Category Archives: Calming

My Complete Capsule Wardrobe

This is every single piece of clothing I own for all seasons, all occasions, and all moods. I consider it a capsule because it has a very basic, but strong frame with a few specialties. It is simple, versatile, and put together. I love the style I’ve curated and feel confident wearing my clothes. It’s basically a uniform, but with variations for weather and special occasions.

After delivering my last baby, I got rid of a bunch of maternity clothes and added a few needed items. Now I feel like I’m “finished” – at least for a while. I believe I have everything I need and am not really wanting for anything. I expect the next changes to be made to my wardrobe will be to remove items, from being too worn or not fitting anymore once I get my pre-pregnancy figure back. Otherwise, I will just replace as needed.

Instead of storing out-of-season clothing in the attic or boxes, all of my clothes are ready and available all year long (something I learned from Marie Kondo in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up). This makes being prepared for weird out-of-season weather super easy and it eliminates  the chore of swapping clothes out of storage every season. I’m always a fan of less chores.

And now… the complete list!

Dans Mon Armoire (27 hangers, 1 shelf)
1. blue striped tank-top
2. yellow flower tank-top
3. white button-up tank-top
4. blue button-up tank-top
5. blue dot button-up tank-top
6. black v-neck t-shirt
7. grey v-neck t-shirt
8. blue v-neck t-shirt
9. white v-neck t-shirt
10. white v-neck t-shirt
11. white v-neck t-shirt
12. blue long-sleeve button-up
13. red long-sleeve button-up
14. black long-sleeve button-up
15. blue wrap dress
16. purple wrap dress
17. black pocket dress
18. blue striped maxi-dress
19. black maxi-dress
20. purple and yellow flower dress
21. beaded dress (with 2 slips – white and purple)
22. black and gold sequin dress
23. blue patterned maxi-dress (maternity)
24. blue gown
25. floral sweater
26. yellow flower scarf
27. purple flower scarf
28. blue patterned scarf
29. straw hat
30. black zip-up hoodie
31-40. my shoes (10)

Dans ma vaisselle (3 large drawers)
41. blue v-neck sweater
42. purple v-neck sweater
43. black v-neck sweater
44. white chunky knit sweater
45. white knit hoodie
46. grey shorts
47. blue shorts
48. purple shorts
49. blue jean shorts
50. blue jeans
51. medium-wash blue jeans
52. dark-wash blue jeans
53. tube skirt (maternity)
54-65. underwear (12)
66-69. bras (4)
70-73. pajama tank tops (4)
74-76. pajama t-shirts (3)
77-79. pajama long-sleeve shirts (2)
80. pajama shorts romper
81. pajama pants
82. leggings
83-96. long socks (14)
97-103. short socks (7)
104-106. tights (3)
107. knit scarf
108. leather gloves
109. fingerless gloves
110. knit gloves
111. knit hat
112. bikini
113. swimsuit
114. sarong
115. work jeans
116. long-sleeve work shirt
117. short-sleeve work shirt
118-121. sports bras (3)
122-123. sports tops (2)
124. sports pants
125. sports capris
126. tennis skirt
127. snow pants

Dans le placard (4 hangers)
128. light blue jean jacket
129. dark blue trench coat (with removable liner)
130. snow coat

130 items might seem like a lot compared to Project 333‘s limit of 33, but I’m pleasantly surprised by my number of 130. True, it doesn’t include jewelry or bags, but I’m hardly wearing any now anyway. And it does include all undergarments, exercise/specialty clothing, and clothing for the entire spectrum of weather in New Jersey – from below freezing to nearly 100°F – which Project 333 does not always encompass. Also, Project 333 allows 33 items of clothing each season (33 items for 3 months – 333, get it?), so 132 items are allowed for the year – so I’ve got even less!

It’s not a contest, though (even though I won). It’s about having less clothing choices to make getting dressed everyday easier. I think Project 333 is great. I learned a lot from when I did it. It helped me figure out what I like to wear, to be mindful of curating pieces that coordinate, and realizing I really don’t need as many clothes as I had once owned to be properly dressed.

Go forth – clear your closet, clear your mind, and look and feel fabulous!

My Minimal Shoe Collection

I recently bought new sneakers. I was hesitant at first because I already had sneakers that weren’t totally worn out. But they did have a pretty big flaw – the rubber along the side of the toes came apart – that made the shoes very uncomfortable. The laces’ aglets or pebbles would get stuck constantly and cause discomfort.

I already tried gluing the rubber back to the canvas, but it didn’t even last a day. So even though they weren’t totally worn out, I felt comfortable replacing them because one of the most important functions my sneakers must accomplish is “be comfortable”.

Since I brought in a new pair of shoes, though, I must send out an old pair.  Easy this time since sneakers are replacing sneakers. I will donate them because, like I said, they aren’t very worn. Maybe someone can figure out how to fix that rubber, or maybe it won’t bother someone else as much as it bothered my feet.

One pair in, one pair out, to keep my shoe collection small. I keep all of my shoes on one shelf in my closet (except for my dirty lawn-mowing shoes).

Here are the shoes that are in my minimal collection:

  • Casual Sneakers. For everyday comfort and nature.
  • Running sneakers. For exercise and sports (mostly tennis).
  • Sandals. For everyday coolness and breathe-ability.
  • Flip flops. For the beach and public showers.
  • 2 high heels. For fancy-times. I really don’t need 2 pairs. After they are worn, I will only keep one pair of high heels in my collection. Or possibly replace them with fancy flats. Or keep one pair high heels and one pair fancy flats. Because even though flats are soooo much more practical, high heels just add that sexy flair I want sometimes.
  • Vibrams. For kayaking and other water adventures.
  • Causal boots. For everyday warmth.
  • Waterproof work boots. For rain, snow, and yard work.
  • Steel-toe sneakers. For mowing the lawn.

Maybe 10 pairs of shoes is way more than some people need. Maybe it’s less than others need. I could probably slim down a little – find one pair to satisfy what my sandals and flip flops do, one pair for work and lawn mowing, one fancy pair – but right now I’m working with what I’ve already got. I’ll probably do that slimming down as they wear out.

I don’t buy shoes often now, definitely not as often as I used to. I used to have a dozen pairs of flip flops, 3 pairs of casual sneakers, several pairs of sandals, all in different colors for different “options” in my outfits. It is so much easier to have fewer shoes in colors already coordinated with my capsule wardrobe/personal uniform. Much less decision fatigue and a lot more free space in my closet.

My life is so much easier since I began seeing shoes as functional, yet stylish, instruments instead of fashion accessories. Forget fashion, now I buy shoes that are my style. It’s easier to choose what to wear each day when each shoe serves a purpose. They all coordinate with all of my clothes already, so I choose the pair that goes with my planned activity.

Simple. Useful. Enjoyable.

There’s More Than One Way to Be Happy

Sometimes, I think, we get an idea in our heads and we lock onto it as the way to make us happy, despite being somewhat arbitrary. It could be owning a certain thing, accomplishing a certain goal, being with a certain person, or having a certain job. But from what I’ve experienced so far in my life, there are infinite ways to be happy.

I’ve had my eye on a beautiful floral muslin throw blanket for months, but haven’t bought it because it’s a bit expensive. Maybe buying that blanket will make me happy — I do find looking at pictures of it beautiful and pleasing — but maybe I’ll be just as happy without it. Or maybe I’ll be happier. Maybe loving that blanket so much will make me upset if something gets spilled on it or if the cat scratches a hole in it.

I was extremely happy with my MacBook for the 11 years I used it. I was so happy with the computer that I thought when it needed replacing, I would just replace it with the same yet newer model. It didn’t work out that way, but I am still really happy with my Chromebook. And it doesn’t feel like a different kind of happiness either. I was happy with what my MacBook could do and I’m happy with what my Chromebook can do. I’m just happy. Maybe I got lucky. Maybe I just made myself easy to please.

The movie “La La Land” is a good example of this, I think. SPOILER ALERT. The first time I saw the movie, I enjoyed it very much, but hated the ending. Why couldn’t they be together? I wanted them to be together! Why tell us their story if they don’t end up together? Years of perfect cinematic bliss have conditioned me to want the story arc with the predictable ending. But life is unpredictable. That doesn’t mean we still can’t end up happy. Just like the characters in “La La Land”. They went separate ways, despite agreeing they would both still love each other, and they were still happy.

Is it just that we think we are so wise we could absolutely know what was best for us to make us happy? I mean, there are infinite possibilities in this world. How could we possibly know what will make us happy? Why would we limit it to just one or very few things?

What if being happy was just a choice we made. No matter how things were going in our lives — what we owned, who we were with, the work we did — we just decided to be happy anyway. Or found a way to be happy with what we had. Gratitude, I believe, is a big part of this. And also giving up a bit of control. Giving up trying to control every aspect of our lives and instead focusing on controlling how we react. Letting stress go in favor of trusting in the universe to give us what we need (not necessarily what we think we want) and figuring out how to be happy no matter what we’re dealt.

I’ve heard stories of it happening. People who have had real shit cards dealt in their lives, but who are happy, warm, kind, and generous anyway. Maybe we can all try this, no matter how (seemingly) small the circumstance. Instead of driving ourselves crazy to get to that 1 holy grail of happiness we picked out, let’s be happy with all the little pebbles that cross our paths.

Or let’s just try to accept that there is more than one way to be happy. Reminding ourselves of that is sure to help us get over disappointments more quickly than if the stakes are always high. A little prompt that’s more concrete than indistinct optimism: There is more than one way to be happy.

How to Go Places and Do Things With Kids

Bringing children along anywhere complicates things. They are still not totally independent or competent at everyday tasks, let alone whatever it takes to make a journey or explore an activity. So what I try to do is this: make everything else (within my control, of course) as simple as possible.

Here are some tips:

  • Don’t Bring Snacks. Plan proper and fulfilling meals, whether you bring it yourself or buy it out, and nobody will go hungry. Snacks entail more to pack, more time to consume, and more to clean up. Our family doesn’t ever snack so not having snacks at an outing isn’t a big deal. If your kids are used to snacking, hopefully the change in scenery will keep their minds off of snacks. Otherwise you may have to remind them that they will survive until the next meal.
  • Drink Only Water. Preferably in reusable bottles. (I am still hunting for the perfect child-friendly, spill-proof bottle myself.) Water is the most thirst-quenching and body-nourishing liquid there is. If water is spilled, it doesn’t stain, get sticky, or smell – it just dries, easy-peasy, with little or no clean-up. A properly hydrated family is a pleasant family. Just remember those potty breaks!
  • Don’t Bring Anything “Just In Case”. There are things you know you will need for any given outing. Skip the things you don’t actually need and would just bring for peace of mind or to feel a bit more comfortable. Lugging around and keeping track of extra items adds stress and physical bulk. Most of the time, you won’t even notice you are without those “just in case” items. Other times, you might be a bit less comfortable. Instead of lugging around extra things, you could practice getting comfortable with being a little uncomfortable. You will survive.
  • If Bringing Toys, Only Bring a Few. Ideally, bring simple toys, without batteries or small parts, that the whole family can use – like a Frisbee, ball, a bucket and a couple of shovels. I wouldn’t bring favorites that would cause a tragedy if lost. And bring no more than 1 toy per child – adventure time is perfect for discovering nature and different towns and finding fun in them without toys that can be played with at home any time.
  • Dress Simply. I believe in dressing nicely. I don’t like wearing sweatpants out of the house or overly graphic shirts or whatever. But I also believe in dressing comfortably. Trust me, a balance can be met, even with children. I like shopping at Primary.com for simple, versatile clothing for my children. (I myself prefer Pact and Levi’s.) No fussy straps or broken zippers or shoes that pinch. Just simple clothes that let you live your life comfortably while also looking nice.
  • Prepare to Be Patient. Sometimes things do go wrong and break-downs happen. If you are prepared to go with the flow and to explain any unexpected changes of plans to children, they will catch your vibe and be more likely to go with the flow. Patience is key. As long as children receive the attention that means their fears or disappointments are being listened to and respected, they will be more capable of moving on. Not everyone can control every situation and it will do your children good to learn that truth early.
  • Don’t Listen to Me. You know your family better than anybody, especially me. If any of the above just sounds like it would be bringing hell along in a basket, just ditch it. Try some new things if you’ve got the curiosity and the courage, but if things are going well, just do you.

If you’d like to share any tips of your own, leave a comment.

Bon voyage!

Letting Go – Maternity Clothes

I don’t plan on getting pregnant again. I was so uncomfortable at times during this last pregnancy that I just couldn’t wait until I wasn’t pregnant anymore and could get rid of those big yet tight, stretchy yet restricting clothes. (It wasn’t, probably, the clothes themselves that were so uncomfortable, but just, you know, my body.)

Now that that time has come, I am feeling hesitant. And I wonder: Why is it so hard to let go sometimes?

Am I hesitant to admit that that time is my life is over, even though it’s a decision I made myself (with Andrew, of course)? Am I afraid that making that decision might be a mistake? I could always buy more maternity clothes, if I ever needed any again. But that’s spending more money when I already had perfectly good maternity clothes. But honestly, I don’t plan on needing any again.

Do I think that getting rid of those clothes will also get rid of the memories? Sure, I wouldn’t have the physical article to jump start pregnancy memories whenever I came across them, but I will still have those memories. Heck, I already got rid of some maternity clothes (out of season or just super worn) and haven’t had any internal struggles.

Maybe it’s because I packed up these clothes so soon after giving birth. I mean, I just brought my baby home yesterday! Do I need a period of separation before letting go? But it’s not like I’m going to wear them – they are too big or uncomfortable or out of season – why would I need to keep them around? To say goodbye? Maybe, actually, according to Marie Kondo. Goodbye and thank you. But I could actually do that quite quickly; like, on my way to the donation bin.

The more I write about it, actually, the more my reasoning is taking over. I may feel an odd emotional attachment to those clothes, but any actual emotional attachment I have is to my actual children.

I will get rid of them. Today. I will put them in a donation bin and hope they find their way to a pregnant woman in need of some maternity clothes that were just my size.

And I will move on. I will cultivate my wardrobe to my current lifestyle. That is, not pregnant, but caring for 3 wild and crazy boys, ages 0 to 3. And I will continue to slowly curate it to fit my lifestyle as it grows with motherhood, my job, my taste, and my fancy.

Goodbye, maternity clothes. And thank you for seeing me through 3 pregnancies, full of ups and downs, that ultimately led to my 3 children, the beautiful family I have created with my wonderful husband.

When to Be Serious and Silly

I gave birth to my baby 3 1/2 weeks early. There were some complications. He, nicknamed Dozer, was swept away from Andrew and me to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) within 30 minutes of being born. We had never experienced anything like this before and were inundated with emotions.

We were shocked – he had arrived and left so quickly. We were upset – we didn’t know very much, only that something was wrong. We were nervous – could it get worse? We were happy – he was alive! We were confused – what exactly was happening? We were relieved – they could take care of him and make him better. And I was in pain, but okay.

Our new baby’s condition was a serious thing, but we had each other.

Once we found out more, we knew that Dozer would be okay, it would just take some time – about a week in the NICU. We did not like this… well, we did because it meant that he was getting the care he needed by capable and caring doctors and nurses, but our instincts were telling us otherwise. It should only be a week… but at the same time, it’s a whole week!

We knew he needed to be incubated with tubes in his noses and throat and wires stuck all over and IVs in his veins, but our instincts were telling us to hold him skin-to-skin, smell him, feed him, hug and kiss him, love him, take him home. Our other two sons still haven’t meant their new baby brother. We want the family together. But we must be patient, stay calm, and do what we know is best.

Andrew and I are taking our baby’s health seriously. We listen to the hospital staff and follow rules. We participate in whatever care we can. We even go home without him to eat and shower and spend time with Wingnut and Pigpen because we need that self-care and our other children still need our time and attention. We do what we can, when we can, even if it never feels like enough.

And we joke while we do it.

We keep ourselves occupied instead of needlessly worrying – watching a movie, playing games, reading, talking. We make silly comments. We laugh when Dozer farts. We make fun of his squishy faces. We make fun of each other. We connect with each other and other people. They are there to help us. We are helping each other – supporting each other – being silly to keep each other sane.

Being serious and silly are equally important, and most times should be practiced simultaneously.

Do what needs to be done… with a light heart.
Accept things as they are… while doing whatever you can to make it better.
Be wise… by finding a way to laugh.
Trust… and brighten when possible.

Be serious… and silly.

Andrew and I are bummed we need to wait to bring our baby home and our family together. But we are so, so happy that he is here at all and getting stronger every day. We are able to get through this difficult and serious time with slight sillies – by lightening the situation up for each other so it’s never too heavy for either of us to bear.

What’s In My Hospital Bag for Baby #3

It’s nice to have some extra clothes and home comforts in the hospital with you when it’s time to deliver your baby. And of course there are the things you need, which is actually a lot less than you might think (especially for a baby born during warm weather).

I’m speaking from the vantage point of delivering a baby in a hospital as opposed to anywhere else because a hospital is where I birthed my previous two babies and plan to birth my third. I really have no idea what other situations might be like or the accessories they might entail. Judging from experience, I like how easy my hospital makes it for me.

First, a list of what is in my bag.

The Essentials

  • A postpartum outfit. For me, this summer, this means maternity waisted (as in not full-panel elastics) shorts and maternity waisted jeans (I highly doubt I’ll wear the jeans, but who knows, maybe there will be a cool night); a loose v-neck t-shirt; and one nursing bra. I will have the shoes I wear to the hospital – either sandals or flip-flops. A nice summer dress would also do nicely, but I’m wearing them constantly pre-delivery and I don’t want to take even one out of rotation to make sure it’s clean and packed and ready to go.
  • 2 outfits for the baby. Outfit 1: A Newborn Size short-sleeve onesie; tiny shorts; a thin cotton hat; and Outfit 2: a Size 0-3 Months short-sleeve shorts romper; with previously mentioned thin cotton hat.
  • Baby mittens. So the silly baby doesn’t scratch himself up with his newly exposed fingernails.
  • 2 thin baby blankets. Many people take the blanket from the hospital, but they really don’t want you to. I use hospital blankets whenever possible, however, so if they get messy they will be laundered right away. I wrap my newborn in one blanket for a while and then send it home with visiting family so they can introduce the scent of the new family member to our cats. The other thin baby blanket should be more than enough to keep the baby warm if his outfits aren’t enough.
  • Extra contact case and solution. I am in the habit of removing and cleaning my contacts every night and I suspect my eyes would hate it if I kept them in for 2-3 days straight in the hospital. I just don’t like sleeping with contacts in either. I want to be able to put them back in during the day, though, because my glasses aren’t comfortable enough to wear all day.
  • Eyeglasses and case. Okay, these aren’t technically in my bag yet because I still wear them every night. But I have a Post-it Note next to my bag reminding me to grab them out of my nightstand before leaving for the hospital. As it gets closer to my due date, I will just store them in my hospital bag, taking them out for whenever I need to use them at night.
  • My purse. This includes my wallet with all necessary ID, insurance cards, and money, and my cell phone.

The Comforts

  • Nursing pads. At home I use washable organic cotton nursing pads. A cousin had given me a box of disposable ones that I kept forgetting to use at home when Pigpen was nursing. I’m packing them mostly so they’ll get used, and somewhat because I think they might be convenient to have.
  • Cell phone charger.
  • Camera and charger.

Now a list of things I am not bringing.

  • Diapers/feminine pads/disposable underwear. The hospital provides all we need and more to take home with us.
  • Toiletries. The hospital provides it all. And I’ve actually never showered in the 2 days spent at the hospital after giving birth. I’m too busy sleeping, nursing, interacting with doctors and nurses, and generally recovering. I’ve already established that I don’t need to shower very often to feel good. You may want to shower, but the hospital should provide all you need to do so.
  • Slippers or socks. My hospital provides comfy, fuzzy, grip-y socks with my gown as soon as I get a room.
  • Baby socks. Summer here is quite warm and, again, the baby blanket can pick up any slack.
  • Book or magazine and journal. I’ve brought these before and never used them. During the day, I’m busy. At night, I try to sleep. For entertainment, I talk with my husband or we watch the luxury of cable tv, which we don’t have at home.
  • Snacks. The hospital provides me with all the food I need. Andrew isn’t included in the meal plan, but that’s up to him. I’ve got enough to worry about. If I get hungry, I send Andrew out to bring me extra food.
  • iPod.

All that I am bringing fits in a medium-sized backpack with room to spare. I am a minimalist so I am not bringing much. But I will definitely have everything I need. I’ve learned I don’t need other “comforting” items, because as long as my husband is there and my baby is healthy, I’m good.

2-3 days is not a long time and there is actually a lot to do. Mind you, I believe that rest is a very important thing to do in the hospital. (Especially before we bring our tiny new infant home to two toddlers.) I don’t need my hospital room to emulate a luxurious hotel room or spa experience to accomplish the simple act of resting. We are there to get our baby safely from my belly into the world and to ensure he’s healthy enough to go home. Then we get comfortable, in our family home, together.

Making Every Day a Good Day with My 5 “Daily Do’s”

I first heard of a strategy like this used by someone who deals with anxiety as part of their daily self-care routine. I don’t struggle with anxiety in any clinical sense, but I do sometimes struggle with the demands of my everyday life, causing the care of myself to get pushed aside.

I spend a lot of time taking care of other people. I love those people very much, but I also love myself, and it can put me in a very bad mood when I’m unable to take care of myself. Furthermore, when I am unable to give myself the proper self-care I need, I am less able to take good care of the ones I love and am responsible for by providing for them all they need. Self-care is not selfish because making it a priority makes me better able to serve those around me. And I’m just more pleasant to be around.

There are a few things that I do everyday or not, depending on the day and what I actually need. For example, I am not the type of person who needs to shower everyday. I can be perfectly happy showering every 2 or 3 days. Another example is that I like to read, but don’t need to do it everyday to feel properly relaxed or that I’ve had my sufficient “me” time.

There are also other things that I’ve already ingrained so deep into my daily routine that it’s not an issue. These things are non-negotiable now, and my family knows it, so it’s easy for me to do. Some examples of this are my 11 o’clock bedtime (unless there is a special reason for which I choose to stay up) and eating 3 meals (and possibly 1 snack) per day at consistent times.

But there were other things that I wanted to do that I either wasn’t doing or wasn’t doing consistently, even though I really thought that fitting them into my day would… maybe not make me happier, per say, but would lift my mood up no matter what else was happening in my life. Like, if I could do those things, I could consider it a good, productive day even if everything else went to shit.

I put a lot of thought into what I wanted my “Daily Do’s” (i.e. things to be done daily) to be. I didn’t want them to be too difficult, too time-consuming, or to have too many. I wanted to make it easy for myself to have a good day. I wanted to make it enjoyable, not a chore. I wanted to set myself up for success. So I came up with this list of just 5 Daily Do’s:

  1. outside
  2. move
  3. write
  4. gratitude
  5. zen

Go outside. This is pretty self-explanatory. I want to go outside and get fresh air every day. Even if it’s raining. Even if it’s really hot. Even if it’s really cold. Even if I have tons of stuff to get done inside. There is no time requirement, but I don’t really count walking from the house to the car, from the car to another building. Ideally, I like to include my children in this time outside as well.

Move my body. Exercise, but not so formal. Just get up and move. Do something. Standing still and washing the dishes doesn’t count, but something like vacuuming the house would. Do some yoga, walk around the block. Just make sure I’m not sedentary all day, even if I’m exhausted or my pregnancy is making me all stiff and uncomfortable.

Write. I don’t want to be an “aspiring” writer. I want to be a writer. And to do that, I need to write. Every. Day. It can be part of a novel, a short story, a blog post, a letter, or some journaling. A grocery list or an overly simple diary entry don’t count. Ideally, I want it to be creative writing to exercise my imagination, but anything to keep the words flowing and my voice fresh will do.

Be grateful. I’ve been pretty good at doing this consistently for about a year again now, but I want to make sure I do it every day. I make a simple list at the end of the day of whatever I was grateful for that day. I need at least one, but I usually end up with no less than 3. Repeats are totally acceptable. No long explanations needed. Writing them down just makes me conscious of them — thinking about them, noting them — and recognizing that gratitude makes me appreciate my life a lot more than if I only let what went wrong buzz around my head.

Practice some zen spiritualism. I am not a religious person, but I have found that I need to tend to some of my spirituality to feel like I am an important part of this world and universe. It’s a big place and it can be easy for me to feel small and insignificant. I’ve done some soul-searching, as it were, in the past, but lately I’ve felt I’ve wanted some guidance without strict rules or obligations. A stroke of serendipity brought me to the book The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down by Haemin Sunim, a Zen Buddhist monk. It’s generally about how to stay calm in a busy world. I’ve already read it through once and am now continuing with it by re-reading 2-3 pages per night as a part of my Daily Do’s.

I’ve also created an easy way to track that I am keeping up with my Do’s on the Daily. I intentionally designed my simple list with one-word descriptions, each with unique first letters, to be easy to remember. (I didn’t make an acronym because I didn’t feel like being corny or trying too hard.) So every day, as I do these things, I write the corresponding letter along the bottom of the day’s block in my Bullet Journal calendar. Quick, simple, effective.

It doesn’t take up too much time or space to track, and if I see that I’m missing something near the end of the day, my requirements are so undemanding it’s still pretty easy for me to accomplish all five.

O M W G Z — that means a good day for me.

Changing the Way I Track My Spending

I first started really keeping track of my daily spending in December 2015. Since then, I’ve tried a few different ways to track, and honestly I’m still not sure if I found the way that’s right for me. But I am learning all along the way, so that’s something. And I’ve decided to share some of my experiences here so maybe you can avoid some of the things that didn’t work for me.

First, I created a budget listing expenses by category. Then, throughout the month, I would list every purchase amount made and also color-code them by category. I would input those amounts into a formula to be balanced within the budget. It looked something like this:

Note: all amounts are made-up.

It was very colorful and the color-codes allowed me to see where my money went, but it was also very labor-intensive and didn’t really help me at all when I was at the check-out counter. I would spend first, think later. So it was a lot of work and didn’t help me stick to my budget. I needed to try something else.

Next, I tried to simplify things a bit. Instead of keeping a running list of every purchase I made, I just added the amount spent into the “spent” section of a slightly different budget set-up I created.

The design was a lot simpler and thus easier to use. I did need to make sure I was keeping track of purchases as they happened because they weren’t detailed in the spreadsheet so it was harder to figure out what amount corresponded to what purchase receipt. It helped a little bit more with deterring spending — I’m not sure why. Maybe because I had to keep track more often? Maybe because after a year I was just naturally being a bit more mindful? Still, keeping track of what purchase was affecting which category was hard to do at the check-out counter.

In the past few weeks, I’ve decided to try yet another strategy. This one incorporates the budget spreadsheet with the calendar in my bullet journal. I use yet another reincarnation of my budget to determine a weekly spending amount (ideally in cash), then write that amount on the Sunday block of a new week. Then, throughout the week, I subtract the dollar amount I spend each day, hopefully not straying past $0 by the end of the week. If I do stray past $0 during the week, I subtract that deficit from the next week on Sunday.

The new budget:

And the calendar… it’s quite messy, but it looks like this:

Maybe you can tell that I am already really far beyond this month. I did buy a new computer, though. My hope, however, is that I will be able to amass many more highlighter-green days, a.k.a. no-spend days, to make up the deficit by the end of the month. Seeing that negative number everyday is a motivator, but I’ve still yet to find out if it is motivating enough. The highlighter-green days are inspiring — they are my goal.

So if you are looking for ways to track your spending, maybe some of this will help. I’m sure there are tons of options to look at online. And don’t be afraid to play around with different strategies to find out what works best for you. And remember, what worked best for you last year, might not be the best anymore — don’t be afraid to change it up and keep it fresh. As long as you’re trying to keep track of spending (i.e. keeping what’s going out less than what’s coming in), I believe you are on the right path to some financial comfort.

The Fear of Downsizing… My Computer

What if it’s not enough? What if I can’t do what I need to do? What if I can’t do what I want to do? Is it even worth the investment? Should I wait for something bigger or better to present itself? What if it’s not what I expect? What if it’s not enough?

I am in need of a new computer and I have made the choice to downsize. And I’m a little scared.

I have owned 2 personal computers in my life. My first experience with a computer was a Gateway desktop, with dial-up internet. Man, I loved playing in that cow-colored box. Next, when I was in high school, my parents bought me my own black Dell desktop that I kept in my room. We got better internet in that era and it was awesome. And finally in January 2006, after a semester of excellent attendance and grades in college, my parents bought me a sleek white MacBook.

I love this MacBook. It has served me very well in the past 11 years and 5 months. And it’s still going! I debate getting rid of it at all, but, truth be told, it’s just getting too outdated. Can I use it for what I need to do? Yes, most of the time.

Here’s the deal.

  • I don’t have much storage space. I store all of my music on an external hard drive because there is no room on my actual computer. Same for photos. So then I just started storing all documents on the external hard drive, too. All of the storage space on this computer is basically used in a way so the computer itself will function — it’s not storing any of my personal files anymore.
  • The battery is pretty much dead. I need to keep this computer plugged in all the time when I am using it. It will stay on for a few minutes between outlets if I need to move it, but that’s it. This has essentially made my laptop into a desktop for the last 5 years. I just never got around to replacing the battery and now it seems too late.
  • I always need to keep this laptop open. I mean, physically keep the screen up. There is some sort of loose wire in the hinge and whenever I close the laptop, it is very, very, difficult to open it again and still see the screen. I can see an extremely faint outline of items on the screen, but it is essentially black. It can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes to finagle the screen back up with a back-lit picture showing. So I just leave it open all the time to avoid that hassle. But that creates other hassles, like dust collecting in the keyboard and cats stepping on it and opening unexpected windows and menus.
  • It just can’t handle another update. I needed to update my operating system about 2 years ago to be able to connect to our wireless printer. This took up even more storage space and was not compatible with a lot of my software, such as Microsoft Office. I’ve been able to get along just fine without the software, thanks to things like Google Docs and online photo editors. But even though I just updated the operating system, this system is not supported for many other updates, including, most importantly for me, Google Chrome. Sadly, the hardware of this system just can’t support another operating system update and it doesn’t seem worth the money to essentially rebuild it with components that will.

I would love to replace this MacBook with the current equivalent, but now that the money is coming out of my pocket, I think, that starting at around $1,200, it’s too expensive. We have student loan debt and a mortgage and home repair debt. We could take some of our income and put it towards a new MacBook, but it just doesn’t make sense to me if it’s going to slow down our debt repayments. Even if we had no debt… well, maybe I would buy a MacBook then… but really I would want to do even more home improvements — like finish our attic and basement to better utilize the space we already have.

So I decided not to buy another MacBook. Thus began my quest to find a suitable replacement. One that didn’t run Windows (I really dislike the Windows operating system). Eventually, for $214, I decided on getting a Chromebook… And that’s where the major downsizing came in.

I am losing some functionality, but I think I can make it work. (I hope it works!) It satisfies 3 out of the 4 problems listed above with my current MacBook — it’ll have a new battery with a long life, it will be mobile, and it will technologically up-to-date. The thing is, it still doesn’t have much storage space.

Chromebooks are designed to have most, if not all, digital matter stored in the Cloud. I’m a little weary of storing everything on the internet, but I do still have my external hard drive to store back-ups and super personal files. My husband has a Toshiba laptop running Windows to which I will transfer my iTunes account, since one cannot run iTunes on an Chromebook at all. I fear that not having my very own iTunes will be the thing I miss the most — after all, I’ve already been dealing with no storage space and loss of software for a few years now — but it will definitely be manageable.

There’s probably a lot more that even my current obsolete MacBook can do that a Chromebook cannot, but when I really thought about it, I decided I didn’t really need it. I asked myself “What do I use my computer for on a day-today basis?” and “What do I want to use it for in the future?”

Right now, I basically use my computer for the internet — things like online banking, email, domestic shopping, connecting to the library, searching for information, reading blogs, etc. — and a Chromebook should be ace at allowing me to do all that.

In the future, I want to do more writing. It certainly does not take a powerful computer to do word processing, so a Chromebook should manage fine. I will have to give up Scrivener, but as much as I like Scrivener, I am looking forward to the simplicity of writing without all the bells and whistles. Like, a typewriter has been seeming very appealing to me lately — no distractions. A Chromebook will be full of internet distractions, but I can also just physically disconnect from that for a while.

There are lots of other things that I’ve used a computer for in the past, like editing videos and photos, but I’ve grown away from them and have no desire to go back to it. I have a family now and want to spend more time with them and less time in front of a screen. And since I’ll be sharing iTunes with my husband, maybe that’ll bring us closer, too, ha. I’m diving in — the Chromebook should arrive in the mail sometime next week — and I’ll just see how it goes.

Hopefully it’s enough.