Monday, December 31, 2012

Random Blurb

I've been talking so much about stuff that is all dramatic. "Oh my goodness, my mom's losing her house and has too much stuff". "Oh my goodness, I don't know how to take care of myself". "Oh my goodness, I'm losing my mind and everything else with it"

So today I would just like to say, that I am happy overall. I'm looking out the window and seeing the snow blanketing the Sierras. I go home every night and snuggle my dog and talk to the bird. I watch TV and exercise. I cook myself yummy dinners and I take hot showers. I'm building my business and setting my life in order. I have good friends and a fantastic family.

I'm enjoying myself thoroughly. I don't have more drama than I can handle, and while it would be great to have a guy I could share all my good fortune with, but I'm okay with not right now.

I just thought I would share that. Because so often I worry that it sounds like I am whining or that I'm not happy. I'm changing the things I need to change, like the size of my debt and my thighs, (all right. I'm working harder on the debt) and I am having fun doing it.

I'm blessed, and I know it. Life is fantastic.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hoarders Anonymous

I don't think it exists. Maybe it should. Except they would probably go to each other's garage sales and just pass all the stuff around.

Not the point.

I think I have mentioned on more than one occasion that my parents are collectors of stuff. All three of them. I think I have also mentioned that I am a collector of stuff, but that I am actively working on weeding the stuff out so that I am not storing a bunch of crap I don't need and won't use. If, for example, I were to get rid of some of the stuff in my studio, I could use it to create things instead of hauling my craftiness into the living room.

This collecting problem in my family has been highlighted of late in the fact that my mother will soon be moving.

I don't know if I have talked about how she left her job a couple of years ago and has not found another one. Or how when the market was high, she refinanced several times (against the advice of her children) and owes far more on her house than she would if she hadn't done that.

She realizes now that she made some mistakes and we are working through this madness. Thankfully, she has this really great fiancee who owns his house and she will be moving in with him. Her lifestyle will have to change drastically, and we aren't sure how all her children and his children will fit for Christmas next year, but we can cross that bridge when we come to it. I suggested bunk beds in the family room he plans to build.

We've known this was coming for awhile, although there is still hope that she will find a job in time to save her house. In real life though, the fiancee's house is smaller than hers. and already full of his stuff.

She said she has been getting rid of things, but having been at her house in the last week or so, I can't really tell the difference. At one point, while Seester and I were having some rare alone-time, she asked me if I had seen the bin of medicine bottles.

All those pill bottles you get at the pharmacy? Or the ones that hold vitamins? They're great little containers. She keeps them. All of them. Because they are great little containers.

I'm worried about her. I'm worried that she won't be able to part with all the things she's been saving over the years. She expressed that she felt bad about getting rid of the bed I usually sleep on when I am there. She said it's a good little bed. I reminded her that she could sell it for pretty cheap and have the money, and someone would have a great little bed. I told her that the bed doesn't care if she sells it. She agreed but I don't know if the lesson really went through.

She tends to attach emotions to things. And it's a good lesson for me, because I do too. Thankfully, I am evolving my thinking. I'm doing my best not to acquire new things while still getting rid of the old things. It's hard. Hard to overcome a lifetime of getting things because I want them. Of buying in bulk for later, then forgetting I have it. Of re purposing things into other things (I'll still do this, but no one actually wants old pill bottles! Recycle that shit!) Of holding onto something because I might want it later or because I've attached some sort of misplaced emotion on it.

Maybe if I can stop doing that misplaced emotion thing to things, I can stop doing it to people too...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Now that it's after Christmas...

I pulled a thrifty tip from The Little Big Blog for my nieces this year.

I managed to give the bulk of my family handmade gifts this year. This saved me in a big way because back in November I started stressing out about how I was going to pay for gifts for my family, and then I realized that I spent all summer happily making jelly out of fruit I was getting at the farmer's market. I don't think it occurred to me then that my jelly making fun would save me in a few months, but when I realized that my family would happily receive jelly, my shopping was suddenly almost done.

This didn't cover the nieces though. They would be getting jelly by default, but you can't really give a 4 year old a glass jar of jelly and expect that she will get all excited about it. Since time was short and my plate was full, making something wasn't likely to happen.

I found a couple of books, and stayed in my budget, but quickly discovered that the girls already had those. Back they went.

I knew that I wanted to give the girls books, but I discovered really fast that children's books are expensive. If I stayed in my budget, I would only be able to afford to buy one.

I was on my way back to Costco to see if they had anything new, (awesome place to get children's books, they tend to be about half retail!) when I remembered a gently used bookstore. I was able to get 4 books for considerably less than I would have paid for 1 book at the regular book store. That left room in my budget for a toy for them to share.

So, thank you, Carrie Anne for telling me that it's okay for me to be thrifty with my gift giving. For reminding me that used books are just as good, and for helping me to remember that it's better to stay in budget than to be extravagant.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Finding my shit

I still haven't found my purse.

However, in the process of getting myself organized, I did find a $25 gift card for Chilis that has been missing for the past year. I'll call that a "win". Maybe next I will find the $50 gift card to Victoria's Secret I lost last Christmas. On my list of things to change about myself? Stop putting gift cards "somewhere safe".

And purses too.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Losing track of my shit

Last December, I traded in my Southwest points for a free round trip ticket with the intention of using it for my holiday travel this year.

That meant that I would only have to pay for one ticket instead of two. When Thanksgiving rolled around and I was still overdrawing and my credit cards were still (thankfully) lost, I cancelled my trip South so I could get myself in order. I was thankful that I still had a round trip ticket to get me home for Christmas.

Until I tried to book the trip. And learned that the ticket was going to expire in 4 days.

Oh the things I could have done with that ticket. RollerCon. Brother in Law's 40th birthday bash. Thanksgiving.

And it's gone. Because I was too distracted to pay proper attention. I assumed that it expired on the 31st, not the 12th. Which means that I had to pay for my ticket South for Christmas. Since I didn't have the cash on hand, I put it on the credit card. I'll be paying that off over the next 8 months if I add an extra $50 per month to my MasterCard payment. (ouch!) That's almost time to get another ticket! If I had saved $50 per month over the last 8 months, I would have been able to pay cash.

Hm. What a concept!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Hello future me, it's nice to meet you.

The other day, I happened across a blog that talked about how a family of 6 can live on less than $28,000 per year.

If they can do it, so can I, right?

So I read the whole dang thing. And picked up as many suggestions as I could. A lot of them were very helpful and I will likely talk about them later.

One thing that really struck home was the introduction to my future self.

The thought behind this is, that by "meeting" your future self, you will be less likely to "steal" from him or her.

What do I mean by this? Well, every time you put something on credit, you are making your future self pay for you to have things now. Who is to say that your future self is going to WANT that random bauble? By the time you pay for that fancy dinner, it's long been digested. By the time you pay for that vacation, you've lost all the pictures.

I'm not saying that I'm giving up on vacations and dinners, I'm saying that it's better to save up and have them later for cash than to have them now and pay more for them due to using credit. Credit is expensive.

I learned that I am suffering now for the pleasures of me in the past. And I don't want this trend to continue to the suffering of my future self. I want her to have money in the bank. I want her to not have to sweat a trip to Costco to replenish the things I buy in bulk. Or heading over to JC Penny for some new work clothes because I've been exercising so that she can be skinnier.

So even though I have used my MasterCard in the last couple of weeks, its with the understanding that those purchases are going to cost me later. Of the four purchases I have made, 2 of them have already been repaid, one I am waiting for reimbursement from my insurance company, and the third, well, that one is going to be hanging out for awhile.

If a family of 6 can live on $28,000 per year (or less), I can live on that (or more) and still reach my financial goals. I'm glad I already started.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Those things I didn't learn in Kindergarden

After several months of being on the Flylady system, I fell off. Not because it isn't still a great system, but because it got hard to keep up, And my daily list of things to do kept getting longer and longer. They were no longer fitting on an index card.

So I stopped making them. Things stopped getting done. And I felt like a failure every time I looked at one of my little bullitin boards where my index cards go.

I remembered pretty quickly that as a list maker, I need my lists. BUT I realized that by expecting myself to accomplish an entire list every day, I was setting myself up for failure. I tried to hop back on the train but fell off again. I was overwhemed. I put too many things on my list and I shut down.

I happened across a website one day that talked about working with your inner child to learn how to get things done. We all know that I'm in pretty good touch with my inner child. I understand that she is the essence of who I am so when she throws a fit, I listen. mostly. (hence I didn't buy a car I know I would hate driving) BUT like any child I have to make her do her chores.

I recently started over at the beginning. Baby steps, you know? The crap we were all supposed to learn when we were 3 that for some reason never stuck with me. The stuff that should have me calling Nanny McPhee

"Clean up after yourself"

Easy peasy, right? But even that little bit of discipline is hard for me sometimes. It's weird for me to admit that I don't pick up after myself. That I tend not to put my toys away. I am not a dirty person. I like things neat and clean, and yet I let it pile up, finding excuses why it doesn't get done.

I'm proud to say that since I've been focusing on that simple thing, my kitchen has stayed clean. And the stuff that has piled up (ahem, laundry) I'm knocking out 5 items at a time. Whether it's putting away 5 pairs of socks from my laundry basket each time I walk into my room, or putting away 5 hair baubles I've left on the shelf in my bathroom. If it doesn't happen, I don't beat myself up.

The other stuff is still getting done. I've created a new and ongoing list that goes with me everywhere. When something pops into my head, I write it on my list and deal with it later. It seems to be working. For now. Thanks to my list, I have been forgetting less stuff and have been becoming more of the person that I want to be. I don't have to worry about the fact that the kitchen needs to be cleaned, so I am able to remember to grab my coat on a cold day.

The little things I (for some reason) never learned. I'm amazed at all the lessons I managed to miss.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Good bye to my little friend

It will come as no surprise to you that no matter how hard I try to simplify, I tend to fill my proverbial plate so full that soon I am stressed out and overwhelmed by the life I have created for myself. Then I announce that I am going to simplify and I start looking for ways to fix things.

I remove a few things from my plate but they sneak back on.

Of late, I have been working on the things that most people take for granted. First my house.  I started to declutter and learn to maintain a clean environment. Then my body. I gave myself three months at the local community center for my birthday since they have a pool and I wanted to use it.  Then, my finances. I still haven't found my purse and I did order a new MasterCard, but I am also working every day to keep my spending to a minimum. Sadly, the gym has been put on hold while I work harder on reining in my spending.

Things started coming together nicely. I no longer arrive home to a giant mess. The kitchen is clean, the floors vacuumed, and as of this morning, all of my laundry is put away. (well, everything but the linens in the dryer). I still have a long way to go, but I'm on the right track.

There was one thing bothering me though. Each day, I would come home to a stinky house. Stinky. House. Not okay. No matter how cluttered I get, I like to think that I'm not DIRTY, but stinky says dirty to me. I'd clean, revel in the scent of bleach or whatever I happened to clean with that day, and a short while later, the stink would come back. I added sceted thingies all over the house, but it just wasn't enough.

I was spending a couple of hours a week just maintaining the bunny area, only to have it filthy again a few days later. And Oliver, he was getting a couple of pets a day, but overall, was dirty (and smelly) and ignored. This is not the kind of pet parent I want to be, but it was hard to give myself the attention I need, I added park time almost every day for the dog, and maintain a clean house as well as groom and hold a rabbit every day.

Much as it pained me, it was time to let Oliver go. Not literally. I considered putting him outside, but rabbit hutches are expensive and I am trying to cut back on my expenses. Plus, I worried that with him out of sight, I would forget to feed and water him. I looked into rescues and asked my friend who belongs to the rabbit society if he knew anyone. I considered craigslist, but didn't want him to go to another home like mine. He needed a better home.

So I watched craigslist for someone specifically looking to adopt an Angora. I found someone pretty quickly, and last Friday, I said goodbye. The family he went to did their research on the breed. I gave them full disclosure on Oliver's litter box issues and the various grooming he would need to bring him up to par. I gave them all his food, pen, everything I had that they might need to give him a better home. I have faith that they will. I gave him up for him, and also for me.

I no longer come home to a stinky house. I think Baby and Chango are enough pets for me to handle. Sure, I'll be tempted here and there to get something new, but right now, I think I'm done having too many critters. Because it's better to be a good keeper of one or two than a terrible keeper of 3.

One less thing on my plate. One more step to being "normal".

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My mom, the Flylady, and the number 5

My mom mentioned to me awhile ago, how hurt she was that Seester and I didn't seem to learn how to keep house from her. Somehow, we needed more than her instruction on keeping a home and we had to look to The Flylady.

She didn't understand where she went wrong.

She didn't raise us wrong, but nothing I was going to say that day is going to change her mind about that.

Here's the thing. No matter how you were raised, you have to find a way to maintain your life your way. For Seester and I, The Flylady got us restarted.

Seester learned that she doesn't have to be a perfect housekeeper, which was tough considering the fact that we grew up in a house that said that if you weren't going to do something right, you shouldn't do it at all. Ever day the house was vacuumed, bathrooms cleaned, kitchen cleaned, top to bottom throughly. No such thing as a quick wipe down. (really crusty dishes could be left to soak overnight, but if any dish went back in the cabinet with a bit of food still on it. we washed every dish in the house)

With a crew of 3 children, this is a little easier to achieve. (Pie and Brother were too young to help when Cousin, Sister, and I were doing chores) We took care of most of the cleaning freeing my parents up to change diapers and work on freelance jobs. (Seester changed a lot of diapers too)

Please note that my mom remembers the household chores differently than we do. She remembers keeping up on the whole house while working full time and raising babies. We remember that we had a list of daily chores that had to be done before she got home. And that after dinner was cooked, we did the dishes and mopped the floor.

So, Flylady told Seester that as long as her sink was shiney, it's okay to have a dish on the counter or sweep and not mop. To take little nibbles of the housework instead of trying to "eat" it all at once. With two toddlers, I think this has brought Seester a lot of peace.

She taught me that I'm smart to make lists to keep track of myself, and that I can do anything in 15 minutes. Well, for me it's 5. I get distracted in 15. I would like to work up to 15. In the mean time, I will work in multiples of 5. I set the timer, I go. 5 minutes. If I get distracted, I refocus. 5 minutes. I am amazed at the things I can get done in 5 minutes.

I don't really discuss my cleaning habits with my mom anymore. I learned that it is a sore spot and makes her feel like a failure when I share my success in this matter. I support Seester when she talks about the system, and I continue to adapt it for my uses. I too have learned to take my housecleaning in little nibbles. Imight only be one person, but I sure do make a lot of mess!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Still working through it

So, I reached my goal of spending less on incidentals in November by $100, which is just slightly more than I spent at Ikea so I'm not sure it really counts. My wants went down, but my needs went up and somewhere in there, I spent my cushion. I don't really know how I managed that except that perhaps I still had leftover madness from October.

Since we last discussed it, I've changed a few things so I will appear to have more money to work with each month.

I've also been working on my attitude.

You see, I tend to spend it if I have it instead of budgeting for actual expenses. I may have mapped out my spending and bills, but I don't really control things beyond that. This is my next step. To set a budget for things like food, pet food, and entertainment and to stop using my debit card. I learned that I over spend when I use it. Case in point:

I told myself a couple of weeks ago that I could have a Costco hot dog for lunch since I would be at the store and I had $2 cash. While in line, I remembered that the total would come out to more than $2 after tax, I would have to use my debit card because I didn't have any change. Well, in that case, I thought, I can also have a frozen yogurt! Suddenly, my $2 lunch was $5. That doesn't seem like much, but those little expenditures add up fast.

Thankfully, I was quickly reminded that the taxes in Nevada are lower than the ones in California and I would have the cash to cover my lunch.

But it opened my eyes to my tendency to overspend because the money is in my account.

Friday, I am going to try to switch to the envelope system of cash management.