18 for 2018

This year I have been enjoying the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast as well as Happier in Hollywood. Gretchen and Liz (her TV writer sister) are creating 18 for 2018 lists and since I have been missing my birthday lists, I thought I’d jump on board. I have made most of them finite things I can do throughout the year with just a few that are year-long goals.

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Journal, Words

100 Days of Writing Happy

Today is the first day of #The100DayProject which is run by Elle Luna and Lindsay Jean Thomson. Last year, I took on too much at a time when Austin was still pretty young. I am not sure I have any less on my plate now, being back to work and balancing all that, but I do want to a) focus on positive things that make me happy b) write something every day so I have decided to have another go.

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Journal, Simple Life

Living on Purpose

When I was really struggling with Austin and wondering why it seemed so much harder than last time (apart from the obvious things like me being older, Austin not being Evelina etc.), I realised that what was making it hard was not being in a routine. I was feeding him every two hours, on demand like I had been told. It took me months to remember that routine makes life so much easier (for me at least – not for everyone).

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Simple Life

Far From Simple

I am taking advantage of a rare bit of time without the children to do some of the many things that I have had to put on the back burner since having Austin. I am writing so infrequently here, I wanted to take a look at the blog and decide how I wanted to proceed: delete it? Archive it? Revamp? None of these seemed appealing to me (although I can’t promise I won’t update the banner, a new theme is not necessary).

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Simple Life

Our Family Purpose Statement

Project 6 (a Living Well project) from One Bite at a Time: Create a Family Purpose Statement

I must admit that I have already done this but since I wanted to get my 52Bites posts on the road, and I am really too busy to try anything today, I thought this would be a good place to start.

Our statement is:

We believe that our purpose as a family is to live without regret or worry and to have a positive impact on the people or environment around us.  We will accomplish this by:

  • valuing openness, respect, kindness and positivity
  • making our home a place of warmth and simplicity
  • making time for each other and for others
  • communicating respectfully, effectively and with love

I find this particularly useful when I start thinking of all the Stuff I want to buy or have. Reading this statement reminds me what is important.

Simple Life

The Possibilities of Mondays

For the past 20 months or so, Mondays don’t instill dread the same way they do more most 9-to-5ers. Instead of that Sunday Night Feeling, I get a frisson of hope for the week ahead. It’s a new leaf. A new start. A chance to do things right this week. Never one to start in the middle, I am no good at making changes mid-week, so Mondays are when I try new things. Mondays are when I think of all the things I want to accomplish and since it’s the beginning of the week, it all seems so achievable and I have not failed at getting things done (yet!).

In a few weeks, I am sure this will all change. I will be working / studying full-time and I won’t have the luxury of naptime-quiet hours to blog, read, tidy, watch TV etc. etc. I will have a lot less time and a lot more to do. It’s a daunting thought. Don’t get me wrong, I am really excited about starting my course; but I am also aware of how my life is about to be turned upside down.

It has never been more important for me to live intentionally, using my precious time in the best way possible. I want our house to be uncluttered and easy to keep. I want to cut out all the mental clutter of pointless worries. I want to live a simple, happy life in spite of the excessive workload and stressful new career. I was thinking last night about this blog and about my post categories, wondering if the simple category was something I could write about once I start my course. I almost thought of it as an indulgence that I have been lucky enough to tackle with having so much time at home.

This morning, as I wrote out my day’s tasks, I realised it is more important that ever that I keep my eye on the simple goals I have set. I need to refocus on what is really important so that I have the best chance of being successful (and sane) come September onwards.

Simple Life

14. Time

Time is a funny animal. There is never enough but sometimes there is too much. It goes too slowly and it flies by. I waste time more than anything else and yet I am always bemoaning my lack of it.

I have a busy day at work today, or at least, I have some important things to get done. So I will try today to use my time with intention. I will try not to waste it. I will not wish it away or mourn its passing. Today, I want to be at peace with time, not at odds.

Simple Life

Money, Money, Money

The next chapter of Simple Mom‘s Organized Simplicity deals with Money. This is a subject that can make me go hot and cold. In the past, I have definitely taken the head-in-sand approach. We have never been very good with money and have always liked our gadgets, holidays and shopping in general. For years, we had the means to not be too concerned about the debt that we had.

Then we had a baby, moved house, changed jobs and bought a new (and needed) car all in the same year. I have gone from a full-time position to working 2 days a week. We had banked on clearing a lot of our credit card debt when we moved but other expenses sprang up, like needing a new boiler at the new house and all the other baby things that are needed (which is a lot, even when you are lucky enough to have so much from friends).

Now we are living only just within our means – there is not a fat lot over once our necessary payments have come out. We have had to change our whole spending outlook. We have had to do a lot of shifting around of funds and scrimping where we can. The key ways which we have made changes or plan to make changes are:

  • meal planning and careful grocery shopping: this has halved our grocery bills. We used to never pay much attention to prices and would think nothing of dropping a DVD in the trolley. Now I use a calculator as I shop and aim to get each shop under a certain amount. This makes me focus on only buying what we need;
  • handmade giving: gifts are undoubtedly better if they are thoughtful and handmade rather than bought and perhaps unwanted. This Christmas, I really want to make a lot of presents so that people can see how special they are without us having another credit card bill to pay.
  • eBay and bootsale: selling our unwanted items has a double-whammy effect of decluttering and helping with cashflow.
  • intentional spending: using our family purpose statement to help inform our spending decisions
  • credit card review: have a look at all aspects of our credit card debt including interest rates and repayments.

The following steps show how are dealing with this last issue:

  1. interest rates: take advantage of 0% balance transfer deals – nearly all our credit cards are on 0% for the next year or so;
  2. smart repayments: avoid the minimum repayment trap by setting up fixed standing order payments on credit cards rather than direct debits to cover just the minimum payment – this tip doesn’t mean you pay any more per month than you are paying now on minimum payments but it makes clears the debt quicker with less interest. Using this method in conjunction with the Debt Snowball Plan below seems to be the most effective in my opinion;
  3. one by one: tackle the debts one by one starting with the smallest amount first. This Debt Snowball Plan was originally recommended by Dave Ramsey and explained by Simple Mom as:

paying the minimums on all debts except one, which you pile on any extra funds you have. When that one is paid off, you take the money you piled on the first debt and put it towards the second. Then you do that with the third, and so on and so on, until all your debt is gone.aim to be debt-free (not including our mortgage) in five years.

Once we made a decision to spend more intentionally, it felt so good to have the burden of keeping up with the Joneses lifted. We can be thankful for our lovely house and not dwell on others who have bigger and better houses. In fact, being envious of other people in general is not very productive. When I catch myself doing this, I tend to look at what those people do for a living. I ask myself: would I be prepared to work those hours, do that training or do that job.  Chances are, the answer is ‘no’ so I can’t very well expect to reap the benefits without making the sacrifices that others make.

Every new thing we want just adds to the things we have to maintain or clean and that in itself is a great way of watching what we buy. We have enough TV and films to watch on DVD to last us an eternity (or at least a year or so) so we can hold off from buying that new blockbuster that we want to see until we have made a dent in all the things we already have.

We aim to be debt-free (not including our mortgage) in five years. I also think we will have given our attitude to money, spending and material possessions (which only equal more clutter) an extreme makeover which will serve us well for the rest of our lives and allow us to teach more thrifty values to my daughter as she grows up.