Radical Simplicity and a Beautiful, Messy Life

6 Reasons We Are In Debt (And What We Are Doing About It.)

Paying down debt quickly

I've mentioned before that we are in debt.

A lot of debt.

Think of a number that most people would consider a lot of debt.  And then double it.  Double it again.  Maybe even double it one more time.  That's how much debt we are in.

But this year we decided to change that.  We decided to completely restructure the way we live and shop in order to pay down our debt over the next 10 years or less.

The bank offered us opportunities to consolidate our debts into a 30 year mortgage.  But some simple math showed us that route would cost us tens of thousands of extra dollars in interest.  And keep us bound to the banks for an extra 20 years.  So we are doing this the hard way.

Because Nothing changes if nothing changes.

This is a cautionary tale, friends.  Don't make the same mistakes we did.  And if you already have, it is never too late for a second chance.

Here are the 6 biggest financial mistakes we made.

1. We didn't have an emergency fund.

Things will happen.  Vehicles will break down, jobs will be lost, bills will go up, appliances will need replacing.  We didn't plan for the unplannable, and when problems arose, our credit cards were our first line of defense.

2. We didn't trust God to provide.

Instead of committing to live inside our income and trust God to provide when things were tight, we just charged things to our credit.   Basically we weren't giving God a chance to show up.  Since choosing to live within our means and pay down debt at breakneck speed we've seen God provide in a hundred little ways.

3. We let our debt snowball out of control.  

Maybe you've heard of the snowball method for paying down debt, but I believe that there is a snowball effect when we are getting into debt.  Each month, since we felt overwhelmed by the debt we could not pay, we put it off. We charged more to our cards because the situation seemed so bleak already.  And then all of a sudden the snowball is too big to lift or push.  We's accumulated so much debt that we felt stuck.

4. We got confused about wants and needs.

If you want it bad enough, you can convince yourself that almost anything is a need.  That family vacation you can't afford? It'll build memories for the kids.  Ordering take-out?  Everyone needs a break sometimes.  That new phone or laptop or whatever?  I need it for work.   But in reality our needs are pretty basic: shelter, food, utilities, a few clothes.  We justified a lot of things as needs that really were wants and could have waited.

5. We overlooked the benefit of small savings.

We often opted for a more expensive item because it was "only 3 dollars more." or got coffee on the go because it is "only a few bucks" but these small expenses add up quickly.

6. We stopped opening our mail.

During the last year or two we stopped even paying attention to the problem in front of us.  It was too overwhelming. We hardly even talked about money. But we can't change what we don't face.  So now we open every piece of mail that comes through the door.  And because we have a plan in place and are spending less than we are making, those bills and bank statements aren't so frightening anymore.


So what are we doing about it?

  • We saved up a 1000$ emergency fund so that if and when something inevitably happens we won't need to rely on credit to solve it. 
  • We committed to live (significantly) below our means and trust God to make this possible.
  • We tightened our fiscal belts in every way possible in order to be able to pay down debt at breakneck speed. Seeing progress month after month will help keep us motivated.  See my list of 101 ways to save money and pay down debt.  
  • We found ways to increase our household income (such as my return to blogging. Thanks for being here!)
  • My husband and I are learning to communicate better about finances. 

Friends, If you recognize yourself in these six things, it is not too late to get your financial butt in gear.  But nothing changes if nothing changes.  Don't wait, start today.  Make a budget, build an emergency fund, and start paying down debt with fierce determination. Because you deserve a life not suffocated by the restraints of debt. 

Friend, you can do this.  I believe in you. 



p.s. Like this post?  Sign up for my weekly newsletter, follow me on twitter or connect with me on facebook.  And thanks for reading, I'm honoured!

How to Declutter Your Bookshelves Like a Minimalist

minimalist bookshelves

What I'm about to say is going to sound like heresy to some; You don't actually need to keep every book you've ever owned.  (who knew, right?)

Books are an easy thing to amass because each one seems so small and uncumbersome.  But after years or decades of shelving book after book, our collections can be unnecessarily huge.

Here are three reason to keep less books:

Less visual clutter.  Shelves full of books bring visual noise to a space.  

A smaller to-read list hanging over your head.  Do you have a lot of books you feel you should read?  That is a constant to-do list, weighing you down in your place of rest and refuge.  Shuffle off that to-do list, let books be a means of enjoyment and self care, not pressure.

Someone else can enjoy them when you pass them on.  Books are something to flow among friends, not be hoarded. If you've read a great book and likely won't read it again, pass it on to a friend so that they can enjoy it too.  Maybe they'll return the favour next time they read a great book. 


How to declutter your books

Step one: Make three piles

1. Your reading to-do list:  Books to be read sooner rather than later.  These are books you haven't read, or would like to re-read in the near future.  Put them in a stack on your bed stand or dresser.  

2. Your must keeps: Books that you re-read every few years or need to refer to.  These are the keepers that aren't necessarily on your to read soon list.  Thes books will go back on your shelves.

For me, The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning is a yearly read.  It's a little book, full of heart wrenching truths that deepen my spiritual walk each time I read it.  So I keep it.  

3. Your declutter pile.  This will mostly be made up of books that you've read and have no plans to read again, or books that you haven't read and aren't particularly excited to read. 

If you are unsure if a book should stay or go, ask yourself this:  "If I was moving to another continent, would this book come with me."  If the answer is no, you can probably let go of it. 

Because isn't that the point of minimalism?  To be unencumbered by our stuff.  Not that we would move across the world on a moments notice, but that we could, because we are here on this earth for the journey, not the stuff. 

Step Two: Figure out what to do with the books you are done with.  

You can pass them onto friends, donate them to a thrift store or library, or take them to a used bookstore where you can exchange them for store credit.

Step Three: Sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea and a good book!  

Take the book at the top of your to-read pile and enjoy it.  When you are done, decide whether it's a book you will read again, in which case it will go back on your shelf with the keepers, or if you are done with it, in which case you will give it away or sell it immediately.  Move on to the next book in the pile. 


Common hurdles to decluttering books:
Don't let these mindsets trip you up.

"I might read it someday." If you have owned the book for a year or more and haven't read it yet, you likely won't read it.  

"I should read it.  I want to be the kind of person who reads these books."  Stop shoulding on yourself! You are who you are meant to be.  Don't keep Hamlet around just because you think you should read it.  This isn't high school and you get to read what brings you joy. 

"I spent 20 bucks on it and haven't read it yet."  You don't get a single cent of your money back by keeping things you won't use. If you aren't going to read and enjoy the book, pass it on.


Tips to keep your bookshelves decluttered

  • Consider buying ebooks rather than old-fashioned paper books.  (but oh how I do love the paper books)
  • Get your books from the library, or borrow from friends.  Not only do you avoid clutter, you save money too!
  • Have a one-in, one-out rule.  If you purchase a new book, get rid of an old one immediately. 


Friends, books bring a world of information, ideas and perspective to our fingertips.  The books we read shape us and move us.  Pass them on.  Let someone else be inspired by those words. 



pssst.... want to be part of a super encouraging online community of people striving to clear the clutter and live a simpler life?  Join my just-launched facebook group Radical Simplicity and take part in weekly challenges as well as share your own journey with like minded new friends.  I can't wait to connect with you over there!!

And as always, if you like this post, will you share it?  Thanks loves.

Your Kids Don't Need A Better Mom


It's hard to be a mom in 2018.

I imagine it has always been hard to be a mom.  But today there is pressure that I know our mom's never felt. Pressure to throw pinterest-worthy birthday parties that are a far cry from the plastic pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and boxed cake mixes of my youth.  Pressure to be constantly present and emotionally available even though nobody is emotionally available every second of the day.  Pressure to have pristine homes, and healthy trash-free lunches, and natural handmade toys.

It is so easy to start feeling inadequate.

Sometimes I feel like I'm too damaged to mother my kids well.  If only they'd been born to someone with more patience, more energy, more whatever.  I suspect I'm not the only one who feels less-than.

But friends, your kids don't need a better mom. They need you.

They need messy, imperfect, sometimes cranky, you.

They don't need you to have it all together.  They need you to show them that it's okay not to have it all together.

They don't need you to have all the answers.  They need to see you ask questions and make mistakes and do your best.

They don't need you to do it all.  They need to watch you prioritize, simplify, and do your best to figure out this thing called life.

They don't need you to do it  alone.  They need to see that it's okay to reach out for help.

Your kids don't need you to never make mistakes, they need to see you humbly ask forgiveness and rise again when you fall.

That child that the creator of the universe put in your care?  That tiny heart you have the privilege of shaping and nurturing and watching grow?  They don't need a better mom.  They need you. Messy, imperfect, real, beautiful you.

You, with your flaws and your insecurities and your messy bun.

You, with your mistakes and your hurts and your uncertainties.

You, with your stretch marks and your disorganized spice drawer, and the gnawing fear that you might be messing them up.

They need you.

All that pressure to be all and do all?  To be perfect? To have it together? Friend, can we lay that down today?

Because as long as your kids are safe and loved and you are showing up for them, you are rocking this mama thing.

This hard, sacred, messy mama thing.

You are rocking this, mama.

Keep on rocking this, mama.



p.s. Like this post?  Sign up for my weekly newsletter, follow me on twitter or connect with me on facebook.  And thanks for reading, I'm honoured!

The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Paper Clutter for Good

Organizing Papers

When I ask people what part of their home and life is the most difficult to simplify, time and time again people answer that paper clutter is the bane of their simple living pursuits.

And I get it.  With six kids and a busy household, paper comes through our doors almost faster than I can deal with it. 

In order to get rid of paper clutter for good, we need to address two things; we need to deal with the clutter that already exists, and we need to put systems and habits in place to prevent clutter from accumulating again.  If our habits aren't changing, we will find ourselves organizing and reorganizing time and time again. Nothing changes if nothing changes.

Grab an empty laundry basket and collect any paper clutter that currently doesn't have a home. Take note of where it tends to gather.  The kitchen counter?  Then entry way?  This will help you develope a system that works for you and your family.

Here is how to deal with paper clutter for good. 

Reduce the amount of paper coming through the doors.  The first step to taming and organizing paper clutter is to have less of it to tame!  Cancel catalogues and sign up for paperless billing with your bank and utilities.  (Bonus, there is often a fee associated with paper bills and statements, so you'll save money too.)

Create a landing spot for paper that requires action.  Many people call this their command center.  This is where you will put bills to be paid, kid's school forms, etc.  Think vertical (such as wall files and corkboards) rather than a pile on the counter.  Things get lost and forgotten in piles, and piles get in the way.

Have a recycle bin or shredder near the places that paper clutter tends to land, to make discarding it easier.  Immediately recycle anything that only contains information you already have access to online, such as sale flyers, take-out menu's and phone books.

Have a place to stash receipts you will need for the current year's taxes.  We once had a magazine file on a shelf and now use a pocket in our budgeting binder.

Create binders for papers that you tend to collect.  If you find that a lot of your paper clutter is recipes, or notes for your blog, or documents for work, put like items together in a 3 ring binder so that you always know where to find them, and where to put them when similar papers arise.

Get unsentimental (a.k.a. ruthless)  If I kept every piece of art my kids brought home I would need a whole extra bedroom to store it all in.  I keep one or two peices a year (I just slip them in a page protector in our family photo album to look back on one day) and I toss the rest while the kids aren't looking.  If they ask about it, I explain that I simply can't keep everything they make for me.

Have a simple filing system for things that must be kept.  We have a wooden filing cabinet (painted a fun bright yellow!) that holds all our important documents.  Don't create more categories than you really need, it will overwhelm you and make filing a dreaded task.  Keep it simple.

Here are the categories we have in our filing system:

  • A file for each member of the family (including the dog) for things like immunization records, diploma's, and other personal files.
  • A home file, with home insurance documents, etc..
  • A vehicle file, with our vehicle insurance documents, etc. 
  • The last 7 years of tax receipts, stuffed in a large envelope and labelled.  Each year when I file away the most recent year's receipts, I pull out and shred the oldest, so that I only ever have the past 7 years of documents. 

More tips to make your paper organization last:
  • If you only need a piece of paper for a tracking code or account number, consider taking a photo of it with your phone and then discarding it. 
  • When possible, touch each piece of paper only once.  Use your time efficiently be dealing with the paper while it's already in your hand instead of letting it pile up for later. 
  • Open every piece of mail that comes through the door.  Unopened mail is perpetually stuck in limbo. Open that envelope, even if (and especially if) it's something you'd rather not see, like an overdue credit card statement
  • Make notes and lists digitally, or use a specified notebook.   If you are a list maker (like me!), avoid losing your list and adding to the paper clutter by writing your lists and notes in a smartphone app.  I use evernote for nearly everything. 


pssst.... want to be part of a super encouraging online community of people striving to clear the clutter and live a simpler life?  Join my just-launched facebook group Radical Simplicity and take part in weekly challenges as well as share your own journey with like minded new friends.  I can't wait to connect with you over there!!

And as always, if you like this post, will you share it?  Thanks loves.

6 Clothing Items to Declutter Right Now

Minimalist closet / wardrobe

Unless you have a ton of time and money, curating a simple minimalist wardrobe can be a process as you identify which types of items you need and those that you don't.  But there are some items you can discard today to make more room in your closet for the items that you actually wear and feel good in.

For me, the huge benefit of a minimalist wardrobe and clearing out the clutter is that it prevents frustration and decision fatigue.  When every item in your closet it something that you like wearing and feel good in, getting dressed becomes a delight.

Here are 6 clothing items to you can declutter today:

1. Items that don't fit properly.  Dress for the size you are, not the size you want to be.  Of course there are exceptions, for example, if you are actively losing weight or if you are currently pregnant and expect to fit back into your pre-pregnancy jeans soon.  But if you are passively hoping to someday fit into that dress again, toss it.  It's bringing way to much negativity into your closet.

2. Things that have holes or stains.  You want to feel like your best self each time you present yourself to the world.  Unless you work in a messy job you only need one set of painting clothes.  All other stained items can be turned into rags.  Torn items should either be mended immediately or discarded.  

3. Undergarments that have lost their stretch and support.  The right undergarments go a long way to make us look and feel our best.  If your bra doesn't offer support, or your underpants have lost their elasticity, ditch them.

4. Uncomfortable footwear.  The level of discomfort you are willing to endure for cute footwear is a personal matter; but anything that is so uncomfortable that you regularly choose not to wear them can go.  They are just taking up closet space, and mocking you with their unbearable cuteness. 

5. Stuff that really isn't "you".  We've all bought something because it fit and looked nice but when we really look at it, it just doesn't suit our style.  Ditch it and make room for stuff that reflects who you are. 

6. Anything that hasn't been worn in a year.  Or better yet, six months. If you didn't wear it last year you won't wear it this year. 

When we clear out the items we don't wear, getting dressed each day becomes easier and more enjoyable.  Our eyes and minds aren't cluttered with clothes we won't choose, and we are left with only great options.

Bonus tips for cleaning out your closet: 

  • Create a "uniform" for yourself.  Most days I either wear Black pants, a solid-coloured shirt, and a solid-coloured cardigan or an above the knee dress with fun leggings. Knowing your uniform can help you discern which items aren't practical for the way you dress
  • Get over how much you spent on that item.  We can get so hung up on "I spent x amount of dollars on this so I have to keep it." You get no more value out of the item if it sits in your closet than you do if you donate to someone who will actually wear it.  Cut your losses and donate (or sell!) items you don't wear.
  • Embrace less is more.  You can do more with 35 simple, lovely items than you can with a jam-packed closet that overwhelms you.   Worst case scenario if you declutter too much?  You'll have to do your laundry a little more often but you'll always be wearing one of your favourite outfits!


Happy decluttering!




pssst.... want to be part of a super encouraging online community of people striving to clear the clutter and live a simpler life?  Join my just-launched facebook group Radical Simplicity and take part in weekly challenges as well as share your own journey with like minded new friends.  I can't wait to connect with you over there!!

And as always, if you like this post, will you share it?  Thanks loves.

6 Reasons Why You Are Stuck Creatively. And How to Fix Them.



Haven't we all been there?  We know we need to create in order to be healthy and thrive.   Or maybe we need to create as part of our nine-to-five.  Or maybe we have a creative side hustle we are trying to grow into a profitable career.  But when we sit down behind the desk, or computer, or camera or easel, we go blank.  We are stuck.  And we desperately need to become unstuck.

Here are six reasons you may be stuck creatively, and how to overcome them.

1) Perfectionism. 

The Problem: Perfectionism and procrastination go hand in hand.  We feel like we can't do something perfectly right now, so we put it off until we can.  The problem is, we will never be in the perfect moment to create.

Maybe it's been a while since you've created anything and that adds to the pressure you feel.  Perhaps you feel as if the next thing you write or paint or do needs to be a masterpiece.  Or you create in spurts but then destroy it because it doesn't meet your standards. 

The Solution: The surest way to make sure that you never create that epic masterpiece is to stop creating.  All creatives have to create a lot of crap in order to get to the good stuff.  Every mediocre article, photo, painting, etc. that you create gets you one step closer to your masterpiece.


2) Lack of direction. 

The Problem: I went through this for a long while.  I once made a decent living writing about homemaking and family, but I don't want to do that anymore.   For a while I loved writing about faith and life but then I honestly didn't know for a while where my faith stood.  I felt stuck.  I knew I needed to be writing in order to feel whole, but I had no focus, no purpose, no direction. 

The solution: For me the answer was to write about where I was at.  I wrote lists of why I couldn't write.  I wrote about the frustration of not knowing what direction I was headed.  Whatever your creative outlet is, let out the frustration of not knowing.  A direction will form over time.


3) Lack of discipline.

The Problem: It is so easy to put our creative pursuits at the bottom of our to-do lists.  Especially if they aren't our primary sources of income. 

The solution: Anne Lamott says that the key to good writing is to get your butt in the chair everyday and pound out shitty first drafts. Sylvia Plath woke up at 5 am everyday to write.  Create a routine that makes time for your creative pursuit and then get your butt in place each and every day.


4) Exhaustion.

The problem: You can't pour from an empty cup.  Life, family, the nine-to-five hustle has you too spent to find the creative energy you long for. 

The solution: Everything is harder when you are tired.  Restructure your life to allow for 60 minutes of creativity a day during your most energized time of day.  Even if that means moving dinner an hour later or getting up an hour earlier. Make creativity a priority, instead of trying to squish it in when you're already spent.


5) Fear of success.  

The Problem: Creative Success doesn't match the narrative you have for yourself in your head.  You self sabotage because you cannot conceive of yourself as a creative entrepreneurial success.

The Solution: Slowly begin building a new narrative for yourself.  Write out some affirmations on sticky notes and stick them to your mirror so that you are faced with them each day.  When discouraged by past failures, say out loud "that was then, this is now."


6) Lack of authority or expertise.

The Problem:   You feel as if you have nothing valuable to say. You lack authority or expertise.  "Who am I to tell anybody anything?"  "What could I create that others would benefit from?"  "What could I paint that hasn't already been painted.?"

Or maybe you feel as if you need to read more books on writing before finally churning out that memoir, or take one more photography class before calling yourself a photographer.

The solution: Recognize your distinct view of the world.  You alone see the world from your eyes.  What you have to offer the world is a new perspective, the world through your eyes, expressed through the creative gifts you have. Great artists are not necessarily the ones who create with the most skill and finesse, bu the ones who invite us to see something we almost missed.



The common thread among these strategies is to keep pushing through.  The times that art doesn't come easily can be our most fruitful times as we persevere and create anyways. 

Friend, whatever is holding you back today, I wish you a creative and inspired day!

p.s. Like this post?  Sign up for my weekly newsletter, follow me on twitter or connect with me on facebook.  And thanks for reading, I'm honoured!


101 Ways to Save Money and Pay Down Debt

Save Money and Repay Debt

We are in debt. Like, think of what most people would consider a lot of debt.  And then double it.  And then double it again.  Possibly double it one more time.  That's how much debt we are in.

 We spent years in survival mode, wrestling with mental illness and addiction and untreated trauma, and convenience had become king.  We had stopped even opening our credit card statements because the situation was so bleak.

And then we hit a financial bottom.  We either needed to address the debt situation we'd been avoiding or we were going to lose our house.  Nothing changes if nothing changes. 

We had the option of rolling it all into a 30 year mortgage.  But some quick calculations revealed that going that route would cost us tens of thousands of extra dollars in interest than just buckling down and paying off the debt using the snowball method.

This is not for the faint of heart.  We aren't talking about opting out of a few lattes a week.  Our whole life has changed in order to pay down this debt in as few years as possible. 

Here are 101 Ways to save money and pay down debt!

Groceries

1. Add some meatless meals to your week. 

2. Price match.  
You can even use an app on your phone for this.  We use the Flipp app.

3. Clip coupons. 
But don't buy coupon books unless you are sure you will save more thank you will spend.

4. Turn fridge odds and ends into soup before they go bad.

5. Cut back on food waste by having a leftovers night once a week. 
At our house we call this tour de frigo.

6. Check Amazon for lower prices.
 See if you can buy things like pet food, diapers and toiletries for cheaper than your local grocery store.

7. Make your own spice mixes for pennies.
For a DIY taco seasoning, combine 1 Tbsp Chili powder, 1/4 tsp each garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes and oregano, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1 1/2 tsp cumin, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper

8. Eat less treats and snacks. 
(It's healthier too!)

9. Buy meat on sale and freeze it.

10. Buy produce that is reduced for quick sale and use it up that day.

11. Shop in bulk.

12. Get a Costco membership.

13. Pay attention to prices.  
Sometimes the bigger package isn't actually cheaper.

14. Buy a half or quarter cow from a local farmer.

15. Grow a vegetable garden.
If you don't know how, start small.

16. Shop with the calculator on your phone out so that you can stay within your budget

17. Bake your own bread

18. Do batch cooking to save on electricity costs and to make the best use of sale prices. 

19. Stop buying boxed mixes.
They've literally just done the easiest part of baking for you, mixing the dry ingredients.

20. Don't buy microwave popcorn. 
You can make popcorn in a pan for pennies.


Personal Care

21. Save on salon costs by growing out your hair.  
Grey is in right now anyways!  

22. Cut your own hair. 
Find how-to videos on youtube

23. Get discounted haircuts at a hairdressing school.

24. Get dental work done at a local dental school for cheaper.

25. Pluck or wax your own eyebrows.
Again, check youtube for how-to's if you need 'em.

26. Be mindful of how much toothpaste, body wash and shampoo you use.  
Stop pouring money down the drain!

27. Teach your kids to use 2-3 squares of toilet paper. 
Rather than the eleventy billion they are currently using. 

28. Switch from body wash to a bar of soap.

29. Use cloth menstrual pads

30. Or switch to a diva cup
(I'm not that frugal yet!)

32. Keep your makeup routine to the basics.  
You look better with less makeup anyways, and you'll save money.

Clothing

33. Shop at thrift stores in your community

34. Shop online resale sites

35. Clean out your closets.
And sell what you don't need in order to buy what you do.  It's like free clothes.

36. Stay away from trends.
They are designed to change seasonally and make your wardrobe obsolete.  Stick to your favorite tried and true basics. 

37. Buy well built clothes that will last.

38. Mend torn clothing instead of discarding it.


Laundry

39. Make your own laundry detergent.

40. Wash laundry in cold water.

41. Line dry your clothing.

42. Buy a kit to vent your dryer inside for the winter.
Instead of sending all that warm, moist air outside.

Travel Cost

43. Bicycle places to save money on gas

44. Use a gas price app to locate the cheapest gas near you.

45. Carpool.

46. Drive the speed limit. 
It's better for gas mileage and prevents costly speeding tickets

47. Make sure your car tires are properly inflated.
It helps with gas mileage.


Utilities

48. Save on your heating bill by turning down your heat at night.

 49. Also, turn down the heat if you will be away from home all day.

50. Reserve A/C for only the hottest of days

51. Unplug electronics when not in use.
They draw phantom energy even when you aren't using them.

52. Only run the dishwasher when it's full.

53. Turn off the lights when you aren't using them. 

54. Cancel cable.  
Netflix has plenty of great content for a very reasonable price.

55. Cancel your home phone.  
You're paying for a cell phone anyways.

56. Shop around for cheaper internet service. 

57. Or call your internet provider and insist on a better price.
Often they will comply in order to keep your business. 

58. Scale back the data plan on your cellphone.

59. Shop around for cheaper car insurance.


60. Insulate your water heater.

61. Take shorter showers.

62. Better yet, shower with your spouse.
(wink.)


Banking

63. Pay your bills on time to avoid penalties 
This means getting your finances in order and actually opening your mail!

64. Switch to paperless billing. 
 
There is often a fee for paper bills. 

65. Call your credit card company and ask for a lower interest rate. 
They lowered ours from 19.99% to 13.99% and it only took 5 minutes.

66. Switch to a banking plan with lower monthly fees.  

67. Or better yet, switch to a company that offers zero fee bank accounts. 



Shopping Online

68. Combine orders with friends when shopping online to save on shipping costs.

69. Plan for events and holidays in advance.
So that you never have to pay extra for expedited shipping.

70. Always check for a promo code before buying online.  
Do a google search for the store name and the words "promo code" and see what you can find.


Social Life

71Host a potluck instead of a dinner party. 
It's just as much fun, and the cost of food isn't all on you. 

72. Limit eating out at restaurants to a bare minimum.

73. Take your significant other on coffee dates rather than dinner dates.

74. Volunteer at events in exchange for free admission.

75. See if your local theater sells discounted tickets for a preview show or dress rehearsal prior to opening night. 


Kids

76. Trade babysitting with other moms instead of paying for a sitter.

77. Keep birthdays and holidays simple.
 
The dollar store is your friend!

78. Use cloth diapers.

79. Sign them up for free or cheap activities in your community.

80. Pack road snacks for long trips.
So that you don't end up hitting up a drive-through out of desperation to appease grumpy kids!


Miscellaneous Expenses

81. Carry a travel mug instead of getting drive-through coffee.

82. Carry a refillable water bottle instead of buying wasteful bottled water.

83. When possible, take 3 or more days to consider a purchase. 
 
Sometimes with enough time a "need" reveals itself to really be a "want".

84. Stop buying magazines.
  
They are costly and designed to make you want more stuff.

85. Borrow books from friends or libraries instead of buying them.

86. Borrow tools and yard care items from neighbours instead of buying them. 
 Return the favour by generously sharing the items you have that they don't. 

87. Check your local freecycle group for items you need before purchasing them.

88.  Get your pet their rabies shots at a discounted price by asking your vet about annual rabies clinics in your area. 

89. Ask your pharmacist about the generic versions of any medications you are on. 
They can be a fraction of the price.

90. Buy prescription eye wear online at a fraction of the cost at your local optometrist.

91. Sign up for customer reward programs and collect points anywhere you can.
But DON'T fall for their "if-you-spend-so-much-you-get-double-the-points" schemes unless you actually need the items!

92. Exercise for cheap or free.
Walk, run, bicycle, follow along to youtube workout videos instead of paying for an expensive gym membership.

93. Or get a discounted membership at the YMCA.  Many branches offer a lowered price if you can show financial hardship.

94. Watch for sales on items in the weeks after you've bought them.  
Often if you return to the store with the receipt you can get a refund to account for the sale price. I just did this today and got 15 dollars back on a can of paint.

95. Give DIY gifts. 

96. Shop your home.  
Sometimes when you think you need something new you can just re-purpose something you have. 

97. Compost and recycle religiously in order to reduce garbage disposal costs

98. Pack a lunch.


Lifestyle and Attitude

99. Be content with what you have.

100. Sell your stuff.  
Choose to live without luxuries until you can buy them debt free.
101. Build a life you don't need a vacation from.



The Ultimate Guide to What to Do with All That Stuff you're Decluttering

Selling online tips, yardsale tips, donating tips

You've decluttered a room or two and now you have boxes of stuff taking up space in your home.  You've got a few options on what to do with it.  Here are some things to consider.

OPTION 1: SELL

If you are trying to pay down debt (like we are!) I'd suggest selling what you can.  There are a couple ways to go about this.

Online Marketplaces
Online Marketplaces like Facebook marketplace, Kijiji, craigslist, etc are a great way to unload some items. My personal experience is that it is not worth trying to sell anything for less than 5 dollars.  Arranging a pick up time, dealing with no shows, and answering questions about the items take time and your time is worth more than a dollar or two.

Some tips for selling online

  • If the item is a big item, go ahead and price it with some wiggle room for bargaining.  If it is under 20$, in my experience most people won't bother trying to haggle, so be careful not to overprice or people might just scroll past.
  • Include thorough descriptions.  Include measurements and other things people might ask about the item to save yourself time answering a bunch of individual messages
  • Use quality pictures of the item. 
  • Some items sell well in lots.  Sort baby clothes by size and sell each size as a group.  A stack of books of the same genre may sell better as a group.  
  • When people message you that they are interested, ask immediately when they would like to pick the item up.  This keeps the sale moving instead of stalling out.
  • Generally I don't agree to deliver items unless they are big ticket items.  It's not worth driving all over the city to make a few bucks. 
  • And of course, be cautious.  Have someone else home when people come to pick up items, or meet people in a well lit public place.  If delivering an item, don't enter their home or parts of the yard not visible from the street.  Stay safe, friends!

Yard sale
Yard sales are a great way to sell your stuff quickly if you are  a) In a good location  b) Have a lot of stuff to sell at once or can join forces with a friend.  The larger the yard sale, the more people will stop and shop  and c) Are willing to let your stuff go for really cheap.

A yard sale is faster than selling online but people at yardsales want amazing deals.

Here are some tips for hosting a successful yardsale:
  • Use plenty of signs, and keep them simple. When looking for a yard sale, people don't read words, they follow arrows. Keep your signs all the same colour and style too, they will be like a trail of breadcrumbs to your door.
  • Think like a store. Put like items together, display popular items at eye level, hang clothing and arrange items so that they are clearly visible. Most people won't rummage through boxes to find a treasure. Put things where people will see them.
  • Plan ahead. Be prepared to make change and have bags or boxes available for people to carry their items away in.
  • Keep it outdoors. As a reasonably cautious young woman I never, ever, EVER go to a yard sale that is inside, even if it's just an enclosed porch. I can't be the only one who feels this way, so if you aren't willing to move your stuff out to the front yard (or an open garage that is easily visible from the street) then you WILL lose customers.
  • Price to sell. If you price things too high people won't even try to haggle you down, they'll walk away. 
  • Get rid of the left over stuff pronto. Don't save it for another yard sale, another year. You are not a big box store, and your garage is not a warehouse, so clear out the inventory.

Pawn Shops
Pawn shops or Buy and Sell's can be a quick and easy way to unload stuff like electronics, musical instruments, power tools and sporting goods. If you are short on time and not in debt this might be a good option for you.  But if you have debts to pay down, I recommend selling the items yourself as you will get far more than the pawn shop can give you.




OPTION #2: DONATE
This is a great option for stuff you can't be bothered to sell. Please remember to only pass on good quality items, nobody needs your stained blouse or broken alarm clock.  There are a few places to consider donating your items

A Second Hand Store
We are careful about which second hand stores we donate to.  We prefer to give our items, especially clothing and home necessities to the not-for-profit thrift stores that serve the community in need rather than the higher end second hand shops that sell things at almost retail prices.  I want the clothes I don't need anymore to go to someone who does need them, at a price they can afford.

And please don't drop off your old mattress or broken couch outside a thrift store and then take off.  Many of these places are run by charities and have to pay disposal fees for the unusable items they receive.

Women's shelters
Call and see if they need your gently used women's clothing and accessories, housewares for women moving out of the shelter and rebuilding their lives, toys and children's items.

Animal shelters
These can sometimes use old pillows and blankets and, of course, pet supplies.

Crisis pregnancy centers
Donate baby clothes and other baby items to a mother experiencing an unexpected pregnancy.

Homeless Shelters and Services
In colder climates, donations of good quality winter coats, scarves, gloves and footwear can literally be life saving.



OPTION #3: GIVE AWAY
Sometimes when I have something that I know a friend of mine will love, I just pass it on to them instead of selling or donating it.

I once committed to give away one item from my home to my friends on facebook every day for 100 days.  I would take a picture of an item, post it on facebook, and the first person to claim it would get it.  It was a great way to do some decluttering while having fun and making a bit of a game out of it.

This is a great option for books and movies you enjoyed but probably won't read or watch again.  Instead of letting it collect dust on your shelf, pass it on to a friend that will enjoy it, with the caveat that when they are done they will pass it on to someone else who will enjoy it.  Spread the love!

You can also join a local freecycle group.  Not only will you find homes for your items, you might meet some like minded people in your community.




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How I (Mostly) Stopped Yelling at My Kids


I have a confession to make; when my kids were young, I was a screamer.

It's not even that I yelled.  Yelling would have been a step in the right direction.   I would lose my mind over something small like crayon on the walls and scream at the people I love most on this earth.

I felt horrible about it. I didn't want to spend my mothering years screaming at the precious babes in my care! I knew in my heart that I would never let another person speak to my kids the way I was speaking to them and that was a problem.  But I didn't know how to reign myself in.  I felt out of control.

Can you relate?  Because if you can, you are so not alone.

Why it's sooooo important to stop yelling at our kids

First of all, it doesn't work.  When we yell, our kids learn that they don't have to listen until we yell.  Yelling does not convey authority or motivate people for very long.  It may work in the beginning, but over time it will need to escalate to louder and louder yelling in order to be effective. 

More importantly, I believe that yelling at our kids is an act of violence.  I know that is a strong statement, but stick with me here.  Why do humans yell at one another during a conflict?  Is it not to make ourselves seem bigger and stronger than the other?  To overpower the other?  But we are already bigger and stronger and more powerful than our kids.  Imagine how scary it would be to have someone 3 times your size yelling at you?

Most of us would never speak to another adult that way.  I've worked professionally managing volunteers and I would never yell at one of the volunteers under my care, it would be completely inappropriate.  So why would it be okay to treat my tiny humans that way?  Do they deserve less dignity and respect than the people I work with?  Of course not.

As the adults in the relationship, we are responsible for controlling our emotions.  We model to our kids how to behave, even when tired and frustrated.  We are responsible for creating a safe place for them, physically and emotionally.

What helped me to stop yelling at my kids

It all started to change the first time I apologized to my kids for yelling.  I sat down on the floor, pulled my sweet kiddos into my lap and explained that I should not have yelled at them.  I'm sorry, will they forgive me? And they did.

After that, I began to do this each time I yelled, sometimes having to apologize multiple times a day.  I would pull them onto my lap and assure them that I had no right to yell at them, that I should have shown more patience.  Then I would accept their forgiveness, sometimes all of us in tears.

Why this works

Apologizing seems like too small an act to really change such a seemingly uncontrollable response to our exhaustion and frustration.   But it's not.

Because what we are doing is more than just saying sorry.  We are accepting responsibility for our actions and choosing a new way of behaving.

It is an acknowledgement that the problem is always us.  When I yell at my kids, no matter what they've done, it is never their fault. They cannot make me yell. It is my responsibility to behave appropriately through difficult emotions. Apologizing each time builds an awareness of how I'm responding to frustration.  Each act of making amends is a recommitment to the value of being a safe place for our kids.

The MOSTLY part

This is hard.  Don't give up.  You are rewiring your emotional responses and that takes time.

My youngest kids have never heard me really scream the way the older ones did.  But I do still get impatient and yell every once in a while. But you know what?  It doesn't affect my kids the way it once did.  They know that it's not them, it's me.   They know I'm having a rough day.  And they know that sooner rather than later they will get an apology.

Friend, your kids don't need a perfect mama, they need a mom who is humble enough to admit she is wrong and in need of grace.

They need us to take responsibility for the way we act and react, to model ownership over our behaviour. 

They need us to let go of our pride enough to say "I messed up.  Will you forgive me?"

Mama, those tiny humans are eager to forgive you.

Will you give this a try?  And let me know if it helps you to (mostly) stop yelling at your kids.


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The One Thing Not To Say When You Don't Know What to Say


What not to say lists are all the rage.  All over the internet people are sharing lists of things they are sick of hearing.  Posts about what not to say to a person with mental illness or what not to say to someone who is grieving or what not to say to people experiencing infertility, the list goes on.

And I get it.  I even kinda wrote one myself at my old blog.  And every once in a blue moon I consider writing one about mental illness.  Because if one more person tells me that "we all get sad sometimes" I'm going to lose my ever-loving mind.

But I wonder how healthy these lists are.  Are they helping us grow closer to one another with awareness and compassion, or are they dividing us and making us afraid to communicate at all for fear of saying the wrong thing?

Because isn't that the goal?  More compassion?  More encouragement?  More understanding and authentic community?  Can we get there if we are so afraid of saying the wrong thing that we recoil from one another? 

I've boiled it down to what I believe is the one most important what-not-to-say to someone who's experiencing something difficult or different from you.

Here it is, the one thing not to say:  Nothing.   

Whatever you do, don't say nothing.

Don't avoid eye contact. Don't pretend you don't see them.  Don't bite your tongue just because you might say the wrong thing. 

Say something kind.

Say something true.

Stutter and shake in the awkwardness of it.

Tell them you wish you knew what to say.  Ask them what it is that they need to hear. Name their pain, or address the reality of the difficult situation.  

It might be the wrong thing. 

It will definitely sometimes be the wrong thing. 

But it's better than saying nothing. 

I've watched some friends go through truly tragic losses.  And each of them has said the same thing: they'd hands down rather somebody say the wrong thing than say nothing at all.  That the greatest pain is not the friends who misspeak, but the ones who look away to avoid the awkwardness altogether.

Real relationships are raw and risky.  And sometimes the uncertainty of what to say can be crippling.  But friends, it is totally worth the risk.  Because on the other side of that uncertainty and fear are deep, abiding connections that every single one of us long for, no matter our circumstances.

Whatever you do, don't say nothing.


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10 Things You Can Declutter Today Thanks to Your Cell Phone

Minimalism and Cell Phones

Our smart phones are awesome clutter-busters.  Here are 10 things you can declutter today thanks to your cell phone:

1) Calculators.  If you still have calculators in your home you can confidently declutter them knowing that you always have a calculator in your pocket.

2) Alarm Clock.  Not only can you use your phone as an alarm, you can download smart apps like the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock that will wake you up during the ideal phase of your morning sleep.

3) Maps.  That stack of maps stuffed in your passenger side car door has been rendered obsolete by your phone's GPS.

4) Camera.  Unless you are a serious photographer, your phone camera is more than capable of providing you with quality photos.  Plus the immediate ability to edit and share makes cell phone cameras ideal for the average person.

(and if you need some tips on how to take better photos, whether on a cell phone or an actual camera, check out my friend Mat at Dad Vs Camera)

5) Home Phone.  This was a no-brainer for us many years ago.  It just doesn't make sense to pay money every month for a home phone when we both have a phone in our pockets at all times.

6) Dictionary and other reference books.  Don't get me wrong, I am a lover of old-fashioned paper books.  There is nothing like soaking into a hot bubble bath and turning the pages of a great novel or captivating memoir.  But reference books aren't cozy indulgences and everything they can tell you (only more up-to-date!) is available in seconds, via google.

7) CD's.  There are so many options for music these days that are cheaper and easier than buying individual cd's.  We us Spotify Premium for Families and love it.

8) A watch.  For some people a watch is a favourite accessory.  And if so, by all means, keep wearing one.  But the clocks on our phones have rendered watches as nothing more than jewellery.

9) User Manuals.  Trouble shooting for almost any device is a quick google search away.

10) Phone Book.  Does this one go without saying?   I suspect that the only reason they are even published anymore is because they are stocked with advertisements.  A quick google search will find you any phone number you need, often accompanied by business reviews and a website link.


What did I miss?  What have you been able to declutter thanks to your cell phone? 


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