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.

The Pluviophile in Me

You’re wondering what a “Pluviophile” is, aren’t you? No worries. It’s not bad. A pluviophile (n) is a lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days. And that’s not just a random opening sentence for this post. It’s part of the subject matter. Let’s carry on, shall we?

But, Dear Reader. before we get started, I just have to say: I don’t know which one of you sent this freezing cold weather down my way, but you can take it back now. Two days of temps in the low 20s is enough. I can’t get my steps in and that’s wreaking havoc on my HSA bonus money. So. Enough already.

I’ve been thinking about you a lot these days. You’ve been writing in and telling me I’m making a difference. I’m meeting new people who are saying “Hey – you’re that blogger! I love your blog!” and I’ve been pleased to see you are clicking the links I provide – even if my taste in music isn’t all that great! I reached over 12K visits on this site last week and while I may not be as popular as some, I am grateful that you are here with me. I’m a quality over quantity kind of gal anyway, so thank you. Thank you for being here with me on this journey.

As I stated a few posts back, my journey started in 2011 when I made my first post. The process all started when I read a blog by Josh Becker and then started following the likes of Courtney Carver and Adam Baker. And, for Heaven’s sake, let’s not forget Joshua, Ryan and Leo. In 2015 I took a break from writing. To be honest, my life was falling apart and I just didn’t feel like being chipper, if you know what I mean. I felt I didn’t have anything to offer you anyway since I was such a shitshow and therefore, I “disappeared”.

Me, launching my blog in 2011

I reemerged in 2020 as the shitstorm was beginning to dissipate. I found my focus on simplicity to be a bit different than before, though. Life’s experiences had given me several “opportunities” to let go – sometimes with the kicking of legs and gnashing of teeth. While my life was still about keeping material possessions at a minimum, I’d come out of my cocoon with ideas about how to release mental and emotional clutter (which I think adds to the ‘physical’ clutter) and I wanted to share that story.

As I looked over the posts of the last twelve months, I noticed some themes. First, I noticed there was really no theme at all. HA! I just wrote to clear my head. My ‘creepy online diary’ was a saving grace through so many life events – breakups, reunions, more breakups, death of beloved friends, job changes. I also noticed statistical trends (that’s the data analyst in me) and paid attention to the posts that received the most likes, shares, etc. Even when I deleted my personal Facebook account, the numbers grew – proving that the Universe and my friends were on board with what I was doing.

Today’s post isn’t so much about what I have to share, but more about what you can expect from me in 2022. Don’t worry – I’ll still be your foul-mouthed little friend from small-town Missouri, but I think I’ll be less bitter about it. I recently connected with someone from my past and he’s helped me to realize that small-town life isn’t so bad and the collective experiences of both our lives led us to this very moment – which frankly, is quite delightful. Last night I was surrounded by a few of my very favorite humans, talking smack and tasting bourbon…and I was so completely overwhelmed by how loved I felt in that moment that I broke down in tears when I was finally back at home alone. I can’t believe I have come this far in such a relatively short amount of time, but as I’ve said before…I’ve got grit. The last month has given me a huge sense of pride when I think of all I’ve survived the last five years – even when I felt I couldn’t face another day – because I get to stand in the moments now with people who truly love and support me. And while I love the rain…I am so very grateful I made it through the storm.

So, to bring this all around, I just want to tell you what you can expect from me – mostly so you can hold me accountable but also so you can plan ahead. There may be a random post here and there when my brain won’t shut off and those might be completely unrelated to the monthly theme – but we, together, are going to cover (in no particular order…)

Ten Things To Let Go Of In 2022

  1. The Illusion of Control
  2. Fear Of The Future
  3. The Need For “More”
  4. “Clutter” In All Forms
  5. Guilt About Letting Go
  6. “Frogs” You Haven’t Eaten
  7. Bad Money Habits
  8. Toxic Relationships
  9. Saying “Yes” To Everything
  10. Last Year’s Goals

I’m doing this so that I can be more organized with my thoughts and posts but also because I really, really, really (too many reallys?) want to work on my novel. Maybe with a little organization and planning for this blog, I can do just that.

So, before we launch into all of this, can I ask you to do me a few favors, please? I have some assignments for you. Grab a drink. Settle in. Let’s get to work.

Assignment 1: Define “F*ck Budget”. We are going to be spending a lot of time talking about our F*ck Budget this year. A F*ck Budget includes anything that requires your time, money, or energy. Please take 15 minutes of your week and watch this TedTalk so that you understand where I’m coming from when I mention your “F*ck Budget”. It’s important.

Assignment 2: Make A Vision Board. Back in August, I started working with a Life Coach and my first assignment was to make a list of all the important things I wanted for my life. That became a ‘Wish List’ and then grew into a vision board. If you don’t know how to create a vision board – or even what that is – here’s a link that explains it. To be clear – it does not have to be fancy or overwhelming. Mine isn’t.

Assignment 3: Watch “I’m Fine, Thanks!” – This is a short one-hour documentary that I watch EVERY YEAR in January. I got a sneak peek during its launch phase in 2011 when I donated to their Kickstarter campaign. Now, it’s on Amazon Prime, YouTube TV, and possibly Apple iTunes. A quick little search located free versions on PlutoTV and Tubi. It may be on other platforms, so if you can find it – please watch it. It will help set the pace for us as we enter this year.

Assignment 4: Send me your ideas. You can put them in the comments below, or post them on my FB page. What do you want to let go of in 2022? Material stuff? Anger? Scarcity mentality? What? I’m all ‘ears’ and I’m here to help. (I’m not a therapist – I’m just a blogger – but I feel like this blog has turned into a place where we can all open up and be real with each other.) Aren’t you tired of the bullshit life has convinced you to put up with? I know I am.

And I feel like I owe you a special THANKS. As much as I loathe social media, y’all are doing a fantastic job getting the word out for me. I really appreciate it and please feel free to continue doing it. Share my posts unabashedly!

As always, I’m leaving you with a song. It’s old and cheesy, and you’re welcome. Have a great week, Dear Reader. I’ll see you over the weekend.

Brave Is The New Beautiful

Good morning, Peeps! Yesterday morning, I took a three-mile walk in Northwest Arkansas with two extraordinary people at Coler trail. Both are in their seventies and dare I say, they kicked my ass. (I. Must. Walk. More.) Temps were close to 80, and I was happy. The outdoors. Good people. Christmas Day. Dogs to pet. A great week behind me. It was truly wonderful.

The two-hour drive home offered some much-needed quiet time, and admittedly, I’ve been thinking about you today, Dear Reader. I’ve been piecing together what I wanted to share and how to share it without making anyone mad. I wanted to write about being brave and vulnerable and owning all of that 100 percent! The new year is upon us, and life is passing each of us by. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to take some risks. I’m not talking about blind stupidity…but I am talking about letting some walls crumble – or, at minimum, cautiously removing a brick or two. Do you want 2022 to be better or not? I certainly do. Then we need to put ourselves out there.

I get it. It’s scary. I had pretty much decided no one would ever see me vulnerable again. I mean, if you are weak, you get hurt, right? That’s true. But who decided that being vulnerable means being weak? As I said last week, a life without risk is an unlived life. Recently I’ve realized – despite my desire to stay calm and mysterious – that I’m the one who loses out on life’s pleasures when I lock myself away and stay behind those proverbial, metaphoric walls.

“So, what started this line of thinking?”

Well, glad you asked. Grab a drink and settle in. This story begins with a gun.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you might remember that two Christmases ago, I was given a gift certificate for a shooting range. That led to an introductory handgun safety class and some time at the range, where I learned I was a decent shot for never having held a weapon. Fast forward about two years to last weekend.

I was invited to another range. I had a good instructor. He was kind. He was patient. He stood close by. He whispered instruction and encouragement in my ear and never made me feel inferior despite the fact that I wasn’t very sure of myself and sliced my thumb open on the first shot. Because of his patience and kindness, I felt empowered, strong, vulnerable, and safe all at the same time.

Read that again.

I felt both vulnerable and safe at the same time.

It’s possible, folks, to let down your guard and experience this. Not all humans are assholes. I know, right? In the past, feeling both vulnerable and safe for me was akin to mixing oil and water – or more accurately…gasoline and a match. In other words, I think I’ll pass. Never let them see you sweat, right? 

But here’s the deal. It’s not brave if you aren’t scared. And I was scared that day – of many things – and I decided to be brave despite all of it. So, grab that drink, Loves. If it’s permission to be brave you need, I’m passing that shit out like it’s cheap candy at a small-town Christmas parade. 

The new year is upon us, and you can live as you’ve always lived if you want to. But take this in: If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. Want to be braver? So do I. So here’s how we are going to embrace bravery in 2022 (and, hopefully, beyond…):

1) Stop Listening To Nay-Sayers. There will always be someone around to tell you it can’t be done. There’s always an asshole ready to remind you of your past mistakes. People who never take risks are the first to say you’re being foolish. Respectfully…fuck ’em. I know this is easier said than done. But if you are going to be the captain of your ship, you need to realize that both the Titanic and the Santa Maria captains were brave. The outcomes were completely different between the two, obviously, and well…you have to prepare that this may be the case for you, as well. Do it anyway. 

2) Don’t be afraid to fail. If you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying. Many people in our history learned numerous times how not to do something – they never considered themselves a failure (think Thomas Edison and the lightbulb.) I have started three businesses in my life. One was a huge success, and the other two paid the bills…barely. I never considered myself a failure with the latter two. I simply learned better ways to do it next time I’m brave enough to jump into another business venture. 

3) Always (always) trust your gut. Many don’t know how to do this. Most of us listen to the voices of others and never learn to take direction from our Higher Self. Many ignore the signs, and many live lesser lives because of it. You must be willing to stop listening to those you love sometimes and start getting quiet enough to hear your own inner voice. This isn’t easy. In fact, in a world where people are full of opinions and ‘best intentions,’ this is really one of the most challenging steps.

4) Be willing to lose (or give up) everything to start over. Back in 2004, my (then) husband prayed for change. He felt strongly that something drastic needed to happen to be happy. Within 24 months, he lost his job, home, and later, the marriage ended. But yet, if you met him today, you’d realize he is the happiest he has ever been in his entire life. (And I’m delighted for him). Sometimes you have to lose significantly to really win. Blogger Leo Babauta calls this ‘burning the farm‘. So, strike that match. Go on. I triple-dog-dare ya.

As we close for the day, I invite you to make a list of all the things you’ve wanted to try or do but were either too afraid or too worried about what others would think. I did, and I posted it here. Meditate on all the reasons your fear has been holding you back and imagine what life would be like for you if you took steps to break down the walls and be braver. Then release those fears to the Universe and go live your life. 

As usual, here’s a song for you today. I’m also leaving you with some questions:

Are you willing to be weird? Are you ready to step out onto that range and shoot for what you want? What are you doing to make sure you get the life you were destined to have? Drop a line in the comments to tell me how you have been brave…because if you have done it once, you can do it again!

I can’t thank you enough for sharing this on social media. I am delighted when I have a glass of wine with people I just met and they say “I love your blog”. I am so very grateful to you, Dear Reader, for sharing with your friends. May you be blessed all year with prosperity, abundance, and – yes – great love.

Six Ways To Save Your Sanity

Last night I dreamt I was traveling on a work assignment. I traveled a lot as a consultant and quickly learned the art of traveling light. Clearly, though, in this dream, I was not into simplicity because I had several pieces of luggage of which I was keeping track.

The stressful thing about this dream was that I kept misplacing important items as I waited for my flight. Not the unimportant, buy-it-when-I-arrive things…nope, I was constantly misplacing my laptop, photo ID, and files I needed for the client. I was really stressed in this dream. In the middle of dream crying because I couldn’t locate my photo ID (which I needed to board the plane), my state of mind shifted from that “I’m really living this – it seems so real” state to that half-asleep, half-awake gray area because I remember telling myself (in my dream) “This is just a dream, you don’t have to be this stressed.” I stirred awake, went to get more drinking water, and then laid back down, saying outloud, “Okay, let’s move on to a better dream.”

If only life, as in our dreams, was so easy. Right? To just say “Well…this sucks. Let’s PIVOT.”

Or…can we? Maybe some minor changes can change what we think life is to what it can be.

I’ve been working on some significant changes in my daily routine recently. Most of the changes focus on reducing stress because my cortisol levels are sky high. The changes seem relatively easy to someone who might not struggle with them. Still, for me, they’ve been deliberate, and I’ve been hypervigilant in keeping my promises to myself.

What are they? You ask. Well, grab a drink and settle in. Imma ’bout to tell ya.

Limited Social Media. Thankfully, I don’t IG, Tweet, Snap, or do whatever most of the other cool kids do. I have a LinkedIn profile, a Pinterest account and of course, the ever present Fakebook profile. I’ve already stated a gazillion times how much I loathe social media. With that said, I realize most people still communicate via Fakebook, so deleting my account altogether is not a thing I can do. I envy those who can, though. In fact, my cousin did it years ago and has never looked back. Still, with the volunteer efforts I’m involved in – at this point – it is just not possible without a ton of extra work on my part to get messages to people. However, that said, I did delete the app from my phone – saving both my sanity and my phone battery. I check in Monday-Friday a couple of times a day (see point three for more details) and once or twice on the weekend. I figure that if someone significant needs me…they can text me because those closest to me have my digits.

No more FB Messenger. At least, no more on my phone. This one was difficult but not impossible (I’m not above FOMO). Most people don’t have my cell number, so they can’t text me, but I was getting messenger pings at all hours of the day for stuff that can wait. Those who really need me have my cell phone number so they tend to call or text if I haven’t responded via FBM. I’ve missed a few ‘important’ notices, but….meh—nothing life-altering.

I discovered Time-Blocking. Time-Blocking is just like it sounds. You block your time and schedule tasks. I know…you’d think an INTJ Virgo would already be ingrained in this type of behavior, but I wasn’t. But, Lordy, I am now. I took a quick little course on LinkedIn Learning on time-blocking, and it has changed my life. I realized I also needed to relearn the art of self-discipline so I’d actually do the tasks I’ve blocked the time for. Still, yet…time-blocking has become my new favorite thing. I even time-block 30 minutes a day for Fakebook scrolling and posting (Mindless activities are allowed, so go ahead…waste that time watching Fox News.) Time-blocking keeps me focused, and I accomplish a crap-ton more than I ever had before. On the weekends, I time-block tasks like laundry, creative time, and my personal favorite….

I schedule Tom-Time. So, Tom is not my boyfriend. “Tom” is the HR Director at work who told me he time blocks ‘Tom Time’ on his calendar every day (Gasp…yes. Monday through Friday, too). He does whatever he wants for his personal sanity during ‘Tom Time’ and is not the least bit apologetic about it. Sometimes it’s mowing the lawn, reading a book, taking the coveted nap, indulging in a rerun of his favorite show, or doing something creative. So If the Director of Human Resources can do, well, so can I. I’ve time-blocked Denise Time into my schedule Monday-Friday where I step away from my desk. The result? I’ve been a heck of a lot more productive at work and getting shit done I actually need and want to do at home.

Turning off my phone. Last night I went to bed (and almost immediately fell asleep) at 7:30 pm, so this was an exception. Still, most nights – thanks to time-blocking and Denise Time – my phone gets turned off at 9 pm – even on the weekends. This ensures I get my son ready for bed in a timely fashion, start my ‘nightly routine’ to calm my mind, and prepare for a good night’s rest. If I can’t sleep when I go to bed at 10 pm, I grab a book instead of the phone, or I meditate for ten minutes, focusing on my breath. I do not turn on the television (Sorry, Adam) because I’d be sucked into the streets of Chicago and not accomplish the goal: Sleep. By setting a time to turn off my phone, I’m calmer, and I’m sleeping better (well…on the nights I sleep. I still struggle with insomnia a few nights a week).

Limiting alcohol to the weekends. Okay, this one has been the hardest. I mean, I don’t need a meeting or anything, but I’d regularly cap off a stressful workday with a couple glasses of wine before bedtime. This was a habit, not a necessity. It’s much like my morning cup of coffee…I don’t need it; it is a ritual). So I switched to a cold glass (in my favorite stemware) of flavored kombucha instead. (My favorite is Rosemary Basil or the Lavender from Spring Branch – a local company). I just changed up what I consumed. I ain’t gonna lie…I get a little excited on Friday nights when I get to have a glass of my new favorite summer wine.

Get creative. Okay – I’m not the most creative person on the planet, but I have a few pet projects. I like to paint and upcycle furniture or turn one thing into another. I turned an old custom-built twin bed with a trundle into an outdoor bar, and a sleeping platform for my car camping adventure (more on this later), and I turned an old newspaper dispenser into a Little Free Library. Because of time-blocking…I ‘found’ the time to do this. It’s been fun, and I’ve let go of my need to control the outcome and just let my creative side take over.

This is Gus. Gus takes Free Books. For more about Little Free Libraries: http://www.littlefreelibraries.org

So, whoop…my favorite ways to protect my time and indulge in some simple joys. I’m curious, though, folks: What do you do to preserve your sanity and set boundaries on your time? No idea is too frivolous. Do tell.

In the meantime, I found a great new song that I love (okay, new to me…whatever) which has absolutely nothing to do with this post, but it makes me smile each time it hits my Good Vibrations playlist. Take a listen and do something fun while it plays. I guarantee it will make you smile…or your money back. (I’m kidding. There will absolutely no money back.)

Simplicity: It’s A Mindset, Not An Activity.

For several years now I have shared my story and my desire for everyone to embrace the idea of simplicity. My message, along with others who embrace rational minimalism, has been fairly simple: Do less. Be More. On most days, I stay focused, but sometimes I let others interfere in the plan (and by others, I really just mean my Ego), but what I truly know is that staying focused on what really matters in my life helps me to create a more simple life.

Like many who grew up in the material world of the 80’s, I struggle sometimes with drawing the line between what I need and what I want. Additionally, when people walk into my house and see its sparse decor, I worry they think I can’t afford to buy things to fill up the space. Then I beat myself up for even caring about that at all, because I know in my heart I’d rather spend my weekends hiking with my kiddo than dusting, cleaning, and organizing, so why get all worked up by what they think? Truthfully, I know the message of simplicity appeals to the hearts of many by the number of friends, family members and readers who have reported taking steps to make changes.

“I have come to believe and understand that minimalism, the intentional promotion of the things I most value and the removal of everything that distracts me from it is a message that appeals to the heart and resonates with the soul. It is an invitation that is appreciated, desired, and often accepted when offered.” – Josh Becker

I think all of us, if we spent time listening to our heart instead of the endless stream of advertisements, would realize that disengaging from distractions in any form can help solidify these truths:

Possessions do not equal joy. Recently I looked into buying a little Tiny Cabin. I wanted it in the back yard because I work from home and wanted a REAL office instead of the modified (yet functional!) area in my kitchen that is currently where I work each day. (Yeah, as if this ‘real’ office would make me put on make up and get out of my yoga pants. Not.) Anyway I started thinking that $8,000 for another space I’d have to maintain just didn’t feel worth it. My head said “This (cabin) will make work better”. Thankfully, my heart said “Only I can make my work better. Not my office. 

When we have true freedom, our head and heart are in synch. This weekend I was able to spend all day relaxing. If the following weekend is nice, I plan to take my son on a nature adventure. He is at an age where I’m still kinda cool and he seems to still enjoy our time together. I have been working a second gig in the evenings – not because I need to, but because I haven’t figured out how not to (another blog, another time.) But the wintery weather has left me with evenings free for about three weeks and you know what…I’ve enjoyed them. I’ve decided I will keep this going for another few months, but after that, I’m going to focus on me and my relationships instead of working all the time. I want to play in the mud and dig up worms, maybe plant a few tomatoes to see if I don’t kill them, and take weekend trips.

ericbook2
Look at the chunky baby who is now eight years old – tall and lean!!!

Simplicity just makes fiscal sense. I didn’t wake up one day and say “Gosh…I think I’ll work 40 hours a week for the rest of my life to pay off Capital One”. But somewhere, I bought the lies – and bought a bunch of other crap, for that matter. Today, I can honestly say I still make mistakes (Um…like considering a purchase of a tiny cabin…) but also rejoice when I can admit those mistake . I didn’t go down the Simplicity road to find fiscal freedom but the path has certainly made it easier.

Simplicity gives us freedom to choose better options. Work the weekends or play in the mud? Buy healthy locally grown food or processed boxed meals? Simplicity doesn’t always mean you have to ‘give up’ something. I traded a gym membership to save for a treadmill I can use at home. I traded high-dollar coffee drinks for organic glass bottled non-homogenized milk. I spend a little more money to order things online because I know I’d probably spend the same amount impulse shopping at the grocery store. Simplicity is about trading up – not living with a scarcity mentality.

Recently, I have been challenging old beliefs, focusing on what truly matters in my life, and setting priorities based on new emerging thoughts. It hasn’t been easy, but knowing I can come back to the basics keeps me grounded and better prepared to spend time and money on what is truly important. As dismal as it may seem, our days are numbered. I’d rather spend my time with my people than paying off my stuff. My choice in this will bring me greater joy, most likely, than anything I could purchase.

I wish you a simple week, dear reader. And I hope all is well in your world. I wonder, though:

What can you do without in order to have something better?
What hobbies or activities are you neglecting because you’ve got internal and external clutter weighing you down?
Speaking of ‘internal clutter’ – what thoughts do you battle with that keep you from gaining freedom?

I’m curious about all these – so feel free to reach out. Until next weekend…here’s your song. Stay warm and healthy. Stop touching your face and social distance as much as you can. I think we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and for once, it isn’t a train.

Simple Ways To Help A Grieving Friend

Good morning, dear reader. I’m up early and writing while the house is quiet. I went to bed fairly early last night and woke up naturally at a quarter of six. I feel well-rested, though, so I’m going to give my body what it needs today. At the moment, it’s coffee and some creativity.

I’m going to share some advice today on a topic that is near and dear to me. Grief. I’m no stranger to grief. I’ve lost jobs, sold houses, gotten divorced, attended funerals of those I loved dearly, and watched friendships fall by the wayside. Grief is one emotion that makes no sense because it encompasses so many different emotions like anger, sadness, regret, and loneliness. If you’re lucky, you’ll get one of those a day, but most days – especially right after the loss – the tsunami of emotions are hard to deal with.

One of my closest friends’ father-in-law died yesterday, and another acquaintance posted online about it being the anniversary of her sister’s death. It struck me, at that moment, that maybe – just maybe – they were subtly reaching out for a little reassurance or kindness without directly asking for it. I, with my INTJ brain, may have read more into this than necessary, but still. Does it hurt any of us to be kind? No, but it happens so rarely these days that – and I’m not being flippant here – giving the minimal amount of kindness seems to be even more than the majority is handing out. That makes me sad, but I’m also guilty as charged. We all are, I’m sure.

Everyone gets busy, and everyone forgets things, but I don’t think anyone is too busy to stop and acknowledge a friend in need. I’m not talking about helping a person move (Ugh. Worst thing ever.) I’m merely talking about being present. So much of my journey has been about cutting out necessary distractions from my life to have the time to jump in when someone needs me. Again, I don’t think one has to go overboard on platitudes to make a difference. In fact, when it comes to ‘platitudes’ – just don’t. But here are some things you can do…

  1. Acknowledge the loss. One of the ways I tend to do this is to NOT post in the comment section of a grieving friend’s post. I tend to send a short text or private message. If it’s a loss that just happened, I will usually say, “I’m sure you’re bombarded with arrangements and other things right now, but I am here when you need me.” I’ve been through funerals, and, at first, the shock is so great some people jump into action mode (me) while others it in a chair and stare at a wall. Both are acceptable. This brings me to my next point.
  2. Let them grieve. None of us have a right to judge anyone’s grief. I think we all have a personal responsibility to keep an eye on these folks, but judging the behavior isn’t going to help anyone. When my brother died, I lost my fucking mind. I did things to bury my emotions that I am ashamed of, and so many people judged me instead of helping me. Nice segue…
  3. Be a helper. I don’t accept help well. When I read things like “Offer to do laundry” I cringe. Gross. Who wants someone else going through their dirty laundry? So clearly, not my thing, but when I was going through my divorce, the unexpected babysitting was wonderful. I remember shutting the front door as a friend pulled out of my driveway with my son and within minutes I was asleep. My divorce was so stressful for me that I barely ate and never slept. I lost forty pounds in a period of a few short months, and I looked awful. Having someone step in and offer to do the thing I needed most…priceless.
  4. Schedule reminders. My friend, Machell, is someone who always (always!) seems to text me when I need it the most. Another friend texts me every year on my brother’s death anniversary, and I haven’t talked to her in years. Both are important to me. I, myself, absolutely suck at remembering things. Hell, I didn’t get Machell’s birthday right until this year, and we’ve been friends for nearly two decades. I’m. Just. Bad. At. It. Well…if having an autistic child has taught me anything, it’s use the tools provided to you for your success. So now I schedule that shit. I make a note in my calendar of those crucial dates where a friend might need a text or a lunch date or a shot of whiskey at a little dive bar on the west end of town. I’m not naturally good at these things, so I do have to create opportunities to remind myself. Because if I didn’t, it would be months before I remembered to check in on my friends. At least I admit it.
  5. Send gift cards. Everyone brings over a crap ton of food the days after a funeral (which is appreciated, don’t misunderstand me) but there are also days – weeks after – that the grief hits and all the casseroles are gone. I remember getting a card in the mail weeks after my dad died with five gift cards to restaurants that delivered. The card said: I’m thinking of you. You gotta eat. I don’t remember, at all, who brought a casserole that week. But I do remember that card, and it’s been eleven years. I’ve paid this simple gesture forward many times.
  6. Buy the wine and just listen. It’s so tempting to fill the space with verbal platitudes, but honestly, just be quiet. I learned a little trick from my therapist, who merely says, “That’s interesting. Tell me more about that.” I’m a problem-solver, so I immediately want to jump in and fix someone’s problem. The thing is, though, grief isn’t a problem. Grief is an emotion, and with all emotions, it needs to be processed. Just be present and let them process. Your job is to pour the drinks, listen, and call Uber or put sheets on the guest bed.
  7. Be honest. Often we say the dumbest stuff in hopes of making someone feel better. These sayings are well intended, but honestly, they just end up pissing the person who is grieving off. My favorite: “She’s in a better place.” Really? Because to me, ‘a better place’ is around the fireplace at Christmas. My second favorite: “He wouldn’t want you to be sad.” How do you know? He might. Anyway…my point is… I’ve sent many cards saying the God’s honest truth: I don’t even know what to say right now and I’m afraid I’ll say something idiotic. I am devastated by the news and I want you to know that my heart hurts for you.

These suggestions may not be fancy, but they are simple and easy. I promise you, though, the actions I’ve suggested are no less important than grand gestures of assistance. I’ll never let anyone come over and clean my house or do my laundry – but I will let them buy me a drink while I cry it out near a fire. I’ll always allow someone to watch my son while I take care of myself, and I always appreciate the handwritten card that comes in the mail. These things aren’t hard to do, folks; they are hard to remember to do. So, figure it out.

I’m not going to finish out with a song today, but I will link you back to a post I wrote recently about dealing with loss. Remember, dear reader, that grief isn’t logical, so pay attention to those around you and be present for them if you can.

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.

9 Ways To Usher In 2021

I love the end of a year.  I know, I know. I should be excited about Christmas and all that joyful stuff but what gets me excited is the opportunity to let go of something and begin anew.

I do this a lot. I purge in various ways all year long – a closet here, a hard drive there, my so-called friends list on Fakebook. I simply like to clean.  So, the beginning of a new year is like getting a new car or moving into a new office.  I feel a sense of empowerment when January 1st rolls around.  I CAN DO ANYTHING I WANT THIS YEAR!  I love January 1st.  It’s my favorite day of the year.

Let’s do something this year to make a difference. I invite you to block four continuous hours on your schedule sometime during January to accomplish the following tasks.  

  1. Spend at least one of those hours with someone you love.  Trust me: It is easy to take people for granted. One hour is a quiet lunch, a short walk, one episode of Yellowstone. Could you do it?
  2. Take a look at your credit report.  Seriously.  It’s most likely free, and this is something you don’t want to be jacked up.
  3. Review your security settings on social networking sites.  Yes, they are ‘social’ networking sites, but does everyone need 100% access to you all the time? Nope.
  4. Make a list of the five people who made 2020 better.  This could have been the suckiest year – or the best year – of your life…but I guess that the reason you are still here breathing in the air is that there was someone who made a difference in your life.  Now that you’ve identified them tell them.  Sit down with a pen and write a handwritten note. It could be ten words: “You made a difference in my life this year.  Thanks.”  No need to get dramatic. 
  5. Vow to learn to make something better than anyone else.  I’m not talking about building a house or crafting a specialized violin in your garage.  It could be something small but learn to be the best at it.  I’ve declared Sundays a day to try a new recipe. I’ve yet to perfect anything, but I’ve had fun.
  6. Let go of your quest to earn more and instead embrace a lifestyle that spends less.  Seriously.  I know you love those thrift shops and think that if you don’t use that coupon, your life will be OVER…but you really have all you need because you are reading this blog…which means you have access to a computer and the internet…so most likely you have access to food, water, and shelter.  I’d say you are set for a while.
  7. Make a list of the ten things you can do without in 2021.  Make a plan to do without ten things/tasks/commitments/beliefs. I’ve already axed Hulu and creamer in my coffee. I’ve also given up on looking like I’m 30. I’ve earned these grey hairs and these laugh lines.
  8. Finish something.  Last Christmas (2019, not this past Christmas), I painted my living room but ran out of paint. Now, a full year later, I still need to finish this room.  I’m the worst at finishing things.  But, there is a nice release of energy into the world when the project is completed, and nothing is left ‘undone’.
  9. Set ONE goal for 2021.  No New Year’s Resolutions, no lists of goals to accomplish in seven different categories (Sorry Stephen Covey!)  One goal.  Now, work out an easy to follow a plan to achieve it.

So, there.  Join me in the joyous celebration of finishing up 2020 and looking forward to 2021. Virgos of the world will try to accomplish all nine in one day (Yup. And by Virgos I mean me). Others will wait and do one a day.  It’s no big deal… try them all.

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?

Another Matter of the Heart

There’s a story I don’t share much. I allude to its content from time to time, but I don’t really go into detail. I don’t go into detail for several reasons such as:

1) Its content is not something by which I want to be defined.

2) After all this time, I try to tell a new story.

3) If I don’t discuss it, it won’t hurt as much.

However, I realize after eight years the subject does define me, to a point. It allows me to not only tell a new story, but to change my entire value system. And, while time does heal pain, the void is never really filled so it doesn’t really matter if I talk about it or not.

Tomorrow marks the eighth year I have lived without my only sibling. A young man with a seven-month old son left the world at the age of 27, suddenly without much warning. The one person I was to tease throughout my entire life. The one with whom I was to discuss matters regarding our parents’ health. The one I would leave my child to if something terrible happened to me first. In just one day I went from being someone’s sister to being an only child. It crippled me emotionally for nearly half a decade.

The details of the ‘old’ story and how this happened are not really necessary here. What does matter, however, is how life’s events are meant to teach us valuable life-altering lessons.

Lessons like…

1) Relationships and family are more important than work.

2) Saving for a rainy day is important.

3) When someone is in need, time is of the essence.

You see, I didn’t get on a plane from Connecticut to Missouri fast enough. I didn’t do it because I was really busy with work…I didn’t have a dime in my savings account…I thought it was a simple stomach ache and that was not important enough for me to fly clear across the country. Between the time I got the “You need to come home” call and the time I actually arrived, my brother had slipped into a place from where he would never come back. I never got to say goodbye. And that haunted me for many, many years.

It also changed me. It changed me in so many ways that I wish I could go back to those people who angered me with their “There is a gift in this tragedy” statement. I would say to them “You were right”. Because, folks, why else must we endure such pain if not for growth?

So, how did this change me? How did I grow?

Nobody’s work is more important than family. I live by this in my job now and promote this value to those I supervise and with whom I work. I also remind my superiors from time to time that family is a priority for me. I’ve quit ‘dream jobs’ to be with my family. It isn’t hard to make decisions when you live your values.

Buying useless crap takes valuable resources away from you. When I lived in New England, I lived in a house I really could not afford and bought items for this house I really, really, really could not afford. So, when I got the call my first thought was “Where the hell am I going to get $900 to fly to Missouri?“. Eight years later, I can tell you with all truth and honesty: I think of that moment whenever I am about to buy something major that would deplete my savings account. It has stopped me many times from buying something I do not need.

Don’t ignore your intuition. When a friend is in need, today is the day to pick up the phone. Today is the day to stop what you are doing and write that note. Not tomorrow, not next week, and certainly not ‘not ever’. I knew something was wrong on that Friday. I should have called home that day. Instead, I waited nearly 36 hours for my father to call me…and another 12 hours to arrive at the hospital. I think Facebook is a wonderful place to get information. It is not a wonderful place to show someone how much you care.

What does this have to do with simplicity?

I don’t know. Maybe nothing. Except that this event, along with a few others, led me to my decision to stop working so much, quit buying so much, and take the time to sit on a blanket in the yard watching a storm roll in last night with my son instead of washing dishes.

Every one of my ‘simplicity’ heroes has a similar story. An ‘Ah-Ha’ moment, if you will. What’s your old story and how did it help create a new story? Are you a ‘simplicity-minded’ soul and if so, how did you arrive here? Are you in the midst of your own painful life event that has given you pause? I’d love to hear from you.

Happy weekend!

PS…I’m giving my dear friend and editor time off to deal with her own set of priorities and family issues. If the blog is a complete grammatical mess – I take full responsibility.