This Is Progress

Good morning, Dear Reader. It. Is. Friday. And I don’t know if you can tell from how I typed that, but I. Am. Ready. I’ve got three books, and I can’t wait to cuddle up in an armchair with a little swig of Eagle Rare or Jefferson Reserve over one colossal ice cube with the likes of these smutty ‘romance’ tales. Before we get started…I need some recommendations: What are you reading, and is it worth it? Because my TBR pile is dwindling, and I’m in the market for some freshly pressed smut.

Anywho…today, I’ve been feeling a bit out of sorts. June isn’t a fun month for me. I don’t know if it’s because my late brother’s birthday is the 22nd or because the one-year anniversary of losing my friend, Bill, is right around the corner, but it’s stirring up a little sadness. Plus, the full moon is Tuesday, and ‘they’ say it will be a doozy. (Who the fuck are ‘they’ anyway? I mean, really?)

I’ve been in my head a lot this week. I was thinking back to the disaster that was my life in 2019. I’m facing another week-long vacation from my kiddo as he goes to hang out with his other half of DNA, and I’m itching to get out of town. In 2020 I did this and headed to Florida. It was nine glorious days with zero schedule or responsibilities. I’m headed north this time, though, through Iowa and Minnesota. I’m trying out the Subie and will be camping along the way. Too hot in Florida for that business, that’s for sure. Fingers crossed. If the blog just up and goes dark, you’ll know I was murdered in cow country or kidnapped while trying to order tapioca.

What has been on my mind, you ask. Well. Let’s dive in.

Grab a drink. Settle in. I’m sharing the three things that are no longer the same as they were just two years ago.

1) I care less about you and care more about me. I know that sounds really horrid, but stick with me here. I was so far out of touch with what I needed in my life, from the food I wanted to eat to the places I wanted to rest my head at night, that I was a walking zombie. Really. I can barely remember 2017-2020. If you are one of those people who doesn’t believe in trauma responses, then, um…I need you to unsubscribe. Because trauma is real, people’s ways of coping with it are unconventional. Add a global pandemic and world economic disaster to the mix, and well, let’s just say there’s a good reason I switched from wine to whiskey. But, alas, no more. I come first. Repeat that in your head until you believe it: I. Come. First.

2) I’m okay with mediocre. I’m an overachiever. I always have been until this year. While I’m not okay with the status quo, I don’t need everything to be ‘epic’ to feel satisfied. To paraphrase Mitch Rossell: I’ve never been to Venice or danced under the Paris lights. I’ve never seen Willie Nelson live. But that’s alright. And honestly…it is okay. I’m just as happy curled up in an armchair rereading “One Day In December” sipping a mid-shelf bottle of Chardonnay as I am galivanting all over the world. In fact, I’m probably happier with the former, if I’m being candid.


3) I ask for help. Okay. Before anyone calls me out on this…I am better at asking for help – I’m not great at it. But progress is progress, and I’ve leaned on more than one friend over the last twelve months to get me to where I am. One gave me a really great job which boosted my confidence. One insisted I buy some perfume and skirts. One suggested I start taking Vitamin D3 with K2 and magnesium. Help is help, right? All of those things have been good for me. But my favorite: To the person who suggested I start watching Yellowstone. You are my hero.

Today’s post is short because I want to leave you with some questions and, of course, with your song (go on…click that link. You’ll like that song. It pairs nicely with a crisp Reisling and while I’m not really a sweet wine fan, I can support it this one time).

So…riddle me this:

1) Are you putting so many people ahead of your own needs? If so, why? And how can you ease up on that a bit?
2) Are you ‘trying’ too hard? I was. I gave up all volunteer roles, and ‘downsized’ my career a bit. Where can you adjust back to ‘mediocre’ and still be happy?
3) Are you asking for help? We lost several good humans to suicide in May (Mental Health Awareness Month, nonetheless). Don’t let life get to you. I’m always here and my patio is always open for a pour. Come on over and chat.

If you liked this post, feel free to share on all the socials. Please and thank you.

PS…I don’t think my life is ‘mediocre’ at all. To put this post in context, I invite you to read this post about living a mediocre life. It’s not at all what you think it might be.

A Poorly Managed F*ck Budget

Good evening, Dear Reader. The quintessential Missouri summer has arrived, and my disdain for soupy air is suitable. It’s been so muggy out that even my cat is, like, “Yeah, um, no” opting to stay inside instead of killing moles. And this isn’t even hot weather. Can’t wait for July. And yes, in case you were wondering. That was sarcasm.

As I mentioned last post, I wondered if this – this writing thing – was something I could continue doing knowing only a few folks were reading. I decided to put out a ‘fleece’. For those not familiar with a ‘fleece’ in this context – it’s essentially a test of the Universe. Mine was simple: If I get twelve visitors, I’ll stay. So…here we are. You and I. Whiskey lovers and foul-mouthed friends, indeed, right?

My nine-year-old keeps telling me that fame and fortune come from having a YouTube channel, and while fame and fortune isn’t the end goal, I’ve been pondering this. WordPress also has a plug-in that can turn any blog into a podcast, and we all know how I loves me sum good podcasts. Of course, this would require me to have some kind of theme, and at the moment, I feel as though I’ve done an excellent job this year honing in on three specific topics: Being smart with money, reducing clutter, and being a somewhat responsible minimalist.

Um. Or not.

Speaking of that…gosh. The sale of this house has led me to realize that I absolutely suck at keeping purchases at bay. I have taken so much crap to the DAV Thrift Store over the last week, and I’m not yet done. Again, I ask you, how many magic markers does a grown woman need? My child has fewer toys than I do. And the number of weird kitchen gadgets? God. Where did these come from? I finally gave up and rehomed my Instapot. And what’s with this bread maker that found its way into my space when I am not really eating bread anymore? Sigh. Goofy, really.

Honestly? When something is missing in your life – and you can’t quite put your finger on what it is – it can be easy to try to fill the void. So last week, after my third trip to the donation center, at the stoplight by my favorite grocery store and Pineapple Whip, I asked myself: What the hell has been going on with you, Girl? The answer?

Grab a drink. Settle in. You’re gonna wanna hear this.

With every box I delivered, I felt freer. But I also questioned those other emotions bubbling to the surface (hello, INTJ much?). I felt something, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. But then, right after dropping off box number eight, it was there – like a redneck at a fried food stand at a carnival – halter top and all…

Shame.

Shame in all sorts of shapes and sizes. As I handed off some pretty good shit to the teenager doing community service, I realized every bit of that box represented a total failure in managing my fuck budget. (Not sure what a fuck budget is? Click here.) All. This. Money. Wasted. And not just money…the time I wasted at work to pay for it. And the energy I’ve expended to maintain it. I could have spent time, money, and energy on an experience with my child. Time, money, and energy could have been spent building my own home, writing my book, or becoming healthy. Time, money, and energy spent could have allowed me to move to the coast and buy a corner bar where I serve good wine and halfway decent whiskey with tapas to underdressed vacationers. (Yeah, I dream of this life.)

So why? Why did I waste all this time, money, and energy? What happened? I think it’s what happens to most of us, if we are honest with ourselves…

Sigh.

Because I could.

Let’s explore further, shall we?

  1. My income increased this year. But I hung onto the scarcity mentality. Most people, when their income increases, spend more and I was no exception. However, I had been living paycheck to paycheck for so long, that the scarcity mentality had crept into my headspace, and was living there rent-free. I was buying used items at thrift stores that I really didn’t love but thought I needed and hanging on to other things ‘just in case’. For the record, ‘just in case’ rarely happens.
  2. I gained the COVID-20. I wasn’t happy with my body, and when momma ain’t happy, she shops. There were other things, too. I was in a relationship that wasn’t healthy. I was in a job that was unhealthy. I lived in a home with a relative that brought all my triggers to the surface – again, unhealthy. It was a trifecta, I guess. So, I’ve changed my eating habits, I’m getting more rest, and moving my body in a way that works for me. I’m no longer tolerating unhealthy relationships in any form or shape, and I’m setting boundaries. I’m settling into work I enjoy, and I’m relocating. (Fortunately, my new fella doesn’t mind a thick gal, so that pressure is off. These changes are for me.)
  3. I wasn’t mindful. Mindfulness teaches us to be responsible for our feelings and intentions and to be present. I’ve volunteered a lot, worked on fixing the house, and spent many hours simply doomscrolling. I have not, however, been mindful. So, back to my roots. Back to some meditation and breath work. Back to making intentional decisions. Back to protecting my time, my energy, and my money. Essentially, back to managing the Fuck Budget.

So, what about you? Do you look around and see some misplaced emotions? Are you filling voids with people, items, or activities that are not good for your soul? What can you do to combat these things? For me, being intentional is…well…intentional. (I don’t know how else to explain that. Sometimes, as a writer, I’m amazed by how badly I can explain these things.)

For what it is worth, May is Mental Health Awareness Month so here’s your song for the weekend. Keep swimming, kids. Just keep going.

Also, if you are reading this, feel free to share out on all the socials. And, also also [sic]…my fiction writing is moving to another site. So, I will keep you in the loop. (Hint: Pseudonym).

All the best, Lovely Reader. I wish you peace. I wish you joy. I wish you…above all else…love. For love is the greatest of them all.

Seven Tips To Declutter

Good morning, dear Reader! The weather this week is particularly fantastic here in the Ozarks. I wanted to get out with my super-awesome electric mower to make the front yard look spiffy but I got lazy. Again, I’m living amongst boxes, which can be overwhelming for a person who likes organization. The outdoors proves to be a safe haven from the chaos, so I took advantage of the weather and retreated outside as much as possible – but not by doing yard work.

I sit here with no plan today; I think I should go back to my roots and write about living a simpler life. I’m being extremely selective on what I’m packing this time around, and I’m not taking everything. I mean, I rarely take ‘everything’ when I move, but I’m really not taking everything this time. I’m wiping the slate clean and only taking those items I find useful and beautiful…which means my Instapot is not coming. I get it; some of you may have consumed the Instapot Kool-Aid. I, however, have not. So, yeah. Does anyone want an Instapot? And, while we are at it…out goes the bread maker, the extra sleeping bag, and the twelve-piece drinkware set. Jeez. I don’t even like twelve people, so why would I have twelve glasses? That just invites trouble.

Nevertheless, if you are so inclined, I thought I’d share how I’m deciding whether or not something goes to my next home. I do my best to declutter regularly and try to limit the items that come home with me in the first place. But, I’ll admit, amidst the pandemic, I’ve spent more time at home with my trigger-happy ‘add to cart’ fingers and 5% cash-back Amazon Store card, so I’ve seen an influx of unnecessary items (and debt). But, now that things are settling down a bit, maybe I can get back on track.

So, grab a drink. Settle in. I’m going to share with you my seven tips to decide whether something goes to Goodwill or not. It is Spring, after all. This is an excellent time to donate items or hold a rubbish sale – or garage sale, tag sale, yard sale…whatever you call it in your state/country. (What do you call it anyway? Comment below.)

Let’s go, shall we?

1) Am I saving this ‘just in case’? I don’t know why I hoard glass jars, but I do. I always think I’ll need them ‘just in case’. I prefer glass to plastic and they do come in handy because I buy a lot of food in bulk. I also like to give food away to friends – which absolves them from feeling like they need to return the empty container. So, besides my glass jar fetish, this ‘just in case’ business is for the birds. Just in case of what exactly? Do some research on what you actually need, just in case, and I promise you…it isn’t that remote from the VCR you no longer own or that weird egg slicer thingy.

2) Do I have duplicates of this item? Somehow I ended up with two huge glass mixing bowls. Also, I have a gazillion screwdrivers and three rakes. Not sure how or when that happened. Sigh. Anyway, duplicates usually show up when you have that ‘just in case’ mentality because you see something you like, buy it, and don’t get rid of the one it replaced. So, pull the trigger. I’m not kidding when I tell you I only have one skillet. It’s true. I only have one skillet.

3) Is this something I have worn in the last year? Piece by piece, I’m building a capsule wardrobe because research shows that we wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time. If you don’t believe me, walk into your closet, employ the reverse hanger trick. When you wear something over the next six months, hang it back up correctly. In September (six months from now), go back in and look. Donate everything on a ‘backward’ hanger to charity. You didn’t wear it. You don’t need it. The only exception is that one outfit that is your “funeral outfit”, but for me, my funeral outfit is also my hot date outfit because it’s my little black dress. Not sure what that says about my personality, but there you have it.

4) Can I borrow this item if I really need to? Newsflash: Every person on the planet has a beverage cooler. So, I don’t need three of them. I’ve always been able to borrow a cooler and folding chairs and crockpots. (And probably an Instapot if I ever got the itch again, which I doubt will ever happen). If you are local, check out this Tool Library. I have an annual membership, and I’ve borrowed things like table saws, sawhorses, and leaf blowers. And, they are about to get a few donations of screwdrivers and rakes, so, lucky you.

5) Do I have space to store this? I don’t like stuff piling up in my garage so I recently rented a small storage facility to the tune of $50 a month. But, in going through it this week, I found myself with many camping cooking utensils – that I no longer need or want. The most ‘high maintenance’ thing I do while camping is making coffee in my french press. I’m more of the cheese and sausage and granola bar camper. I don’t like to cook while I’m home so imagine me out in the wild. I plan to cancel that storage facility once I get settled, store only what I need in my shed, and park in my garage without all the camping crap around me. Yay!

6) Am I keeping this out of obligation or guilt? Frankly, I don’t struggle with this too much, but you might. Over the last few years, I’ve made it clear to so many that experiences mean more to me than stuff. (I now get a lot of wine and whiskey on special occasions. Yay, me!) Additionally, I have zero child ‘art projects’. Yeah. Zero. When he brings home something cool he made in school, I snap a photo of it, and then…(gasp)…I chuck it. I may not win mother of the year, but I think that ship sailed long before I started throwing away his art projects. Amiright?

7) Do I love it? I have one pair of earrings I rarely wear, but they take up zero space and they are special to me. I have some gloves that belonged to my friend, Bill, who has passed away last year. My friend, Machell, has given me four beautifully crafted quilts she made with her own talented hands. Of course, I will keep all of those things. If you love something, you should keep it, no matter what. Just because I try to live simply doesn’t mean I’m not sentimental. I am just selective.

Hopefully, this gets you started on your garage, closet, or backyard shed. As always, I’m going to leave you with a song that fits a bit with today’s post. I’m feeling restless and I tend to declutter a lot when that happens. I find that the less I own, the less that owns me – which frees up a lot of time and energy to travel and do what I love. I just got back from New England, but I’ve been looking at camping equipment – and feeling the itch to get away again. It’s not a good combination – lol. Plus, the song is catchy. If you plan to clean this weekend, check out this ‘Good Vibrations 2022‘ playlist on my Spotify.

Until next time…bottoms up!

Show Me The Money 2

Good evening, Dear Reader. And it is…a good evening, right? You slept in a bed under a roof. You could have had breakfast, or maybe you actually did. You put on clean clothes – maybe. You picked up your phone or logged into some device to read this. In other words, you had choices, and that’s my point. If you have a job that pays (in the U.S.A.) $17+ an hour, you are making a living wage. If you have a running vehicle, a place to live, and food in your belly, you have more than 80% of the 7+Billion people on the planet. Stop being such a sourpuss.

We are continuing our Things To Let Go Of series, kicking off the new year with Bad Money Habits. If you want to go back to the beginning, click here. We started off with hitting on debt reduction and honestly, to recap, reducing debt (in theory) is simple. Reduce expenses, increase revenue. Don’t accumulate any more debt until you comfortably can pay for it. I say it is simple in theory because it really is nothing more than basic math. But, most of us got into debt or can’t save effectively because of our thoughts, feelings, and experiences surrounding money in the first place. I don’t have time to address that today – the entire first part of my blogging back in 2011-2015 was about getting out of the consumer mindset. You can go back to those, or really…watch this documentary and start reading my favorite blogger, Joshua Becker from start to present. I, literally, can not thank this man enough for getting me on my road to rational minimalism.

Managing money is easy. Managing our emotions about money is…well…a bit more complicated.

But. As promised…I’m moving into my ‘how to’ guide for raising your credit score. Grab a drink and settle in. I’m going to tell you how I raised mine from 480 to 720 in a little over 2 years.

  1. Get your reports. You are entitled to one free credit report from all three agencies one time a year. To monitor for identity theft or weird things on my credit, I don’t get all three of mine at once. I order TransUnion in January, Experian in April, and Equifax in November. That way, if something odd happens to appear, I’m not waiting an entire year to find out. I also subscribe to Credit Karma (and I look at that thing once a day, sometimes two because I’m a bit retentive.) Go on…put it on your calendar with a yearly reminder. Then mosey on over to this site and get your free report. Once you have your report, you’ll be able to list all your debt and decide what debt storm to use as I mentioned here to pay it off. You will also look for things that do not belong to you. I found a collection from Go Daddy on mine and I was able to dispute it (you can easily do this yourself, do not pay someone to do it for you) and start working with your creditors to move payment dates or to lower your interest. I recommend checking out this site for more detailed information.
  2. On-time, every time. I mentioned this in my last post, but I can not stress this enough. Late payments are a detriment to your score. A late payment on your mortgage can put a ding there that leaves quite a scar for a bit. If your payments fall in odd places (like three payments due on the 13th, but you don’t get paid until the 15th), then call your creditors and ask them if they will move your payment to another day (like the 16th, in this example). Some of them will. If they won’t, then sell a bunch of crap you no longer need or get a second job and put a month’s worth of living expenses into your account so, essentially, you are ‘ahead’ in the math game.
  3. Join a credit union with a ‘credit builder’ program. If you are local to SW Missouri (417-Land) I recommend this one or this one. Why a credit union (CU)? CUs are nonprofit organizations and many of them have financial literacy (financial wellness) programs to help people restore their credit. If yours does, then get on a first-name basis with the person in charge of that program. Use every resource and every piece of advice they give you. I mean, I like Dave Ramsey – I’ve seen him live and I agree with a lot of his methods – but I don’t idolize him. And I don’t follow 80% of his advice. So, if you drink his kool-aid…then you’re not gonna like the rest of what I’m going to tell you. 
  4. Get a ‘Secured Credit Card’ (SCC). Remember my ’emergency fund’ I mentioned last time? I took my emergency fund and applied for an SCC with it. An SCC is just that…secured. This means you have to give them YOUR money to ‘secure’ that card. I don’t have space to explain it, but you can read about it here. So. I got my SCC with my $1500 and it DOES function as my emergency fund 99.9% of the time. The other part of the time? I use it wisely to play a game. I use it to buy gas and pay for anything I buy online. NOW…I don’t buy things I don’t already have the money for – I just use the SCC because it is more secure for online purchases than using a debit card. Anything I would normally buy anyway (Netflix, gas, Spotify, toilet paper, dishsoap) is set up to be ‘charged’ on my card. Then I…
  5. Play the game. I pay for some of the expenses that hit every week. So, if my Netflix ($12) and Spotify ($10) hit my SCC on Tuesday, and I buy TP and Dawn at Walmart.com, I pay those charges on Friday so a payment is hitting my card every single week (Newsflash: You can pay your credit card bills more than once a month). Now…here’s where the game comes into play. Find out when your actual payment is due (Let’s say it’s due on the 20th), figure out what 30% of your credit limit is (Let’s say it is $300), and find out when the Credit Union is going to report to the credit agencies (Let’s say they report on the 24th). Armed with this information…make the MINIMUM payment due on or right before the due date (In our scenario – the 20th). Make sure you have JUST UNDER the 30% left on the day they report to the credit agency (I’ll usually pay my Verizon bill on the 21st and get gas so that I’m right under BUT NOT OVER that 30% of credit limit threshold). Then, on the first of the month, I pay the balance in full and start the clock for the next month. That seems complicated now that I type it out, so I recommend the video on this page.
  6. Diversify your debt. You’re about to see why I go off the rails when it comes to Dave Ramsey’s advice. I use debt and credit to my advantage and I use it wisely. I do not subscribe to the ‘have no debt’ and we may not agree here. You do you. But, back to my point on diversified debt. You’ll need an installment loan (i.e. Car loan, student loans, etc.), a revolving credit line (I have my SCC, a store card, and a credit card for a home improvement store – which comes in handy when remodeling), and finally, a mortgage loan THAT YOU CAN AFFORD. I know my credit score will most likely not increase much more than where it is now until I add a mortgage to my list of creditors. I am okay with this. A note if you are renting: See if you can talk your rental agency/landlord into using a service that reports to the credit bureaus. (Word of caution: Now you’ll be on the hook to pay rent on time so DO THAT!). Lastly, Experian will do a ‘boost’ a few times a year and bring in things like your cell phone company and some utility agencies. I share a home with a relative. The mortgage loan is in her name, but my name is on all the other expenses (Cable, utilities, etc.). I use the Experian boost (It’s free!) once a year. This is only effective if you pay those bills on time. You don’t want bad stuff hitting your credit reports.

    So yeah. That’s it really. I think I mentioned that I am working on getting my student loan debt down to 50% of what is owed over the next ten years. Why just 50%? Because I’ve worked with my loan company to get on a specific repayment plan that allows for student loan forgiveness after on-time payments over so many years. To be transparent, I wouldn’t be mad if Biden and his administration got their shit together to forgive student loan debt BUT I do understand that I made the decision to go to school and I made the decision to take on debt related to that endeavor. I own all of that responsibility. But, since most of what would be left would be interest anyway so I can sleep at night knowing I paid what I borrowed. In other words…I don’t feel guilty about using the tools at my disposal when it comes to paying down that debt.

    Notice we still haven’t talked about budgets. We’ll do that next time. Want a head start? Okay, then. Stop buying shit you don’t need and start paying for the shit you already bought. That doesn’t seem too hard to understand, but then again, I’m an INTJ so I can be a bit abbrasive. You want someone nicer to hold your hand through all of that? Then go on down to that Credit Union. They’ll even give you a lolipop. Ain’t that sweet?


    That’s all I’ve got today. I don’t even have a really good song that ties into this post at all, so how about I just leave you with this one: Wind & SkyBrandon Moore is a local singer/songwriter in my hometown and just a f*cking good human. You can’t help but smile in his presence. Wind & Sky is one of my absolute favorite songs on the planet. I want it played on loop at my funeral, I like it that much. You’re welcome.

Show Me The Money

You remember that quote, right? Please, for the love of all things good and holy do not tell me I’m so old that you don’t remember that quote, Dear Reader. I’ve been searching YouTube for ideas to share with you on this snowy day and I have to admit…I’m a bit overwhelmed. There is SO MUCH to tell you that I’m SO HAPPY this is a ‘series’ because this post would be a million words long if I tried to cram it into one piece. It reminds me, though, of my journalism days – researching theories and stories, finding sources to back up my words. All that jazz. The cool thing is though…this isn’t a journalism story so I can be as biased and opinionated as I want. And you know that rings my bell – Amiright?

Anyway, we are kicking 2022 off with the list I mentioned here, starting with Bad Money Habits. I beg your pardon? I remember specifically telling you that we would not cover the list in any particular order, so that’s where we are going to start. My blog. My rules.

I must begin by being super transparent, though. First, even as a rational minimalist, I would never call myself ‘cheap’. I like nice things just like anyone else, but since I embraced this lifestyle about ten years ago, I would describe myself as more of a quality over quantity kind of gal. In fact, embarrassingly, I spend a huge chunk of my “entertainment budget” on massage therapy and expensive facial products. I recently spent more money on a bottle of perfume than I’ve spent on perfume entirely in the last decade. I traded my Buick for a Subaru. I mean, I have upgraded considerably, but I don’t feel like I overspend or waste money. Every expense comes out of a line item on the budget. No money? No buying.

Secondly, just two short years ago my credit score was 480. Yup. I kinda take responsibility for that. I mean, you have to work really hard to NOT pay your bills to sink that low. However, let me also put this out there: I trusted someone else to pay the bills. In other words, I was the paycheck, he was the ‘money manager’ – and well, he sucked at it. It was until the “money manager” walked out on me did I realize just what a mess he’d made. I was broke. I was jobless. I was fucked. But I take full responsibility for my part of this problem.

Lastly, I’m well-educated and I have white privilege going for me. I do not take this for granted and never have at any point in my life. As long as you keep that in mind, we will be better able to understand one another. The best thing that ever happened to me was having the opportunity to take a position with a local nonprofit where my fancy title was “Director of Financial Stability”. In this role, I taught people about managing money and working with a personal budget. Funny thing, though? The salary wasn’t even a living wage. I was, literally, employed and teaching other people about managing money while my child was enrolled in the free lunch program at school and we were getting all his clothes free from the PTA clothing bank. Ironic how the Universe works, huh? With all the grit and gratitude I could muster, I decided that was bullshit. I got up, dusted off, and moved on – making significant changes as I did it.

So, together, we are letting go of many things this year as I wrote about here. We are starting with my financial story and how I got myself out of a big mess. This transparency and advice will hopefully enable you to let go of Bad Money Habits. Don’t worry. This topic is a big animal. And how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Keep that in mind.

We are going to start with the basics today. So. Grab a drink. Settle in. Let me share with you my fuck ups and my comebacks in hopes you can use my example to let go of your bad habits.

  1. Mind your money. That image above really says it all. Right now you may feel out of control because of where you are financially. But minding your money involves several steps, and the most important of all of them is Do. Not. Let. Anyone. Else. Have. Complete. Control. Over. Your. Finances. In other words, Your money, your responsibilty. Since the majority of you, Dear Readers, are women, I recommend a book by Suze Orman (love her or hate her, doesn’t matter) called “Women & Money”. Find it used. Buy it new. Get it from the library. Listen to the audiobook. I have no attachment to how you get ahold of it – just get it. Men, same goes for you. You can’t bitch about the fact that your wife spends spends spends if you don’t know where the money is going. I also recommend watching videos or reading books about money every day (I’ll post some of my favorites at the end of this series). As Stephen Covey said “Begin with the end in mind”. By reading or watching videos about managing money and debt, it keeps your thoughts in the end zone.
  2. Set up an emergency fund. After you decide to take control of your finances, this is THE first step. I don’t care what anyone else says to you…this is your first step. According to Forbes, the U.S. poverty rate nationally is 13.4%. This means that 13.4% of the national population lives below the poverty line. Over 70% of Americans would be financially devasted if faced with a $400 or more emergency (Like, um, a refrigerator dropping dead or having to buy two new tires for the only car used to get you to and from work). Ideally, your emergency fund should equal $1,000 for the first person in your home and an additional $500 for any others. So, for me and my son that would be $1,500. I saved $2,000 first and squirrelled it away in our emergency fund (Sorta…more to come on that). Again, emergencies are new tires, new car batteries, a new refrigerator when the other one breaks down, etc. etc. Emergencies are not that trip to Disneyland, kayaks or skis, roller skates, a down payment on a boat, etc. You get that, right? To be brutual…not having an emergency fund makes you prime prey for predatory lenders. Let’s not feed them anymore. (I love this organization. Check it out.)
  3. Choose your storm and attack your debt. List out all of your debts (include those in collections). List them by columns: Creditor name, total owed, monthly payment, and interest rate. Choose a Debt Reduction Storm: Either the Snowball method or the Avalanche method attack the debt. Compare them. (Here’s a new one for you: The Debt Tornado. Hmmm.) I personally used the Snowball method because I needed instant satisfaction and enpowering feelings of crossing the debt off the list, but in hindsight, I personally think the Avalanche method is more effective and smarter. With that method you spend less on interest even though it takes longer to cross the debt off the list as paid. (Those purple words lead you to links to explain those methods in depth.) In terms of those accounts in collections…well…we will touch on those in another post. If that makes you nervous, maybe this will help: Those accounts have already fucked with your credit score. They can’t hurt you anymore now so we will worry about them later. (One elephant. Tiny bites. Got it?) *Side note…I’m using the Avalanche method now with my student loans – which is the only debt I really have.
  4. Pay on time, every time. Remember, we are on a journey that includes reducing debt AND raising your credit score (not one then the other…). With your debts listed and a pay-down storm-of-choice method chosen, I can’t stress paying your bills on time, every time enough. This is the number one way to get that credit score moving in the positive direction and even though it will take some time to move the needle, it’s the ONLY way to move the needle at the moment. Credit cards are the most damaging to your budget and to your credit score, so make sure you pay them first, then your vehicles, then your cell phone (right?? who knew) then your mortgage/rent. This is a game and the game is won by the first person who beats everyone else to the finish line. In this case, credit card companies are used to people like you and so are cell phone companies (Fuck you, Verizon. Really). They are used to people not paying so they have incredibly high late payment fees and interest. They also report to credit bureaus faster than any other creditors. They know how to win by taking your money and charging you more for the priviledge of paying late, so beat them at their own game. Pay the minimum payments on all your debt FOR NOW until you build up your emergency fund…but pay that ON TIME. Mortgage and vehicles come next. Rent…well…it takes three months for them to evict you and even though there is a late payment fee most likely…it’s low AND eviction is costly for the rental company. In fact, most of rental agencies do not report to the credit bureaus unless you go into collection. My advice? Communicate and negotiate with all your creditors. Play by their rules – afterall, you agreed to them – but get better at the game. Again, always pay credit cards first. Period. Also…about those cards…do not close them (we will get to that later) but also, do not use them anymore for now. (We will discuss responsible use of credit much later in the series). When it comes to paying your bills on time, I don’t recommend automation (auto bill pay) unless you are just forgetful as hell. I think you need to LOOK at your finances every month (I look at mine Every. Single. Day – sometimes more than once. Yes, OCD. So? That’s how I caught two charges for Wal-Mart around Christmas that I didn’t make, so there). If the payments all fall around the same time each month, and it is difficult for you financially, try asking the creditor if they’ll move the payment. For example, I get paid on the 15th and the 30th of the month. I have half my bills due on the 1st and the other half on the 16th. That way I’m not hit with a huge group of expenses all at once and it helps with my forcasting (see…no words on budgeting just yet…). This video explains the game. Watch it.
  5. Make more, spend less. You notice I STILL haven’t even mentioned a budget yet, right? That’s because budgets don’t work if your expenses are more than your income. My favorite Dave Ramsey quote is “You can’t outearn foolishness.” Your days of spending more than you earn are over. Remember that rather expensive MBA degree I have? It comes in handy sometimes. In business when things are tight, the first things companies do: Decrease overhead (fire people, sell assets, etc) or they increase revenue (get more clients, sell more to people). Successful companies do both at the same time. I worked for a nationally recognized nonprofit when COVID first hit. Sadly, in July of 2020, 23 of my favorite people lost their jobs due to a ‘reduction in force’ AND the organization sold its main headquarter’s building going to a ‘Virtual First Workforce’ plan (which is just a fancy way of saying everyone is working from home now). BUT, they also dumped a ton of money into digital marketing which grossed 48 MILLION that year – the best year ever in fundraising revenue and it was during a global pandemic. Smart. Very smart. You need to do the same thing. Decrease expenses AND increase revenue. So, yeah. You’ll need another job – I recommend a side hustle. I was fortunate that I had been a licensed massage therapist before I got my MBA. So, I relicensed and went to work a few evenings and weekends a month making about $30 (pay+gratuities) an hour. Also…here’s where I piss you off…you can only make it so far with canceling cable and cutting out lattes. Your biggest expenses are: Housing (2800+ square foot homes for three people? Hmmm), Big Person toys (campers, beach front condos or timeshares, boats, four wheelers, etc.) and Vehicles ($50,000 Suburbans? You know there are people in who under bridges, right?). That said, I didn’t go without wine or streaming services during the leanest of times. Yeah, I may have purchased cheaper wine…and only had one streaming service, but come on. If HBOMax is your only source of entertainment (because you aren’t going to the movies right now…) then don’t cut it. I also don’t mess around with people’s cigarette/drinking habits or tithing – because I know it’s not an argument I’m going to win. My point is: No one wants you to be a grouchy asshole because you have nothing pleasureable in your life. But that boat? You aren’t going to have time to use it or maintain it because of your second job – so sell it. Buy one later if you can afford it, but for now…nope. FB Marketplace the shit out of it and any thing else you no longer need. There will always be another day to rent a kayak. My favorite minimalist quote is “You don’t have to organize the things you don’t own.”

I have so much more to tell you and to recommend to you, but it will all come with time. Remember, we’ve got a game plan, and this month’s plan is to help you let go of BAD MONEY HABITS. These first few tips will get you started.

In closing, I want to emphasize this: Money can be scary for some of you. The scarcity mentality is a real thing and shame around money doesn’t lend itself (puns are fun!) to getting you into a mindset of success. Face that fear. Everyone on the planet has made a mistake they are ashamed of (poor financial decisions, marriages, that last donut…) so get up, dust off, move on. Remember our 2022 motto?

Chin up, tits out. You got this.

Oh! I almost forgot your song. But I didn’t. I can almost visualize the pole dancers every time I hear this song. And I’m doing this for you, Dear Reader, because I can’t tell you how much I loathe Pink Floyd. You’re welcome.

The “Work/Life Balance” Myth

Today’s title is a bit misleading, dear reader. I’m sorry. It was a good hook, though, right? The truth is I don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘work/life balance’. I believe there is work. I believe there is life. And I believe the two must learn to play well together. The idea of a work/life balance is as foreign as the idea that relationships are 50/50. When, if ever, have relationships been 50/50? Someone is always giving, at minimum, 51%.

So, recently, I was asked to speak to a group about how to make work more simple. If I’ve learned anything on my simplicity journey, it is that the lessons must span across all aspects of one’s life or true freedom, joy and contentment cannot be reached. This includes letting go of the myth that one can ‘find balance’. You can not simply ‘find balance’. One must set (and vigilantly guard) boundaries.

Boundaries create balance. No seeking, searching, or finding is necessary.

What are some of the boundaries I recommend for achieving the goal of keeping work and life playing nicely together? There are many but these are my top five to get you started:

Fire bad clients. “But she tips so well!” – not if she doesn’t regularly show up or cancels on you at the last minute. I don’t care how big the tip is, she does not value what you do. Make room for someone who does. (This can also be applied to your personal life. I regularly ‘fire’ people from my social circle for many energy-draining reasons. I recently met with someone I had considered a long-time friend. After the meeting I realized “Wow. I really don’t like him” and vowed that I wouldn’t waste another afternoon meeting with him.)

Stop working so much. If you are working the weekends I have three truths for you that you need to face: 1) You have too much work. Delegate. (This is RARELY the case, by the way). 2) You don’t set boundaries on your time therefore you work at being busy, but you are rarely productive (Am I getting warmer?) and 3) You are avoiding something. Something at home, something you need to do (Exercise, meditate, relax…?); something that would raise your productivity level instead of your ‘busy’ level.

Stop the Social Media Cycle. If you own a small business, I have something to tell you: No one gives a crap about your business’ Facebook page. And the political drama and cat photos you’ve been posting on your personal page? Well, they’ve blocked those too. Stop telling yourself that the hour you spend on Facebook (Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, etc. etc. etc.) is ‘effective marketing’. It is not.

Stop spending more than you earn. If you stop spending more than you earn you can stop working so much. This entire blog started for me because I had to learn this lesson the hard way. Read my history and know that it is okay to downsize.

Have clear direction (For your career…business…life…relationship…). It is easy to make decisions when you know, without a doubt, what values you hold dear. If you want to be the best massage therapist in town, for example, then stop wasting time with body wraps, sugar scrubs, and the newest fads. Study massage therapy. Study how you can fix someone’s problem with massage therapy. Stay true to your noble path and stop chasing rainbows (unless those rainbows happen to be on your path then by all means frolic your heart away.)

I’ve been there. I’ve had jobs dangled in front of me that I’m qualified to do, but that I have no interest in because it would mean I’d have less time to hang out with my kiddo. I’ve been there, struggling to find the point in the which all aspects of my life met in the middle, never tipping on end or the other. So, yeah. I sought balance and tried every silly thing under the sun to ‘find’ it. It wasn’t until I set my boundaries and started following the advice above did peace reveal itself. If you need help with this…I’m here for you. I’m rooting for you. I know it is hard, but I believe you can do it.

Enjoy your week. I hope the team you are rooting for wins tonight. Here’s your song for the week. Time flies, for sure. Slow down, smell the whiskey.

Clean Up Your Act – Five Easy Ways To Get Started

Missouri’s winter usually comes in January and February, so we’ve been experiencing a bit of colder weather here. I don’t mind it, though. These are perfect months for home and self-improvements. January has been no exception.

After watching The Minimalists’ newest documentary (Less Is Now) on Netflix, I decided to accept the challenge offered at the end to jump start my way back into regaining a life of simplicity. The challenge was to give away 465 things over one month. You start on day one, getting rid of one item. On day two, you get rid of two items. Day three, three items. You see where I’m going with this. I challenged many of my friends to do the same thing: Watch the documentary. Do the challenge.

Here’s what one friend said halfway through:

Thirty days is definitely not enough time to get rid of everything I need to, but I do feel less intimidated by the idea of tackling some of the most cluttered areas such as my boy’s closet, the garage, and my craft cabinet. Normally I would get so overwhelmed with going through stuff that I felt defeated and gave up. Forcing myself to ditch stuff has been liberating and it gets easier each day. I’ve started asking myself if it’s worth packing if I moved… that has helped.

Amanda M. – Springfield, MO

But some of us are overwhelmed by the idea of getting rid of nearly 500 items. Except, I don’t think we realize that an old filing cabinet offers thousands of single sheets to meet our decluttering win ratio. As did many of my friends, I found that the overwhelming urge to chuck it all was almost impossible to shake by the fifteenth day. Starting with one item, then two, then three, and so on propelled us into this beautiful world of letting go of what we don’t need.

I’ve written about letting go of emotional baggage, but it’s been a long time since I’ve discussed letting go of actual physical clutter. I guess because I started thinking, “There are just so many ways you can tell people to throw shit away.” But, clearly, from those taking on this challenge there’s still a need to advise and help.

I have LOVED this process and even more that my husband got on board too!

Dedee C. – Republic, MO

Let me be clear about one thing, though. I have little to no emotional attachment to material items. In my home, I can list about ten things I would grab should my house ever catch on fire and three of those are handmade quilts given to me by one person. So that narrows it down to seven items, and as I sat here trying to list them for my satisfaction, I couldn’t even come up with ten. So – my point – I don’t know if I can offer you much to address the psychological issues of holding on to things. I’m just not wired like that. Clutter gives me even more anxiety than I already have daily.

So, how do I do it? How do I easily get rid of clutter? Well, settle in. I’m about to tell you. But first, let me say I’m not perfect. I’m surprised that I quickly found items to discard or donate, but I, too, have been holding on to things. I journaled about why last night, and that’s another blog for another time, but I think I worked through some of the emotional reasons why I had gotten to the point where I was holding on to things I no longer needed.

My advice? Take baby steps. Small actions, taken every day, end up being the way to success. You don’t lose thirty pounds by fasting one day and running ten miles. This requires a series of small steps taken every day consistently to meet that goal. Living a life of simplicity is just like that: small steps, every day.

So here are some ways to get started:

  1. Do the challenge. If I told you to get 500 things to discard today, you’d say to me you don’t even know where to start or that you don’t have time. I’d believe either of those excuses. But, start at the beginning of one month and for each day, get rid of that number of items. And do it in February. It’s a short month.
  2. Pretend you are moving. Seriously. This really does work. People ask me how I can stay on top of this. Well, I’ve moved 18 times in 15 years. It’s hard to get emotional about stuff when you know you have to carry a box containing it. Plus, this Ted Talk always helps me focus, too. I love Graham Hill and Life Edited. He says “Edit ruthlessly.” I agree. Cut. The. Cord.
  3. Start with the easy stuff. My closet is always the first place I start. There’s even a fancy free printable calendar for you. The summary: Discard anything torn, has holes, or in need of repair you can’t do yourself. And by discard, I don’t mean “donate”. No one wants this stuff. Then decide what you will sell, donate, or give away to people you know. This includes things that are dated, no longer fit, or just haven’t been worn in over a year. We wear twenty percent of our clothing eighty percent of the time. So, if you still have stuff left, turn your hangers around so that the hook faces the wall. When you wear the item, rehang it correctly. You can discard whatever is still hanging with the hook facing the wall at the end of six months. You aren’t wearing it for some reason. And you won’t. So bite the bullet and let it go. I wrote about this way back in 2013 and it’s a good reminder.
  4. Move to the kitchen. My kitchen used to be a colossal cave of clutter, which I wrote about here. But not anymore. If you have more than two items of the same thing, you can declutter the extra items. My guy has four rubber spatulas (that I know about). He tells me he needs all of them. This is not true. The truth is, he doesn’t do his dishes every day, and he’s too unfocused to wash a spatula in the middle of preparing his meals. How do I know this? Because I have one. I’ve only had one since 2010, when I got rid of the other six. Is it convenient? Not always. (Love you, baby. Really.) But no one needs six rubber spatulas. No one.
  5. Move to the bathroom. I get that this is a tough one. Makeup and designer face creams are expensive. But I know I don’t need six daily moisturizers. And, well, you don’t either. So start discarding here. I repurposed a half bottle of shampoo by using it to shave my legs, but other than this, I was able to get rid of nearly thirty items.
  6. Check your meds. Expired medications and expired over the counter products can go. Just don’t toss them or flush them. Check with your local pharmacy on the best way to get rid of these items. Sometimes local fire departments will take them, as well as Wal-Greens.

These are quick ways to get started. You have to stay on top of this, and admittedly, I haven’t. So I will do the challenge for two months. I’ve already donated and thrown away over 1000 items since January 1st. And folks, I’m pretty organized. So, if I have this many items…um…so do you. (I get this is a very privileged statement. I will write about that later, too.)

As always, here’s your song for the day. It has absolutely nothing to do with letting go, but if you are cleaning you need a song to get yourself motivated.

Five Ways To Clear Distractions

True to form, months ago, I bookmarked the ‘upcoming’ documentary from The Minialmists on Netflix, anxiously awaiting its arrival. The DAY it was released, I watched it and was again inspired to get back to simplifying life. I’ll be honest, though: There was NOTHING in this documentary that was ‘new’ to me. Living a clutter-free life has been an ongoing process for over a decade now. But, I was reminded

And so, we continue – you and me – toward a simple life and so on. A significant part of being ‘clutter-free’ includes keeping your internal environment free of distractions. I’m not talking about your living room or that junk drawer. I’m talking about your Self. 

I’ve written so much about Busy’s Glorification and how ‘Busy’ is the new ‘Fine’ I’m not sure it is worth repeating. Except…it is. It absolutely is worth repeating because I asked six people last week how they were, and each of them stated, “Busy. So busy.”

You know how this goes, right? “How are you?” they ask. “Busy,” you reply, rolling your eyes with a tone of exaggeration. “Busy” has become a badge of honor, as if being busier than the next person wins you some kind of prize or something.

Honestly? How can you be so busy? The fucking world is shut down because of Covid-19. So much has changed to reduce time constraints. You can have someone else shop for and deliver your groceries. There are people at the ready to arrive on your doorstep with prepared meals. If you’re lucky enough (yes…lucky enough.) to work from home you can wash, dry, and fold that laundry (dishes, etc.) on your breaks. (Ahem. Yes. Breaks. WFH doesn’t require 9 hours of desk time.)

There are a lot of reasons why people get so busy. We take too much on, refuse to set boundaries, can’t accept failure as an option, blah, blah, blah. But what if one of the real reasons we are all so damn busy is that we let too many distractions into our life? I guess, if you think about it, it is a bit like not setting boundaries, but here are five of the ways I find myself getting distracted from the things that really matter.

1. My Smart Phone Made Me Do It. Yes, I really did just compare my smartphone to Satan. (Remember the old Saturday Night Live skit?) That darn thing is nothing more than a constant feed of information, noise, and entertainment. I finally had to set up a Do Not Disturb auto-turn on at 9 pm because I’m so darn undisciplined with that gadget.

“Our phones live not just in our pockets, but in front of our eyes. The influence of the Internet and its constant stream of information is accessible from nearly every corner of our world. Breaking news breaks into our day at breakneck speed. And we are fed messages relentlessly from advertisements on nearly every flat surface. Each distraction enters our mind with one goal: Gain control of our attention and resources.” – Josh Becker.

2. Getting bogged down by the “C” List.  I keep a running “Priority C” list (‘C’ stands for Crap That Bugs Me). C-list items are the tasks that take 5 minutes or less to complete. I designate a time each day to knock out as many as I can in a half-hour. If I don’t do this, I get distracted by those items and forget to do the essential things. Also, my Priority C list includes personal stuff, too, not just something at work. I find it hard to focus if I have too many “C’s” buzzing around. Because, folks, I don’t believe in a work/life balance. It’s just life…and it has to work. David Allen writes about this practice in his best-seller “Getting Things Done.” Here is a summary.

3. Kill the clutter. My desk usually looks like a tornado blew over it. At least once a day, I take two-three minutes to reduce unnecessary clutter from my desk and my office. On one of my breaks, I take a loop around the house and straighten up any thing that is quick to fix or clean. I battle Generalized Anxiety Disorder and have learned that unnecessary clutter creates anxiety for me. If things are messy, I get anxious. When I’m anxious, I cannot focus. 

4. Get rid of digital clutter. I recently revealed my ‘email inbox’ while conducting a remote desktop share with a client. They gasped and I felt like an email master. I had something crazy, like, five emails in the ‘inbox.’ The key is that I have rules set up so all the ‘unimportant’ stuff filters into folders. (I get to determine what the difference between unimportant and important. They don’t.) I designate a time each hour, day, or week to read what needs to be read and either delete it or file it immediately. I don’t have a lot of unnecessary communication distracting me from what really needs to happen that day. Also, I am not a significant “IM” participant (Is it IM, PM, DM? I get so confused.)  “Instant Messenging” of any sort is simply the Evil Satan-Spawn Child of the Smart Phone. I. Loathe. It.

And my favorite? First, a disclaimer. I can’t take credit for this. I stole this one word-for-word from Josh Becker because, well, I owe my minimalist lifestyle to him. So, he wrote this, I didn’t. I just try to implement it daily:

5. Care less about what other people think. “The value of your life is not measured by the number of likes your Facebook post receives or the number of positive comments on your blog post. Please understand: There is much value in humbly seeking opinion and appreciating the wise counsel of those who loves you. But there is no value in wasting mental energy over the negative criticism of those who only value their own self-interests. Learn to recognize the difference. And stop living distracted over the opinion of people who don’t matter.”

I once heard a someone say “The Devil has three main ways of getting to you. He’ll distract you, disappoint you, and disorganize you.” I’ve experienced all three lately, so I’m thankful for good counsel (like Josh) and others who have their priorities straight. So, what about you? What is your biggest distraction? (If you say “Pinterest,” I’ll give you a big AMEN and possibly a sticker!!!)

As always, I leave you with a song. This one is by The Weepies. Who doesn’t love The Weepies, right??

New Old Ideas: 12 Reasons To Simplify

I have something to say.  Really.  It’s crucial.  Are you ready???

Since I embraced simplicity, my life has changed.

Yes.  It. Has. Changed. Dramatically.  Radically.  Completely.  Outside of the most unexpected gift of becoming a mother, I declare that saying “NO” to consumerism and vowing to live a simpler life has been the best thing to ever happen to me.

In 2010 I started reading about simplicity.  I kept thinking I needed a change.  As a massage therapist, I had always told my clients that stress is the number one cause of over 90% of diseases in our modern-day.  Yet…I was really stressed.  Rushed.  Tired.  Unfulfilled.  Every New Years past I wrote down my goals:  This year I want PEACE.  PEACE, Dammit!!!  I NEED IT!!!  (Hmmmm….see the irony?)

Then, one night amid my lifestyle-induced insomnia, I came across a blog post by Leo Babauta. From there, I started following other bloggers like Josh Becker and Tammy Strobel. And now I follow several bloggers who, like me, are finding that ‘minimalism’ is more about simplicity…and less about living with nothing at all. Quite frankly, these people became my teachers.  I have so much gratitude for each of them for the introduction to a simpler life.

Last year I was determined to get my finances in order, take a much-needed vacation, and get my mental and emotional health back on track. Looking over the last year (even during a global pandemic) I accomplished my goals. Dare I say that this is the first year I did achieve my goals – so maybe…just maybe…I needed the forced ‘slow down’.

In 2021 I plan to focus on my physical and spiritual health. I haven’t outlined what that will look like eventually or even how I’ll measure that (Cue SMART Goals), but I’m still working through it. I know that simplifying my engagement calendar will be vital for successful goal management. For starters: Every Thursday at 7 pm, I will continue my yoga practice. Boom. Physical & Spiritual with one stone.

Let 2021 be your year.  Whether you decide to consider the concept, are ready to begin cleansing your life of clutter, or even prepared to take it to the next level and help others…Turn 2021 into a year that can change your life forever.  Make it the year to embrace simplicity; to let go; to feel free.  Say yes to relaxation and happiness.  Say yes to getting your life back.

To further convince you, here are 12 Ways (and Reasons!) to Simplify this year:
(Disclaimer:  Some will bring on immediate benefits while some will be worth the wait.  Just be open.)

1. Reduce the physical clutter in your home.  By reducing, you will have less to clean, less to maintain, less to organize, less financial burden, and less emotional distractions.  Owning less eventually gives you ‘more’ in other areas of your life. 

2. Say “No, thank you” to a commitment.  Booked-solid people have no time for rest.  And people who have no time for rest are mean.  Seriously.  They spend that spare 15 minutes folding laundry instead of reading to their children.  They take a 20-minute drive and use the ‘windshield’ time to return phone calls instead of singing silly songs with their kids or merely taking in the sights around them.

3.  Start each morning with these words:  “Thank you.”  Feeling gratitude only expands the reasons to have more of it.  With less to occupy your attention, you’ll be able to see how blessed your life is.  And, if you find it isn’t as ‘blessed’ as you’d like it to be you’ll have the time and energy to find ways to make it more blessed. 

 4.  Simplify your menu.   I mean, REALLY.  In the book, Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne suggests making each day the “Fill In The Blank” day, such as Monday-Pasta; Tuesday-Rice;  Wednesday-Slow Cooker, etc.  We typically eat the same twelve menu items over and over. Don’t believe me? Really? What’s your ‘go-to’ meal on hectic days?

5.  Focus on prevention.  It is so much easier to STAY well than to GET well.  You can apply these ideas to your body, soul, material possessions, and bank account. 

6.  Realize you don’t have to live your life the way you’ve been told.  You don’t have to own 2+ cars, a boat, and a 3500 square foot home with a craft room, workshop, and separate living areas.  You don’t have to work in a job you hate.  You can have, be, and do more with your life.  I’ll introduce you to this concept throughout the year, starting with this movie trailer. (Since 2013, I have watched this movie every New Year’s Day to remind me!)

8.  Reduce the clothes in your closet.  Americans wear 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time.  You don’t believe me?  Well, I’ll have a challenge for you in March that will prove me right.  You wait and see. 

9.  Find a creative outlet.   Hopefully, it won’t be one that encourages you to turn an entire room into a smaller version of Hobby Lobby, BUT in the event that it does you’ll be amazed how much adding creativity to your life breeds happiness.

10.  Schedule nap time.  Or just some downtime to sit in the sun.  Don’t have the time??  Not to sound judgmental, but that’s an unfortunate commentary on your life, and I want to help!  Refer back to #2, and we’ll discuss this more during the year.

11.  Limit your time on Social Media.  Seriously, the drama factor on FakeBook alone is enough to prove my point on this one.  There is no bigger time suck than Social Media. The comparison factor alone creates opportunities for you to be stressed.

12.  Have a place for everything.  Even those pesky clipped coupons and scrapbook paper need a place to rest – and your kitchen counter, isn’t it.  Many of us are working from home now, and our ‘office’ is the kitchen island. Except it isn’t. (Listen again: The kitchen counter/table/island is not your office.) So, get yourself a file box or briefcase and put all that stuff away each night as if you were working from your favorite coffee shop.

I’ll post challenges centered on reducing clutter and improving your life quality over the next year. No worries, they will be simple. (Simple…not necessarily easy.)

So, what would you like help with this coming year? Where can you simplify? Which of the twelve ideas resonates most with you?

Self Love: Gratitude

As I continue this series on developing self-love, I am fascinated by how the Universe opens up chances for me to write in the most perfect timing. Isn’t it amazing that the topic of gratitude comes up in the same week that we are to celebrate a day of thanks? I don’t believe in ‘accidents’ and this is no exception.

I am so grateful for many aspects in my life. The first being that I’m still here to experience both the challenging and the joyful experiences but also that I get to share those experiences with people I love.

There is so much research out there about how expressing gratitude is right for your soul. Words are powerful and using yours to speak words of love into another person – and yourself – is one of the easiest and direct ways to express gratitude.

Expressing gratitude is linked to happiness, success factors, and even receiving more of what you are grateful for as a ‘reward’ from the Universe for merely acknowledging the goodness in one’s life. In her book, The How Of Happiness, author Sonja Lyubomirsky posits that 40% of our happiness and success can be attributed to partaking in intentional activity – and part of that is expressing gratitude regularly. (Here’s a great PDF with ideas on how to practical intentionality) Additionally, David Steindl-Rast tells us that the key to being happy is in the practice of being grateful.

I think I am a grateful person. From a young age, I realized that the hand I’ve been dealt could always be worse. I am extremely grateful for the items and materials I have at my disposal. Having worked with the unsheltered in my community in some form or another for nearly 30 years, I’ve learned to be less materialistic and more cognizant of the importance of a warm bed and a roof over my head. As a minimalist, I don’t care too much about amassing a lot of clutter and I am grateful for all the things that I own that allow me the opportunity to live a comfortable, albeit simple, life. (Like, for example, a coffee pot.)

But what about those experiences that aren’t so great? The divorce? The disappointment? The struggles with anxiety and depression? The job losses? The holidays that can’t be shared with loved ones because of a global pandemic? And speaking of a random global health crisis…are there aspects of that we can be grateful for even in the midst of calamity and setbacks? I don’t have the answers to my questions – I’m putting these are there for you to ask yourself. Some folks, like Brother David Steindl-Rast (see his Ted Talk), suggest that we don’t have to necessarily be grateful for negative experiences…but rather to be grateful for the opportunity to rise to the occasion of becoming resilient.

I am grateful for my life. My brother died at the age of 27, leaving a six-month-old child and a life of possibilities and what-ifs ahead of him. I am grateful for all the experiences, even the painful ones, because I know I am a calmer, gentler person than I was even twelve months ago due to those life lessons. I am grateful for the little things: How my child has learned to push the button on the coffee maker if he gets up first so that I have freshly brewed coffee when I wake, the texts from my friends telling me they are thinking of me, the sounds of the birds who wake me in the morning. I know from experience how hanging on to bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness only breeds discontent and rage. In contrast, gratitude begets more for which one can be grateful.

So what really is gratitude? Well, I think the expression of gratitude is unique to every individual but gratitude in and of itself is wonder…appreciation…looking on the bright side…fathoming abundance…counting your blessings. There are many ways to which one can start expressing gratitude and begin an intentional practice of becoming a grateful person. Here are some ideas:

  1. Say Thank You. I work an IT help desk for a national nonprofit organization. When the customer tells me I’ve fixed their issue or answered their question, it would be really easy for me to simply mark the ticket ‘resolved’. But, in most cases, I don’t. I say “Thank you for allowing me to be part of the important mission you carry out each day” because first, I realize I am here to help and if they don’t need my help, I’m out a job…but also because I’m grateful that my skills and my knowledge can be of service.
  2. Give A Gift. Ok, I admit…gifts are not my first love language, and I don’t like to spend my money on items that seem completely impractical, but some people love this expression of love and gratitude. When choosing a gift aimed specifically at expressing gratitude, opt for meaningful over monetary value.
  3. Ask how someone is and actually listen to their response. In this age of COVID it is easy to feel overwhelmed; the simple act of listening to your loved ones can be an effective way to show them that you value them. Put down your phone, remain attentive, and let them steer the conversation. Listening rarely requires you to respond. Keep that in mind.
  4. Keep a gratitude journal. Psychologist Sean Achor talks specifically about how expressing gratitude can rewire your neuropathways and can result in feeling happier. He suggests that grateful and happy people are more successful (not the other way around: “When I’m successful I will be happy”)
  5. Say it outloud. Dr. Wayne Dyer once spoke about how he, before even placing his feet on the floor each morning, opened his eyes and expressed gratitude outloud for three things, thanking Source for the opportunity to have another day.

Today I don’t have song for you but rather a short gratitude story for kids that I love to watch. Also, know this…I am grateful for you. Not for the increasing blog stats but rather for your presence on this planet.