Category Archives: New Year

My Money Tree

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Somewhere along the path of 2015, I saw an idea that appealed to me. You create a drawing of a tree with leaves, with each leaf representing an amount of money that you are in debt. Each time you pay off that amount, you color in a leaf.

I bought the canvas a couple of months ago at least, but it sat, neglected, beside my desk day after day. My Simpleology process today helped me get in touch with the short-term goal of creating my visual tree. I put a kaizen step on my daily task list to simply get the canvas and the markers out and in front of me.

As so often happens when I actually start something, I was motivated to keep going with the momentum. I enlisted the Resident Artist, aka my daughter, to create the tree, and then I made all the leaves. This thing might not qualify to be hung in the MOMA, but it works just beautifully in my family room.

If you would like to create your own tree, all you need is a work surface, the data you are working with, and some type of medium for drawing. I used a wrapped canvas 12″x36″, and some Prismacolor markers. Decide what quantity each of your leaves will represent. Draw the basic tree, then add the number of leaves which equals the total you are trying to save or pay off.

If you are saving, as you save one leaf’s worth, color in one leaf. If you are reducing debt, as you pay off one leaf’s worth, color in one leaf. We were able to color in two leaves today. I always knew I was a visual person, but I am pleasantly surprised just how motivating this is to me. Every time I see it, I think of how I might be able to color in more of the leaves.

There are free debt repayment calculators online. I know because we used one to get the facts. Ooh, the facts are not nearly as fun as combining creativity and color and a visual reminder. The facts may not change since they are based on loan amounts and interest rates and certain payment amounts, but I can see the changes on my little tree.

I took a picture of it today and will be taking a picture every month to see the progress. Question of the day: how soon can we get all the leaves on our tree colored in?

Happy New Year! Let’s Get Moving!

This isn’t my house, but isn’t it pretty? I’m not sure I’d want to go the whole nine yards on minimalist decorating, but I do love the clean look.

As I’ve considered lately what I want to create in our home, I’ve been imagining a home with a feeling of space in it, even in a 1500 sq. ft. home filled with 6 active people full-time, and a 7th who visits between semesters.

For me, a feeling of space comes from …

Clear surfaces
Natural light
Few things in any particular area

The first four were no-brainers, but I was a little surprised by Movement. Living things move. I looked up the six characteristics of living things, and the first one said that living things are highly organized, from the smallest part to the largest. Well, my doorbell isn’t alive, but there is a sense of life in a living, warm, comfortable home, at least in my imaginings!

Movement shows up in all sorts of areas in a home. For instance, food. Ideally, food is carried into the house by my strapping strong sons, put away in the refrigerator and cabinets, and then cooked (or not) and eaten. The remains of the packaging are trashed or recycled, possibly composted, and the food disappears one way or another — like it’s supposed to! That’s what food it for. There is movement in that process. Contrast that to bottles of salad dressing in the refrigerator door with expiration dates from two years ago, or taco shells that have been in the cabinet for, like, a year (true-life example, that one).

Thinking of movement brought up the contrasting condition, where an item comes into the house and then stays . . . and stays . . . and stays. One jar of verde sauce in the cabinet? No biggie. Multiply it by 200 or 500 things throughout the house (and garage), and there’s a super-duper recipe for clutter.

I suppose we’ve all read those decluttering tips: (read in Martha Stewart’s voice) 1. Box up items you’re not sure about. If you don’t need to get into the box in 6 months, you can donate it without ever looking iin it again! (Peter Walsh now) When you switch out your seasonal clothes, hang them all with the hangers backwards. At the end of the season, anything that hasn’t been moved goes out the door. All kinds of clever ways to tell yourself whether or not you need something. I would say that the most current decluttering advice is more like to address the more philosophical and spiritual issues, but there’s quite a boatload of information out there to plow through.

So I’m on the lookout for things that have gotten “stuck” in our home.

While I’m finding the stuckies and moving them along, I am also thinking about the things that will inevitably come in the front door. For food? I want to buy products that are destined to be used because I have a plan for them. I haven’t been doing any meal planning lately. Just couldn’t muster up the energy for it. But I’m connecting planning meals with having the food on hand we need AND leaving the food we DON’T need at the store (or on the internet, my most favoritest shopping place in the world).

Past attempts have focused on the “thou shalt not’s” and efforts to find some list of 10 fool-proof ways to keep your house decluttered. What a breath of fresh air to be looking at the “yes do’s!!”

Not everything is going to come in and then go out. Some things are going to come in and stay in one place, but be used every day (furniture, appliances); some things will come in and just look lovely and that will be their entire job. But if it’s going to be here, I want it to either be something I believe is beautiful or something I know to be useful. (said by one William Morris waaaay back in the 1800’s).

Happy New Year! Let’s Get Moving!

Well, well, well. Siouxsie’s back.

SOMEthing got me to thinking this morning about reflecting on the past year.

I remember mentioning awhile back that I’d be happy to see the end of 2011, and that I was looking forward to 2012.

In 2011, I learned a lot about teenagers and all their messiness. At first, I resisted the lesson.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, filled with jagged edges and rock faces to scale.. Looking back at my own teen years, I saw about 3 teaspoons of rebellious behavior in myself. (I actually think my parents would agree with this assessment, and the fact that I include that should prove my point.) So, having bypassed things like going to parties parents didn’t know about, underaged drinking, and the sordid like, I was unprepared for some of the things teenagers do.

Took it all personally at first. “Where did we go wrong?” those sorts of questions. Angry I had spent YEARS homeschooling youngsters who still made decisions I disagreed with. Bewildered that we, as loving parents, as committed and happily married parents, as parents who listened and loved and taught and read out loud and drove kids places, and did all manner of Outstanding Parenting could have kids who wondered if they were really loved. Depressed that I had planned for smooth sailing in the teen years only to discover my three teenagers standing up in the boat, completely disregarding the life jackets I held out to them, perched on the gunwales rocking for all they were worth.

After Taking It Personally came the I AM WOMAN I CAN FIX IT stage. Hunker down, try harder, speak more persuasively, listen mo’ better, give more, ask for less, hold their hearts and hands in mine, find outside help, grit my teeth REAL hard, click my heels, and BELIEVE. Short paragraph, but it seemed like that phase lasted forever.

There may have been other, just as effective, stages, but learning about the creature called “the teenager” and letting go of EITHER/OR thinking were the two experiences that transformed my reality.

Keep in mind I think my teens are wonderful, intelligent, thinking, caring, humorous, growing people. I love them forever, and I like them a lot (well, except for a few days back in February. And a few in March. And April. Maybe a couple in June). But before the big transformation in my understanding, I thought they were doing “it” wrong.

Since I didn’t get the Teenagers Are Inexplicably Incomprehensible memo as a teen or as a parent of babies, toddlers, pre-teens and teenagers in the early honeymoon phase, I was continually taken by surprise, especially this year. It helped to read Bob Meehan’s “Beyond the Yellow Brick Road,” although I’m not sure what I think of him or his methods. I did think his book was helpful. Really helpful. It was the Teenagers Are Inexplicably Incomprehensible (AND THAT IS JUST FINE) memo I had missed. So I started embracing the ride, accepting it for what it was.

And it’s been good. And it’s been hard. And it’s been fun. And I am so grateful for the teens who are in my home. They teach me things. Presumably I teach them things now and again. We laugh a lot and we have some pretty great talks. And I trust the process.

I am thankful for all of it. Now. It took awhile. Here’s to you — Valerie, Joel, Eli, and Anna-Jessie.

And even though this post is centered on the teenage portion of our show, I want to also thank Greg and Kepler for all the great things they bring to our family.

Happy New Year.