Decluttering: Drowning In Paperwork

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am decluttering and minimizing our living space, as well as getting ready for our new bundle of joy, who will be here in less than two months! Time slows for no one, my friends  🙂

One of the projects I have been working on has been the accumulation of paperwork. Specifically paperwork that was shoved into this beautiful but handy file box:

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Guys, this thing was filled to the brim with paper. Stapled paper, paper-clipped paper, paper that was at one time important, but now, not so much. When I first purchased this file box about 5 or 6 years ago, I had it super organized. File folders detailing exactly what was nesting inside each folder. Folders that were listed in alphabetical order, because that is how I roll.

But somehow over the past few years, with moving to Oregon and then back to California all in the space of 14 months, this folder began to become a “catch-all” for ANY kind of paperwork, whether it belonged in this file folder or not. Even after being back home for over two years now, this file box was still a hot mess.

Time to act.

So I took everything out. Every last bit of paper. And let me tell you, there was a lot of it.

Ah, beautiful empty box…

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I wish I could say that I was able to finish this project in an afternoon or even one whole day, but that simply was not the case. Working on any sort of project when you are in your 3rd trimester of pregnancy, gets tiring pretty quickly. But I kept at it.

I decided what paperwork was important and utilized my current file folders to accommodate these items. What I deemed important enough to have a file folder for:

  • Tax Stuff
  • Automobile
  • Medical
  • Apartment (Lease agreement, etc..)
  • Pet (Important paperwork regarding our cat)
  • My Daughter (Certain in-school projects that I have decided to hold onto. We do not keep all art projects she has made or all homework tests where she scored well. We keep a few important things that we think she will appreciate when she is older and that is it)

Once I decided what to keep, the paperwork items went into their appropriate folders, alphabetically of course!

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Everything that was not going back into this folder box, got shredded, thrown in the trash, or recycled, when applicable. This part took a looooong time. I wasn’t annoyed by the longevity of the project in terms of the discarding and sorting. But it made me realize that we humans are literally drowning in paperwork and it also made me really want to limit the amount of paperwork that actually makes its way past our front door. I am really going to make a concerted effort, along with my husband, to try to curtail the paper that seems to flow like water into our lives. Even something like asking for a receipt to just be emailed to me instead of giving me a paper receipt.

Because here’s the thing: I do not want to do this project again. Like, ever. Even though I have a degree in procrastination (I jest, but it seems like it sometimes), I am making it a priority to deal with paperwork as soon as possible. No more letting it pile up on the counter. No more shoving it off to the side to deal with it “later”, whenever that is…

What I like about this decluttering project is that it didn’t cost me a dime. I already had a file box and file folders, so no extra purchases of those items. The only “cost” was just my time, which was a bummer but at least this project is done.

If you are looking to declutter and organize your paperwork and feel like it is all just too overwhelming, start slow. You don’t have to do it all in one day. I certainly didn’t. Think about what papers are important to you to keep. What paperwork is going to matter a few months from now and what isn’t. Is every receipt necessary? It is definitely a process, but remember the end goal: peace of mind and being able to lay your hands on papers of importance within seconds.

Any tips on decluttering paperwork that you want to share? Let me know!  🙂

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Destination Simple: A Book Review

I have really been into books lately, that have to do with simple and intentional living. I want to have fewer items in my house, less items on my to-do list, and want to stop feeling like I am cramming things into my day.

Enter Destination Simple: Everyday Rituals For a Slower Life by Brooke McAlary.

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I first heard of this book being mentioned in the blogging circles and it being a simple but short and compelling read. Brooke McAlary is also the creator of the Slow Your Home podcast. Although I’ve never listened to any episodes of her podcast, I decided to give her book a try.

Destination Simple is broken into three parts with just a few chapters in each section. It is a very smooth read (seriously, it is only 116 pages!), so it is easy enough to read through while drinking your morning coffee or your afternoon tea  🙂

The author, in the introduction, mentions that she used to live life to the point that she was an “overwhelmed, overcommunicated wreck”. She felt like she had no downtime, and felt that she wasn’t present to the people who most mattered to her, like her husband and children. She realized that she needed to make changes to her life and this book is a compilation of things that worked for her.

While I personally don’t feel like a stressed out wreck, and I am absolutely present for my husband and my daughter, I liked her forthcoming pages about how to just slow down. Brooke talks about how we need to single-task and not multi-task, the way our society says we should.

“Single-tasking is the antidote to modern life, where we are taught that to be effective, productive, and worthwhile, we must multi-task”. -Brooke McAlary

By doing one task at a time, we can practice mindfulness and stay in the present moment. Brooke asks readers to do just one thing at first, something that you do every day, and try to do just that one task, without also doing something else at the same time. It will give you a chance to clear your mental clutter, even if it is just for a few minutes.

My favorite chapter in the book was Chapter 3, entitled “Emptying Your Mind”.

“Our minds are cluttered. We are overwhelmed with to-do items, commitments, errands, and must-remembers…Do you ever get to bed, begin to relax, only to magically remember everything you were supposed to get done that day?” -Brooke McAlary

*slowly raises hand*

I bet there are quite a few of us in that boat. Our brains have a hard time shutting off once our head hits the pillow. We are tired but we can’t sleep because our hamster wheel of a brain is going and going!

Sound familiar?

Brooke’s solution is the art of “brain dumping”. It is basically an exercise where you take 5-10 minutes and simply journal and write down, or “dump” the contents of your brain onto paper. Write down those frustrations, those to-do’s that didn’t get done, problems that are bothering you, anything that is occupying space in that beautiful brain of yours. Get it out onto paper and out of your mind. This will help you to think more clearly, process what has been committed to paper and help you now to be in the present, without being bombarded with all those shoulda, coulda, wouldas! Some people prefer doing their “brain dumps” in the evening before bed, others prefer to start their day off in the morning and journal right away. Do what works best for you!

Destination Simple is chock full of tidbits to help you slow down and add some simple living techniques to your life.

I definitely recommend this book if you want to be intentional with your time and carve out space to really and truly be fully present!

 

 

 

Life Is Short

I actually didn’t know if I was going to write this post or not. I hemmed and hawed and finally decided to write it out because keeping it inside helps no one, myself included.

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By now you all have heard the events that transpired in Las Vegas this past Sunday night. As a nation, we are still reeling from the tragedy and the news continues to bombard our psyches and our heart.

Well, for our family, Sunday night was a difficult one.

My husband went to Las Vegas Sunday evening for a business trip. He had meetings scheduled there for the next day. My daughter and I were home here in California.

And then I received a phone call, a phone call no one ever wants to get.

My husband called me and told me that there were shootings going on and that there was chaos and no one knew where the shots were coming from, and that him and his boss, were literally running for their lives.

I can’t even begin to describe my feelings in that moment. I am at home with my daughter, 7 months pregnant with our second daughter, and feeling like my world was starting to slip away from me.

To make matters worse, my husband didn’t have that much battery life in his phone so he had to call me in like, 30 second intervals. At one point, him and his boss were hiding in the bushes, not knowing where the shots were even coming from. There was panic and everyone was running and fleeing. A lady who was running in front of my husband tripped and fell, and then my husband tripped and fell over her. Everyone helped each other up, and everyone kept running.

I also was on the phone back and forth with my husband’s boss’s wife, because his boss lost his cell phone and had no way to get into contact with his wife. Since my husband’s cell phone battery was getting lower and lower, I ended up calling/texting her with updates.

Sometime in the wee hours of Monday morning, the Las Vegas police stated that there was only one gunman and that he was dead. I let my husband know, as I had been attached to my phone for all the latest updates.

At that point, him and his boss were able to make their way back to their hotel rooms without further incident.

Needless to say, I was very emotional and gave my husband the biggest hug I could when he came home Monday evening.

My story has a happy ending, but there are so many families hurting right now, that cannot say the same thing. My heart breaks for all the victims and their families.

I am not going to get super political here, but as a country we need to do better. WE NEED TO BE BETTER. These mass shootings have to STOP. We have to come together and pass better legislation.

This hit too close to home for me…

Are Nesting and Minimizing Compatible?

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My answer is yes.

But before I give my whys, lets define the term “nesting” for those not in the know. Here are two similar definitions from two different websites:

“Nesting is the act of preparing your home for your baby’s arrival, often fueled by big bursts of energy late in pregnancy”. – BabyCenter.com

“Nesting is the urge to clean and organize during pregnancy…to get your home ready for your new baby”. -AmericanPregnancy.org

Basically you are getting your home ready for your beautiful baby and making sure everything is ready to go when you come home with your new bundle of joy. Diapers at the ready? Check. Bottles ready to go? Check. Piles of paperwork that needs to be sorted through? Check. Wait. What?

Yes, I am in the nesting phase. I am making lists of what we need for the baby since it has been 7 years since my daughter was born so we are basically starting from scratch. I am slowly accumulating what we need and getting ready for our new arrival in a couple of months.

But…

I am also decluttering and minimizing things that have absolutely nothing to do with the impending shift in our family dynamic.

I am cleaning out closets. I am sorting through drawers. I am going through mountains of paperwork that seem to have accumulated over time. I am getting rid of things that no longer serve a purpose or are useful.

I am cutting out the crap.

And it is not just because of hormones and the whole nesting vibe that comes on about this time during pregnancy.

I am doing it because it needs to be done.

I am well aware of the sleep-deprivation and major life adjustment that comes with a newborn and the first few months of a parent’s life. I remember all too well that phase with my daughter, and there are days when you literally are in survival mode and wonder when was the last time you ate a meal.

With a baby and my older daughter to take care of, there will be zero time to declutter stuff that shouldn’t be here in the first place. There will be no time to minimize and be intentional about what is occupying unwanted space in our home.

So I am doing it now.

When I do get a burst of energy, I am tackling a project. When I need to take a break,  I take a break. But when the next burst of energy comes, I am in minimize-mode and getting things done. We live in a small apartment and anything extra that has no use can make our abode feel very overwhelming quite fast.

Any tips or tricks you have when it comes to minimizing your stuff? I’d love to hear about it!

Difficult Roads Often Lead To Beautiful Destinations

14 months.

14 long months if I am being truthful.

I moved to the state of Oregon from my home state of California in July of 2014 and packed up the car and left in September of 2015 and moved back to California. Two vehicles filled with my husband, myself, our daughter, our cat, and whatever we could squash into the cars that would be taking us on our new adventure.

Living in Oregon didn’t start off difficult or even unhappily. This was our new road and we were ready for our new undertaking. We thought we were in it for the long haul.

But soon the road became burdensome.

As someone who already suffers from depression, I had no idea the toll that the endless days and months of gray weather would take on my already suffering psyche. There were other deeply personal issues that we were dealing with, that were also making life difficult in our newly adapted surroundings. My husband and I felt that this environment was truly taking a toll on our little family. We both had gained an inordinate amount of weight using food as coping mechanisms. He wasn’t happy either and wasn’t looking forward to spending another winter there.

That summer we decided enough was enough and we were going to move back to California that September.

And it truly has been the best decision.

I posted this on Instagram the other day because it reminded me of my life the past couple of years.

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Oregon was indeed a difficult road. For me. This is nothing against that beautiful state. Oregon is indeed gorgeous and I honestly and truly get why people live there and make it their forever home. I absolutely do.

But it wasn’t the right fit for me. Or my little family.

Living in Oregon was a difficult road but I believe it led us to a truly beautiful destination.

I am back in my home state in a city I love. My daughter is absolutely thriving in her local school. My husband has a job that he loves and that he truly gets fulfillment out of. We have made friends here in our local community and we have bonded.

And we have a baby on the way!  🙂

I feel that sometimes you have to go through the bull**** to get to the good stuff. Is everything absolutely perfect? Of course not. No one’s life is perfect. That is a fallacy. But I am happy, happier than I have been in a very long time.

And that’s gotta count for something, right?

Currently…The End of Summer Edition

Hellooooooo September!  🙂

I can’t believe we have reached this point in the calendar year, yet here we are! Although, the temperatures here in Southern California were undeniably hot and yucky. Yes, yucky. We had a crazy heat wave here every day with absurd temperatures. Lots of 100°days and grouchy people everywhere. See, our summers here are pretty normal but around this time of year, Mother Nature doesn’t get the memo that the thermostat is supposed to go in the other direction. Ahhhhhhh life…

Oh well, it has cooled off from the insanity of last week, but the month is still young and I am guessing we will be back to praising whomever created air conditioning once again  🙂

What I Enjoyed This Past Month: The book Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner.

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I loved this book and I get why everyone raves about it  I had to wait a few weeks until my request came in at the library but it was worth it. Definitely a must-read!

What I Am Absolutely Over: Every single day, there being a news story concerning the person occupying the White House. Not going to get political here but I am exhausted by the sheer madness of what continues to headline our news stories. *sigh*

On The Healthy Living/Pregnancy Front: Trying to eat as healthfully as possible and to drink enough water and stay hydrated. Pregnancy is one of those things where something sounds good one day, and then the next day, you’re like “bleh!”  🙂 Cherry frozen yogurt has been my newest craving, and in this warm weather, it hits the spot!

Also, a friend gifted us some baby clothing that they were no longer using as their daughter is now in the toddler stage. This gift was truly a blessing!

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We are literally starting over with this baby and all the accoutrements that they need and require as my daughter is 7 years old and any baby stuff she had has long since found another home.

And yes, I am having a girl!!!

On The Minimalism/Decluttering Front: I am trying to, on days when I actually have energy, to organize and declutter things because once the baby arrives, there will be zero time for any of that.

I needed a container to hold some things but I didn’t want to purchase one. So I took a shoebox and covered it with scrapbook paper to make it pretty and voila! I have a container that didn’t cost me any extra money out-of-pocket! #frugal

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In Other News: School is back in session which has been an adjustment to say the least. We are back to a schedule which after the looseness of summer, has taken all of us some getting used to. I figure by the end of the month, we should be doing all of this, easy-peasy, lemon squeezy   😉

How is life going for you these days? Are you ready to transition into Fall?  🙂

Does It Even Matter?

Why are we humans so attached to things? Serious question and I want to explore an answer.

Several years ago, my dad decided to clean out his storage unit and get rid of stuff and get rid of the storage unit entirely. Yay dad, right? Well, as he was cleaning out the randomness that accumulates in these facilities, he came across a bag that was full of my stuff. He dropped it off at my place and I went through the bag dutifully, thinking I was going to throw out whatever was in the bag. I mean, if I hadn’t seen what was in the bag in years, why would I need any of it now? Right? Sort of…

Amongst the debris of my life contained in this bag were sorority t-shirts and sweatshirts, my college sweatshirt, newspaper articles from when I was on the school newspaper in high school, and letterman patches from high school as well.

I got rid of my sorority t-shirts and sweatshirts because once you are not in college anymore, you don’t wear any of these items. Ever. So they went out the door. I sold my college sweatshirt online and the newspaper articles that contained my stories there in black and white… I read them, smiled remembering that time long  ago, and tossed them in the recycling bin.

But the letterman patches from high school? Here they are in all their glory:

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This particular patch, I received from being on the school paper. Simple enough.

This next patch I received, well you can see what it was for…

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I received these patches and I never had the desire to own a letterman jacket. Even in my teen years, I foresaw the actuality of wearing a high school jacket with all these random patches on it beyond high school as futile. A huge waste of money for something I would never wear past graduation day.

So I never purchased a letterman jacket for my random letterman patches. And yet, I still have these patches.

WHY DO I STILL HAVE THESE PATCHES?

Seriously, why?

Am I going to be in conversation with someone and we are speaking about high school and what a terrible great time it was, and I am somehow going to talk about my letterman patches and produce them out of my purse, like some absurd version of “show and tell”?

Am I going to have to prove to someone, anyone, that although I am older and have “mom-brain”, once upon a time I used to be smart? Smart enough for academic honors?

Who cares? Why does it matter? And yet, does it matter?

Even as I am writing this post, I still haven’t thrown away these patches and I have to ask myself why. It’s not because I have fond memories of high school because I don’t. Sure there are some fun memories I have with friends, but being a teenager isn’t the easiest thing under even normal circumstances, and my 9th through 12th grade years were extremely difficult for personal reasons. So no, I do not look at ages 14 through 18 through rose-colored glasses.

Do I miss the days of studying or being a part of something as tense and yet exciting as working on the school paper? No, not really.

I am going to play armchair psychiatrist on myself and give an answer that I believe to be the right one: I have held on to these patches because deep down, it proves to myself that I made it. I made it through the turmoil that was my life at that time and I didn’t let it break me. It is somehow a personal accomplishment for me that I was able to compartmentalize the crap that was threatening to bring me under, and get a spot on the high school paper. I was able to push through the chaos and still get good grades.

I. Made. It.

I made it. I survived. And these stupid letterman patches that continue to follow me into every place we move to, remind me of that.

So does it matter? Sometimes it does.

These patches are, for the time being, staying put until I am able to look objectively at them minus all the emotion that continues to swirl around in the lifeblood that makes up me.

I am not quite ready to get rid of my letterman patches just yet…

The Tomboy All Grown Up

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Yup, I was a tomboy when I was a girl. In the land of princesses and Barbie dream houses, I was the one playing tether ball and running around the playground. Looking at me now you wouldn’t know it, but I loved playing sports and playing outside…at least until Junior High happened…

I was raised by my father and some may attribute my tomboyishness to that one fact. But the truth is, I never liked girly stuff. I hated wearing dresses and skirts because I couldn’t run around. If I’m going to wear shorts under my dress in order to play on the jungle gym, why can’t I wear just the shorts? I got dirty and messy. Scrapes, bumps, and bruises were just a part of the day. Bike riding, roller skating, and kickball were what made the world go round, and I loved it.

Things that were pink or purple were not allowed in my room. Anything with ribbons, forget it. Someone bought me a Barbie when I was in elementary school; I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with her. So I cut off her hair. I received a Barbie Corvette one year for my birthday and I spent that first week rolling the car down the hallway in our house & watching gleefully as it kept crashing into the wall.

As I grew out of childhood, some of my tomboy tendencies began to fade. Apparently around 13 or so, you are no longer allowed to play sports with boys. You are now supposed to giggle and blush at even the most mundane things that they say. Tetherball gave way to talking on the phone for hours on end. And roller skating was no longer to be done outside but at the local roller rink where you met up with your friends to…yes, that’s right. Giggle and blush at the boys.

Now that I am a mom to a young daughter, I wonder what kinds of things will she be interested in. Dinosaurs or Barbies? Maybe both? Will I be throwing princess-themed birthday parties? I know she’s not even 2 yet but already I see glimpses of a young me. She doesn’t like dolls or stuffed animals. She loves books, building blocks, and puzzles. She hates when you try to put a barrette in her hair and the few times I have tried to put her in a dress, it was a losing battle.

I believe my not-so-girly childhood has served me well in my adult life. I didn’t like the mall then and I don’t like it now. Sure I like nice clothes and what girl doesn’t like the M.A.C. counter, but the thought of setting foot in an actual mall gives me anxiety. Playing outdoor activities has fueled my love of sports and to this day I still watch football and hockey, rooting on my favorite teams. My Hubby often jokes about the fact that when the game is on, we never have to fight over the remote. And playing sports also taught me that sometimes you have to play with people you don’t like. As an adult, this translates into “being a team player”, the cornerstone of many a corporate jargon.

Yes, the tomboy has transitioned to an adult woman. But if you want to play a round of kickball, you just let me know.

**** Sidenote: I wrote this post originally on my old blog 5 years ago. My daughter is now 7 years old and still loves books, building blocks, and puzzles. However, dolls have made their way into the house  😉 Elsa and Anna from the movie Frozen and of course Wonder Woman, because helloooooo, it’s Wonder Woman!!! She likes playing dress-up but if given the option, she would rather play outside instead  🙂

So, I Have Some News To Share…

Yesterday, I shared on Instagram my big news…

I’m pregnant!!!  🙂

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Yup, we have a new addition to our family coming later on this year! Can I tell you, my daughter is simply OVER THE MOON that she is going to be a big sister! She is super excited. She is also wise. I asked her if she will help with the baby’s poopie diapers and her response was, “No. I am not doing the poopie diapers. Daddy can do those. I will handle the clean ones”.  😀  Lol…

In terms of how I am feeling, I am feeling better than a couple of months ago when morning sickness slammed me and wouldn’t let up. I don’t think I ever thrown up so much in my life. (Sorry if that is too much info, but it is the truth!) The morning sickness was definitely worse this time around than with my daughter. Maybe because of my age or who knows, but I am oh so thankful that me and the porcelain throne are no longer on intimate terms 😉

I am currently in my 5th month and plugging along  I have already been through the “ice cream craving” phase. Cookies ‘n cream if you are interested 🙂  What I have a complete aversion to is garlic. I can’t eat it. I can’t smell it. I can’t even be around it. No garlic, absolutely zilch. Which sucks because I do like it, just the baby can’t seem to stand it. So that means no hummus, no pizza, no Italian food of any kind, etc… (Waaaaaaaahhhhh…..)

But Mexican food has been my jam! Thankful for living in Southern California where it is indeed plentiful and my cravings can be satisfied 🙂

So excited to share my news with you all!

Justifications Concerning Money

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My lovely friend Tanya is celebrating a birthday this week and had a post about reflections on life and what she has learned now that she is a year older. One of the reflections she noted, I absolutely loved and want to talk about in more detail.

This is what she said:

“I like shoes. I like purses. I like clothes. I like spas. This does not make me a bad person or a frivolous spender. It means I know where I like to spend my discretionary money, which does not need your approval”.

Boom.

This particular reflection of Tanya’s really stood out to me because I feel as women, we constantly feel the need to justify our lives and what we do with them. We are constantly having to defend our decisions and why we made them.

For example, decisions that always need explanations even though they are nobody’s business:

  • Having children. “Why don’t you have kids? Don’t you want them?”
  • Marriage. “Why aren’t you married? Don’t you want to settle down with someone?”
  • Childrearing: “If I were you, I would stay home with my children. I wouldn’t be working”.
  • Money: “Why do you spend your money on things like that?”

Women get asked these questions and so much more and we end up on the defensive, trying to articulate why we made our particular decision.

The money angle though, is what I want to focus on because I feel like in the blogosphere, this is a hot topic.

Personal finance blogs talk constantly about saving your money, being frugal, and don’t frivolously spend. “Stay home and cook dinner! Don’t eat out…ever!” “Don’t turn on the heater in the winter! Wear four sweaters at a time and cuddle under a blanket! If your fingers go numb, just sit on them! They’ll warm up in a minute!”

I jest, but you get the picture. Finances are important. Paying down debt is important. Having a savings account is important.

But so is having a life.

We are actually meant to live our lives and not sacrifice small moments of happiness in the name of frugality. I don’t mean go and spend all the money, but if fresh flowers on your kitchen table make you happy, that is OKAY. You don’t need to justify that $3.99 bouquet of flowers you picked up at Trader Joe’s.

When it comes to the topic of Minimalism, people operate under the assumption that stark white walls are the way to go. No couch, just a cushion to sit on. No art on the walls. No pets, because that is not very minimalist of you!

That is all nonsense.

You can call yourself a minimalist and still enjoy paintings by local artists on your walls. It is okay that you own a pet and gasp! they require dishes and food and other accoutrements. It is okay if you like colors and your wardrobe isn’t all monochrome.

My point is, we are wired as human beings to enjoy life and you don’t have to justify how you spend your money. You like shoes, fine. You like taking a ballroom dance class twice a week, fine. You like channeling your inner Julia Child and like to bake up tasty treats on the weekend, fine.

It is all okay.

Don’t let anyone ever make you feel guilty for the choices you make in life. No more justifying.

No more defending.