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Friday, December 31, 2010

Simplifying New Year's Resolutions

Last Day of 2010!  As I look forward to 2011, I'm thinking about all the different ways I've gone about setting New Year's Resolutions.  Some years I did not set any goals.  I'm sure I made progress those years, but not in a memorable way where I could look back & say that was the year I achieved X.  Research has shown that goals that are written down are more likely to be accomplished.  So, whether you write them in a journal, on your iPad, make a collage of pictures, or even just a sticky note, get writing!  One year I even went so far as to make a goal notebook with tabs for each goal category.  I got really detailed.  My categories were things like health, finance, personal, spiritual, professional, academic, etc.  To be honest, it was too overwhelming.  I even had sub-goal categories within each tab.  Even though I wrote down goals, in the midst of my busy life, I got overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of stuff I was going after that I got discouraged & didn't accomplish too much.

For 2011, I am simplifying my goals.  "Simplify" is obviously my theme for the year, hence the topic of this blog.  Everything I spend my energy on I want to feed into simplifying my life & giving me more quality time.  I learned in my corporate days that successful goal writing is SMART:

  • Specific:  In other words, not just "lose weight" - get specific!
  • Measurable:  Can you measure it in some way to see your progress?
  • Attainable:  Can you attain this goal?  Do you or will you have the tools to attain it?  Keep in mind that the status of attainable may change with circumstances throughout the year & that's ok.
  • Realistic:  Think baby steps & things you can really do - don't discourage yourself with Mount Everest goals.  They are possible, but you may need to break bigger long-term goals into smaller chunks for the year.
  • Time-certain:  Have a time/date you want to achieve goals by.  I'm simply saying December 31, 2011.  
So, using the SMART guidelines I am only creating 3 categories of goals for myself.  For me, 3 is the most attainable, & easy to focus on.

1) Love God, Love People
2) Be a Health Nut
3) Live Frugally

These 3 goals encompass my personal values & things that will help me live a simpler, spirit filled life with the ones I love.  For the next 3 days I will dive into each of my goals individually & work on the specifics of each.  I have written these 3 goals on a sticky note & posted it on my bulletin board to inspire me throughout the year.  Happy goal setting & Best Wishes for a Happy & Healthy 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Extreme Couponing for the Average Person

TLC's "Extreme Couponing" premiered last night.  I am really quite intrigued by these people who get hundreds, even thousands of dollars of groceries for close to nothing.  Many of their coupons, when combined with store specials and doubling get them free items.  One lady even claimed the store paid her a dollar per item to take the stuff off the shelf.  They spend hours every week scouring online forums, coupon circulars, & store specials looking for the best deals.  Stockpiles of groceries are stored in their garages & will last them for years.  As inspiring as this is, will couponing really be worth the effort for my family?  Will it make my life simpler?

A few years ago I got bit by the coupon bug.  I subscribed to the Grocery Game, a service that for $5/month did the homework for me.  I just chose my favorite grocery store and they published online what coupons to use with store specials for the week for max savings.  I actually did quite good.  I always recouped my $5 and I think my biggest savings was $50, maybe even $80 in one grocery bill.  I stopped using the service for a couple reasons.  First, I figured out how to do some of it myself.  I go to Vons.  They publish their weekly specials online (we don't get a newspaper).  I would take my coupons (given to me by my parents who do get a newspaper) & compare them with the specials.  I did quite well doing that.  I also stopped because I was finding that the products I was getting the best deals on were not that healthy.  If you want to eat a healthier diet, shop the outside edges of a store, where the fresh produce, meat & bakery items are.  Most of the coupons are for processed foods in the center aisles. 

There are a few other things I have questions about.  I don't know about you, but I haven't found any stores in my area that double coupons.  I think Ralph's used to.  Let us know if you know of any!  Also, I don't know how they are able to use so many coupons at once!  They are buying hundreds of one item with hundreds of coupons.  Some couponers even buy mass quantities of coupons from coupon cutting services!  I just pulled out some coupons from my coupon organizer & they say "limit one coupon per purchase."  Doesn't that mean one per customer or is a purchase considered one item?  I saw a post on a Facebook forum from a lady that said she is elderly (props to her for being tech savvy & using Facebook!), only has Social Security for income & relies on coupon deals to get groceries.  Often when she gets to the store all the product is gone, apparently from the extreme couponers that bought hundreds of the item.  Reminds me of the time I went to Target & was so excited to have coupons in hand to get a free item - I think it was a jar of peanut butter.  It was all gone.  Please, save some for the rest of us!

I still want to save money with coupons.  I don't want to have to get to the store the minute it opens in order to make sure I get the deal before the hoarders do.  Nor do I want to drive all over town to different stores to get the best deals on the few healthy, personal care or cleaning products I use that have coupons.  That would probably cost me more in gas alone! So, here's how I'm going to simplify my couponing process.  I will cut coupons for the products my family actually uses, look at the specials online & plan out my grocery list.  I also google for online coupons I can print out.  For example, if I am out of laundry detergent & don't have a coupon for it, I will google for it & see of one comes up.  In addition to Vons Club savings, they also have e-coupons that you can find on their website & upload to your Vons card.  Other stores may have similar e-coupons.  I also have products I occasionally  buy at Costco & Target I will look for coupons for - Costco only takes their own coupons, no manufacturer coupons.  That's all I'll do.  I know I won't be saving as much as these extreme couponers, but I will be saving some, and that gives me great satisfaction. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Procrastination

Merriam-Webster's definition of Procrastinate:
: to put off intentionally and habitually 
: to put off intentionally the doing of something that should be done 


There are now approximately 3.5 days left in 2010.  What have you put off intentionally?  Wouldn't it be nice to start 2011 fresh with those things done?  I'm guilty of procrastination.  I use the ToDo app on my iPod. It's a to do list/checklist application.  I really like that you can set up recurring task reminders.  Every time I open the app, I have 3 overdue tasks staring at me in bright red.  All 3 tasks involve paperwork.  Blah.  I keep telling myself that if I just make time to sit down & get these 3 things done, they most likely will not be as hard or tedious as I'm anticipating.  I also keep reminding myself of how good I'll feel once they are done.  But here I sit writing this blog about it and the items remain undone.  A good thing about writing about this is that it helps hold me accountable.  I am sharing with the world that I have put these things off, and now I'll be a little embarrassed if I do not buckle down & knock them off my checklist by today or year end.  So let's do ourselves a favor & tell someone or share here about what you've been procrastinating about. Now as Nike says, "Just Do It!" and let's start the New Year off with a clear to do list . . . for a little while anyways :)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Toyland!

Toyland, toyland
Little girl and boy land
When you dwell within it
You are ever happy there!

Childhood toyland
Mystical merry toyland
Once you pass it's borders
You can never return

These are the lyrics to Toyland.  I gotta agree, that it seems like once you have kids, you pass the borders from sophisticated sanctuary house for adults, into Toyland, seemingly never to return.   I am grateful for the toys I trip over, for it means I've got healthy bouncing kiddos around the house, whom I know will be off to college before I can blink, so I am savoring these moments.  This Christmas Santa & his helpers were very generous, especially to my toddler son.  We gazed in amazement as we watched him cheerfully rip open packages & also wondered at the same time, where are we gonna put all this stuff!?  Even after designating a few things to go to Grandma & Grandpa's house, I knew we had to come up with some kind of plan to organize the current & new toys. 

The holidays are a great time of year to purge toys your kids are done with - whether you sell or donate them. Donating toys especially teaches them a lot about generosity & giving to those in need.  I can't get rid of my toddler's baby toys at this point because his baby sister is 19 months behind him & will be using them.  My house is just under 1400 sq.ft. & we do not have the luxury of a playroom, so we had to get creative.  The nursery had a great shelving unit from Ikea in it, which I figured would better serve in our dining/family area to store toys, so we moved it there.  It covers up a big portion of our custom painted mural of the Greek Isles, which reminds me & my DH of our engagement in Greece & our love for the days in which we used to travel.  However, I figure it's also protecting the mural from potentially sticky & grimy kiddo fingers.  Baskets allow me to categorize stuff.  Yeah, yeah I know stuff is not going to remain categorized, so the baskets also provide a great way to just quickly throw in the toys at clean up time. 
Upon arrival of baby #1, while kid proofing my house, I got rid of all knick knacks & tchotsky's in my living room.  This leaves a lot of open space in my TV stand (also from Ikea - can you tell we're big Ikea fans?) which I have now designated for books.  we also have a big bookshelf for my husband & I in the living room, so this serves nicely to encourage reading activities here.  I'm using the toybox on the side to store some bigger cars, pull toys & balls.
Here's a picture of the storage unit we have in our son's room - I have designated bins for blocks, puzzles, etc.  The hanging blue mesh unit holds stuffed animals - yet another great find from Ikea.

All of these storage spaces & units are now our limits for toys.  If there's not space in these units or in the kids rooms for the toys without creating a cluttered situation, then it's time to purge.  When kids are old enough, I will let the kids decide what they want to keep & what they want to donate.

Oh - it's also great to designate "parking spots" for larger items like these ride on toys:
Now I can start the new year & not feel overwhelmed by toys seemingly taking over my house!  :)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Starting 2011 a Little Early!

Hi Everyone!

I am excited to write my first blog entry!  I was going to wait until the new year began, but there's so much I've been thinking about I decided to start a little early.  So, what are you going to find on my blog?  Probably a little bit of everything, but most of all things that focus on living a simpler life.  I have a passion for organization & simplifying.  You'd think my home would be organized to the hilt & spic & span all the time, but I have 2 kids under 2 years old & a dog.  Enough said.  Simplifying is a never ending process.  Just as in the scientific principle that the world tends toward disorder, our homes tend toward disorder.  Whether it be junk mail, Christmas gifts, toys, paperwork, stuff & tasks just find their way in & constantly challenges what we should be spending more time on: spending quality time with family & friends, making memories, and doing activities we are passionate about.  So, I started this blog to take anyone that is interested along on a journey with me in 2011 to continue simplifying & concentrate more on moments of more value like going on dates with my husband, snuggling with my kids & making memories.  Topics I will touch upon will most likely include organization products & methods, living with less, going green, books I'm reading, recipes, & so much more.  Thank you for joining me & please ask questions & share your experience along the way.  If there are any specific topics you'd like me to touch upon, let me know!  Happy 2011!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Neat Doctor will be Blogging in 2011!

Hi Everyone! 

I am excited to start blogging in 2011!  I will be sharing with you things I'm learning about living a simpler lifestyle plus probably some other random stuff too.  Looking forward to this new adventure!