Sunday, March 9, 2014

Getting what you want by doing things you love

We all have things we want and strive to achieve; we all have things that we love with a passion that leaves us so immersed we lose track of time. So, think about the possibilities of actually getting what we want if we used what we love?

To start, you have to know what you really want. For me, I want to make money while still staying home with my kids. I want to be a lot more involved in my church. I want to make wonderful meals for my husband more consistently. I want to get into better shape. I want a cleaner house. I want to homeschool. 

Find the things in your life that you want. Not really need, but want. That trip to Disney. A better car. A better education. Write them down and then think of ways you can achieve them that maybe aren't the normal ways.

Ask yourself “how can I LOVE doing all those things?” Getting to the finish line is usually time consuming, sometimes tedious, often tiring, sometimes unfulfilling. So how can I love striving to achieve what I want? By being intentional.

Figure out what you truly love. Then turn what you love into ways of getting what you want. Take some risks. Be creative. What really makes you tick? What were you doing the last time you got so lost in something you completely lost track of time for several hours? How can you recreate that feeling while achieving something you want?

If need be, hire a babysitter or set aside a few hours so that you can sit down and write out what you really want. Don't get stuck on the little things. Rather, think bigger. A LOT bigger. Because what you want isn't to drink 8 glasses of water, it's to improve your total health. You don't want to spend 30 minutes a day in the Bible, but to have a more intimate relationship with your Heavenly Father.
Now, how can you really love the process of achieving those things? Do you love lemonade more than water? Drink 8 glasses of lemonade per day. How about tea? I love iced tea and could easily drink 8 glasses a day. Or go crazy and have 8 Arnold Palmers every day (for those unfamiliar, it's half lemonade, half iced tea). All the while you're doing something you love and getting something you want.

Do you want to spend more time with God? Do you love seeing God in nature? Instead of feeling guilty you forgot your devotional again, spend 30 minutes praying and reading your Bible while sitting by your favorite tree or feeling the grass between your toes. Or sit at your window and watch the snow fall and really appreciate all the beautiful things God puts on this earth purely for our enjoyment. Or start a garden so you can spend time in nature appreciating God's gifts to us while also improving your total health.

You will find that by intentionally putting yourself in situations of doing something you love, rather than doing what you’ve been told should be done to get what you want, you will wake up with a sense of eagerness and desire. You will intentionally fill your life with achieving what you want and loving it all the way to the finish line.

Of course, if we are to be realistic, then there are some things we want which must be set aside in order to get the things that are most important. We are finite beings and cannot do everything. You will have to let some of your wants go. So, give those wants to God and He can keep them for you for later.

What are the things you want? How can you love doing them?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Simple: Workspace

As a minimalist, I have to change my habits, the way I think, the way I act and the way I live. This might seem like a lot, but consider this: When shouldn't you be changing these things? If you're choosing a better lifestyle, you're choosing to change yourself, your core being, the way you show yourself to the world. Keep in mind, I'm not changing my religion or my character or my foundation, I'm changing my life. I'm still me, just living differently. In this way, by changing my life, I'm reaffirming myself in my religion. Wasn't Jesus a minimalist, after all? His Heavenly Father provided for all his needs, so he had no need for a house, garage and car crammed with stuff. I want to be more like Jesus. I want to trust my Heavenly Father to provide for all my needs and not rely on my stuff to make me happy, to make me feel fulfilled.

I should say that I'm not going to live like a monk with a robe and a cup, but I am going to start living with A LOT less stuff. I would say half as much, maybe less.

I thought that since I just did my filing cabinet, I'd do the rest of my workspace as well. At this very moment, it is what frustrates me the most and I currently own all the supplies I need to fix the problem. So what's the holdup? I made this list before I started the project last night, so I have marked off a few things that I have finished already. Also, in between the picture below and now we have moved to a new rental so the after picture will look a bit different, but it's still the same work space.

As embarrassing as it is, here is a picture of what I started with:

Like I said before, I'm a messy person. But I don't want to be anymore. I don't want to be embarrassed to post a picture of the inside of my house. I don't need to be proud, I just want to be comfortable with people seeing my space.

For this project, I'll follow these steps:

1. Get rid of all trash, shredding and recycling and stage it for proper disposal. I'll make a run to the recycling bins up the road after I've completed all the other steps.

2. Find a picture of what I want my workspace to look like when I'm finished.

Here's what I found:

3. Remove all things that don't belong on my desk and put them where they belong. This includes crackers, baby snacks, a can of spray paint, a bottle opener, a digital scale and some sunglasses among others.

4. Start scanning in paper documents that need to be archived. Recycle or shred when finished. (will be completed as time allows)

5. Empty my bench seat of all unnecessary items and refill.

6. Purge all items from the large filing cabinet that haven't been used or are unnecessary.

7. Purge all out dated files (anything older than 12 months for tracking, and anything other than important personal documents).

9. Remove inbox bin. I will no longer use a bin to corral paperwork that needs to be acted upon. I'm setting the new expectation that I'll take care of the items immediately or leave them front and center on my desk until I do have time, preferably the same day.

10. Update household binder. We keep a household binder with information about how I run our house. This is so my husband knows how to run things if I'm gone and so everything we might possibly need is all contained neatly in one place. It's also a place for me to corral my grocery lists, tracking and coupons.

11. Move the printer into the top section of the filing cabinet. This is to keep it out of sight because I use it maybe once or twice a week so there's no reason to have it so visible. At this point, I'll also move all the accessories for the printer (paper, specialty paper, spare cartridges, etc.) into the same space.

12. Remove all trash, recycling and shredding again and deliver to appropriate bins.

13. Pour a cup of tea and admire your handiwork!

Here is the final result:

Not too shabby, I'd say! It's certainly not magazine-worthy, but it's neat and tidy and organized.

In the wicker basket on the right is all the items I have listed on eBay and any packaging supplies I have on hand. On my desk you'll see the teal plaid edge of our family binder and next to it is my notebook for thinking on paper and a little basket of items I need to put away. Then of course my laptop, mouse and coffee cup. these can be stashed in the storage space inside my bench. In the drawer of my desk I'm keeping my checkbook, camera, glasses, tablets and 'out' basket (any paperwork that needs to leave the house. Right now there's a bill and a stack of mail for the previous tenant). I'm keeping my purse on my bench or on my eBay basket for now until I mount some hooks just inside the front door. Inside my bench is my laptop case, my tripod, and a box of items I need to return via mail.

On top of the filing cabinet is my money jar, my business books, a magazine holder with paper office supplies, a photo box with other office supplies and a photo box with (gasp!) photos in it. The photos are for a future project but I'm collecting them as I unpack so I'm keeping it handy for now. In the upper portion of the cabinet lives my printer, scanner and paper. In the top drawer are my files, user manuals and a box of checks. In the bottom drawer are some random things I'm not ready to get rid of and my CDs. In the lower right portion of the filing cabinet, I'm storing a basket of technology and cables on the top shelf and some curriculum, business archives and a giant manual for my car on the bottom shelf.

Just the fact that I can describe everything that's in or on my desk in two short paragraphs is pretty amazing to me. Previously I couldn't find hardly anything, didn't want to put things away because it was difficult and had way too much stuff for the space. I do have another box of items that need to be fit in the space but the the good news is there is room! And if there isn't, something will have to be purged.

Now if only I could keep it clean...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Simple: Files

Yesterday was a day to get stuff done. I crossed off almost half my list (quite a feat, let me tell you!), got the baby through the day alive and only forgot one appointment. The icing on the cake happened in the late evening when the simplicity bug bit me really hard. Right on the filing cabinet. So I opened up the drawers and started purging.

First I purged old bills and bank statements. Then old school files. Then papers we'd been keeping around since the 90s. Yeah, I know... I'm still wearing shame on my face. 

As I purged, I started building on my existing system for keeping the papers I wanted to keep. Rather than putting everything in the filing cabinet, I am keeping a house binder. This is a brilliant creation and many variations are available on the internet. My binder is a combination of several different ideas.I made sure to buy a pretty binder with matching pencil pocket, folders and sorting tabs. You could probably put one of these together with the things you already own, but I like things to be pretty and since this binder would probably be kept out in the open, I wanted to make sure it was nice to look at. Also because I often grab the mondo thing and take it to the grocery store with me so I have all my grocery info. I may eventually make another binder just for groceries and budgets, but for now it's working reasonably well.

Once all the purging was done, I am keeping a 3" binder , a 1.5" binder and a few hanging folders. The drawer is now about 1/4 full of files. Previously, I kept everything in a hodge-podge mess of hanging folders in the two drawers of the filing cabinet so tightly crammed in there I never wanted to put a document away because I couldn't get it in. Now I keep my binder on my desk or very close to it and as soon as I have a document to file, I hole punch it and put it away. No mess, no fuss. As another positive to this, I no longer have an inbox. I am motivated to keep up with my paper clutter because it looks a lot better in my pretty binder than in a tray on my desk.

In the large binder, I keep a pocket for writing implements, all my active documents (budgets, grocery lists, etc), informational documents (personal, emergency and babysitter), our insurance policies (auto and renter's), "Fire Safe" documents (birth certificates, social security cards, marriage license, etc), medical records and expenses, car registrations and titles, car maintenance record, investment portfolio, rental lease, credit reports, important documents & receipts for guns and jewelry, tax documentation, and school transcripts.

In the 1.5" binder, I keep 12 months of bills, bank statements and pay stubs. This is stored in one drawer with the folders where I keep 7 years of tax archives, our will and long term storage. In the same drawer, I also keep all the user manuals for our equipment in a photo box.

I now have an empty drawer in my filing cabinet! Here's a photo for proof:
Of course, it won't stay empty for long. I have been storing some things on top of the filing cabinet for some time and now they have a home out of sight!

Very soon my goal is to not need a filing cabinet at all, but unfortunately that is a long process and a big adjustment. I am not ready to go paperless, but I'm working toward that goal.

What are you keeping in your filing cabinet? How would you like your system to look?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Simple: Makeup

We all have routines we follow. Some of us are more structured, and some of us are spontaneous. Either way, we each tend to wash, rinse, and repeat our daily routines.

Something most women do every day is apply makeup, or at the very least care for their face. (If you're not, you should be!) Cosmetics are one of those things that women collect a lot of. I used to, but since I've been on a journey to live a more contented and intentional life, I have purged the excess and simplified my daily routine. If you're looking to do the same, I have some tips for you:

  • First, shop what you have. Chances are good that everything in your cupboard matches or almost matches your skin tone and type. Figure out what you have that you like and get rid of the rest. Throw away anything that's old or used (I know it's hard, but get over it. You'll feel better when it's gone). Donate anything that is barely used to a women's shelter or to a friend.
  • Once you simplify what you have, start trying stuff on. As you try colors and shades on, decide if they're right for you. If not, toss 'em. If so, keep 'em. 
  • As you remove things from your menagerie, find a makeup bag you like and use that as a boundary. You can only have as much stuff as can fit in the bag. Don't cheat this one by getting the biggest makeup bag you can find. Get one that would easily fit in your carry on or your purse for traveling.
  • If you like one color in a palette but don't like the idea of wasting the other colors, take the palette with you to the drug store or department store and see if you can match it with a single shade. Chances are pretty good you'll be able to find something very similar. 
  • If you find you're missing something in your routine, go buy it. But first, research the brands. There are a few databases online that show the toxicity of the ingredients of cosmetic brands and others that talk about the ethical (or not-so-ethical) manufacturing methods companies use. (I personally love Arbonne.)
  • Don't be afraid to spend a lot on a good product (but maybe not every product). I spent $26 on my primer and $24 on my mascara. It was worth it. To balance that, I found a foundation and translucent powder I really like for $3 each.

First off, I don't scrub my face every day. I wash with a sensitive skin cleanser and facial scrubbie in the shower twice a week. When I get out of the shower, I use a moisturizer with SPF 15. If I'm not planning on doing any other makeup but want a little coverage, I'll use a tinted moisturizer with SPF 15.

I don't take showers every day (I promise I don't smell), so on the days I don't shower I use moistened facial wipes before applying makeup. It's very important to start with a clean face so your makeup stays put longer. I also don't throw the cloth in the trash right away, but use the back to wipe my makeup brushes clean after I use them. 

For my actual makeup routine, I start with a primer, then apply foundation with a foundation brush under my eyes, along the sides of my nose and my upper lip. Blend really well outward to make sure there are no demarcation lines. I don't cover my whole face because I don't feel I need to, but I do have dark circles and just wearing concealer is too obvious. 

Once my foundation is in place, I cover everything with a translucent powder. This sets the foundation and removes shine. As you can probably already tell by it's name, it has very little pigment and is extremely light on my skin. I follow with a tiny bit of blush just on the apples of my cheeks in a really subtle shade of pink.

Then, for my eyes, I'll wear a light layer of mauve eye shadow, a thin line of black liner just over the outside half of my upper lid (giving the effect of longer, fuller lashes), and a coat of black mascara on my upper lashes.

I have what my mother has always called 'voluptuous lips' so I only wear balm (for a more matte look) or lanolin (for a more glossy shine) on my lips and call it done!

Here's a list of all the products I use:

  • Moisturizer with SPF 15
  • Tinted moisturizer with SPF 15
  • Facial cleansing cloths
  • Primer
  • Foundation (and foundation brush)
  • Translucent powder (and Kabuki brush)
  • Blush (applied with Kabuki brush)
  • Mauve and shimmery white eye shadows (eye shadow brush)
  • Cream eye liner (eye liner brush, angled brush)
  • Mascara
  • Lip balm/lanolin
  • Tinted lip gloss

If I want to make my look more for nighttime or more glamorous, I line my whole upper lash line with a thicker line (maybe ending with a little wing) and the outside half my bottom lash line. Then I'll wear more layers of eye shadow with a small amount along my lower lash line and use a highlighting shade along my brow and in the inside corner of my eyes, and finish off with a tinted lip gloss. Because all my colors match my skin tone, I don't feel the need to change my eye shadow or lip color to match my outfit or mood. It's amazing the different looks you can make with all the same products you use daily.

I didn't share specific products or colors because, honestly, it probably wouldn't be useful to you anyways. It took me a long time to find just the right products for my skin type and coloring. That takes a lot of wasted money and energy, but when you find just the right shade of whatever, you'll be glad you spent the time. 

What's your morning makeup routine and how would you simplify it?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Moving on the Cheap

First off, to my readers, I apologize.
I know its bad form to start correspondence with an apology, but I feel I should just throw it out there right away so you know I haven't forgotten you. I have found that I often wonder about the blogability of a moment frequently throughout the days, yet I never actually blog about them. For that, I am sorry. Not that I want my blog to become a minute by minute update of everything that's happening in my life (there are plenty of ways to do that these days... ahem FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagrametc...) but I still want to share my ideas with you and hear your feedback.
I haven't posted I the last few weeks because we have been moving. And I'll tell ya what, moving with a 1 year old ain't easy. Fortunately (also unfortunately) he takes long naps so I have lots of time in the house to pack\unpack (and not much time to do out-of-house errands). Besides that challenge, no matter how cheaply you try to move, it always ends up being really expensive. Here's how we did it as cheaply as possible.
We moved everything ourselves with our truck and trailer. Granted this takes a lot of time and late nights, so if you're on a strict schedule this may not work for you, but if you can swing it, the cost of gas for an in-city move is considerably less expensive than renting a truck, albeit more inconvenient. So far we have used one extra tank of gas, costing us $60.
We got free boxes and packing materials. I searched Craigslist for a day or two until I found a big enough bunch of boxes for free, with packing paper and wardrobe boxes to boot.
We enlisted friends for help. Not many people like to actually help you move, but I got several days of free childcare and we are storing a few things in a friend's extra garage. I also swapped childcare with another friend and in return she helped me clean my old apartment. Be creative when asking your friends for help.
We traded furniture we were going to sell for carpet cleaning. That worked out wonderfully, I had a futon couch and a kitchen table I was going to sell, but the family who runs the carpet cleaning business said their couch AND table had broken recently and they were looking for replacements! The original bid was $233, but after some talking and trading, my carpets got cleaned for only $75! I also sold my other couch and bought a much nicer futon for the same price, so I still have an extra bed and a couch AND its way more comfortable than the last one.
Sell off your excess. I was hoping to have this mostly done by the time we moved, but sadly I still have a mountain of stuff to sell. Since the move, I have sold 4 things netting about $40.
If you need to purchase something, shop sales. We needed storage bins for the things we're storing off site, and since it's the first of the year, storage and organization items are on really good sales. I got 14 sturdy bins for $90, about 45% off. Turns out we really did need that many! Unfortunately the curtains I needed were not on sale, so that was a whopping $150 out the window. Literally. Though in reality, because its an old house with single pane windows and its January in Montana, the curtains were a necessity. I'll probably save that much on my heating bills throughout the rest of the winter so it was really worth it.
Plan for the unexpected. I know this is a tough one, because what could possibly go wrong... Well, a flat tire on the truck (could be $400 for new tires), the previous tenant cut the pipes to the washer ($15 per trip to the laundromat), both cars needed new batteries since we no longer have covered parking ($230), none of the plugs are grounded ($15 for adapters), the aforementioned previously unnecessary curtains ($150), we got a new kitchen table since the last one didn't fit ($50), disposable diapers and wipes for convenience ($25), cleaning supplies ($15), eating out ($25ish), the list could go on, but I'll stop there.
So you can see that while moving on the cheap is possible, my advice would be to budget twice as much as you're expecting to spend because you never know. For instance, we were planning to move for about $300, and it turned out to be almost double if you don't count the replacement tires since that is bound to happen anyways.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Simple: Christmas

My family Christmases have always been pretty simple, family focused affairs. When I married my husband, it was a little more tricky. We now had two families to visit... but since everyone was pretty close, we made it work fairly easy. Then we moved to Montana which is two states away. If that wasn't enough, we had our first child on Christmas day last year. Needless to say, our Christmases have gotten quite a bit more complicated.
Oh, and did I mention my extended family lives in Florida? Yeah, I just kicked that up a notch.

This year is the first year we're trying to figure out a long-distance Christmas/birthday.
We're going home for two weeks over Christmas and New Year’s Day, so we will have plenty of time to spend with family and see some friends. Also, we're bringing our dog, just to make it that much more complicated.

Our holidays will look somewhat like this:

Christmas Eve morning/day spent with my parents. Call/Skype my family in Florida.
Christmas Eve evening spent with my husband's extended family.
Christmas Day morning spent with my in-laws.
Christmas Day dinner at 2pm with my parents and my in-laws.
Nels' birthday celebration with cake & presents after Christmas dinner.
New Year’s Eve is up for grabs, we'll wait to see what other people are doing and decide how we'd like to participate. We kicked it low-key with our friends while the babies slept in the back room. It was just my kind of celebrating.

In addition to the celebrations, I am also making and sending gifts to my extended family, making gifts for several of my friends' kids and for a few of my closest girlfriends. In all, I have 10 kid gifts, 3 gifts for friends, gifts for my parents, my in-laws, my brother and sister-in-law, my husband's sister and her husband (I just settled with sending them a baby gift since they are expecting early next year), my husbands second sister (who loves books), and a box of homemade goodies and a photo book for my Florida family. And most all of it will be homemade.

Seems complicated, right? It's getting more so every year. These are a few things I do to simplify.
I wrap all my gifts with brown package paper (I bought a large roll off Amazon for $8 three years ago and I still have enough left for this year and part of next year) and I buy one multi-pack of ribbon (for about $5) to embellish. I don't use tags, I just write who it's to on the wrapping paper with a marker. My only supplies for wrapping gifts is one roll of paper, one spool of ribbon, scissors, a marker and tape.

I use Amazon wish lists, especially for my sisters-in-law and brother. I don't get really hung up on surprising people. I know they like to get gifts, and most of the time it doesn't really matter if it's a surprise or not. Call me cruel, but I often don't buy my husband a gift. He is really hard to buy for and if I can't find something he'll really use or love, I just write him a really nice (aka sexy) card and call it good. Disclaimer: I forgot the card this year… Sorry, babe.

I make gifts for my friends' kids, mostly. This year I'm making caramel corn to give to my adult friends in a pretty canister (aka recycled formula can wrapped and tied with a bow). My best friend and I agreed to give each other an experience instead of a gift. I'd like to do this a lot more next year. We ended up making sugar cookies with her two year old while the younger babies slept. It was really fun and I felt really special being a part of her long time family tradition.

I let other people cook for me. I'm fortunate that I have two mothers willing to cook amazing dinners and I don't have to lift a finger if I don't want to. Of course I always try to help with cleanup, but even that's optional. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner last year, just because I had never before cooked a holiday dinner and it seemed the thing to do on our first major holiday away from family. I don't know what I was thinking cooking for 6 hours while 8 months pregnant and severe nerve pain in my hips. I did most of the cooking from a computer chair. It turned out delicious anyways.
And now, for the big shocking plot twist: I don't decorate my house for the holidays. I have one stocking that I bought for Nels hanging on the coat closet door, but that's it, folks. No tinsel, no lights. Not even a Christmas tree. I do kind of want to decorate, but the reality is we'll be gone for Christmas so I would just have a lot more work to do when we got home. And if I want Christmas cheer, I go to my friends' beautifully decorated houses. I have to say this is the biggest stress saver for me. It won't be this way every year, so don't fear little elves, but for now this is just the way it is going to be.

And lastly, I always remind myself why we're celebrating in the first place. If your focus is on perfectly decorating the house and perfectly wrapping the perfect gifts, you are way off the mark. Even if you settle for imperfect decorations and imperfect gifts. That is not what this holiday is about. We are celebrating the birth of the most important man in the history of history. The birth of our Savior, the beginning of the greatest story ever told. Don't lose sight of the importance of the birth of Christ. All the presents and Christmas trees and Christmas hams and Polar Expresses in the world don't add up to a single drop in the ocean of His sacrifice and love and He deserves a lot more of our attention than we give Him.
Be generous. Spend a good part of your holiday this year praising the one who gave his life for you. Make a meal for someone else's family who can't afford it, or better yet, invite them to your house to share in your bounty. There is more than enough food on most tables to serve twice the people than are in attendance.
Be radical. Give all your gifts to a family who really needs some cheer in their holiday. Spend your whole Christmas budget on people who need to witness the love of Christ on this earth in a tangible way. Remember Christ came not to call the righteous, but to save sinners (Luke 5:32).

Be in prayer. Never forget we have a direct line of communication to Jesus, anytime, anywhere. You don't even have to bow your head or close your eyes. He loves to hear us and He's always listening.

What do you do to simplify the holidays?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

My quest for simpler living

Today, it begins.

All my hours of research and seeking inspiration are finally bearing fruit.

I am officially a minimalist. A rational minimalist to be exact.

I am tired of having piles of clutter around my house. I am tired of stepping over my purse and a box of random stuff to sit at my desk. I am tired of not being able to use my desk because the piles of who knows what multiply and expand and cover it edge to edge. I want to have dinner with my family or sip a cup of tea with a friend or read a good book at the kitchen table without having to clear 50 lbs of clutter. I want my bedroom to be a sanctuary of rest, not a catch-all for everything I want to keep out of my kid’s reach. I want to quit having to use and store baby gates to keep my kid away from the more cluttery parts of my house.

That's a lot to want, but as they say: minimalism is thinking big and being happy. The way I see it, I've lived 28 years, 2 months and 24 days old being someone I’m not. I didn't know it, but I've been in the closet all these years. No more.

I've always been known as a pack rat, a collector of things, a messy person. Not filthy, just messy. My mom and dad always used to joke about how I would cut up a piece of paper into miniscule bits and store them in an envelope in a bag in a box in a bigger box. And it was true. I liked my things. I liked making things; I liked keeping them in bags and boxes. My natural habitat was one so covered with things that it was generally inaccessible, unless you knew the route. It must have been some deeply rooted instinct to keep predators at bay. If they couldn't reach me, then they couldn’t hurt me.

But no more. Today, I'm setting myself free from clutter. I’m setting myself and my family free from over stuffed closets, from unusable surfaces, from weekends and late nights spent organizing stuff. This is freedom from over consumption and going over budget. I'm getting free from all the little bits and bobs of things I've stored over the years but never used. This is it; I have decided. It'll be a long road, and I've taken a few baby steps, but I have a long ways to go yet.

Would you like to come with me? If you could minimize your house, what would it look like? Where would you start?