first year we even took the 10% deal.
**I did also get MM(13) switched over to our cheap dentist from the pediatric (not cheap) dentist. I expect this will save us at least $400 per year. DL(11) is not quite there yet, but probably soon.
**The saga of DL's extra tooth is finally over. Phew! We were told maybe 3 years ago that they might have to do surgery to remove it. But we have been waiting (& waiting) and it finally erupted (broke the skin) on its own, without causing too many problems. So he had that tooth yanked this week.
It's one minor win. I expect he will cost me tens of thousands of dollars for the long haul. He has all the teeth/jaw problems that I had. So... I will take any win I can get.
**We are doing virtually nothing for Christmas.
I generally don't do much because my work is so busy. But this year is just insane busy, starting several weeks early.
I think that's compounded with us just having a crazy year in general, MH being so busy, and being on a general downward trend of Christmas spending.
The kids and I grew up in homes that didn't make a huge materialistic deal about Christmas. So... I am pretty sure that *MH* is the one that broached the subject, but we had discussed not getting the kids any gifts this year. Well, *he* did grow up in a house that made a huge deal about Christmas, so he's been very wishy washy about this. To us and the kids, he clearly has issues. As of this moment in time, we agreed to get them one "need" gift each, and some stocking stuffers (food). I think that's probably where we will land, but lord knows. (& when he said, "no gifts", I figured we'd still be doing stockings/treats, so we seem to be on the same page on that part).
As to the kids, they could care less about if we get them any gifts.
The kids also insist that they don't care about our (plastic) tree, and so we decided not to put it up this year. I don't know if this is more of a break or a more permanent decision. I would like to buy a smaller tree, but will probably let it go for this year and will shop the after-Christmas sales. We might not bother decorating at all. Lord knows I won't be around much to care either way.
Gifts I bought for my parents: a concert ticket for my dad and a charitable gift in my mom's name.
& we always take my Christmas bonus ($200) and each pick a charity to donate $50 to.
For the in-laws, we already bought a big gift, since they generally go big. MH always has some electronic toy or whatever in mind. They will give us more cash than we spend for all of Christmas, so I figure money is no object for their gift.
But... Hell has frozen over! MIL announced a week or two ago that she was going to give us $500 to give to charity. I don't think she has any idea that we already do this. In fact, I told most my friends and relatives (about 10 years ago!) that I'd rather them donate to charity than give me gifts. Everyone was very receptive to this, except my MIL. She was NOT Having it. So... I have no idea what on earth happened, but I guess it's a Christmas miracle. (She seems to be toning it down on the gift side of things, though I never for sure until it's over. I am not holding my breath on that part. But... I just feel like she actually gets it on some level, that she would do this. Less emphasis on the stuff).
I've spent virtually nothing this year (on myself or on retail). Since I had a few days off around my birthday, I went shopping. WAY behind on allowance spending. & not that I need to spend it all (because I won't). But I updated my wardrobe a bit.
I also found a beautiful table cloth for $30 that goes very well in our formal dining room. You never know if these things will look as good in person, but we put it up yesterday and it is just perfect! I also bought a "Christmas" table cloth and we put it over, for now. I had a couple of Christmas items stored in the china cabinet, so just put those out to anchor the table cloth (the table is over 100 inches long). & I found my Christmas tree scented candle, so we ended up with a little Christmas spirit. I set up a Christmas table for us to put our gifts on.
I had bought a very pretty table cloth (last year) which wasn't practical and I just decided to donate. I also donated a few sweaters, to make room for some new ones.
Oh, and that reminds me. MM is outgrowing his clothes like crazy. DL didn't want most of MM's old shirts, so I had a pile to donate. Plus I took out all of the "baby" hangers from their closets. I had already given MM some of my hangers for his uniform shirts, but otherwise they don't bother hanging up their clothes.
I bought an electronic toy last January that I knew I would most likely sell. I think it was $150 retail and I paid virtually nothing for it because I used credit card rewards. I sold it yesterday for $85.
We went by the school Dicken's fair briefly over the weekend. I ended up picking up a very cool tie dye shirt for myself. I didn't get her business card, and I could kick myself. She had some really neat tie dye. Very talented. If I had more Christmas shopping to do, there would have been some good gifts.
MH and I snuck in a nice lunch date. We've been doing that some on the weekends. Is unusual for us (to go out, to be spontaneous, or to even eat out). But since we didn't invite the kids, it was more of a reasonable expenditure. I had a perpetual headache and I knew it was work stress. So I decided to relax Saturday. Sunday I worked all day. I *might* take Sunday off for Christmas with MH's family. (Not sure where I will be with work and I am fighting off a cold. If I get sick at all I will need the time to catch up). & not that I'd work *all* weekend, but I just won't be able to get much done if I go out of town all day. I may need a mental health day (or physical health day) at home. I will take Christmas Day off. Otherwise it's just work work work, for me. MH's last day of work (for the season) should be Friday. So he can take care of the kids' crazy schedules. All 3 schools have completely different breaks, and 2 have weird final schedules (next week). MH will be home for a month.
I suppose that minimalism and sound financials can be closely related. I've been focusing more on the minimalism side of things over time.
For me, it started when I had my children. I was clearing out one room in our house for our second child and something about the nesting instinct put me in purge mode. I had my children in my 20s, so it's been since our 20s that we've been scaling down and not trying to accumulate more stuff. I don't know that we had bought a lot at that point but we sure had a lot of crap. 10+ years later and I am still digging through the crap. I can't even imagine what this is like if you spend your 30s and 40s (and 50s and 60s) accumulating the crap.
Since this all happened around the time we had kids, we have always been very 1-in and 1-out with their belongings. I think both of us would just feel too overwhelmed if we didn't stay very on top of it. When baby stuff was done it immediately left the house. Outgrown clothes are sifted out regularly.
I don't think we were quite there yet, when our second child was born. But at some point in our 30s, maybe amid all the de-cluttering, my MH and I both decided that we missed condo living. It was so much simpler and lower maintenance. What had been a lack of options in our youth (due to crazy expensive housing) eventually turned into our ideal. We personally really value our personal space and are fine with raising our kids in our current house. But the second they are grown we do plan to downsize. For the two of us, we just don't need this much space. & since we got to that point, we've been cognizant of not expanding and buying more stuff. While most Americans seem to be in an endless "more more more" mode, we are more in a "less less less" mode.
Anyway, every once in a while I come across a really great article that makes one think, and I decided to finally add a "minimalism" category to this blog. So I kind of wanted to do an overview of where we are at with that. & I should have done this a long time ago. & I thought of another article that I read recently, that I will share below.
We still have way too much stuff and I am still in the de-clutter stage. I think part of the problem for me is that I don't like to spend a lot of my time managing and organizing and cleaning my "stuff". The whole point in not having so much stuff in the first place is so that I don't have to expend energy on "stuff". & so putting all the effort and time that I need to de-clutter is just not happening for me. But we aren't planning to move for another decade and we are at a place already where we wouldn't have to get rid of anything to transition to some place like our first condo (which was half the size of our current home). I'd like to just be "moving ready" when we move, but I have a lot of time. I know we could fit into our future dream home today, but I also don't want to be sorting out junk and deciding what to keep when we move. I want that part to be done before we move again. So that is what I am working on.
My goal for the here and now is to go through all of my belongings and to pare down to what I truly want/use/need. I may be getting close. It could maybe even happen this year? Fall is when I usually get into de-clutter mode. When the weather cools and I get stuck inside more. From there, I really need to work on MH. He likes to accumulate and collect things. Like movies or video games. I am totally fine with that. I know not everyone wants to be able to carry the vast majority of their belongings in like one suitcase. I am resigned to the collections (& he does actually use them and enjoy them, which is a lot of it). But what drives me crazy is the boxes that have just been sitting around since we moved in 15 years ago. I just really want to have my own crap in order before I start leaning on him. I think my slow de-clutter is also good because the more I de-clutter the more my MH seems to subconsciously want to keep up. So he's been taking the initiative to also slowly work through his things.
Some day we will get there. I know it will probably also be a LOT easier without kids and that I may be able to more easily make our next home more of a stuff-less haven. I am resigned to a little extra chaos in the interim.
Here is another excellent article that I came across recently:
Parents, Stop Getting Mad at Your Kids for Wanting Stuff at Target
"So I get it, our kids have stuff. Probably too much. But I think, as parents, we too often put the blame for this reality on the wrong person.
Our kids do have lots of toys and clothes and video games and crafts. But let’s remember, they aren’t the ones with the steady paychecks and they didn’t organize their last birthday party.
If there are too many toys in your playroom, you put them there—or, at the very least, you allowed them to stay.
Even worse, often times, our kids are simply following our lead. When the average American home contains 300,000 items, how upset can we really get that our kids own 238 toys? And when 33% of us can’t fit both cars in our double-garages, how unreasonable is it to assume our child will fill their art and craft drawer to overflowing?
In a society that encourages consumerism at every turn, what else should we expect? Our children are only following our lead."
"But we ought to remember that our children are watching us closely. Whether we like it or not, they are soaking up values from us as parents about how to live, how to work, how to achieve significance… and how to spend money. And if we are constantly desiring things we don’t need, why would we expect anything else from our kids?
Maybe we should stop getting mad at them for wanting things at Target… and start questioning if we really needed to be there in the first place."
I thought this was interesting in terms how it comes up sometimes with other parents how "amazing" it is that we can so no to our kids. ???
But it's not even that we can say no. They really don't even ask.
I think some of it is that we very rarely even take our kids into stores. My spouse and I would help each other enough that we wouldn't see the point in dragging our kids along to all our errands. When I do take them to a store like Target, they don't ask for stuff. IT could be the very consistent boundaries that we set early on. Like saying no to every little whim. & giving them allowances and allowing them to make their own purchase decisions. They've always been able to buy whatever their little heart desires. But they think about it a little more carefully when their resources are more finite.
I know it's no surprise that kids mimic their parents or what they see, but I am taken aback by how financially sensible my kids are. I mean, they are only 11 & 13. I couldn't even get 13yo to buy one souvenir on our last trip (with money that Grandma had slipped him).
I'd think that we are mostly raising them the same way that we were raised. But I think there's two key difference in my own childhood. My parents said no a lot. They said it too much. If someone gave me $30 for souvenirs, I expect I would have spent it in under a minute. I felt deprived. They wouldn't let me spend my own money even on something they thought was too frivolous. We let our kids make those mistakes when they were like 5 or 6, and they have learned and moved on. I also grew up in a culture of shopping. My parents didn't have a lot and they didn't buy me a lot. They weren't huge shoppers. BUT... Shopping was something we did all the time. My mom certainly took me along on all of her shopping errands. My dad would take me shopping on the weekends (generally music stores). I think it was good from a standpoint of learning to manage money. But compared to how we live in the here and now, it was a *lot* of shopping. Maybe these days we do a lot of it online and the kids just don't see it. I don't remember if I have ever taken my kids out just to browse around and buy things. I don't think we have *ever* done that?
Oh, and the average 10yo owns 238 toys? ???????? My MH is a collector and he likes to collect video games, books, and board games. I think I'd be hard pressed to come up with 238 x 2 of those items (& technically a lot of those are for us adults too). My 10yo outgrew "toys" a while ago. So MH's collections would be the bulk of his toys. But I'll have to go count later. I am curious. (I really wouldn't be surprised if we could come up with 238 if we counted every junky party favor type toy that my kids still have. I expect that they have WAY less, but let's see... They are probably due for another purge anyway. A charity is coming by tomorrow so maybe we will do a count and see if they are ready to let go of anything they didn't want to let go of last year).
Edited to add: I couldn't even get up to 100 toys between my two kids, and they do have a lot of junk. They are doing a purge of outgrown toys.
P.S. Are there any minimalist blogs that you follow? OR anything as to managing time as well? The two that I really adored have both been retired. I need to find some more inspiration.
Saw a really great article about minimalism.
"I was that student in school who stays up all night studying and gets a C. That’s how I felt about my life. I was trying so hard! I felt little satisfaction, little joy, and every day was a battle for my time that I didn’t want to wake up for.
I asked other moms, friends, and people I respected if this was normal, how they managed their homes and kids, and if they felt like they enjoyed it. What I was met with was a resounding “oh yeah, I remember those days! That’s motherhood. It’ll be okay and you’ll get through it.”
"After another particularly difficult day, I reflected on how I’d yelled, how I’d been the mom I never wanted to be, and how I was counting how many hours I had of peace and quiet before morning came and I had to start over."
"In that moment, I had had enough. I decided I wasn’t going to let this be my life, and this overwhelm and depression wasn’t going to rule me any longer."
"I went into the playroom – the room that was the bane of my existence. This was a room full of colorful bins, each bin full of toys. There were toys on the floor, in chests, in boxes, toys everywhere. I would send my kids in here to play and they would come out less than ten minutes later complaining of boredom. This room was pointless, and I’d had enough.
I started working through the room, making piles – keep, trash, donate. I got rid of every single toy that I felt wasn’t benefitting my kids. If it didn’t cause them to engage in constructive or imaginary play, it wasn’t staying in this house because it wasn’t worth the work it caused me. If I was going to clean up it was going to be the things that added to our lives; it was going to be only the things we needed and the things we truly loved.
When I was finished, all that remained were trains and tracks, a couple of dress up costumes, books, and blocks. The trunk of my car was overstuffed with toys to take to Goodwill, my playroom was purged, and I immediately felt lighter.
The next day my kids ran downstairs for breakfast, and as usual, I sent them into their playroom to play, curious to see if meltdowns would ensue because of what I’d done with their toys. They walked in, looked around, said something along the lines of “Hey! It’s nice and clean, Mommy! Hey! There’s my trains!” and happily started playing.
I was shocked. I stepped out of the room, poured myself a cup of coffee, and sat on the couch. To my surprise, my kids played in that room that day for three hours. Three hours! It wasn’t just that day either. They continued to want to be in their playroom for long amounts of time from then on. They started going outside more often, making up stories and scenarios together, playing tag, and creating art. It was as if I had unclogged their God-given gift of imagination when I got rid of their toys. "
I'm personally in a space where I just don't understand the average American existence. I remember being surprised by how other people's houses always looked like toy stores erupted in their homes. (I mean, to the point of ridiculous). I'd strive for the complete opposite.
I still remember a childless friend complimenting us once on not having piles of toys in our main living area. That our house hadn't been over-run by children.
I think there are several factors. Our parents didn't love us with "toys" and "stuff". With space at a huge premium (growing up in San Francisco), it would never occur to me to have a whole room dedicated to toys. !!
It was never any conscious decision to have less stuff in order to make life easier. It was more just that we didn't understand all the stuff.
But I keep coming across blogs and articles that articulate some of our experiences. I suppose it's possible that our kids were less bored and more creative because we weren't drowning them in toys.
I thought this tied in well with the article I posted in my last blog post.
& read the entire article if you can. It was really interesting.
MMM had a really great article (several weeks ago). It sums up our life philosophy pretty well.
"While others will buy an unlimited annual ski pass and ride the mountains every weekend, I’ll get a four-pack and make a single weeklong trip with my friends. Others will buy a cottage and split their time between two houses, I’m happy with one. While others will start with a cat, then have a kid, then adopt a dog, then another dog, then create second, third, and fourth kids, I’m feeling plenty busy with just my boy.
None of this is done with money in mind – it is done out of a desire for balance, free time, and a safety margin in life. By keeping our non-negotiable commitments to only 50% of our time, we leave the other 50% open for growth, self-development, and an ability to work much harder to deal with the black swan events that life inevitably serves up. While others might imagine we’re missing out on life by not stacking it up with more activities, I feel we’re allowing ourselves just the right amount of space to actually live it. And of course, the side effect this has on the money side has been very large as well."
I've been wanting to share this anyway, but couldn't help but think of this in light of the week we just had. (See last post). If my spouse has to quit his job to deal with personal stuff, then it's done. We wouldn't even think twice about it. As is, we leave enough time and space to deal with life. I doubt that quitting his job would even be necessary.
& as an aside, I think people have varying degrees of tolerance for chaos. I know my tolerance is very low. Thus I will probably never choose to have more than 2 kids. But I wanted to bring up because I think the analysis can be over-simplified a bit. MMM speaks to having only one kid. I honestly don't know if I have the personality to just have one kid. Having two kids doesn't particularly cost a lot more than having one kid (certainly not twice as much) and having two kids close in age, they mostly entertain each other. I've often felt that it's easier to have two kids than one. I am sure it depends on the age, but certainly at the age my kids are now. & yeah, I know people with many kids who are happy and in their element. Don't take MMM's comments too literally. You have to work out what works for you.
Make the time and the space for whatever it is that is most important to you.
The picture above is our Christmas tree, a couple of years back.
& a couple of my favorite articles that I have shared in the past.
My job is crazy insane busy during the Christmas season, and so this has been a very big factor in our attitude about Christmas. I don't have the time and the energy and so mostly sit out the season.
Our attitude is also compounded by the in-laws' Christmas gift extravaganza. It's like, the kids got 100 toys from Grandma, so no one else gets absolutely any joy giving them gifts. Even my parents just don't get them anything. I share just to point out that all of the above is more for the adults than the kids. My kids know that their paternal grandparents are a little crazy and excessive but that everyone else we know is the complete opposite. I think it's obvious to them that their experience with Grandma is not the norm. They have never once asked me why no one else gets them any presents - aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. It's never occurred to them that they should be getting presents from everyone. They just think Grandma really really likes Christmas!
I read through those articles again and it reminded me of the final rules of Christmas simplicity in our house. We don't travel and we don't cook. My spouse has a problem with taking the kids anywhere on Christmas day because he hated that when he was a kid - he wanted to stay home and to play with his toys. So, Christmas day is always at home. I am more than fine with that because is I am lucky to get Christmas day off and certainly can't swing more time off than that.
Dh is really good about cooking and helping with cleaning, etc. But we make Christmas a day of rest. I think dh is probably fine with throwing something in the crockpot and maybe we have done that on occasion. But it's my mom who really has a problem with people cooking on Christmas. So she usually insists that we just order a pizza or pick a take and back from the store (our grocery store has great pizzas). Surprisingly, even my MIL seems to like this tradition. She loves the idea of ordering out on Christmas day. I've never lived in a house with a Christmas feast, so all of the above works fine for me. I don't do anything to prepare, and we keep Christmas day very low key.
**I feel redeemed this month in "making do with what I have." MIL brought me piles of gifts for my birthday and left us with all the white tissue paper. ??? So, I decided to just wrap gifts with that stuff. What the heck. What else am I going to do with it?
BM is wrapping up his big Mission project for school. Dh had him use the leftover foam board we had from his Halloween costume, in place of poster board. That works.
I feel relieved. Like we still have our mojo. It's been such a stark contrast to September when dh's Grandma was in the hospital. There was a week or two in there where I felt I went to the store 100 times and everything was completely out of control. It's like when one thing is *off* then everything goes *off* and it spirals out of control from there. IT was an endless parade of "I need this yesterday" and so forth with the kids. & dh was MIA, and we spent a bajillion dollars it felt like.
So, phew!! It's December and I'd prefer not to go near *any* store for a while.
BM was even asking for gloves for a school trip, and then told me nevermind that they can not wear gloves. Saved by the bell.
I *loved* this post about keeping Christmas simple:
& another one:
I suppose this was a $600 room makeover, when all was said and done:
I think, for the first time as a homeowner, that I have no furniture or decor on my wish list. How awesome is that!
Old couch was actually a nice piece we bought new when first married. Probably the most expensive furniture we ever bought. BUT, I think I just compromised too much on the color - never really liked it. Has particularly annoyed me the last several years.
I suppose you can throw that in as one more reason to not just fully furnish a home (new) the second you get married or move into your own place. We've had a much more slow and steady approach, mostly making do with what we have, hand-me-downs, etc. Living with empty rooms each time we bought more space, and slowly filling them in. That kind of thing.
The new sectional actually takes up less space (with that right angle) but feels about twice as big. LOVE it! Is just perfect as our kids are only growing bigger. We were getting crowded on the old sectional.
& for the first time, dh and I actually readily agreed on things. We probably haven't done much furniture shopping over the years. Mostly just picking up nice pieces when we happen upon them at deep discount. Kind of like LM's bed that we just bought. When we bought BM's bed (MANY years ago) we found some nice furniture for our house, too.
Oh - and one reason we went with the old couch was we lived in a condo and never thought we would own much more space. So the sofa sleeper was really important to us at the time. We've since grown tired of it - moving into a larger home and all. We have never used it. IT wasn't very comfortable, and guests tend to just sleep elsewhere now that we have so much furniture and room.
I read rather recently some article (can't find it), that the happiness from material things wears off VERY quickly. Maybe a few months. These things are always cited as an excuse to spend a ton of money on vacation or something. Anyway, I always feel odd when it comes to those studies. I can relate to the idea that something bought on a whim probably won't make one happy for very long. BUT, the way we shop, thinking carefully about every purchase, biding our time, and saving up for years... We tend to enjoy our purchases for years or decades. There isn't that steep decline or quick boredom.
I think this is true more than ever in recent years. Where maybe we have had a little money to buy some nice things, but we had to be pretty careful in narrowing down that which was most important. In earlier years we couldn't afford squat. At other times we had more income and didn't appreciate so much what we had. Living on one decent income has forced us into that sweet spot, I guess. I think this is compounded with an attitude that "Home is our Haven" and with dh unemployed and without extra money to splurge on other activities, we are both HOME such much more than ever before. Life through college and pre-kids was so go go go with so much work. Slowing down, gives us more time to enjoy our things.
I saw this blog post today and could totally relate:
When Things are More than Things
"As someone who eschews �things,� I often find myself in a bit of an uncomfortable place on this blog. So much of it is about the things of our house."
"I want to be a minimalist. I want fewer things so I have more time and energy to create and just be. Things consume a lot of time and energy."
"I know true minimalists would say that things actually do matter, a lot. Minimalism isn�t so much about having few things (although it is about having few things) as it is about having the right few things. The things you need."
Anyway, I could very much identify with all of these statements. Why is it that as we de-clutter and simplify that my things seem to mean more than ever?? Maybe I am not alone in my feelings. I think it is just as simple as that I am enjoying my things more and longer. Which doesn't necessarily mean that I care more about "things"?
Oh, today was spendy, indeed. But it was a long day and I will catch up on the spending details later. (Short version: stocked up on post Easter sales, and since the kids are gone for a few says, dh and I had a nice dinner date).
I got a credit card offer today. Make one purchase and get a $150 statement credit. Offer was from prior mortgage holder. I am only considering such a small offer because I have no other ones at current. I will hold onto it for a few weeks and see if anything better comes along. In the past I wouldn't think twice about it, but in the past these offers only came up once in a blue moon. If I get twelve $150 offers this year, do I really want to do twelve of them??? But I suppose I can do one. This offer will push us past "$1,000 in rewards" for 2012.
Check out "No Impact Man" on Netflix. I thought it was really well done. A documentary about a family that attempted to live a "no environmental impact" lifestyle for one year. If the movie was just about the guy, it might have fallen flat, but his wife really made the movie. She was skeptical and not thrilled with the whole thing, but very honest and open minded. She was really open to try anything. I *loved* her. Anyway, lots of themes that run through SA. Just thinking outside the box a bit, trying different things, and realizing that one can actually be a lot happier with more simplicity in their lives. (Versus the extreme backlash they got from other people for their experiment - WOW - considering how positive they found it to be for their own lives).
The weather is cold (not going outside)! and there is absolutely nothing to be done today.
I should be readying the house for T-Day, but I am procrastinating. As long as I get going by noon, probably have plenty of time to clean up the house AND work on some fall cleaning. (We picked up a bit last night - family is a great help - so not much left to do). I suppose that is the plus side. We were going to dinner at our neighbors, but they canceled due to sickness.
Oh yes, and we had wanted to go to the free museum day today but had changed our mind with dinner plans. I suppose I will look into that - there is a really cool exhibit going on - some "mad scientist" from the Bay Area - has all sorts of cool looking robots and things. We were thinking of just going on one of our days off from school/work, but might as well take advantage of the free day with no other plans. I am planning on getting a family museum membership, but our plan was to check out some of the free days and figure out the parking situation. If we never go because the parking sucks... So, it will be a bit of an experiment.
This is the kind of art that the kids can get excited about:
When it comes to the online blogosphere and such, I generally settle down somewhere for a period of time, and then move on when life changes. For example, I found pregnancy support message boards to be incredibly invaluable while pregnant, but didn't find what the community evolved into post-birth to be terribly useful. I am sure there was probably a lot of wisdom and tips to be gleaned in such groups, but the problem is you have to wade through the minefield of sleep-deprived hormonal new moms. NOT a pleasant experience. Throw in the mommy wars, and I found the experience pretty useless. Beyond useless - it was a pretty toxic environment.
When I moved away from that and found savingadvice, I settled here and has definitely been a VERY positive experience. I have often wondered when I Would move on and where I would be taken next. I think it all started with "Small Notebook." I LOVE that blog and really identify with it on many levels. I find myself finding more and more blogs that are along the same lines. I don't think I had ever really thought about it, but a running theme in my own life is simplification. I find most people make things far harder than they have to be. I am ALL about the short cuts! & so I am really digging finding bloggers who focus on simplicity and love thinking about things in new ways and getting new ideas.
That said, I don't think I am going anywhere! No matter where I am in my financial journey, I am an accountant at heart. I have always delighted in organizing my finances, and I always will. I often go to work and can't believe how well I get paid for simply doing what I love doing. So, I don't think I am going anywhere.
But, I share because I have been linking more and more of these blogs to my website links, AND the more I read them and focus elsewhere, the less posty I have been. & I suppose that is my intro as I start to think more about how I do simplify things in my life, if there are any tips I can share, and I why I am excited to share new things I am learning.
Anyway, I read this old blog post this past week and thought it was fascinating:
The myth of doing it all: modern moms and hiring help
Love love love this article. It really made me stop and think about the cultural norms that are behind the attitude we have often gotten for our own personal choices when it comes to hiring help.
What kind of attitude?
A - our parents think it is TERRIBLE that we hire any help at all. We hire a gardener. Interestingly, our parents were always supportive of us hiring out childcare (as women who could not afford it - they realized we were incredibly lucky to be able to - better for both us and our kids).
B - From very frugal friends, we always got a LOT of attitude about hiring out daycare though my spouse stayed home. To me it was always a "What the hell is their problem???" kind of thing. Even though we stretched a bit to make it work, I wouldn't change it for anything. Towards the end I said specifically in this blog, "Why do people with HUGE car payments get so judgmental about such a practical, and so very temporary, expense?"
Ding ding ding - societal norms. Society says be in debt forever in your car, but only snooty/wasteful Stay-at-home people hire help. I was thinking that daycare help was much more pleasing for the soul than a brand new car.
C - A friend of mind who is deep in debt, orders lattes every day, and goes to the salon endlessly, well her or her husband have made several "it must be nice" comments to us over the years, about the fact that we have a gardener.
Again - societal norms. Forget that they are paying WAY more on a monthly basis for simply salon visits. Hired help just has a much bigger stigma.
& what I realized thinking about this was that on every level, getting to think outside the box and look at things differently is so freeing. It really does make life easier to not to be so conformist. I have never had a lot of problem being different. But reading that post made me look at things a little different. I think next time anyone makes a snide comment about any decision to hire help, it will be easier for me to see where *they* are coming from. & maybe I know better how to reply to help open their own eyes. It's like I realized, but I didn't really realize. A bit of an *aha* moment.
So next time my friend makes an "it must be nice" comment (honestly, I think it is her husband, not sure she has ever said the same?), I think I will just smile and say, "yes, it is nice." What can you do?
In other news, I made a new step in organizing in my house, after reading this post:
Clearing the �Counter Pile� with a Tickler File
I am a big believer in manila envelopes. I organize my life pretty much in manila envelopes, anyway.
BUT, when it comes to bills and stuff, my way is not overly organized. My method is simply this. I don't procrastinate. So, when papers come in, I send them back out. I either shred them, or pay the bills, or send back the school forms, or whatever. If it can wait a bit, I just throw it in a pile. The pile never gets very big, and I know where to find anything I need.
BUT, the idea on this blog post was to have one manila type folder for each month, and to file things away by month. So, if a bill is not due until January, I could file the bill in January, rather than leave it in a pile. If I have a form I want to take care of next month, I can file it away for next month. So simple, and yet so genius! I went one further and got out some folders for coupon categories and also labeled one for each kid. In the kid folders I put school stuff that I may need to reference, but didn't want to toss yet. Or stuff they may need next month, or later.
In addition, I put an envelope in each month to keep all receipts. Talk about a simple way to get mega organized. I will probably toss most the receipts once the month is over, but I too often have to ask dh what this or that purchase was for, or forget some purchase I made 4 weeks ago. So, this should help simplify.
So yeah, I organized all of the coupons into folders, too, by category. Our old method was a pile of coupons. I can't say it was working overly well.
I already put EVERYTHING on the calendar as a simple way to keep organized, so I find I didn't have to follow this tickler system to a tee. I just have to remember to check the folders every month, is all. I like the tip to put, say, wedding invitations in the month for when the wedding is. That is something that is generally sitting in a pile. We had a birthday we went to that we got the invite MONTHS in advance. So we just left the invite in the "pile" for many months. OF course it was on the calendar, but I just had no where to put the actual invite, aside from the "pile." Oh, that folder system would have been so nice for that.
Anyway, read that link - it may change your life!
The funny thing was I had went to the store for manila folders a day or two before I came across that post. All they had was a set of 50. I probably only needed a few. I thought, "well, here is a lifetimes supply of folders," and just bought them since it was all I Could find. So I have suddenly found much use for all the extra folders.
Well, so far so good (knock on wood). LM had a great first day of "all day" school. He's only been going 3 hours a day for 3 weeks.
I think the pre-K program was extremely helpful! HE was so chipper last night, that I started to wonder if going to school was taking less energy than being home with brother all day. Could be. I remember BM being very cranky the first few weeks of school - and he has tons of energy. It's just quite an adjustment.
It's only one day - so will see.
If you asked dh, I think he'd tell you the best part is being able to sleep in! Not that he has gotten to yet. But, soon enough.
I usually either work Saturdays or go to aerobics at dawn. SO, he gets Sundays to sleep in. BUT, easier said than done, with kids who like to wake up and dawn. SO, he now gets 2-3 mornings a week while I take the kids to school. (I could care less about sleeping in. I rather go to bed early - which I do often).
I am working on a honey do list, but it isn't very long. Yet. I am used dh doing a lot for me, and don't really intend to add to his load too much. But I am thinking of a couple of things that need to be taken care of with his newfound free time.
The other nice things is lunch dates. We always do lunch dates (more economical), but we have to plan them eons in advance, it seems.
Now we have our pick of 5 days a week.
When BM started Kinder, it was a shift from a simpler life to more complexity. We really hadn't had much of any schedule for a long time. School is very schedule-y. Lots to plan around.
LM starting school is kind of the polar opposite. WE are used to the schedule now, and he shares it with BM. This just frees up a lot of time for dh. So, it's making life simpler, for the moment.
Dh and I will definitely enjoy. Before long, I expect he will be working again, and life will then be much more busy. So, we are definitely enjoying the slower pace for a time.
I could ask dh to help me with a lot more, but I feel content. I don't really need help with anything. The thought crossed my mind that if he was so free, I could ask him to take the kids for a day, Saturday or Sunday. But, I don't need a break, and nothing I need to do, so, eh.
I had another weekend with cranky moms...
I thought to all of the talk of simpler living, recently.
I looked at this blog earlier, as recommended by another blogger.
I did like it. One of the first blog posts really struck with me.
The Hierarchy of Cleaning...
Clean your clothes
clean the trash/dishes
Worry about the rest later...
That sums it up pretty well.
That one stuck with me because, that is completley my style of cleaning, for one. Secondly, cleaning is an area where I don't see moms being very practical. They are stressed out, they are tired, they are a mess, and they still spend hours every day cleaning. I don't quite understand why.
I've always thought, "Thank goodness I am not a neat freak."
But, as a mom friend griped to me over the weekend, I realized that there was no rhyme and reason to her priorities. She was telling me she had no time for x, y, and z (no idea how I did it), but she was spending all this energy on a, b and c, and I wasn't quite sure why.
For example, her child has been at school one full year and she asked me how the buying lunch thing worked. My jaw about hit the floor. They eat out every night, but she makes lunch for her kid every single day? Seriously? It just struck me as odd.
Anyway, I know I come across off as the "Do it all Mom" to my friends. (They've all said it to me). Which is completely ridiculous!
The truth is I am the "Ask for help" mom and the "Cut a lot of corners" mom. I am definitely the "I know how to say no" mom.
That hierarchy of chores said it pretty well. I do what needs to be done. I am good at prioritizing. I don't generally go around bragging about all the corners I cut. In fact, most people would look at me like I was crazy if I told them. But the end result is a MUCH simpler lifestyle. (Should I brag about it more? It's not like I even care, but the same moms always look horrified when you mention the corners you cut, so you can't win).
An example? I don't bathe my kids every night. (I grew up in drought country, and I think it is a ridiculous waste of water AND time). But most people think this is crazy talk! But, by only cleaning the kids when they NEED it, I save myself a couple of hours a week. That is just one example of MANY. I see quite easily why I have so much free time compared to most my mom friends.
So, is prioritizing the key to a simple lifestyle?
I don't know if it's key, but it is a skill that is just kind of inherent in my nature. I have always been pretty good at prioritizing, since I was a small child. I do think that it makes life easier.
There's probably a lot more to simplicity, than just prioritizing. But it's probably a very good first step.