Tuesday, June 9, 2015

THINK

It's hard when you're feeling pretty good about something, and someone takes the wind out of your sails. It happened to me at work a couple of weeks ago, and then happened again in a situation relating to our home and social life. A friend is working with a contractor who has worked on our condo development, who told her some gossipy details and "horror stories" that made it seem like we need to move pronto. Honestly, I hated hearing it, because the way the condo board handles the shared spaces of the building is outside of my control. And it felt like an exaggeration too. I'm not burying my head in the sand; there are definitely some problems with the buildings, particularly one of them. But the building not being "promising" was just a weird thing for this person to say, and honestly, for my friend to relay to us.

I've heard an awesome saying recently that has totally influenced the way I deal with people. It says to stop and THINK: is this True? Is it Helpful? Is it Inspiring? Is it Necessary? And is it Kind? If  not, chances are, you probably shouldn't say it.

This guideline made me question a lot of the things I read online. I just don't get the same schadenfreude judgy pleasure from reading snark boards as I once did. Mostly they just seem kind of mean now, certainly not necessary or kind. And I'm having trouble gossiping with friends, or discussing work situations with coworkers now too. Am I just getting old? I just feel more empathetic these days to other people's situations, and am realizing that the way people live their lives must be right for them, even if I might make another choice.

I feel good about these changes in myself, but I admit that I still don't have a very thick skin myself when it comes to the judgment of others. I guess that's something I still need to work on.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

June Monthly Goals

June is always a time of readjustment for our family. We go from being a two working parent family to having M at home with the kids full-time. We don’t pay for daycare over the summer, which is fabulous, but we also have a big change in our schedule and routine. Because May was so busy, and our July is going to be extraordinarily busy with a wedding and a work conference back-to-back, I plan to make June all about rest, relaxation, and simplification. Here are our goals for June:

* Automate our weekly daycare payment to go into savings instead. I will set up our bank account to withdraw the same amount weekly that we pay to daycare. If we stick to it, we’ll save a big chunk of change this summer!

* Find free and cheap things to put on our “summer bucket list.” One of my ideas is to visit every park in our school district. The kids love exploring new areas, and who knows, maybe one of these parks will become our new neighborhood next year!

* Quiet our master bedroom. I didn’t do this last month, but I really want to focus on making our master bedroom a decluttered, minimal haven for us to relax.

* Take care of the school’s community garden. One thing we adore about our neighborhood is my eldest’s school. We are participating in the community garden this year, and have signed up for a week in late June to be in charge. I look forward to digging in the dirt, enjoying fresh vegetables, and being part of the community.

* Better anticipate “extras” in our budget, particularly presents and outings. We do have some wedding showers and birthday parties to attend in June, and I need to better incorporate these expenses into our budget. For some reason they always sneak up on me, and they really shouldn’t. I also want to make sure we are as frugal as possible when it comes to these expenses. For the wedding I am in in July, I plan to get my dress altered by someone I know who is extremely affordable, wear shoes I already have, and wear clothing I already have to all the other events instead of buying new outfits.

* Say “no” more. If it doesn’t fit into the budget, if it makes our schedule untenable, or it just doesn’t fit with our values of living a slower, simpler life, I will say no.


* Dent the credit card debt. We saved a lot of money last month, but didn’t pay down any debt. My goal for this year is to do both simultaneously, so I have will make this a higher priority in June. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

May Monthly Recap

I can’t believe May is already almost over! It has flown by, particularly because this time of year is so busy with birthdays, holidays, end-of-year school stuff, and work deadlines.

Each month I will go through how I did on the goals I set at the beginning of the month. If I don’t achieve a goal, I might move it to next month’s goals, which I will write about tomorrow.

My goals for May were:

* Up the amount we are saving monthly. I’ve already changed our automatic savings plan, and the first larger savings payment comes out today. Right now, we are 7.5% of the way to our down payment goal. It is NOT much. But I look forward to watching this number grow.

We did well with this one. By the end of the month we were 21% of the way to our goal, which is awesome! We made a lot more progress than I imagined we would. I upped the amount of money we were putting into savings bi-weekly, and we made a few large payments to the account as well.

* Stick to our budget and live within our means. This one is a bit vague, but this month, I am setting our goal to no eating out for the first two weeks of the month, and only eating out once per week after that until the end of May. I will also stay out of stores during lunch time by walking instead.

This goal was so-so. We only ate out once during the first two weeks in May, and generally cut back on eating out, but we also hosted three parties and had some birthdays, and didn’t budget very well for those expenses. Money was still tight at the end of each pay period.

* Talk to our condo association about the possibility of renting out our condo to family. They are very vague in the bylaws and the actions of the association on rentals. Basically, it is subject to approval. I want to know what our options will be next year. But I’m also really conflict adverse, and despite being on the board (I know!), I really don’t want to deal with the association. I might make M do this one.

We did not accomplish this goal. However, at our annual association meeting it became clear that at least one person is renting to family currently, and there have been others in the past. I think we have leverage, but we have not asked for approval yet.

* Look in to ways to earn extra income. M has a few freelance gigs going, and I am going to look into taking on a few writing jobs.

M has been freelancing still for extra cash, but I have not made any progress toward earning extra income.

* Declutter our master bedroom closet and “quiet” our master bedroom. I’ll go into this “quieting” business later, but basically as an early birthday present this year, I signed up and took the Nester’s Cozy Minimalist decorating course. I totally loved it, and we really made some nice changes to our living room as a result of the class. I loved it so much, I’m going to go through the same process with our master bedroom. I don’t want to fall into the trap of thinking that because we plan to move in “only” a year we shouldn’t work on our space. If we try to sell the condo, we will want it to be looking its best. And it’s always a good idea to pare things down before moving!

We started decluttering our master bedroom closet and under the bed. We haven’t done the official “quieting” yet, however. I just have been too busy right now.

* Host family and friends at our condo. In May we’ll be hosting a family dinner, my son’s 6th birthday party, and an informal gathering of friends for a BBQ. This one should be fun and easy to achieve!

We did this, and it was wonderful! We made a lot of great memories in May in the condo!


So, we did the best in the two goals that mattered most – we saved more money than expected for the house, and we had a great time living in the condo. I found this process really encouraging, and am looking forward to setting my goals for June!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Goal Update - 20%!

I'm back with another goal update. M got a bonus at work, and the entire thing went to the house fund. We're really motivated right now to save, and it's exciting. We've honestly never been this good at saving in our entire lives, and I'm kind of giddy over the change in us. Making it 20% of the way to our goal in the first month we tackled this project is pretty darned good! I don't think we'll be able to maintain this pace through the whole year (we'd reach our goal 6 months early if we could!), but because we won't be paying daycare over the summer, I think we'll be making a lot of progress now, and probably less in the fall and winter.

So, time to fill in more on our floor plan! I want to keep up my excitement and momentum, so I filled in the big living room space. I also filled in the laundry room, because I'm kind of sick of our cramped one in the condo.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Deep Breaths

Our best friends are buying a house. They were just like us - a family stuck in a townhouse that was underwater. They bought in 2005, and truthfully, a lot of the reason I rushed to buy was because they had. I was envious of their townhouse, particularly because from 2005-2006 we lived in a terrible apartment with horrible neighbors, and we wanted O-U-T. We saw our friends enjoying their brand new townhouse, picking out paint colors, buying new furniture, and we wanted that too. So as soon as we could, we went and bought a place. And in hindsight, maybe we didn't think hard enough about that decision.

Now they are no longer underwater, and so are putting their townhome on the market and just had an offer accepted on a big, single family home. I'm totally thrilled for them - I know they really want this and have worked really hard to get here. Of course, I'm envious again too. They're getting to do something that I desperately want.

This time, though, I need to keep my head about me. We need to buy when the time is right for us. And right now, it's not. But in a year, it will be.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about what I really want, and the truth is, I do really want a house. While the condo has been great for us before we had children, and when our children were small, we need a little bit more room to stretch our legs now. We had a fantastic party for my birthday last weekend, and all my friends gathered at our house for pizza and beer. One thing that was tricky was that the kids wanted to play outside, so we ended up with a couple of parents outside in the front of the condo building watching the kids play, while everyone else was upstairs hanging out. It was fine, but I kept thinking of how much easier it would be if we could just open up the door and be in the back yard. Shlepping up and down the stairs to go hang out outside is getting kind of old.

I am learning that it's OK to want a house but still be content in the condo. These two things are not mutually exclusive. And I can still want a house while working toward a more simplified, minimalist lifestyle. I've been so drawn lately to the minimalist movement because it aligns so well with the life we're leading in the condo, and I've consequently started second-guessing whether moving next year makes sense for us. But I think it does. We'll still be able to have a simplified lifestyle, even if we do move into a larger, single family home. Simplicity is more about living intentionally, not buying things just to keep up with others, not working around the clock just so you can buy more things, etc. If we keep our values at the forefront when it comes time to shop for a house and buy something modest that will fit our needs, at a price that fits our budget, I think we will still be living simply. In fact, I hope it will be a way for us live even more simply - by being able to garden, by giving us more space that we will be more inclined to stay home instead of going out, etc.

I struggle a lot with the green-eyed monster, I know. But it's unproductive, and I know this too. I am countering my envious feelings by reminding myself of all I have to be grateful for in my own life, with sincere feelings of happiness for my friends, and by using it as motivation to work all that much harder toward my own goal.

But, it's hard. Deep breaths.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Goal Update - 10%

We're now 12% of the way toward our goal. We can now fill in another area on our floor plan goal tracker. I decided to "buy" the office today because my poor husband needs an office that is inside the house.



I don't think I've mentioned that M set up an office in our condo's storage room, located around the corner from our unit. It is a windowless little room, but it's actually been a decent way for him to get a private office space. And he can close it off and not think about work when he's not working, so it has some advantages. However, sometimes, when he's working late, I go to bed and forget he will need to get back into the house, and lock him out. Like I did last weekend. I found him dozing in his office chair at 3 am. Poor guy.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Friday Randoms

Hello there! I have not written much lately because life has been so busy. In fact, I ended up letting the kids stay home from school and daycare yesterday because they just seemed so out of sorts and tired. We're doing too much, and so I am doing what I can to scale back, although part of it is just powering through this very busy season. Still, I'm learning to recognize where me and the kids need downtime. We need days where we don't leave the house, where we stay in our jammies, watch movies, make spaceships out of cardboard boxes, and go to bed early.

I signed up for The Bloom over at Slow Your Home, mostly because I was so rejuvenated by the Cozy Minimalism course from the Nester, and I wanted to continue to make positive progress in our home. Cozy Minimalism was focused more on decorating, whereas so far, The Bloom's mini courses are more about decluttering and simplifying, but I've so far really enjoyed both.

The other night I decluttered the medicine cabinet and our kitchen utensil drawer. I also organized the kid's stuffed animals (I wish we could declutter those, but S is very opposed to donating any. I need to work on him).

I also got a carpet cleaning machine for my birthday and it is the best present ever! I used it last night and it's fantastic. The carpet looks like it was professionally cleaned. One thing that really stresses me out about our home is our wall-to-wall carpeting. I wish we had hardwood floors, but we live on the second floor, and while I don't think it's prohibited, it wouldn't be the best choice for a family with two rambunctious boys. Having a machine to keep them looking fresher is really going to be a game-changer for me when it comes to my happiness at home, I think.

We're still plugging away at the house savings, while still enjoying things in the condo. S's friend birthday party was an amazing amount of fun, and we even took the kids outside and had part of the party in the condo's side yard. It was lovely. And today I was telling some people about an event at the nature center across the street, and they said, "wow, that sounds like you live in a really cool place." And yeah, I kind of do!