When It All Came Down Around Me

D is for Doozy

Divorce is a doozy, but somehow we made it through still good friends and supportive of each other in countless ways. The warning you hear sometimes is about your finances. We were never huge savers when together but C was in charge of the money and I tried not to spend too much of it. And often I would hear the words, “we are on the credit card” because we’d run out of money. This happened before we went bankrupt and eliminated $40,000 of debt, none of which were my $60,000 in student loans. We then got new credit cards afterwards (do people never learn?) and slowly the balances crept up.

Post divorce, the debt I had personally collected was my own and the balances were not tiny. Then there was my personal student loan debt. And so I started out on my own, not really having a system in place, no real budget. I paid my bills, mostly on time, most of the time and started to feel the stress crawling it’s way up my neck. A few weeks ago, I tried to use my credit card and was denied because my auto-payment no longer covered the minimum balance. I then had a panic attack on the way to work when I realized I had no control of what was happening to me financially.

So there I was. A new car with an unknown fortune still owed, $60,000 in student loan debt, $6,000 in credit card debt, $3000 owed to my teacher training program and all this on an assistant teachers salary and child support.  No wonder I had a panic attack.

Ground zero.

This bring us to the bottom right? Where the hell to start? Well here’s the thing. I love simplicity. I love simple living. I love making food from scratch and making the most of what I have. I love living for long baths, playing with my kids and reading books from the library. So where did I go so far wrong?

The good.

Here’s the good. I already downsized from $1400/mo rent to $890. I reduced my health insurance payment from $200 to $80. I reduced my internet from $60 to $30. But these were things that were pretty easy for me. I was still driving through P.Terrys and Starbucks on the regular.

Entitlement

I feel that many of us share this feeling of entitlement. We are entitled to an iphone, nice car, big space to live in, good quality coffee, organic food from nicer stores (my children need it!)… I loved simplicity but I also loved lattes. I had also spent a long time not looking at real alternatives. I reduced my Starbucks order from $4 to $2.87 instead of NOT going there.

Hope

And this weekend, I had my aha moment.  At the end of this long financial journey, at the bottom of this deep hole, after everything in pandora’s box emerged, I found that last sliver. I found hope. I found my fuel for this fire. I really started using mint (that had been there untouched all along) to look at how much I spent on eating out last month ($150.) I actually figured out how much I owe on my car and then took my beautiful, very expensive car to carmax to see if there was a more affordable option there for me. Turns out I owe $3000 more than they offered me for my car, so I’ll have to figure that one out in a few months. I had a friend take a look at my finances and we made a whole spreadsheet with income and expenses. I went to the grocery store and bought simple ingredients for half a week of groceries for $12. Did you know dried beans are $0.88 for a 1lb bag which is 10 servings?? And a 1lb or brown rice is under a dollar too. THEN! I went home and my kids helped me chop veggies for our healthy dinner and we ate together, not at a drive-thru. Hot damn, this was amazing. And hilarious. and made me feel pretty dumb.

Head, meet sand

There was a time where I thought if I didn’t look at it, it wasn’t there. Object permanence is something most 6 months olds figure out. Why I didn’t know it at 30 is beyond me. So I finally took my head out of that sandy place and reached out to my Facebook friends and got a few good references, Dave Ramsey and Mr. Money Mustache. I started reading, listening to anything involving debt reduction and found so much good.

So simplicity.

So simplicity. My blog is called “The Little Things” because that is truly what I believe makes you happy. It’s the relationships you build. The love you give, the small pleasures in creating something yourself. So if you need me, I’ll be cooking or baking, taking pictures,drinking tea, or taking a walk with my kids. If I need something, I’ll be at my favorite thrift stores. And I’ll be here. Writing about my successes and my failures, hoping you take this journey with me.

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Simplicity Manifesto

I looked at Chris a few weeks ago and said. “I want to own as little as possible.” He agreed. I think I finally put words to a nagging feeling that had been building over the weeks and months. I grew up in a house of wants. My family always wanted more. As Americans, it is woven into our very being to “strive.” Strive for more money, more prestige, more house, more cars. The problem with this striving is that it never ever ends. In my house growing up, we finally made it to upper middle class, but I don’t remember us feeling okay, safe or comfortable with our financial standing. We actually were regularly overdraft in the bank account throughout those years. My family looked at fashion magazines of clothing worth a month’s salary and even to extended family’s wealth as dreamy and lucky.
I don’t want that life anymore. And even more, I don’t want my daughters to grow up feeling that way. I want us to love the  home we create simply because we all love each other so darn much. I want to enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company and find the beauty in the little things. The books “Simplicity Parenting” and “You are Your Child’s First Teacher,” both Waldorf leaning helped me see a huge benefit in creating simplicity in a child’s life- very few toys, no screens, simple routine, healthy meals. Both books celebrate home life and the everyday. I am so happy I have my children every day all day. Our rhythm is so much better and deeper now than when Charlotte was in school. Her temperament has gotten both more confident and calmer.

This quest for simplicity has made me look around at my personal environment much more critically. Do I need all these pajama bottoms that I never wear? 15 tank tops? Do I need 35 coffee mugs? I love the idea of a few beautiful cherished items filling our home. Ah, and clean counters. They are so much prettier than 10,000 one use appliances.
The other life-altering benefit of simple living is the money it frees up. Instead of money going towards tons of stuff, it can be saved, security had and maybe even a vacation could be taken. I hope one day we can fully own a house, my husband can do whatever his job may be because he adores it, not because we are in so much debt.
Good goals if you ask me, but large goals. Too large to encompass my day to day life. For today, I’ll be getting rid of some coffee mugs.

Nifty 50 Minimalist Wardrobe

I am imagining a 5 minute getting dressed routine that always has enough variety. I am imagining a clean clear closet with inspiring pieces in it. I imagine looking in the mirror and being happy with what I see, every day. This is the goal of this wardrobe. If you only own things 1) you love, 2) flatter your shape, and 3) match everything else in your wardrobe, life in the dressing realm gets a whole lot easier. Fewer items overall contributes significantly to a faster selection time.

I’ve been thinking/planning/obsessing over this concept for months. The main goal is to obtain a sense of peace with what I wear, to value what I put on my body, to fill in holes that make getting dressed stressful (I need pants! I never have any clean pants!) and to avoid buying emotionally. (I really don’t need another cardigan, ever.)

What is not included in the 50: Shoes*, tanks and under shirts, bras and undies, outerwear, pjs and workout clothes.

Nifty 50 Minimalist Wardrobe

Bottoms – 10 – 3 jeans, 3 black pants, 2 colored pants, 2 skirts
Dresses – 5 – 3 casual/work, 2 dress up/down
Tops- 25- 5 short sleeve, 5 long sleeve 5 dressy, 10 cardigans/sweaters
Accessories – 10 – 3 scarves, 3 necklaces, 3 earrings, 1 bracelet. 

(Feel free to change the breakdown in each category to your personal choice. i.e. More black pants, fewer skirts, no scarves, etc.)

Challenge: Go count the items in your closet and dresser. I’ll bet it’s much over 100 and you only like maybe half of it.
Let me know what you have!

*For shoes, I am working on the nifty 15. (Post coming!)

Get Rid of Clutter: 100 Thing Challenge Helps Shed Stuff – TIME

Clutter

This weekend we are going through our apartment and lableing things as “throw away” or “maybe” and re-organizing the “keep” section. We realize how stuff just accumulates (I’m staring at five (!) purses hanging on a hook in my living room… the funny thing is how I looked longingly at tote bags in a magazine this morning!) This article was pretty inspirational. Here’s a clip. Read the whole thing by clicking the above link.

“Excess consumption is practically an American religion. But as anyone with a filled-to-the-gills closet knows, the things we accumulate can become oppressive. With all this stuff piling up and never quite getting put away, we’re no longer huddled masses yearning to breathe free; we’re huddled masses yearning to free up space on a counter top. Which is why people are so intrigued by the 100 Thing Challenge, a grass-roots movement in which otherwise seemingly normal folks are pledging to whittle down their possessions to a mere 100 items.

“Stuff starts to overwhelm you,” says Dave Bruno, 37, an online entrepreneur who looked around his San Diego home one day last summer and realized how much his family’s belongings were weighing him down. Thus began what he calls the 100 Thing Challenge. (Apparently, Bruno is so averse to excess he can’t refer to 100 things in the plural.) In a country where clutter has given rise not only to professional organizers but also to professional organizers with their own reality series (TLC’s Clean Sweep), Bruno’s online musings about his slow and steady purge have developed something of a cult following online, inspiring others to launch their own countdown to clutter-free living. (See how Americans spend now.)

Bruno keeps a running tally on his blog, guynameddave.com, of what he has decided to hold on to and what he is preparing to sell or donate. For instance, as of early June, he was down to five dress shirts and one necktie but uncertain about parting with one of his three pairs of jeans. “Are two pairs of jeans enough?!,” he asked in a recent posting.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1812048,00.html#ixzz1OhhDWHjl

Get Rid of Clutter: 100 Thing Challenge Helps Shed Stuff – TIME