March 16, 2015

Life Re-Invented

I turned 56 years old on March 8th.  For the past 6 months I have been working on looking at what I want to do beyond homemaking with my life.  I am determined not to work a paid full time job, preferring to live on my husband’s income and I am determined to not cloister myself in these walls of my home either. Finding a balance is the hard part.  Why?  Because I tend to make big plans and then I lose interest or a motivation to keep going. 

One day I sat down and brainstormed what I like to do.  I like to be busy, but I don’t want to be busy for the sake of being busy.  I do tend to get more done in every area of my life when I am busy because I am more apt to write things down on a calendar and make a plan .  When I have a lot of time on my hands, I waste it because I feel like I have all the time in the world to get things done.

I made a decision last fall to leave the church I had been attending for 7 years due to the fact that that church had become a “Country Club” church only wanting to minister to its members and not wanting to reach out to people in need in our community.  The church membership (and many leaders) is made up of several individuals who would rather come to church on Sunday morning, have coffee with the same people they had coffee with over many decades and leave feeling good about themselves.  A pastor that tried to get them to direct themselves to community outreach was pushed out as key vocal members only wanted to take care of their own people. 

My husband and I had been heavily involved in that church working with the
pastor to make changes such as having a coffee café, directing the lunch program to feed hungry kids at our church during the summer, reaching out to newcomers and becoming a hospitality individual for the small contemporary service that had been attracting a different “set” of people than what some of the old timers would accept.  Hence, we left.

It is a warning sign that it is time to leave when a church does not want to reach out to the poor.   Since then we have found a church in a town 15 minutes away that is awesome.  It is a true church in every sense of the word.  I have vowed that I will never become so involved in a church again and would prefer to be a worshiper only.  The sermons at this church are awesome and I take what the Pastor has said home with me for the week.  I am being challenged and stretched. 
All the hours that I had spent in service to my old church (close to 10 hours a week) were now open.  I made a decision that those hours would be better spent in service to non-profits in my community.  I was already volunteering many hours.

So in January I designated three non-profits as ones that I wanted to donate my time to.  I had already been involved with these organizations but not at the level I am now.  These non profits are the local animal shelter of which I am a Board member, the Summer Lunch Program that I direct and a non-profit dedicated to serving victims of domestic violence. 

Being “happy” busy is good for me.  Being “over the top crazy busy” is not.  I am finding a balance in my life and I have re-invented myself as a Professional Volunteer and Homemaker.    I am committed to volunteerism and making a difference in my community.  I am committed to my home and family.  I have tailored made a “work” and a “home” life for me.  My volunteer work can be done for the most part on my own time and schedule.  I can fit it in just as I fit in my homemaking activities.  I am the master of my schedule. 

When I worked a full time job that I had loved, I had to do the work in an office setting away from my home and during office hours.  Now I can work things into my schedule where I want them.  Yes, I have board meetings to attend and for the most part they are scheduled according to everyone’s schedule. 

To stay healthy mentally and to keep depression at bay, I find that especially during the winter months being busy is the best thing for me.  I can work at home or take my work to the library.  This past winter has been the best winter I have had in over 5 years and it is due to finding the right balance for me. 

I can honestly say that I have found a life that works for me.  I am giving back to my community with my volunteer roles, I am able to have time with my family when I want and I can still be a home keeper. 

My new “career” is definitely tailor made to me, and gives me gratification.  I am very happy and I know it is because I am using my gifts and talents and not trying to fit myself into a mould that isn’t meant for me. 

Upcoming Posts:  My Volunteer Jobs defined.  Being busy and keeping the Budget in check.  Evaluating How I Spend my Time.  

March 12, 2015

Frugality Born out of Desperation – Now a Choice

Life for me has changed dramatically from when I started this blog back in 2009.  So much so, that I have pondered whether I wanted to continue this blog or start a new blog.  Since I haven’t posted in months due to busyness, I thought it would be time to bring the blog to a close.  After all our circumstances have changed a lot and perhaps blogging about a “Path to Frugality” when we no longer have to live so frugally isn’t relevant for me. 

We no longer struggle with day to day finances because we have paid off debt.  Our income has increased due to a few raises along the way and extra jobs here and there. When you have more income and less expenses there is the tendency on my part to reward myself with some purchases and yes I did that.  Then, one month ago my husband told me that if we “watch our money” he could retire at age 65.  He is now 57. 

My husband had been talking about wanting to retire at 65 instead of 67 ½ but we didn’t think it was possible.  Then he “ran the numbers” and realized that if we were to live a frugal lifestyle that we lived 6 years ago when I lost my job, he could retire early.  Honestly I didn’t think I could go back to living like that because money was so tight.  I worried so much about paying the bills back then but then I realized that this would be different.  Living a frugal lifestyle is easier when you don’t feel desperate to save every single penny.  Frugality because more of a hobby than a necessity.  That is where I am at right now.

My husband doesn’t hate his job.  He enjoys his job but he wants to be free to do other things that he loves.  He coached cross country for years and is now a certified official for cross country and track and he earns around $100 per meet that he officiates at.  This is extra income and we don’t count on it and we wouldn’t count on it during retirement either.  He loves doing this and wants to do it more, hence the talk about retirement.  My husband has been a runner for 46 years and he loves running 10K’s, half marathons and even marathons.  He wants to spend more time running and training.

I love him and I want him to be able to retire at 65 – just 8 short years away.  We are best friends and when he is on vacation, I enjoy him being at home. 

There are a few changes I am going to make on this different Path to Frugality.  I won’t be making my own laundry soap, except when necessary.  While it cleaned okay, I like a name brand detergent that I can afford now as it does a better job.  BUT – if there isn’t a coupon or if it isn’t on sale, the homemade will work for that week.  We are trying to eat as healthy as possible which can be a challenge with the cost of fresh fruit and some fresh veggies.  BUT – we have cut out junk food and when the Farmer’s Market is open in the late spring and summer, I save a lot of money.  I buy country fresh eggs for only $2 a dozen and when the freezer gets low I will be locating and purchasing chicken, beef and pork from local farmers.  This is something I couldn’t afford to do back in 2009 as I didn’t have the money up front to do it.

AND Yes – I will be posting a few times a week as I now have a new take on frugality – not from a point of stress and desperation, but as a choice in order to fulfill a dream of early retirement. 

November 22, 2014

Letting Go - Let's Declutter

I want to begin this post by thanking everyone for their kind comments regarding my father in law. He broke his hip a little over two weeks ago and he is doing very well.  We are thankful.

I continue to delve into the vintage home economics books that I purchased and I think that around the end of December I will be ready to share what I have learned.  I am gleaning a lot of great information.  It is as if I am talking with my grandmother, great grandmother and great great grandmother via these books.

There are blogs that talk about vintage home keeping and I love to look at a few but I as an amateur student of history, I enjoy doing the research myself and apply it to my own life.  I have always thought that we need to elevate the career of homemaker and we should treat it as seriously as we do any other career.  So, this is my continuing education for my homemaking career. 

5 years ago I journeyed on this path to frugality.  At that time I was frantically learning to live on less as that first year was beyond living paycheck to paycheck.  It was a day by day existence.  So what happens when you live that way for awhile?  Answer:   You tend to hang on to stuff as you never know when you could use it.  You keep thinking that you will make a big mistake if you give or throw anything away. After all, you might need it later on.   After 5 years you end up with a bunch of stuff that you need to get out of your house. 

This fall I decided that it was time to be ruthless and go through the house and sell, donate or throw stuff away.  Many of the things that I have been holding onto are things that I haven’t needed for several years.  Also, I feel as if the clutter is overwhelming me.  Now it isn’t visible to many people.  It is clutter in closets, the basement and our upstairs smaller bedroom which is serving as a “junk” room.  But I know it is all there and I just want to get rid of stuff and get organized. 

It is very easy for me to get side tracked when I am sorting through items so I am taking 45 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon to get the job done. 

For now I am tackling 5 areas of clutter:  Books;  Craft supplies;  Sewing and knitting supplies ; Holiday decorations  and Clothes.

This week I tackled our book collection.  My husband is an avid reader and while I love to read, I haven’t had much time to devote to it lately.  He reads fiction and I read non-fiction.  As of last week we had 4 tall book shelves (5 shelves on each) filled with books.  We also had 4 small book shelves (2 shelves on each) filled with books.  That is a lot of books that we have collected over the years.  One evening we went through them and made a pile of the ones that we no longer wanted.  The majority of these books were my husband’s and he said that since he had read them, he didn’t need them anymore. 

We have an organization in town that accepts donated books year round for their annual book sale.  I would rather donate the books towards a non-profit group than sell them myself.  The best part is that this organization makes it very easy to donate books.  They have a warehouse building where you can call ahead and they will make sure the garage door is open and you can simply arrive, open the door and drop off the books.  I also gave some books away to some of my neighbors. 

We are now down to 3 tall bookshelves and that is it.   Two shelves hold the remaining books and the last one will hold baskets or boxes of my craft and hobby supplies.  The rest of the bookshelves I am giving to my sons and to a neighbor.  With the books gone, I won’t need the bookshelves.  I am already excited about the simplicity of less furniture and stuff.

It’s hard when you downsize financially to let go of stuff.  You worry that you may need something and you don’t have money to replace it.  In the 5 years that we have been living on 1 income I have never had to replace anything I gave away.   Let it go.  It will bring more joy in your life to surround yourself with the meaningful items than to surround yourself with a lot of clutter.  

November 13, 2014

Take Pride in Your Home.

What follows is a post I wrote the other night -- I had to go to my in laws yesterday when I planned on posting this, so I got a little behind.  This post is a little "scattered" as I was having trouble concentrating.  The point I want to make is to enjoy your home no matter where you live. The humblest of homes can be the ones filled with a lot of love and happy times. 

No matter if you have a lot of money, or are barely getting by, take pride in your home.  Your home could be a little 1 bedroom apartment, a small rented house, a starter home that you are purchasing or your dream home.  It doesn’t matter where you live, take pride in it.  Don’t look at what other people have or where they live.  Don’t put down where you live, it is your home.  Don’t think about what you don’t have or wish you have, this will only make you unhappy. 

I have lived in small apartments, a one bedroom rental house that was a little dilapidated, a little two bedroom ranch that we bought to the old, old house we are in now.  I am happy because we are able to live on one income and have a life beyond my being tied down with a full time job outside of the home.
One of the biggest killers to a budget is envy.  I totally understand why God warned us of this in the scriptures.  If you think about it, envy causes people to purchase a lot of things that they can’t afford or need. 

You’re invited over to someone’s home for coffee or a meal and it is beautiful.  Not only is the kitchen state of the art, but the entire house is just beautiful with hard wood floors, woodwork and the beautiful lighting.  You are shown from room to room and you admire all of the furnishings and little art pieces.  You have a wonderful evening and then you drive home.  All the way home you think about that beautiful house and how if you could only have the same house, you would be happy and not want anything else in life.  You pull into your driveway – there is no garage.  You get out and kick at the gravel on the driveway.  Why can’t we at least have a paved driveway?  Then you walk through the yard, onto a creaky porch and as you reach for the door handle, you look up at the door and it has peeling paint on it.  Goodness, can’t we even afford a decent door?

Yep, I know the scenario well. I have lived it, yet I moved beyond when something happened.  I had some friends with beautiful homes that worked so much that they rarely spent time at home.  They had a lot of stress in their lives because they worked constantly and didn’t have much free time.  They were busy running their kids to all of the dance classes, sports events and much, much more.  Families became worn out and relationships became fractured.  In the course of a couple of years I saw friends get divorced.  I’m not saying that new homes cause marriage problems, but their decision to “own” high end homes, cars and furnishings, along with giving their children everything they felt they should have, led to living far beyond their means  and the stress that came with it. 

I learned that it doesn’t matter what others think about where you live or what type of home you own, it only matters to you.  When it comes down to it the one thing that everyone must learn is to ignore the envy and move beyond it. 

Also take pride in your home.  I’m not saying be prideful.  I’m saying that we need to take care of what we own and in so doing create a warm home environment for your family.

We purchased our house in 1997 and have a lot of work to do on it.  Most of what I have to do is remove decades old wallpaper and then repaint it.  There are floors to refinish and one room needs the paint stripped off of the wood trim.  It is very time consuming, but I have the time to do it.  When the kids were living at home and when I was working full time, I didn’t have the time to renovate.  When you live on one income you can purchase an older home that is very affordable.  Then you work on it a piece at a time and make it into something beautiful. 

We have had to buy big ticket items for our house this year.  In March we had to replace a furnace and the central air conditioner.  In September the water heater had to be replaced.  We had to put on a new roof a couple of years ago.  Next year we need a new front porch floor.  I’m not sure if we will be able to do it on our own and may have to hire it out.  No matter, we are still ahead than if we would have bought a new house back in 1997.  Even after 17 years a new house could have needed a new furnace and the things that we have replaced in our old house.  Not only is our mortgage low, so are our taxes.  Purchasing this old house way back then was the best decision we ever made.  It was because of this old house that I can remain home.   We do not know a lot about remodeling or home repairs.  We learn as we go.  Thank goodness for the internet and You Tube.

When you don’t have a lot of money, you can still make your physical structure of a house, into a home.  Even if you rent and can’t paint a lot of things, the best thing you can do is keep that little home of yours neat and clean.  Less is definitely more and the simplest of decors, can be the best.  Too much stuff or clutter of knick knacks can make a space look over the top.  Worn couches and chairs with worn areas or spots can look very inviting with a quilt thrown over them.   I have had to repair upholstery myself with a needle and upholstery thread.  One couch we had years ago was getting so worn on the fabric that I purchased a skein of rug yard in the same color as the upholstery and wove it in and out to cover up a worn spot. 

I am always amazed at the simple things in a home that make it look so pretty.  Dollar store votives, on a mirror with a little greenery is so pretty on a counter.  Pretty valances in a kitchen made from a fabric remnant can add a pretty little touch.  A little doily under a picture on a side table, looks so homey. 

Don’t get caught up with what you think people think of your home.  It doesn’t matter what they think as you are the one living in your apartment, rental house or purchased house.  Don’t buy more house than you can afford and in fact go one step further and buy far under what you can afford.  Better to purchase a home under your budget than to over extend yourself and be unable to enjoy the life God gave you.

November 11, 2014

Back to Almost Normal

My father in law had surgery last Thursday evening and came home on Saturday.  My in laws live about 1 hour away from us.  I have been driving to their house a lot over the past week.  The joy of being home is that I am available to my family when they need me.  It was the plan all along when I decided to be home that I would have that luxury.

My husband is one of 5 children in his family.  The rest of the siblings live all over the country and are making plans to come and visit their parents and help out.  My in-laws have 2 acres of land on which their house is built on and my father in law is a Master Gardener.  The next two weekends will be work weekends getting their property ready for the winter.  I will also be going to their house at least once a week to visit and see if there is anything they need me to do.

Now it's back to my home and my homemaking goals.

Yesterday the temperature was in the upper 50's so I washed windows on the outside of our house.  I didn't get to all of them, but made it to the ones that really mattered.  I was running out of time so I decided that the windows in the main living areas were my priority.

While I was sitting with my in laws in the hospital, I started to knit on a round loom and turned out some simple knitted caps.  I had never done this before and decided that since I would have a lot of sitting and waiting time, I might as well put my hands to good use.

I have a lot of homemaking odds and ends going on right now.  Reading the vintage home economics books, decluttering my house, keeping up on the normal daily housework AND getting ready for a new puppy.  Yes, as if my life isn't busy enough, we will be getting a golden doodle puppy in December.

Back in September we made the decision to add another dog to our family.  We already have a labra doodle.  I contacted the breeder that we got Molly from and was fortunate to find out that they had a litter of golden doodles on the way.  The puppies were born on October 21st and Decker will come home on December 10th.  Why the name Decker?  Because my husband is a runner and not just a weekend runner, he has been a runner for over 40 years and he runs several miles a day.  He has run 12 marathons and runs many, many races during the year.  Molly runs with my husband at least 2 miles out of his 6 to 7 mile daily runs.

So, nothing like a deadline to get my home keeping act together as when that puppy gets here, I will be spending my time housebreaking and going through obedience training.  Getting a puppy just before Christmas is not the ideal time, but when you have a great, reliable local breeder that has just what you want, you take a puppy when you can get it.

Now, this blog is all about living frugally and homemaking so where does a new puppy fit into this? Over the past 5 years we have paid off some of our debt and can afford another puppy.  A new puppy will also keep me more balanced with my bouts of depression and more importantly, our other dog, Molly, needs a companion.  It is my goal that over time both of our dogs will be able to be trained to be therapy dogs.  BUT -- owning and training a dog is work, work, work.  Dogs don't just behave because you show love to them, you have to have them go through obedience training for a well balanced dog.

Molly and my husband after running a 5K race
They came in second.
Tomorrow's post:  Take Pride in Your Home.

November 08, 2014

Taking care of Family

My father in law fell and broke his hip last week.  He had surgery and I am helping my mother in law right now.  My in laws live a little over an hour from us.  I hope to be back posting sometime next week.

I'm so glad that I don't have a job outside the home as when a family crisis happens, I have the luxury to stop everything and help.

November 01, 2014

Decluttering - Do it now!

The past 7 months have sidelined me as a housewife.  I spent from March to late August directing the Summer lunch program in our community.  During that time I did minimal housework – only what was absolutely necessary.  When the program was over, I was faced with a house that needed my attention ASAP.  It was, and still is, overwhelming.  I got sick a couple of weeks ago just when I was starting to make a little head way on the housework.  So after 1 week of a sinus infection that went into a second week of being sick with bronchitis, the house was really in bad shape. 

How many of you have houses that are disaster sites right now?  Yeah, I was very busy this spring and summer but the fact remains that I wasn’t doing a very good job at keeping my house in order to begin with.  If I had, it would have been much easier to maintain when I was busy or better yet, easier to delegate the cleaning. 

My husband is a dream in that he not only loves me and supports the different volunteer roles I take on, he doesn’t criticize when things get out of control at home.  He usually throws in some laundry, empties the dishwasher, vacuums and picks up without saying anything.  He just sees what needs to be done, and does it.  My problem is that I don’t like it when he does that because he works a full time plus job and he deserves his down time in the evening and the weekends. 

So to sum up:  not doing a very good job of maintaining a house leads to a disaster when you get busy which leads to guilt when someone tries to help you out.  Yep that’s me - sidetracked, guilt ridden with a case of attention deficit thrown in. 

When I was sick I spent a lot of time resting on the couch.  When you don’t have small children at home you get the luxury of resting when you are sick.  During that time I made a mental plan for changes.  I am not perfect and my home will never be perfect, but there are definitely some new habits I needed to work on.

The first thing I tackled when I felt better was to work on the main floor of our house.  If I were to keep certain rooms always picked up and relatively clean, I would feel a lot better.  These rooms are the ones that you can see from the front door:  living room, dining room and kitchen.  The downstairs bathroom is my bathroom so since I use it all the time, it is neat and clean.   I decided the minimum standard in my house is that these rooms are kept picked up (even if they aren’t clean).   As to the two downstairs bedrooms (one is now my sewing room), those have doors I can close, so they are not included in the minimum standard.

Next up, decluttering my house.  Yep, I’m not deep cleaning from top to bottom, until I get rid of the stuff that I need to get out of my house.  Why would I dust and clean stuff that I am going to give away anyway?  I have determined that in my home there are the following categories of clutter:  clothes, shoes, books, c.d.’s, outerwear, kitchen gadgets, lamps, furnishings, decorating items, holiday décor, and exercise equipment. 

I have been spending 45 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the afternoon 3 days a week going through the clutter and making a pile of stuff to give away.  That is all I can devote to this project and still keep me from being side tracked.  On the days that I declutter I take the items and pack them up, put them in my car and immediately take them to a thrift store to donate.  I don’t keep them until I have one huge room full of donation items.  I have found that if you get rid of the stuff each day, then you don’t struggle with second thoughts of keeping the items and you don’t have a big pile of stuff that you have to walk around. 

The more I declutter, the more I am coming closer to a goal of a neater house.  Once the decluttering is done, the seasonal deep cleaning will begin.  What is my motivation?  I have a mental picture of my home after the clutter is gone.  I see a home that is neat, orderly and simple.  My basement won’t be filled with boxes upon boxes of holiday décor and exercise equipment we don’t need.

Now is the time to go through your home and declutter.  Goodwill and other thrift stores get more and more customers over the holidays.  Go through your decorations and if you haven’t put up certain items in a few years, then quit storing them and get rid of them.  Get rid of the winter clothes in your closet that you know you won’t wear this season.  Many organizations are looking for donations of winter coats at this time of year. 

I have been feeling such freedom in giving away items I no longer use or need.  I know that each day that I spend decluttering brings me closer to my dream of an easier home to maintain.