The Daily Cycle of Stuff: Lessons for My 4 Year Old

trains

I spend a lot of my day moving things from Point A to Point B. I move the dishes from the cabinet, to the table, to the dishwasher and back to the cabinet every evening, only to start all over again tomorrow. I move the clothes from the drawers, to the kitchen table, to my children’s bodies, to the washing machine, to hangers in the basement and back to their drawers within a day or so.

This is life; perpetually moving things from one place to another. The same can be said of so many things. The towels that we use to dry our bodies, the books we read, the toys my children play with.

We take them out, do something with them, move them, move them again and finally start back wherever it was we began.

As a stay-at-home parent I spend a good portion of my day putting things back where they belong. Much of this is to blame on my fifteen month old who likes to dump the contents of each and every toy box onto the floor, spend two seconds looking at the items on the floor and then moving on to the next unsuspecting box.

After spending a few hours alone with our kids my husband asked me to downsize their toy collection. With the little guy dumping everything onto the floor my husband could barely see the carpet below his feet.

This time I recruited the help of my four year old and it went surprisingly well! I explained that his dad and I wanted him to look carefully through his belongings. I said, “some toys you play with a lot, some a little and some you almost never touch. Our goal is to figure out which toys you really love.”

I also told him that he often receives toys from friends and family. I explained that people think long and hard about what to buy him, but sometimes he doesn’t find the toy very fun to play with and when that happens its okay to pass it on to another child who might enjoy it more than he does.

We also talked about how its important to get rid of toys we don’t play with so we have plenty of room to enjoy the toys we love. After all we can’t build a Lego city if we don’t have room on the floor. We need to get rid of unwanted toys to make space for fun.

Then I explained the process we would follow. I would pull each toy off of the shelf and he would analyze just how much he loved, liked or honestly didn’t care much for it.

I thought he might say he loved everything, but he contemplated each item for just a second or two and then placed it in the appropriate pile.

He genuinely wanted to pass his toys on to someone else who might like them more. He also realized that it was more important to pick through the toys himself. This made sure Mommy and Daddy didn’t accidentally donate a favorite item.

Sometimes he got distracted by a newfound toy. He’d take it to the floor and start to play, but I was adamant that we finish our analysis before any playing could begin. Once he realized I was serious he moved more quickly through the toys so he could get back to playing. An hour later we had a box and a half of unwanted toys ready to leave the house.

Best of all he was proud that he helped weed out the toys. When my parents arrived a few days later he proudly told them “We got rid of a bunch of toys. From now on we’re only keeping the ones I really love to play with!”

June 17, 2016 at 11:33 PM Leave a comment

Finding Myself Again

Hangers

As part of my fanatical decluttering I gave away the majority of my wardrobe. To be honest I grew tired of looking at drawers full of clothes that didn’t seem to fit properly anymore. Some items didn’t really suit my taste and others were from a time long gone by.

There were those button down shirts that I bought back in 1999, (the year after I graduated from college,) and beautiful dresses that I never had an occasion special enough to wear, but there were also many articles of clothing that simply didn’t feel right when I put them on. I blame that on pregnancy, nursing and let’s be honest just not exercising as often as I should.

After two pregnancies and many months nursing the clothes I did wear were stretched out and threadbare. I liked the comfort of my pull-down nursing tops. They made it so easy to feed my sons without having to lift my shirt or remove any clothing. For years I allowed that convenience and comfort to outweigh that frumpy feeling.

But recently I started going to the gym late at night long after the boys are in bed. It’s a way to get out of the house for an hour or so, alone and uninterrupted. Some people go to the gym to get fit or to lose weight. I’m simply not sure where else to go late at night; free from the constant neediness of my children.

Of course, exercise has helped me shed a few pounds and while I’ve only lost five or ten it seems I’ve lost all of it right around my middle. My pants are suddenly slipping off my hips and my shirts are hanging strangely from my body.

The weight loss is great, but the best thing about my new found late night independence is that I am beginning to feel like myself again. After leaving my job to stay home with the boys my persona became “all about mom”, but after four long and happy years, it’s now time to turn the focus back to myself.

Of course the result of losing weight is the need for a new wardrobe. I don’t need a ton of clothes, but I do need items in just about every category; new pants, shirts, shirts and dresses. I started my search online, looking for sales and adding coupon and promotion codes from places like PromoPro.com. I also ventured to outlet stores and even the local mall in search of new items.

Of course, I worry about making the same fashion mistakes all over again. Will I end up with drawers and hangers full of clothes that I’ll never wear? To be safe I’m keeping all of my receipts and noting the deadline for returns. I’m also consulting my husband and mom for advice. I plan to try on things and get a thumbs up before removing any tags.

I’ve never really been the kind of girl who gives fashion much thought, so it feels strange to stand in front of a full length mirror assessing how clothes fit three of the last four days. Despite the odd feeling I know I must press on.

When all is said and done I hope to get rid of the last few stretched out, baggy pants and shirts that are now much too big for me. It’s time to focus on feeling better, looking better and getting back to me. The “me” that has an identity outside of “mom.”

June 2, 2016 at 3:43 PM 1 comment

Cash Back Credit Cards, A Better Option

Credit cards are a great way to improve your credit. If you use them properly, they also offer a way to handle unexpected repairs or expenses. Before you apply for just any credit card, it’s best to research several different types to figure out which one benefits you the most.

Some credit cards offer a low introductory interest rate or no interest for the first six months. If you have another card with a high balance that you want to transfer over, then having this type of card makes sense. Other cards give you credits in air miles, which is great for someone who travels. Yet, if you’re not going to rack up the miles, the benefit of the points may take years to show results.

Cash back credit cards can work on any income. You can use the card for your groceries, gas and essentials each month and then pay the bill in full and start again. The advantage to using this type of card is that you’re using it for things you are already purchasing. Many pay an average of 1.5 percent cash back on purchases with some offering a higher earning on select categories that change every few months. It’s important to note that the companies that offer the best cash back credit cards do require you to spend around $500.00 per month to receive the cash back. If you use the card regularly, you can earn anywhere from $300.00 to $600.00 a year. You can use this money for a big ticket item or tuck it away in your savings account.

A credit card can have lasting benefits if you use it the way you should. You can use it to establish and improve your credit score and as a way to earn rewards. Since this is an unsecured line of credit there are disadvantages to misuse. If you decide that you want something, place it on your credit card, and then take months to pay it off you’re going to pay dearly for it. Sometimes you can end up paying two to three times the cost. You should never use a credit card because you have money available. Once you start this practice it’s hard to get out of unharmed. Not only will you gain interest each month, but once you go beyond the halfway point on your credit limit your credit score begins to take a hit. Also, if you fill one card then you’ll need another to pay for the things you’re accustomed to and now you’ve got several cards maxed out.

Credit cards are a great tool to use while on vacation and for purchases if you have the money to cover them. Some people like to use their cards to get the rewards. When the bill comes they have the funds to pay it. This is the only way you will win with a credit card. Instead of misusing your credit cards to pay for a big ticket item, save up the money for it. Just think of the rewarding feeling you’ll have when there’s no bill attached to it. You own it outright.

May 23, 2016 at 8:54 PM Leave a comment

Out With the Old, In With the New.

Towels

“Stop talking to me about money,” my husband said. “I don’t care if that costs $45 or if you saved 30 bucks. Just spend the money on things that matter and don’t feel guilty about doing it.”

But how could I stop? I’ve thought about money for as long as I could remember. “How could I spend it so easily?,” I wondered, and then I did.

Two days ago a large box arrived at my doorstep. It contained ten sets of brightly colored new towels. Our old ones were mismatched and threadbare. Most of them were over fifteen years old.

I didn’t just buy new towels. I bought luxuriously soft, name brand, new towels. I had a hard time clicking the purchase button and even hesitated before cutting off the tags, but wouldn’t you know I feel pure joy now.

Those beautiful, fluffy towels feel so soft against my skin. I wrap my boys in them after baths and my hair after a long hot shower. When I step into the bathroom all the towels are the same color and they all match the bathroom decor. I feel a sense of peace in there now that I didn’t before.

The bathroom isn’t the only place I spent money. I also bought a new set of dishes for our kitchen. A few of the old ones broke, (at some point or another), and I constantly found myself running out of the salad plates we use primarily for snacks and dishing out meals to my oldest son.

If I didn’t run the dishwasher every evening I found myself a few plates short by the end of the second day. I didn’t want to use a big plate when a small one would serve the purpose equally well.

I hemmed and hawed at the idea of replacing our old dishes, but I’m so happy to have a full set waiting for me in the cabinet now.

As I remove clutter from our house and downsize our possessions I find a strong desire to make our house feel more homey. Why should I look at ragged, mismatched towels or feel frustrated by a lack of dishes? If our finances were not in order these purchases might be a big deal, but we no longer live in a place and time where I have to worry about money.

It’s hard to stop weighing every financial decision, but I am a long way from where I started in 2005 (when this blog was created). Perhaps I no longer need to be One Frugal Girl? How much money does one need to have in the bank to stop worrying about having enough of it?

May 22, 2016 at 11:28 PM Leave a comment

Climbing

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Although I was born in August I consider April 15th a birthday of sorts. Eleven years ago on that very day I sat in on a bed in the emergency room, unable to catch my breath and deathly afraid to find out what was wrong with me.

Every April I reflect on my medical history and all that happened on that extraordinary day. Every year I thank God that I survived that medical ordeal. Last year marked the tenth anniversary of that trip to the ER. Here is what I wrote to commemorate that occasion.

The truth is ten years ago today I sat in a hospital bed with a pulmonary embolism unaware of what that meant or what was wrong with me. As months passed and doctors failed to diagnose my condition I felt broken. I cursed my body instead of praising it. I went on long walks and cried at the realization that I could die and that if I lived I surely would never be well enough to give birth to any children. Years later, when I finally felt well enough to get pregnant, I spent months failing to conceive. And in the midst of trying was unexpectedly diagnosed with blood curdling neuropathy. Once again I felt let down by my own body.

When my husband and I drove away from the hospital on the day my second child was born I bawled uncontrollably. I still cannot believe how my body has healed over the last ten years. It is certainly not free of aches and pains, it couldn’t run a marathon or even run a few miles, but the fact is I survived two medical crises and infertility.

My body is stronger than I ever could have imagined and I have two beautiful boys to prove it.

This past weekend my son and I went rock climbing at one of those places that has walls designed to look like Mount Rushmore and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Before we left the house I turned to my husband and said “I want to climb too.”

He gave me a look that said, “are you sure?”,  but I knew I wanted to climb those walls from the minute we talked about driving there. I wanted to push myself. I wanted to feel the strength in my legs and arms. I wanted to move up and not stop until I reached the very top.

As we drove I questioned myself a couple of times. Am I really strong enough to make it to the top? With all of my medical history is this just a really bad idea?

My son and I stepped into our harnesses and stood before a young kid nearly half my age who tightened them for us and explained how to snap ourselves to each belay.

I followed my four year old over to a large wall, assessed the possibility of making it to the top and snapped my harness onto the rope.

I took note of the weight of my body. I paid extra attention to where I placed my feet and looked for solid footing before reaching up. My arms felt strong as I reached up and gripped the holds above me.

I’ve been rock climbing a number of times before. A few of my college friends would often go on the weekends and I trailed along beside them on more than one occasion.

I remember my good friend, Chris, telling me you want to rely on your feet when climbing. You want to find solid footing before looking for the next place to put your hands.

As I maneuvered up the wall I took note of my strength, of the way my body felt, every inch from my fingertips to my toes. The fear of heights struck me for a bit as I climbed to the top. My hands began to sweat, but I continued until I could go no further.

I reached the top, climbed down and then climbed up different walls over and over again.

I am reminded of the need to thank my body for all that it has done for me. For not giving up despite my medical issues, for pressing on through the birth of two children. For allowing this nearly forty year old woman to get to the top and to be just as excited to get there as the children climbing the walls around me.

May 2, 2016 at 11:55 PM Leave a comment

Shedding Stuff and Moving Forward

wine glasses

I felt the need to tidy my house long before the I read Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Last year I took the room by room approach to discarding. I went through my drawers and closets carefully and methodically. The first pass I removed the easy stuff like clothes that didn’t fit and items that were well worn and generally unflattering. A month or so later I took another stab at the piles and removed even more. The second time through I parted with stuff I initially hesitated to donate.

I always thought of myself as a minimalist at heart, but as I looked at the bags filing the trunk I had to wonder if that was really true. I discovered that I was likely to hold on to things I might use someday and too sentimental to get rid of items that were no longer useful or relevant to my every day life.

Last year I removed a large china cabinet from our dining room and immediately breathed a little deeper. I’m not sure who I was kidding, but I’m not the kind of girl who is going to host formal dinner parties or prepare elaborate meals. Nope. That’s just not me.

I boxed up some stuff, donated a bunch and moved the rest to a curio cabinet in our entry way. I felt relieved that one large piece of furniture was gone, but every day I looked at that cabinet and sighed. It was constantly dusty and in need of a deep cleaning. This was partly due to its location at the bottom of the stairs, but also due to the fact that I never touched any of the items inside that cabinet.

So every day, multiple times a day, I passed that cabinet and thought I should clean it, I should dust it, I should do something about it. But every day I did the million other things I wanted to do and rarely, if ever, got around to doing anything about it.

Why did I have a cabinet full of stuff I never used? Did I love the items placed so delicately on those shelves? If you took the entire piece of furniture away would I even remember what was inside of it?

Last week I told my husband I wanted to get rid of that cabinet. The whole piece of furniture and just about everything inside of it. He pointed to one or two items he cared about and told me to get rid of the rest.

The next day I placed that cabinet on a towel and dragged it out the door. I literally dragged it through each room and then lifted it, (all by myself), over the threshold and out of the house.

When I walked back inside I couldn’t believe how open the space now felt. I dusted and cleaned all along the wall and floor and breathed a giant sigh of relief.

I am not the girl who displays pretty bowls and vases. That is my grandmother, my mother-in-law and my mother. I am not the kind of girl who wants to dust china she never uses and crystal that never comes out of the case.

Right now I am the kind of girl who has two children constantly running under foot. The kind of girl who wants space for them to chase and skip and play follow the leader. I am the kind of girl who doesn’t want to spend her few spare minutes dusting and cleaning. I am the kind of girl who, quite frankly, is allergic to dust.

Maybe one day we will host parties and eat on china and drink wine from sparkling glasses. Maybe one day we will host holidays and have our children and grand children over to celebrate special occasions. Maybe one day we will have too much space, as our children leave the nest, and the rooms are void of colorful toys and children’s voices.

But for now I want nothing but more space. More space to move and breathe and run and giggle. More space for the people that matter, not for things that never come out of the box.

April 27, 2016 at 4:35 PM Leave a comment

Cheerleaders

morning

For the past four and a half years I haven’t taken the greatest care of myself. Instead I have poured every ounce of my being into raising my children. Now everyone on earth has told me that this is not healthy, but for some reason I failed to heed that message.

After waiting over thirty years to become a mom and struggling for over two and a half years to conceive my children it seemed to make perfect sense to spend every waking minute caring for them. No, that doesn’t make sense? Maybe not, but that’s what my heart and soul told me to do.

Now that I am waking from this four year slumber I want to carve out time for myself. This is, of course, something I should have done right from the start, but as they say it’s better late than never.

A week and a half ago I started working out a gym near our house. After the youngest little guy is sound asleep in his crib, (I still nurse him to sleep every night), I tip-toe out of his room, grab my sneakers and work out for an hour. Sometimes I leave the house just after eight and other nights I’m not leaving until well after nine, but no matter the time I try to carve out an hour at least two to three times a week.

I could certainly stand to lose some weight, but this is less about weight loss and more about going out of the house, away from my children who I spend almost every waking minute with it. This is my time to do something just for me.

On the nights that I don’t work out I am trying my best to either blog, color, meditate or simply put down all of my electronic devices and go to bed.

While I have to wait until the children are asleep to leave the house I am happy to have any time to myself and I am especially glad that my husband is cheering me on and encouraging me to get the heck out of here.

Until last week I didn’t realize how rarely I drive without my children in the car with me. It feels good to roll down the windows, turn up the music and just go without worrying about sippy cups, snacks and when I last nursed the little guy.

It feels unbelievably good to carve out time for myself and to be alone!

Photo Credit

April 20, 2016 at 3:41 PM 1 comment

Surefire Ways to Plan Your Wedding on a Budget

Ah weddings. A magical and unforgettable day. What could be more special than celebrating and declaring your love in front of friends and family.

Unfortunately, for many brides and grooms wedding planning can be quite stressful. There are so many details to coordinate and so many concerns around accommodating guests from near and far. The stress of paying for a wedding can also leave a couple awake at night. Weddings are expensive!

Planning a great wedding on a tight budget may seem like an impossibility. You may be afraid that you won’t be able to plan and execute the wedding of your dreams, but don’t worry. There are ways in which you can plan a great wedding without a lot of money. Here’s how:

Shorten the guest list

Ask yourself: Do you really have to invite your parents friends? Particularly friends you’ve never met. The first step is to cut down on the guest list and narrow down the list for those who are most near and dear to your heart. Keep the guest list as intimate as possible.

Ask for help

You may need to hire musicians, photographers and caterers and we all know these services range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Before footing an expensive bill stop and ask for help. Are there any musicians in the family? Ask them to perform and explain what an amazing wedding gift it would be to hear them play. Ask everyone you know for recommendations and don’t forget to ask if they offer reduced rates.

Something old

Some women dream of wearing their mother’s wedding dress. If that’s your plan you’ll easily save thousands of dollars in apparel costs. Before heading off to a modern day dress shop consider visiting thrift stores and vintage shops for nostalgic but inexpensive pieces.

DIY

Ask your closest friends to help you create handcrafted centerpieces and invitations. Make a day of this, by ordering bagels and orange juice and inviting your friends over for brunch. You can whip up french toast and eggs for very little money and use this time to relax with friends before the wedding.This exercise will not only make you and your friends closer, it will also be a time to de-stress before the wedding.

Search for alternative financing

Consider alternative forms of financing for your wedding. Can you borrow money from a family member? Can you take on extra hours at work to fund your big day? If not consider alternative financing. Go to ecomparemo.com to see which banks offers the best options for you.

Decide on a minimalist theme

The minimalist theme is simple but elegant. Imagine using classic white as the main motif and throwing in a few splashes of color like apple green, purple, or gold. You can also add flowers without buying extravagant bouquets.

Yes, weddings can be a headache to plan, but if you plan in advance you can make it quite special without spending a lot of money. And remember to focus on the love you feel for your significant other. That matters much more than how much money you spend.

April 13, 2016 at 11:06 PM Leave a comment

When You Stop Worrying About Money

My son snowboarded out west for the first time this year. The price tag for two days worth of lessons was just under $500. Surprisingly, I did not bat an eye. No. I happily pulled out my wallet and wholeheartedly believe that money was well spent.  By the second day he was riding the chair lift up the mountain and sliding down with an instructor by his side.

I considered my reaction to such a big expense a fluke. I weigh every financial decision, both big and small, so surely I would go back to my penny pinching ways.

But imagine my surprise this past weekend when I happily handed over $200 for custom insoles and a new pair of running shoes. I didn’t compare the prices of shoes in the store or ask myself if I really needed new insoles. Nope. I walked in knowing what I wanted and handed over my credit card without any hesitation.

It doesn’t end there. Today I walked into a gym near my home and paid seventy dollars for a one and a half month membership. I also paid $6 to the most expensive parking meter I have ever seen.

Why the change of heart? We have a very large financial cushion in the bank and shrinking mortgages.

While I don’t want to become frivolous with my money I do want to spend it on the things that matter to me. Like getting in better shape and providing enriching experiences to my son.

Plus with two kids constantly undertow I simply don’t want to waste time pinching every penny. I have enough things to think about during the day and I don’t want money to be one of them.

April 12, 2016 at 10:48 PM 1 comment

What Doesn’t Kill You Will Make You Stronger

Last fall a minor war broke out between my in-laws and me. For months I contemplated the situation. I stood in the shower each morning replaying moment after moment of my encounters with them. Every evening before I fell asleep I replayed even more. At first I felt angry, then guilty, then the anger raged again. My husband and I discussed the problems, issues and events at length. We spent many late nights talking through the details and coming to terms with both the past and the reality of our present day relationships.

In my mind only bad things could come of this battle. I believed my husband, (who has been stuck in the middle for two decades), would finally tire of it. For years he has been bombarded with negative comments about me and my family. One evening he spent three hours listening to his parents complain about me and the complaints were sharp and jarring.

For years I defended myself against these accusations. Yet his bond was so strong that I believed he would ultimately side with them. How can you listen to such awful words about your spouse and then go home and smile at them?

Strangely enough my fears have been unwarranted. It some strange twist in this roller coaster of life my husband and I have landed on level ground together. My in-laws still don’t like me. In fact, one of them all but refuses to look or speak to me, yet my relationship with my husband is stronger than ever.

How could any good have come from this conflict? What have I learned from the mistakes that led us here?

  1. I am too passive in my relationships. I am not good at showing my vulnerabilities. I mask my true feelings particularly when I am hurt.
  2. The truth hurts. In order to truly understand where your spouse is coming from, they will say things that hurt you. While I would rather not feel the sting, I cannot correct or speak up when I do not have all the facts presented before me.
  3. I can put up with a whole lot of sh*t. When I tell people any portion of the story about my extended family they inevitably ask “how did you put up with this for so long?” This quality can be both a hindrance and a blessing.
  4. I do not like conflict in my personal relationships. While you might say “who does?” I can tell you from experience that some people thrive on it. I am most definitely not one of them.
  5. Even when angry I must attempt to view situations from the other person’s perspective. Even when I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am right in my assertions, I must try to step back and see what the other person may have felt or believed occurred.
  6. It is very important to understand the motivations that drive other people. I began asking myself “why are we in this situation,” “what is [that person] feeling,” “what would drive them to act like that?” While I cannot change their behavior it does help to understand it.
  7. I took a back seat to my husband’s wishes and desires. In order to ‘stay married’ I thought I had to ‘stay miserable.’ I realize now this is not the case.
  8. Lastly, I am strong. Many women have told me that they could not have lived through the same situation that I lived through. Many tell me they would have divorced their husbands and screamed at their extended family long ago. To that I say my husband is a great person with a few flaws. Since I am not without my own flaws I cannot seek perfection in my spouse.

I cannot be certain what the future holds for my relationship with my husband, but I believe this conflict has allowed us to be more open and honest than ever before. While I cannot provide the keys to a healthy marriage it seems strong communication is at the forefront. As long as we continue to try to understand one another and the motivations that cause us to act I believe we will remain on the right track.

At least I hope so.

April 7, 2016 at 2:36 PM 4 comments

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