When owning too much stuff, encourages you to own more stuff

Do you have “that pile” of paperwork, mail, and other miscellaneous things near your front door? Maybe on your kitchen counter, in the mud room, or on top of the microwave? Ours is on our bar counter (at the top of our stairs when you enter the house). It’s an easy place to drop the main, the receipts from my purse, the magazine I keep meaning to read.

……And there it all sits for an indefinite amount of time. Until weeks later, it gets tall enough that I go through it, throw most of it away, and always inevitably tell myself “I should really get a basket here to catch this stuff”.  So the question is: should be buy more stuff to organize our stuff? I have also heard this argument regarding storage totes and fancy boxes. Should we get pretty boxes to store our stuff? Or should we maybe get rid of some of the stuff? I vote for the latter.

Maybe, instead of organizing all the random crap in the closet, pull it all out and see what you really, actually need. Do I need that tennis racket from when I swore I was going to take up tennis lessons? (the answer is clearly no, I never took a single lesson!) Do I need 3 sets of sheets? When one set is “just the back up because I never really liked the pattern and they’re scratchy”? GET RID OF THE SHEETS!! We have too much crap!

I am not saying go full minimalist on me if that’s not your jam. But be mindful. Pick one area of your house, I recommend the junk drawer, and go through it. Decide what you really need. And get rid of what you don’t. You can donate it, trash it, re-home it, repurpose it. So many people would love to make good use of your excess stuff.

I recommend trying apps like Next Door or Rooster for these things. That way they can find their way into the hands of your neighbors who will actually use them! I love it! Then, when I actually need a wine opener one day, I will go on Next Door and see if someone might be offering one up. I just love the idea. cleaning out my house and helping others. It’s a community event! How cool! It’s about keeping what you need, not buying more to organize the stuff you don’t.

So, now I think I’ll go tackle that pile of stuff on my counter. Wish me luck!

What I learned from my social media hiatus

So as mentioned in my previous post, I took a break from social media. It wasn’t THAT difficult, I don’t have most of the apps on my phone that many people do. No Snapchat, no Twitter, no Tumblr. But I did have Facebook and Instagram. How hard could it be, right?

Well, hard at first! I sat down to watch the morning news, coffee in hand, and immediately opened up my phone. Oops. Ok so I put it down and watched the news. And then opened the phone again. Drat. OK, harder than I thought.

So I decided to implement a filler. Anytime I went to open my phone, I would instead read a page (minimum) of whatever book I so choose. I love reading and don’t always have time to sit and really enjoy it, so maybe this addition would allow me to get more pages in! And let me tell you, this really helped. I opened my phone a third time, and thus remembered to pick up my book and go sit on the porch. I enjoyed my morning coffee and read a few pages.

It was calming and enjoyable. And how rarely do I sit outside at 7am reading my book? Almost never until this experiment! It was so nice to take that extra time and enjoy something that I love.

I always carry a book in my bag just in case, and this allowed me to really utilize it. Waiting for my tires to get changed? Read the book. Doctor’s appointment waiting room? Book. It turned the standard boring wait times into enjoyable blips in my day. Maybe I only read a page, but it was still better than staring at my screen.

So let’s look big picture. For one thing, I read WAY more on any given day than I might otherwise. Additionally, I felt happier. I wasn’t on Facebook seeing all the shit going on in the world. Yes I still read the New York Times daily, but it was quality writing and I read only what I chose to. I also didn’t make nearly as many impulse purchases as I normally would. I have instagram to blame for that. I am such a sucker for “omg those cute shoes!” Did I need the shoes? I think you know the answer. So it really helped keep my spending in check. If you can’t see the things other people are spending money on, you are not likely to spend that money yourself.

All in all, it was a great experiment for me. So where do I stand now? I deleted the Facebook app and don’t intend to put it back on my phone. If I want to see how friends or family are doing I can go on a computer and look it up. I won’t delete my account as I like to keep in touch with some people that way. But I won’t have it on my phone. I put instagram back on my phone, but made it harder to get to. I have to deliberately go looking for it in order to open the app. That way I think about it before actually looking at it. This seems to be a good balance for me, and I’m happy with it for the time being. I also unfollowed all unnecessary accounts.

Generally I’d say I feel better about things in general since this little experiment. And I definitely am making more structured time to read each day. So what about you? What habits are you working on and has anyone else cut out social media?

I’m taking a temporary break from social media

Today is Day One of my social media break. I am initially planning a week, to test the waters. Why am I doing this? I’m glad you asked!

First of all I want to make one thing clear, I think social media can be fantastic and has it’s place in society. It allows us to find long lost friends and relatives, track down items we might otherwise struggle to find, see the far corners of the world, and so many other things. Through social media I can watch my friends’ kids grow up across the country. I can have an authentic Moroccan tagine sent to my house. I can order out of print records from the UK in the 70s. It would be far more difficult to do those things without social media. (I realize the internet is a big part of all those things, but I tend to go in Instagram or Facebook for things before searching Google.)

But there is also a side of social media that I don’t love. It puts a microscope lens on the lives of strangers. We see carefully curated images designed to sell us products, lifestyles and more. Even minimalist instagram accounts make me want to buy things. It makes me think my house is too cluttered, my kitchen too messy, my wardrobe outdated. It makes me feel like I don’t travel enough, I don’t read enough, I don’t know enough about anything. And are those things true? No! I like my life, and though I can certainly take inspiration from the images I see, I don’t need to adapt my life to fit those ideals.

The main thing I want to work on is spending associated with social media. Between videos of Pudge the Pit and pictures of foster kittens, I always manage to see products that I’d love to have in my home. Streamlined kitchen cabinets. Rose wine for the picnic in the park. Plaid shirts and overalls. Even sweaters for my dog! I see these beautiful images and can’t help but think how those products would benefit me in some way. And am I guilty of giving into that temptation? Of course! Jethro has 2 winter sweaters if that is any indicator.

Do I need the pretty things I see on social media? Probably not. But they are beautiful and perfect and curated to make me want to buy them. It’s called being an Influencer (yep, it’s a real job!) And because of this (ok it’s one of the reasons, but not the only reason) I have decided to take a break from social media. I’m going to take a week off. Anytime I am bored and find myself trying to scroll through pretty pictures, I will read some of my book. I have a book on me at all times anyway! Might as well read more. If nothing else I will make a dent in my reading list. I am already starting to realize what a time suck it is!

So for now I have uninstalled Facebook and Instagram on my phone. I am halfway through a book today alone! And I am VERY self aware as to how much time I spend on my phone. I am going to actually connect with people. I’ll call, text, email, get together with people. I may not be getting rid of technology all together, but a baby step is a start! And I’m sure it will be enlightening.

I will keep you updated this week as to how it’s going!

The importance of female role models

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I don’t have kids and I don’t plan on having kids. For many years I went back and forth, considering adoption and the possibility of being childless. Did I really want kids? Or did society tell me I wanted kids? I think my mom would make the most amazing grandma, but is that a reason for me to have kids? Really?

Here’s the thing, I am a great Auntie. I love to spoil my friends’ kids with love and goodies. I love to take them to the park and the pool, to the beach and the movies. But at the end of the day I can give them back! I will always treasure my time with the little ones, but that doesn’t mean I should have my own. It means I can give the parents some time off to be adults while giving the kids lots of extra love.

One thing that I always think about is the relationship I have with my mom. My mom is my best friend. I tell her everything. I love my relationship with her more than anything in the world. And I love the idea of having that with a child of my own. But NOTHING will ever compare to her.

I think of all the amazing women in my life, and more and more I am seeing women choosing to not have kids. About half my friends (within 10 years of my age) have kids, and half do not. When I think of the older women in my life, almost all of them do not have kids. And maybe that’s why I gravitate towards them. They show me so much love and support and we have amazing relationships. I can be them someday! I don’t need children to guarantee love and support as I grow older. I am confident that I will be surrounded by loved ones, a family I chose for myself.

On kids and frugality

I don’t have kids, and I probably won’t ever have kids. But you know what? I’m okay with that. Literally every source in the world says I will change my mind. They all say “oh but you’ll never know love until you become a mother” or “being a mother is the greatest job in the world”. Agree to disagree.

To all the mothers out there: You are a badass. You are such an incredible human, I am so impressed. Being a mom is the hardest job in the world, and you don’t get nearly enough credit. That being said, I don’t think everyone is cut out to be a mom. Kids are a lifelong commitment, literally. An entire lifetime. Have you ever noticed that if someone says they don’t plan on having kids other people say “Are you sure? That’s such a life changing decision? Maybe think about it a little longer and you’ll change your mind.” But when someone says they are planning on having kids “oh that’s great, fantastic!” Shouldn’t we place the same weight on the consideration either way? It always seemed so backwards to me! Kids are a lifetime! Not having kids can literally change anytime! But I digress….

Let me just say, kids are expensive! We aren’t talking a negligible amount of money here. I am talking hundreds of thousands of dollars (rough estimate, on raising a kid to 18). Though I realize that many kids rely on parental assistance for many years past their 18th birthday, so that number can definitely be higher. For someone who might be on the fence about having kids, the financial responsibility should really be considered. It has always boggled my mind that people think having kids is no big deal, it’s a HUGE deal! Diapers alone!

So are kids a frugal life choice? I think there are a couple of ways we can look at this. The short answer: no. Why? Medical cost of pregnancy and having the baby, diapers, food, a home big enough for a child, daycare, school, clothes, medical costs, extra curricular, insurance, the list goes on! All of those things cost money. If someone doesn’t have kids, they will have none of those costs.

That being said, if someone does choose to have kids, I think it can be done frugally. I think there are ways to raise a child without going way overboard on your spending. I also think people should do their research before having kids as to the cost of what they are taking on. Not only are you taking on the responsibility of raising a HUMAN CHILD, but it’s not cheap!

So do kids and frugality go together? It depends on how you look at it I guess. To each their own!

How to really chill out, if you’re an overachiever like me (can it really be done?) ((and why it’s important))

First and foremost, I am an overachiever. I set goals and like time-tables. I have charts, projections, and I’m always working towards something. It may be slow and steady at times, but it is always moving.

As a woman, I am a natural multi-tasker. I do laundry while cleaning the bathroom. I vacuum the couch while the dishwasher is running, all the while listening to an audio-book and keeping an eye on the dogs. More likely than not, if I’m watching a movie/tv show I’m also checking emails/blogs/reading the New York Times. Point being, I have a hard time sitting still and doing nothing.

So when work slowed down recently (after being out of the country for a few weeks) I literally found myself with time on my hands that I didn’t know what to do with. I haven’t been to work since mid-April. That was 2 months ago. Leading up to my trip I had all things packing, organizing, and preparing to take up my time. Upon return I had a friend in town visiting for a week, plus unpacking, cleaning, laundering, and getting back into the swing of things. That was two weeks ago. So for two weeks (and another ten days) I have no scheduled work to do. I have scrubbed, washed, laundered, vacuumed, sprayed, dusted, swept and mopped every square inch of this house. Multiple times. I have sorted my mail, my email, and all the random papers I could find around the house. I have organized my kitchen. I have read books, articles, blogs (in their entirety, no small feat!). I have watched movies, tv shows (hoarders for one, thus all the cleaning) and every documentary I could get my hands on.

Why am I telling you this? Because in the midst of all my running around, I realized something, I didn’t NEED to be doing any of it. In fact, it would probably be good for me to not do any of those things.

We have three dogs, (one is a golden retriever) so I could vacuum every day from here til eternity, and there would still be dog hair that needs to be picked up. The laundry will always be there, the dishes will always be there. I realized that I was filling my time, just for the sake of filling my time.

So I decided to do something for myself, and only myself. I decided to try to focus some attention on myself. I started in the mornings by making my favorite coffee. Instead of watching the morning news while putting away dishes and sipping coffee, I watched out the window while my water boiled. I poured water over my coffee grounds and listened to a record that I love. I enjoyed the moment. Was my morning so different? No. But I was present. I was in the moment and it really made a difference!

I tried watching a movie with my phone plugged in in another room. I sat out on my deck and read a new book while enjoying a glass of wine. Nothing major, nothing earth shattering. But it was those little moments that left me feeling calmer, more at ease.

Being home for an extended period of time can make me feel like I’m stalled, like I’m being lazy. But try to see those moments as a chance to take care of yourself. Go for a run, reconnect with an old friend, volunteer for an organization you care about. I can’t tell you what is going to be meaningful for you, each person will have their own thing.

Just don’t feel bad about taking care of yourself. Don’t feel bad about not working. We have all grown so accustomed to the “work hard, play hard” mentality, that any downtime is considered laziness. When I work constantly, without any sort of break, my work deteriorates. I miss things, the work absolutely suffers. When I take time to relax and enjoy my time off, I find myself ready and excited to get back to work. I put that much more into my job because I don’t feel bogged down.

So, once again with feeling, to all the other overachievers out there, take care of yourselves. Chill out a bit, whatever that means to you.

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Mommy and I in Amsterdam. Enjoying some much needed downtime together!

Frugality is a privilege

I took a little bit of a blogging break to benefit my health. I needed a break from some things. I needed a chance to grieve. But I’m starting to break out of my funk, and blogging really is something I enjoy.

So today I want to talk about frugality as a privilege versus out of necessity. What’s the difference and why does it matter? I’m getting there!

There is a difference between clipping coupons because you want to save a few dollars here and there to add to your vacation fun, and using coupons because you only have $18 to your name and you need to feed your family. It’s glaringly different. I don’t point this out to make anyone feel bad about being frugal, but I think people need to recognize that they experience some amount of privilege if they are being frugal by choice.

I am incredibly lucky in that I was raised in a comfortable home, physically and financially. My family always had enough money, and never wanted for anything. That meant my mom never had to clip coupons, and could pick up whatever she wanted at the store. There was no worry that she couldn’t afford the items in her cart. This allows me to recognize that when I choose to be frugal, it’s not born out of necessity. If I am ever really truly struggling financially, I always have the option of reaching out to family for support. Do I want to do this? Of course not! But they will never let me fall all the way down.

There are many people however, who are not nearly as lucky. Many people really only have $30 in their bank account, and so they are frugal because they have no choice. Why do I point this out? Not to judge or shame anyone. But to bring it to light that we shouldn’t judge anyone for being frugal or not. Each person has the right to choose how they want to spend or save their money. We can be helpful and offer advice, but it’s really not our place to judge.

I think we need to be a more inclusive community. No one is perfect, so let’s not judge others for not doing something “right”. What’s right for you might not be right for me. I try to be frugal with my money because I have 3 rather expensive pets, that require frequent expensive vet visits. So I clip coupons and try to buy the brand name products whenever possible. I don’t eat out often. I don’t buy things I don’t need. I use the library. But all of this, is also born from privilege. It’s a privilege to have these three animals in my life. Not everyone would be able to afford them on a regular basis.

I recognize this is a sensitive subject for many people. So let’s just be kind to one another. Let’s just listen and help one another. You never know what someone is going through.

Lizzi

I don’t even know where to begin. How to I describe losing my best friend? How do I even begin to fathom a life without her?

Yesterday afternoon, my best friend passed away, after fighting cancer for the second time. She was 34 years old. She was too young. I don’t really know where to begin, how to describe to you the ache in my heart. The hole that she left.

I’m going to step away for a bit. I need to take care of myself. My heart is broken. She didn’t deserve this.

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“Snow” day

Today Portland Public Schools, and other nearby school districts, called it a snow-day and the kids were released early. Portland weather can be so finicky. In the morning it seems like it’s going to be nasty but by noon it’s mostly melted, turned to slush. And that’s exactly what happened today. But the schools have to err on the side of caution after the disasters of previous years.

So what did I do for my snow day?

I stayed home, and watched X-Files with my dogs. We had leftovers for breakfast, and generally putzed around. I cleaned (a lot) and it was nice. It was quiet and peaceful and lovely. And the best part? It was free.

Sometimes the best things in life are free, the song said so right? And today was exactly that. I rested, and feel refreshed.

What do you do to enjoy a snow day?

What do you eat?

Let me first say that I’m not going to tell you what to eat. I firmly believe that different individuals eat different diets, and most people know what is the right diet for them. That being said, I think things change. I think people change and sometimes their diets change too.

I have tried many different diets over the years. Not for weight loss, but because of my Crohn’s Disease.I have typically stayed with the low residue diet. Meaning, I mostly eat rice, bread, potatoes, and other foods that are easily digestible. It makes getting the proper nutrients a bit of a challenge, but I am doing what I need to keep my guts happy.

For many years I was a vegetarian, though never have I eaten much meat at all, and I was vegan for a period of time. I have also tried cutting out types of foods (gluten for example) with little to no success.

I always follow my Doctor’s instructions, and will do whatever I need to take care of my health.

Recently, my roommate and I watched the documentary What The Health on Netflix. It was so eye opening and interesting. One of the doctors interviewed was a leading Gastroenterologist. He said that a number of his patients had seen a positive outcome from switching to a plant based (vegan) diet. Cutting out animal products all together (which lead to inflammation) was very helpful to the individuals. I figured, it couldn’t hurt to try, right?

I would have to be very careful, as raw fruits and vegetables are very difficult for me to digest. But I am willing to try. I am willing to see how it goes.

So Rachel and I are each taking baby steps each week to cup out animal products, so that will soon be entirely vegan. We are very excited about our journey and I will keep you updated on our progress.

I will not tell anyone they have to try this diet for themselves. I firmly believe that if I or anyone tells someone they HAVE to do it, they definitely will not. I know that’s how I am. But I do recommend watching the documentary. Educate yourself. It’s very interesting.

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(It may be very boring to some, but this was my  first attempt at a few dishes for us this weekend. On the right is vegan chili which was a big hit! And on the left we have Aloo Matar, an Indian dish of potatoes and peas in a tomato curry sauce. Also very yummy!)

On top of my health reasons, many people go vegan for the cost saving benefits. I will dive into the savings aspect in an upcoming post. So I ask you again, what do you eat?