Relationships: Are You Tending To The Right Ones?

Take a quick mental inventory of the relationships in your life. Go ahead, I will wait. You might even begin to automatically rank them from people you care most about down to people you care least about. If you did not, go ahead and do this too. This doesn’t have to be perfect, a rough estimate will do.

Okay, now think about the time you spend on these relationships in your life. Where does the majority of your time and energy fall? Obviously, those at the top of your ranking are given the most amount of time and effort because you value them the most.

How often do we actually give the people we love and cherish the most the commitment from us that they deserve? They should be getting the best of us, not just what’s left at the end of the day. You may have noticed that you do not live close to a lot of the people you value highly, so how much time do you spend fostering that connection and staying in touch? I would guess that it is not as much time as you wish you were.

We are constantly trying to please others and “look good”, whether that’s in our friend circle or at work. We jump through hoops to impress people we probably do not even like that much. We want to be liked by others, but at what cost? Sometimes, we bend over backwards just to please the people that do not even rank highly on our lists. We give and give and hope that it “pays off for us in the end.” But does it? How often do we fight as hard and do as much for the people we claim to love the most? This discrepancy only causes the relationships we value the most to suffer. Over worked, over stressed, and just over it when we come home to our loved ones at the end of the day.

Some of you have probably made this realization a long time ago and have already changed your life for the better. Others are probably having a light bulb moment here or at the very least a glow of an idea is beginning to form.

I am not saying that you should suddenly start being mean to these people in your life that take up most of your time but you value the least. However, I am saying that you should take a good, hard look at your relationships and honestly figure out if your energy, effort, and time are going to the right people.

This is not a change that will happen overnight. It will be slow and sometimes painful. This is a decision that you need to make and then do the work to make it happen. It may not even be possible to stop using your time with people low on your ranking but you can change how much effort and energy you are putting into that relationship.

My Husband: A Relationship I Deeply Value

Things that may help you transition:

Keep a relationship-time journal and figure out who you are spending all of your time on. Note if this time allotment is what you want or not with these people.

Make a list of the things you wish you were doing in your relationships. Things like date nights, phone conversations, emails, and letters. Whatever it is you want to be doing in the relationships you care about the most.

Start the change of transitioning your time more towards the things you wish you were doing in your relationships and less towards the relationships you do not want to foster so deeply.

Time to re-prioritize your relationships my friends, but for the better. If you have already started doing this in your life, what things helped you make this change the most? What were some of the hardest parts of the transition?

Continue Reading

Hello 2018: Setting New Intentions

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! You may have already set your goals or resolutions for 2018, regardless I encourage you to read on anyway for some food for thought.

Top New Year’s Resolutions

These may sound familiar: to lose weight, save money, enjoy life, spend more time with family and friends, get organized, break a bad habit, eat better, sleep more, travel more, etc. Sometimes we even make the same New Year’s statements year after year after year. What is stopping us from achieving our goals? When we make these stand up announcements, we believe that they will just happen magically without anything else changing. Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.

I am fairly certain Sammy’s New Year’s Resolutions are always to play with toys and sleep!

The Question Waterfall

Let’s take a closer look. We make some grandiose statement that usually answers the main following question:

What do I want to accomplish?

Then we leave it at that. We boldly claim this as our goal and off we go. In actuality there is a waterfall of underlying questions that also need to be considered if we want to find success.

How would you go about doing that?

How much time would that take?

Where are you willing to take that time that you need from?

How much will it cost, this could be financial or otherwise?

What are you willing to decrease spending on or change to pay for this?

 Common Resolution Example

I want to lose weight! Well, I guess that would mean I need to eat better or eat less and probably exercise more. Wow, that seems like a daily life adjustment when you really think about it. Does this mean no more weekly happy hour drinks and appetizers with my friends? What about Friday Donut Day at work? The list goes on.

Truth be told, you may not have to completely give up your habits and buy a costly gym membership to accomplish this goal, however, it will take some serious consideration and planning on your part. And that my friends is where we tend to go wrong. The follow through. You can still go to happy hour but maybe you change your typical order. To avoid donut Friday at work you could go to the gym at that time. Even small changes like parking further away and using the stairs instead of the elevator will add up over time. No matter what though, there needs to be a plan!

All Hope is Not Lost

I am not saying that you cannot achieve your goals, I just want to outline why I feel that we make these grandiose statements that quickly fade into the night. Clearly the resolution that you came up with is something you care about and would like to happen in your life, but you did not consider the ripple effect it would cause in your life. After careful consideration you may decide the tradeoff is not worth it or that it is SO WORTH IT! The decision is yours alone.

How to Find Freedom

In my life delving deeper and deeper into minimalism, frugality, and mindfulness a lot of space has opened up and it becomes easier and easier to move towards my real goals. That being said, it can still be a difficult transition to peel away all of the excess. Not all of what gets removed is inherently bad. However, it may not be worth it overall in the grand scheme of what you want to really accomplish to keep certain things in your life.

Here are some other ways that I suggest approaching the blank slate of the New Year:

Daily journaling may be a helpful and insightful way to sort through your life and feelings. This alone is a big commitment, yet I have found it to be an indispensable tool in sorting through where I am now and where I would like to be.

Getting rid of the old instead of piling on more new. Schedules tend to be jam packed to the point of exhaustion with no room to breathe, let alone think. Instead of giving yourself more things to accomplish, try getting rid of some of the things in your life that are weighing you down. These could be commitments or tangible things or spending habits.

Choose a word or mantra to live by for the year. Let that be your guide in the New Year. Some that come to mind are: “Health” “Calm” “Well-Being” Self-Care” etc. Everyday use that word or mantra to aid in all of your decisions. For example if you word is health, maybe you order water instead of a sugar beverage for a change.

Frame the year in a different light: What do I want to look back on and have accomplished in 2018? Imagine yourself snuggled up in December 2018 and going through the questions in last week’s post but only answering them about the previous year. What do you want it to look like?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this! What intentions are you setting for 2018?

Continue Reading

A Time for Reflection: A Year in Review

As we approach the new year it can be easy to start looking ahead to the possibilities that await. Instead of rushing into that, I want us to take this window of time before January 1st to look back on the previous year. I know for me that when I stop and take the time to look back I am often blown away by all the amazing things that have happened.

Here are some questions to help you, feel free to just answer these in your head or may I suggest writing them out, perhaps in a journal:

What have you accomplished?

What have you learned?

How have you grown?

What are you grateful for?

Did anything unexpected happen, if so what?

How have I changed?

How have I surprised myself?

In this past year our fur babies went from two to three!

Please do not feel that you have to answer all of these questions, just use them as a prompt to get you started. Keep in mind to look at the whole previous year when answering, you might be surprised at how far you have come!

Get to it my friends! If you have any questions that help you reflect please share them in the comments section!

Continue Reading

Frugal Gatherings: Maintaining Financial Goals & Strong Relationships

Hello Friends! Today’s post is part advice and part me looking for advice. I want to spend my money more intentionally and for us that means saving up for bigger purchases. A few things on our list include a computer, a car, and a tractor for our 57 acres! It can be super easy to go into debt to get all of the things you want but in our case that is not the goal. In order to accomplish financial goals it has meant reevaluating our spending. I know I am guilty of spending a decent chunk of change on meals out. Most of the time these are with other people because I love spending time with my friends and that usually means ending up at a coffee shop or a restaurant. Not that there is anything wrong with that, especially when it also means supporting small local businesses, but I know I am going to need to cut back in order to meet some of our bigger financial goals.

If I did not tell you that this tea was from a local shop, you would not know! Spending time with friends can still be fabulous without spending money!

Here are some ideas I have come up with on a little to zero dollar budget include:

Go on a Walk or Hike. Catch up while getting out and about! The great outdoors are wonderful for your body, mind, and soul. If you have a doggie, then this ends up as a double bonus because pup can get in their exercise too!

Library Adventure. Encourage one another to find a new book to explore! You can even give each other suggestions or just explore a section that interests both of you and hopefully come across some great reads! The best part about this is whatever books you find, you get to borrow for free!

Volunteer Together. There are all kinds of volunteer opportunities in my area and I hope there are in yours too. Even if it is something simple like playing with the animals at your local shelter. Depending on where you decide to volunteer it may not be as much quality time as you were hoping for but I promise it’s worth it!

Hang out at Home. This can look like so many things and is the most obvious! A meal, munchies, coffee or tea, or even craft time. There are plenty of things that we can do at home that inherently make them cheaper than paying for them.

Board Game Night. Okay I know this could fall under hanging out at home but I specifically wanted to point this out. It has become more and more common for us to use a form of disconnection to bond with others, I am looking at you TV.

My current conundrum is coming up with free ideas that occur beyond the walls of mine or my friend’s home. I am also struggling with ideas that are conducive to all the seasons, aka not just being stuck inside in the winter! This exercise has really highlighted for me the lack of places available to go that do not have a need or a temptation to purchase something.

Let’s brainstorm! What are some awesome ways that you have spent frugal time with friends?

Continue Reading

Jamaican Getaway: What Matters Most

You may or may not have noticed that I did not post last week. GASP! This was not due to the world ending but rather because I was happily attending one of my closest friend’s weddings. Which just happened to be at an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica! I promise I am back, well rested, and have had a lot of valuable reflection time.

Jamaican Sunset During the Wedding Reception

Making Big Expensive Decisions

As my priorities have changed in my life, going to this wedding was a big decision. On one hand it is extremely expensive and we have a lot of long-term financial goals that this does not exactly align with. On another hand we never actually went on a honeymoon and have not been on a vacation longer than a weekend getaway. When faced with decisions like these in my life these days I try to look at them through a different lens. Will I look back in five or ten years and say thank goodness I spent all of my money on useless material possessions I do not even remember now or thank goodness I went to Jamaica with my friends? Given that perspective we decided to save and that this trip was 100% what we needed.  So next time you find yourself with a big expensive decision to make, try putting it into a different perspective to decide if it is worth it for you or not.

The Fabulous Male Peacock at the Resort

I Left My Phone At Home

Yes, you read that correctly. I could have easily taken it with me. I could have used it in airplane mode and connected to the resort’s Wi-Fi. It would have been simple enough to use the excuse “but it doubles as a camera” and yet at home it stayed. And you know what? It felt GREAT! Okay, so technically my husband still had his phone with him just in case but I think we would have been able to survive without it. There were no notifications, no emails, nothing! Just real, distraction free conversations with all of the people that also came to the wedding. Plus I happen to have a real camera so I still got to take some pictures! This was a weeklong adventure without my phone and that may seem like a bit much but I wholeheartedly encourage you to try to find more times when you can leave your phone at home or in your car and really be present in the moment. I assure you, it is worth it!

Look Closely! Lots of little fish and even a stingray!

But Why No Blog Post

Don’t get me wrong this trip did not come as a surprise. We saved, slowly paid for it over time, and knew about it months in advance. I could have written a post ahead of my departure and scheduled it for Wednesday. I also could have taken my computer along for the trip and written a post while on vacation. Yet I did neither of these things. Part of my decision to not post was a self-experiment. Instead of me feeling like I broke a commitment to myself, this was part of my learning experience. I can miss a post and it will be okay. Missing a post is not me giving up but rather me taking a break and coming right back to it! The other part of my decision to not post was also to make a point. Sometimes we need to disconnect to find true connection. Instead of worrying about writing an extra post or trying to write one on vacation I decided to stay 100% connected to my experience in Jamaica. It is easy to get caught up with our to-do lists and feel like if we don’t do it all, all the time then we have somehow failed. I am here to tell you that when we do what really matters most of the time, then we are already doing exactly what we need to be doing. This blog matters to me and so does practicing self-care while deeply connecting to friends. I may not be able to do everything at once but I can still do them, even if sometimes that means giving myself permission to take a small break.

The sky on our last night, beautiful!

Chime in friends! How do you make big expensive decisions? When have you left your phone at home? What ways have you tested yourself in your journey and what matters most at the end of the day?

Continue Reading

Hello Friend: Give the World a Smile

Smiles, contain so much power. They can light up a room, they can make us feel all warm and cozy inside. When I say smile, I mean real ones, the kind that lights you up from your eyes and your heart. I mean a whole hearted smile, the kinds that lights up your eyes and permeates through your whole body. Smiles can begin friendships and make others feel welcome.

Smile at Yourself

Every time you see your reflection, give yourself a big and bright smile. Let’s face it, we see our reflection a lot throughout the day. Most commonly in mirrors but also in windows and other types of reflective surfaces. What I am recommending is that anytime you see yourself in any reflection, mirror or otherwise, give yourself a big warming smile. This approach is sure to brighten a bad day and overtime bring you to a higher state of self-love.

Smile at Others

Smile at strangers on the street! If you are feeling particularly welcoming say ‘hello.’ Don’t be attached to the outcome, you won’t always get a hello in response. Sometimes it may be more of a puzzled and bewildered look than anything else. At some point in our culture we have slowly begun to drift apart and be so disconnected that we don’t even give others the simplest of salutations, hi, hello, hey there! Maybe the simplest warm gesture of a smile will make a huge positive change that person’s day.

Be Wise Beyond your Age

I once passed a group of adults and on one of the man’s shoulders sat a young girl. When I smiled and said hello to the group the only response I received was from the little girl who gave me a wonderful hello. As the distance grew between us as we passed I don’t know what the group said to the small girl, maybe who I was or how we knew one another. The only thing I could hear was the girl saying loudly “She’s my neighbor.” The whole group broke out in laughter at how adorable and childish her response was. But for me it brought an even bigger smile to my face and a warmth in my heart.

That little girl was so right! Aren’t we all neighbors, all inhabitants of this wonderful world and shouldn’t we treat each other as such? We don’t have to be best friends with everyone but we can treat each other with a common curtesy and general kindness of a smile and maybe even a Hello!

There are more than enough to go around

Think abundance mentality here people! Another great thing about a smile or a simple “hello” is that both of these things are entirely free! Talk about budget friendly here people. I am not even asking you to give up a ton of your time either, this hardly takes any time at all!

Do I think this is going to solve all the world’s problems? Unfortunately no, but once I started doing this for myself I noticed I am far less judgmental of seeing my reflection. I am not worrying about a hair being out of place or this or that being wrong about my face, I just smile and take it all in. This life is too short to do anything but smile at ourselves. We can’t always control how other people treat us but we can 100% be in charge of how we treat ourselves.

Who wouldn’t smile after finding a giant rooster?

As a society I do not feel that we smile enough so SMILE a lot and often, the world needs more of them! What small changes like smiling more have made the biggest impacts in your life?

Continue Reading

Be Grateful: Count Your Blessings

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving friends! Regardless of your stance on this holiday, there is one takeaway I believe everyone can benefit from. Being Thankful! Take some time this holiday to literally count your blessings. You could write them out as a list, you could journal about them, you could even go around the room saying them out loud.

I am grateful for my family coming over tomorrow. I am grateful for the food we are going to eat. I am grateful for the fact that none of us have to work tomorrow and can be together. I am grateful for electricity and heat. I am grateful for technology that allows me to have this blog and community.

Samson is thankful for fuzzy blankets and pillows.

This post is purposefully short, I want you to take time to enjoy your life and whatever it is you have to be grateful for. What are you grateful for my friends?

Continue Reading

Going Overboard: Too Much of a Good Thing

Picture it, you find yourself with a shiny new blank, it doesn’t matter what it is but it is brand spanking new. Even if it is used, you are elated because it’s what you have been looking for and to you its new. After a few days you may find yourself lusting for that wave of joy you had when you first got your new shiny thing. Maybe it was a water bottle, or a mug, or shoes, or clothes, kitchenware, home décor, whatever it was you want to feel that excitement and joy again. So you find yourself searching for more, clearly if one brought you that much joy then having another will be even better.

How Much is Enough?

Does this viscous cycle sound familiar? Maybe it is not even buying a repeat item, maybe it’s just that rush of having something new. How often do we find ourselves finding a lot of joy when we get something and then ending up with multiples because we are trying to recreate and grow that original joy in an exponential fashion? You end up with so many of the same thing that you do not even take good care of them. Or you have so many that you don’t even remember how many you have, where they are, where you left them, etc. What we often find however is that once we obtain the second of whatever that first thing was we don’t end up having as much joy as we had with the first. The amount of joy that we get from the 3rd and 4th and so on is even more diminished. Where will I store all of these? How will I take care of all of them? Why do we constantly find ourselves keeping up with the proverbial “Jones’s”? Are you currently saying to yourself “but it comes in a new color and I do not have THAT color, style, whatever” and starting to think that sounds ridiculous? We often have so many of the same thing that if one were to go missing we would not even notice.

Who are we kidding here? Clearly you can’t use more than one of that shiny new thing at one time so why do you need six of them? In some cases it makes sense, for example having a few coffee mugs so that when you have guests over for tea everyone has a mug so you aren’t wasting disposable cups. But how realistic is it to have say, twenty coffee mugs? Maybe you have giant parties and use this many all the time but I would surmise that for the general public, this is not the case. If for arguments sake you do end up having six guests but only four coffee mugs for your tea party should you go out and buy two more? Do you have anything else that may be able to serve that function but wouldn’t be typically considered for that application? A mason jar perhaps? Or just a different glass and maybe a coozie of some kind to insulate the beverage? What about hosting the party in such a fashion that everyone brings their favorite mug to your tea party? Let’s think outside the box!

Give Yourself a Breather

How often do we pause before a purchase? When I ask this question, I do not mean a short pause, I mean physically leaving the store and making this decision after allowing for space between you and the item. I often find myself much less enamored with a product after I have left the store. Seldom do I find myself in true, dire need of the thing. Given enough time I can usually come up with an alternative to the purchase or not need anything at all.

If you are over the hustle and bustle of overwhelming stuff, you are not alone. When shopping or even if someone is offering up hand-me-downs, you can ask yourself a few questions first before saying yes:

Do I already own this item?
Do I need another one if I already own one?
Does something else I already own serve this same purpose?
If the item is free, would I be willing to pay full price for it?
Where will I store this item or keep it in my house?
Am I willing to get rid of something else to make room for this item?
Why did I go to the store in the first place?
Is the short term joy I will feel from this purchase worth it?
Do I have larger financial goals I am trying to meet?
Will I regret this purchase?

You are in control, I give you permission to say NO and walk away.

This adventure has inherently made me more creative. I may not own a teapot but I still have several ways to make tea! Ultimately, you need to decide what brings you joy in your life and then only surrounding yourself with those things. After a while I feel that you, like me, will find that most of those things are not in fact “things” at all.

A few of my favorite “things”

Where do you find yourself in the stuff cycle? How have you begun to break free, say no to stuff, and live with less?

Continue Reading

Rethink Presents: A Year Round Gift Guide

These are in no particular order and if I come up with more ideas or people share theirs with me I will add to this list! Please give yourself a minute to rethink WHY you give gifts in the first place. Do not give gifts out of guilt or in anticipation of reciprocation. Give with an open heart and non-attachment to the outcome.

Do It Yourself. Got some skills? Make your family or friends their gifts this year. It can be as simple as baking cookies or an Epsom salt bath soak. If you do not have skills, don’t worry, this is the perfect time to learn! Practicing a lot helps which is great if there are a lot of people on your list this year. You could even make your own cards and write personalized handwritten notes in them to send out. Personally there is something borderline miraculous about receiving snail mail.

Support a Local Artist. Around the holidays there are tons of events where local artists are able to showcase their awesome wares. These unique, often one-of-a-kind finds make perfect gifts.

Support a Small Local Business. You may find yourself lucky enough to have small local businesses showcasing their own work or even other local artists’ work which is another great place to find gifts. I am not the biggest supporter of gift cards but it can be a wonderful way to support a small local business! I am also not opposed to supporting larger global businesses with a great vision. Companies that make sure that their supplies are coming from sustainable sourcing and paying their workers a living wage are some ideas of things to look for.

Support a Charity. There are lots of options here. You can show support by giving your time, giving your money or even giving them items they need.

Experiences. This can look like so many things. Tickets to a show, a zoo or museum membership. Going on a hike or a scavenger hunt. Do a project or make a craft together. Send someone the dry ingredients and fun toppings for a pizza cookie, make a kit for a hot chocolate bar or a movie night or pasta night, or an ice cream sundae night. Once I mailed a “snow day kit” to my husband’s niece and nephew. It included things like spray bottles and food coloring to graffiti the snow, along with hot chocolate and soup to warm up after. When my husband and I moved to Tennessee we bought ourselves memberships to a local brewery for our first Christmas. It gave us events to go to and we have made a ton of wonderful friends.

The gift that keeps on giving, beer that is! Our membership mugs!

Good Deeds. Gosh there are so many options, get creative! Mow the grass, shovel snow, rake leaves, bring the mail, pick up litter, go grocery shopping for them, babysit, do some laundry.

Visit. This should be obvious but I am afraid it is not. Think about all of the people in your life and think about those you care about the most. Are you spending the majority of your time that you spend with others with the people you care about the most? If not, why not? This took me awhile to grasp and is not that easy to follow through with at first. Your time is valuable, do the things that you enjoy the most with it, and that means spending as much time as you can with the people you love the most in your life.

Food. This can be DIY or it could be inviting someone to partake in dinner or even your holiday meal. It could even be making dinner for someone in your life that has a lot going on or even stocking their freezer with ready to go meals. Everyone eats and there is more food insecurity than we care to believe. A healthy meal or the community surrounding a meal is a wonderful gift.

Love Gifts. Stop giving gifts just because the commercial holiday season said to. Give gifts when they are needed or when they will be treasured the most. It is not about the cost or size of the gift, it is about the act of giving.

Re-think your gift giving ways! What gifts do you love giving the most?

Continue Reading

The Holidays: Small Stuff, Big Heart

Does the thought of the upcoming holidays give you pause? The thought of all of the activities, presents, and food stress you out? You are not alone! The financial burden alone is overwhelming. I am here to tell you that if you are open to it, you can tweak your holidays and make them even more special.

This is a case where I think the saying “less is more” comes in really handy. If you are half-heartedly trying to accomplish everything, it is not going to be very enjoyable. If you pick and choose the things that mean the most to you and your family, but do them with your whole-heart, it will be much more enjoyable and rewarding.

To our dogs, the stuffed animals they get around the holidays are the best fun ever!

How to have the holidays your way:

Make a list of all of the things you LOVE about the holidays. Have your family do this too. Maybe what you love is baking cookies, or making your signature gravy. It just wouldn’t be the holidays without watching your favorite holiday movie or reading your favorite holiday stories. Do you love giving presents or opening presents?  This is going to sound simple but I love just having family together for the holidays with no agenda. Sit, relax, talk, and eat. All the best things in the world right there.

Make a list of all of the things you HATE about the holidays. Again, have your family do this too. Is wrapping tons of presents the bane of your existence? You hate baking yet every year seem to find yourself in the middle of a cookie exchange? The thought of buying someone one more thing drives you bananas but if you could get them an experience you already know they would love, would mean the world to both of you. I personally hate giving gifts in the traditional sense. I prefer to give experiences, something I made myself, something I bought from a local artist, or nothing at all. Taking this unnecessary pressure off of the holidays has taken away a ton of my holiday stress.

Compare all the lists. What you and your family love vs hate may surprise you. Something you may hate may be your family’s number one thing! You all may agree on several “hates” and are able to cut those out entirely. Figure out what each person’s favorites are and try to do more of that and less of the rest. It is also your decision how far out you take this philosophy. Maybe it is only for immediate family or maybe it extends out further and further. Part of having a wonderful holiday season is starting the conversation about what people even love about them in the first place!

Start new holiday traditions and maybe get rid of some of the old. Since we are already re-evaluating the holidays, are there any new traditions you would like to add in? Or even some that need thrown out? Maybe the food you always have for the holidays half of the group does not even like, why not try a new menu option? A great tradition my family loves is playing lots of board games!

My Favorite Holiday Tradition: The Mouse Countdown Calendar

In my experiences with shaking the holidays up a bit, it has not always been easy. What we fail to remember is that things are always changing and the holidays are nothing like how they were when I was a child, yet so many things are the same. Everyone is always evolving and that alone is a challenge, especially with the nostalgia associated with the holiday season.

You know what hasn’t changed my friends? The time we spend together as a family. This alone means way more than all of the expensive stuff, even the expensive food! As long as we have something to munch on and each other it has always been fine. If you are breaking your sanity and your bank to keep up with the proverbial “Jones’s” just STOP. The holidays do not have to be a five star gourmet experience to be a success. Was everyone together, were we having fun? PERFECT! Also, please do not let the arbitrarily set calendar dates define your holidays. We live far away from my husband’s family so sometimes our holidays aren’t even close to their designated dates, but they mean just as much.

Whatever you do friends, do it with a big heart and lots of love! What have you changed in your holiday traditions to make them happier and healthier?

Continue Reading