Category Archives: Resolutions

Little Things…

I loved this thought by Erin at Reading My Tea Leaves in her post “resolutions.”:

I know there are plenty of people who think that resolutions are silly.  Or worse, burdensome.  But I think that there’s so much hopefulness in the act of resolving to do just a few things better, or differently, or even at all.

A few little things that felt like small steps in the right direction yesterday:

  • A walk with my niece-pup, even if it was too cold for more than 0.80 miles. I’m eager to get home from school during the daylight hours to squeeze in more little walks.
  • Packing up our printer to get it ready for a new home.  It is missing a piece, and we have not been able to print with it for about 8 months.  The part is not expensive, but we have realized we don’t actually need a printer!  I’m thinking we’ll probably list it for free on Craigslist with a mention of what part it needs.
  • A free, month-long trial of Spotify Premium.  For the last two years I have put “more music” on my resolution list, but I’ve failed to make it happen. I don’t particularly enjoy seeking out new music to listen to, but I get a lot out of listening to music, whether it is familiar or newly recommended to me.  Fortunately, I have a friend who blogs about a number of things (mindfulness! photography! music!) and on Tuesdays she highlights new music.  Ashely blogs at Meet Me in the Morning.  Her blog is lovely, really.
  • A little self-imposed challenge to see the cost-per-meal of the big pot of Taco Soup we made on Sunday night.  We used all organic meat and veggies, and it calls for more meat than we typically cook with, so the initial bill rang in at a pricey $34 (including tortilla chips and avocado), but it will likely provide hot lunches for most of this cold week.  There is a tally going on the fridge!

After a restful break and a conference on Monday, I’m looking forward to getting back in a routine with school today.  Students will join me tomorrow– I can’t wait to meet this semester’s fresh crop!

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A Fresh Start

As I scroll through posts from years ago, I am struck by how much has changed and how I am very much still on the same mission.  The process to simplify my life has been ongoing since 2008, really.  I find it comforting that I continue to see the value in this process and a touch frustrating (this is still so very much a process?).

The past few years have included many significant changes: I’ve finished my degree, gotten engaged and married, moved cities, and taken on a full-time job in a new career.  I’m living with my husband now, which means we have merged two households, and we received gifts from many generous well-wishers.  During my time away from blogging I (and in many cases, we) have continued to pare down.  I have settled into a new lifestyle, and that has helped the de-cluttering process.  Whereas in graduate school I could wear denim daily, I now need a business casual/semi-professional wardrobe for teaching high school.  Whereas when I lived with my parents my dishes were stored away, I now get to use my beloved Pottery Barn Great White dishes on a daily basis.  Now that a lot of what was once in flux has been settled, I am able to move more decisively toward living out the values that I continue to hone and reevaluate daily.

2012 and 2013 were years of transitioning and getting acclimated to all of the newness in my life.  Now, I am familiar with the expectations of my job, what it is like to live with my husband, the many things this city has to offer, etc.  I am ready to hit my stride in terms of aligning how I am living with what I claim to value.

For as long as I can remember, I have made resolutions.  My format has changed through the years.  A lot of years were long, daydreamed lists of things that I would love to tackle if the opportunity came along.  Attending wine tastings, finding a go-to hostess gift, etc. Some years, such as what I have chronicled previously on this blog, were more specific, targeted goals, such as to contribute a certain amount to my Roth IRA.  This year, neither strategy felt right.  I am optimistic about the changes I can make this year–new habits, fewer things, better choices–and realistic that I cannot predict now what might be relevant goals for me in six or eight months.

What I really need for 2014?  Accountability.  I am rejoining the world of blogging to chronicle the next phase of this journey.  I have plenty of the mundane to sift through, so I make no promises about this being a page turner (page scroller?), but it is here for anyone who, like me, finds it beneficial and motivating to find inspiration in down-and-dirty, realistic photographs and mini-victories.

Here’s to 2014!

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Resolutions Update, 01.25.11

At the end of 2010, Jolie at Shaking the Money Tree graded herself on how well she did with her goals for the year.  I think I’ll try the same for my 2011 resolutions thus far…

Resolution #1: No using my phone in the car.: C- I’m bummed that this one comes first on the list.  My hope was to have ZERO phone usage, so even though I’ve been better, better doesn’t count for too much in this case, as it’s a matter of safety (if it wasn’t an issue of safety, I’d go easier on myself on this one!).  For instance, I have answered my phone and then pulled over to talk, and I’ve still been texting at stoplights sometimes.  An improvement over driving and talking, but it still isn’t what I was going for.

Resolution #2: Keep car cleaned out. A+ This is going really well!  Doing this daily isn’t bad at all.  I’m glad I’m in getting into this habit before classes start back next week and I’m commuting daily.

Resolution # 3: Allow 45 minutes minimum to get to school or work. A+ This has such a big impact, I’m glad I’m doing this.  I’ve only been using this for work so far (next week I’ll add in school), but I have shifted to where this leaving time feels like I’m on schedule, not ahead of schedule (so I don’t dally just because I think I have the time to spare).

Resolution #4: Make quarterly resolutions. C+ If you remember, the catch with this one was that I could change my mind and do weekly or monthly resolutions.  I haven’t done so well with the resolution I had in mind, which was to keep a daily journal for jotting down things I’m thankful for and things I’d like to include in my prayers.  Even though I only kept up with that for a week and a half or so, I have done a pretty good job of working towards smaller goals: pursuing more “side hustle” opportunities and working on getting my computer organized.  I also got my room in livable shape.  So, I have been focused on little goals, just not the ones I’d planned.

Resolution #5:  Read a non-History book each month (or, at least, a non-assigned book). A+ For most of January, I wasn’t making much progress on the books I thought I’d be reading.  Then, when I was at my boyfriend’s house this past weekend, I found Into the Wild. Apparently all I needed was a book I could get lost in, and that I did.  Interestingly enough, it is recommended here as a thought-provoking book with a minimalist theme.  I’m not much for writing book reviews (grad school knocked that out of me), but it’s definitely worth the read!

Resolution # 6:  Create a home inventory: a) purge unnecessary and unused items via donation or sales, b) organize remaining items, c) itemize and record items. A+ Choosing to participate in the Declutter Challenge 2011 has been the best step I could have taken towards this resolution.

Resolution #7: Implement an exercise calendar. This is a tough one to grade.  Yes, I made a calendar, and yes, I marked the days on it that I exercised.  The problem is that it is January 25, and I only have two days marked with an “X.”  That is not exactly what I was going for.  So, while technically I should get a good grade for this one, I don’t feel like I quite deserve it.  At least I have been thinking about exercise more often than last year!  🙂  Maybe thoughts will turn into action for February… perhaps a B is an appropriate grade for January?

Resolution #8: Pay myself first. A+ These days, putting money toward my savings goals is the most exciting part of payday!  While my amounts are small, the importance is big.  I’ve been able to put some extra income streams toward savings goals, too.

Resolution #9: Daily Financial Tracking. A+ This is the practice that I started in October; it’s still going well!  This month I have started recording the amounts I put toward savings, too.

Resolution #10: Calculate my “Actionable Net Worth” monthly. A+ This was only a one day commitment, but I did it!  I’ll post more about this after I calculate February’s.

Resolution #11: Give some money away. A- My plan for the year is to give $250 to my church and $150 to other causes/organizations/charities.  I have given 1/12th of the church contribution, but I haven’t given any to any other causes.  A guy from NPR called and asked if I’d make a donation again this year.  I told him I would love to, but that I wasn’t able to that day and asked him if he could call another day.  He said he’d call in a few weeks.  I plan to give NPR more than 1/12th of my “other” fund, though I’m still not sure exactly how much.

Resolution #12: Open a Roth IRA. A I haven’t saved very much for this in dollars, but I have done pretty well percentage-wise.  I have made three contributions to my Roth IRA fund (the account at ING where I’m saving up to purchase a Roth IRA) this month: $35.74, $25.02, and $25.  That’s not too bad considering I’m trying to build other savings accounts, too.  Oh, and that my January 16 paycheck was approx $140 less than it was supposed to be because of days missed on account of snow.

I’m pretty pleased!  It’s easy to see which things are coming to me pretty naturally and which ones are going to take a little extra effort.  I gave myself several A+ scores, which might make it seem like my resolutions were too easy, but the funny part is that I hadn’t been doing them before, even though they’re not too hard.  A conscious decision to make a change + a tiny bit of effort = big results!

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The Last of My Resolutions… Promise!

My 2011 financial resolutions were a cinch to come up with.  All it actually took was putting them on paper, because I’ve been stewing over them for a while as goals (before December got me into resolution mentality).

Resolution #8: Pay myself first. In October I set up a few INGDirect accounts. I opened five: Roth IRA Fund, Emergency Fund, Irregular Expense Fund, Travel, and Declutter. The idea behind Declutter was that as I sold clothes on consignment I would hold that money out for replacement clothes.  It was an okay idea, but I have since decided that I need to prioritize bigger things over clothes.  So, each month I contribute to the Roth IRA, Emergency, and Irregular Expense funds.

While it is a little disheartening divvying up my funds into a few different places (it seems to take forever), it definitely helps me ratchet up what I’m contributing.  There was a point in time where I thought saving $50 each pay period was sufficient. [Note: It might have been if I was spending the remainder on important things, not just on eating out…]  Once I saw that splitting that amount into three accounts meant only giving $16.66 to each, though, it made me reconsider the overall number I was contributing.  Even deciding to do $25 to each of the three accounts meant I’d be saving $75 instead of $50; that adds up!  Each subsequent month I have become more comfortable pushing the limit on what I put in savings.

I picked up my January 1 paycheck today.  As I tried to plan where the dollars would go, I realized that my mentality has shifted on how to determine the amount to transfer into each savings account.  I now think, “Okay, if I want my Roth IRA savings fund to reach $200, how much do I need to feed it? $29.93.”  I followed the same line of reasoning for the other two ING accounts and for my traditional savings account at Bank of America.  After totaling up how much I am saving this pay period, I realized I am saving 50%!!  Before I opened the ING accounts that would have never happened.

Getting my paycheck six days into the month isn’t typical. Normally I get it on the 1st; circumstances dictated otherwise this go ‘round. The main point of this resolution is to make sure I allocate for savings before I begin to spend.  I don’t anticipate this being too hard; I’m having a blast watching these little accounts grow, even if it’s at a snail’s pace.

Resolution #9: Daily Financial Tracking. I want to continue tracking my daily expenses and reconciling them with my online statements.  For Christmas, my boyfriend’s family gave me a NeatReceipts, which I have wanted ever since I read about them here.  I’m getting into a rhythm of scanning my receipts and then saving the important ones (credit card and any potentially returnable items) and tossing all others (once they’ve cleared).  It’s working beautifully!

Resolution #10: Calculate my “Actionable Net Worth” monthly. Several bloggers have pleaded the case for tracking net worth, but it was the one at Fiscal Fizzle (http://tinyurl.com/27kb5f3) that hooked me.  I plan on calculating my net worth on the first or second day of the month.  At the same time, I’ll check my credit report (which I do through Credit Keeper) and reassess my financial goals and progress.

Resolution #11: Give some money away. Specifically, I plan to give $250 to my church and $150 to other organizations or charities.  These numbers are modest (and probably a little lower than they should be), but I’m taking a few things into consideration, including my low & erratic wages from my part-time job.  In the past, my giving has been sporadic and a bit haphazard.  This year, I filled out a pledge card for my church, so that it will be able to rely on my contribution and budget accordingly.  In some sense, then, my aim is more about giving routinely and deliberately than it is about the dollar value.  I hope to give beyond these thresholds.  As for the $150, I know part will go to my alma mater and part to NPR.  I’m trying to decide which charities I’d like to support and at what levels.

Resolution #12: Open a Roth IRA. As of today, I have saved 20% of the $1000 I need to open a Roth account.  To accomplish this resolution I need to save the remainder of the money, research which fund to open, and actually open it.  I feel like opening one will go a long way toward making me feel more comfortable with where I am in life right now, financially and otherwise.  As in, “I might be a ‘boomerang child’ (which, by the way, my dad announced last month that he liked more than he expected to, ha), a perpetual student, and making next to nothing, but I still have a vision for my retired self!”

Alright!  All my resolutions are on the table!

The Resolutions Formerly Categorized as “Edification”…

I put a lot of thought into my resolutions, but I may have skimped on my efforts to categorize them.  “Edification” feels a little generous for the next four resolutions, ones that could only hope to provide “intellectual, moral, or spiritual improvement.”  The category titles aren’t particularly important, though.

Without further ado…

Resolution #4: Make quarterly resolutions. My plan is to make new resolutions each quarter, though I’m allowed to subdivide into months or weeks if that’s what I decide.  This is to encourage me to try new resolutions on for size throughout the year.  I hope it will help keep the goal-setting process fresh and dynamic.  I’m especially glad that I put this one in here after finding all kinds of inspiration from the blog posts I’ve been reading this week!

  • Berg @ One. Oh. One. has a list of 101 things she plans to tackle over the next 1001 days.  While I’m feeling the need to master the basics these days (so no list of 100+ for me), I still get excited about trying some variation of some of her goals, like #36, for instance.
  • Ashley Pichea and Meghan Tucker are sponsoring a 3 in 30 Challenge, which they explain here at Success Your Way.  The gist of it is to focus on three resolutions each month.  Between what they’re doing (and what all the challenge participants decide to do!) and what Erin is doing at Unclutterer (a new resolution each month), I should have ample fodder for the rest of 2011.

Resolution #5:  Read a non-History book each month (or, at least, a non-assigned book). I love History.  I majored in History in college, completed a Master’s in History last summer, and I’m currently in school to get certified to teach high school Social Studies.  That means a) a lot of reading and b) much of it is and has been dictated by syllabi.  While I love reading it all, it doesn’t nearly satisfy the breadth of my interests.  I can’t wait to pick out books!  I tend to gravitate toward non-fiction, but I’d like to read some fiction during 2011, too.  I’ll gladly take any book recommendations!

Currently on my bedside table:  A More Profound Alleluia: Theology and Worship in Harmony (Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005) and Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud (Harvard University Press, 1990).

Resolution # 6:  Create a home inventory:

a) purge unnecessary and unused items via donation or sales

b) organize remaining items

c) itemize and record items

This is a resolution where the “means” is just as important—if not more important—than the “ends.”  Yes, I will enjoy having a list of what I own.  It might serve as a catalog of things I have available to lend to neighbors and friends.  Or it could help me make (and not make!) purchases.  It could also help for insurance purposes.  But my primary goal is for the process of making the inventory to help me reassess my relationship with the things I own.  I’ve been trying to pare down for a while; this resolution is to keep me moving along that track.

Resolution #7: Implement an exercise calendar. The plan is to print a monthly calendar and place an “X” on the days I exercise.  Below the “X” I will briefly summarize my activity.  Hopefully this will encourage me to make better choices with exercise, just as tracking my expenses has done for my finances.  At the very least, it should help me see trends in when I exercise & what I do for exercise.

Up Next: My Financial Resolutions

2011 Resolutions, Part I: General

At the end of my resolution brainstorm, I ended up with twelve resolutions that fall into roughly three categories: general, edification, & finance.

The general category has three straightforward tasks/choices that have the potential to make a sizable impact on my everyday routines.

Resolution #1: No using my phone in the car. Period.  I have never been one for texting while driving (though it has happened a handful of times; with no cars around and something “important” to text, I somehow thought I could justify a quick one as long as I didn’t take my eyes off the road).  For several years, though, I did consider long car trips the perfect time for phone calls to catch up with my grandmother or friends in other states.  I have since dropped this habit, but I still sometimes find myself sending text messages at stoplights, checking my phone to see if I have received a text, or making a phone call to check on family dinner plans.  I believe that any and all phone usage by a driver is dangerous. So, rather than trying to make exceptions or find ways to do it “safely,” I’m cutting it out completely.  In addition, I am going to avoid sending text messages, calling, or talking to anyone I know to be driving.

Resolution #2: Keep car cleaned out. I plan to deal with my coffee mugs, lunch containers, trash, and goods daily.  I work and attend school in a neighboring city that is about thirty minutes from my home, so I spend at least an hour in my car most days of the week.  Not only will a tidy car be more pleasant, but it will also help ensure that I am ready for any passengers, objects, or tasks that might require my car.

Resolution # 3: Allow 45 minutes minimum to get to school or work. While the drive only takes about thirty minutes, traffic, accidents, and railroad crossings can slow me down.  My mornings are significantly less stressful when I am not worried about being late for work or class.  While I am not a particularly speedy driver (quite the opposite, in fact), I was pulled over for speeding one day last semester when I was running behind schedule.  Ack!  Allowing more time will make my commute safer and more relaxed, as well as improve my gas mileage and reduce the odds of me getting a speeding ticket.

None of these three general resolutions is particularly difficult.  Sure, it might require a little foresight for me to avoid using my phone in the car or allow enough time in the mornings to leave 45 minutes early, but the payoff is significantly greater than any inconvenience.  Plus, I’m betting that once I get into this new routine it will be pretty simple to keep it up.  Keeping my car cleaned out should be a cinch, especially as I’ll doing it daily, so there won’t be a chance  much accumulation!

Up Next: 2011 Resolutions, Part II: Edification

My Resolution Brainstorm

After I finished exams in early December, my mind shifted out of study mode, and I began to focus on three things: how to best clean my room (it currently has a decidedly unminimalist apartment’s amount of stuff haphazardly piled in an approximately 11×13 space), how to prepare for Christmas (gift-giving and the like), and what resolutions would make the cut for 2011.  In the department of resolution making, I knew that my focus would be on making constructive resolutions, but I was still at a bit of a loss as to what the specifics would be.

Enter my Tops Docket Gold legal pad.  I love these things for brainstorms, and brainstorm I did, no holds barred.  My first approach was a bit of a catchall.  If my legal pad could hold my desire to exercise at least twice a week, save X dollars in Y accounts, cook Z times a week, and so on, surely 2011 could, right?  Wrong.  I knew that wouldn’t happen.

Approach #2 lacked the demands of Approach #1.  Or, perhaps more accurately, it lacked the specifics of the first plan; it still held the pressure, just in a more abstract, directionless form.  It was a blank check as far as resolutions go.  I knew my intention was to develop good habits, but I wasn’t sure which ones I’d like to try to develop, so the draft looked something like this: “Develop one good/better habit in each of these arenas: Eating, Exercise, Finances….”  Approach #2 was another “not gonna happen.”  I require more structure than that.

[Note: I get that there is a potential tension between trying to simplify things and ratcheting up the guidelines I’d like to follow.  Lots of burdensome rules ≠ simple living.  My hope, though, is to create guidelines that are challenging without being burdensome, and more importantly, to have the lifestyle within the guidelines become second nature.  Sort of like a casting mold. More on that subject later. Rules, that is, not casting molds.]

So, as I looked at my rambling list of resolution contenders, I decided a few things in regard to what goals would make the final list.

1.  Build momentum. Or, continue what’s working.  Since early October I have been tracking my daily expenditures, and it has been working well for me.  So, building on that momentum, I decided to continue tracking my spending.  To up the challenge factor a notch, I added in a clause about how I would review those expenses monthly.  (Sure, this is a resolution that I will likely find both easy and pleasant.  Perhaps this is a carryover from my Bingo-board resolution days.  Hello, “FREE” center square!)

2.  Capitalize on skills that can be generalized. I took a class last semester entitled “Exceptional Learners,” and one concept I really enjoyed was the value of generalization, or developing skills that transfer easily to different contexts.  If tracking spending has gone well (and, indeed, it has, as it has decreased my money-related stress, increased my consciousness regarding what I spend, and generally encouraged me to make fewer unnecessary transactions), why not track my exercise?  Rather than requiring myself to exercise a certain number of times per week, what if I simply agree to record how much—or how little—I exercise?  My guess is that I might see an effect similar to the one my spending tracking produced.  Three cheers for accountability!

3.  Allow a little room for experimentation. Lately I’m inspired almost daily by the goals of the bloggers I follow.  By making a resolution to make quarterly resolutions, I am hoping to keep my resolutions dynamic, allow for my March whims (or any other month’s whims), and just generally keep things fresh.  Furthermore, if I try a resolution on for size and don’t like it, I can easily toss it or alter it without feeling like it’s a failed resolution.

4.  Tack on the why. Sure, there’s something appealing about a clean resolution list (e.g., 1.  Lose 10 pounds, 2.  Write a letter each week, etc.), but “clean” can’t give me pep talks in May!  Alongside each resolution I have written an explanation of my objective.  My hope is three-fold.  First, I hope it will keep me motivated throughout the year.  Second, as I review my resolutions at the end of the year, I will be able to see which benefits I anticipated and which ones were added bonuses.  Third, if the resolution doesn’t live up to my dreams, the explanation can serve as a reminder of my original intention (and thus, help me to rework my activities to better achieve my intended end).

Up Next: My 2011 Resolution List