What’s In Your Bag?

I’ve been meaning to do this post for a while and this guest post by the Minimalist Mom on Babble made it come back to thought. People are always making fun of me for my huge bag (often called my Mary Poppins bag by others and myself). Yes, sometimes it’s actually huge-ly full of stuff, but for the most part it’s not. I’m always trying to find ways to pare down to what I really need and at this point, everything that’s in my bag is used at least once every couple weeks. The stuff that’s on the less frequent side of that is the stuff that’s really needed when it’s needed.

So what’s in my bag?

Going left to right, top to bottom: water bottle (refilled multiple times a day), current knitting project (major bulk in the bag because that skein is huge!), scissors for knitting, ruler for knitting, crochet hook for knitting, the actual bag itself, cell phone, keys. Luna bar for emergency snacking, nuts for regular snacking, pen and pencil, nail clippers, glasses cleaning cloth (I’m attempting to not use my shirt on my new glasses), tissues (not often used, but sorely needed when Peanut gets a runny nose out of nowhere), planner/wallet/money tracking/awesomeness book, black gloves (yay I found them!), gum (which is actually helping my heartburn, thanks Hannah!), inhaler (also not often used, but obviously when I need it, I need it), headphones, lotion, flossers (can’t stand stuff in my teeth).

Actually writing it all out like that seemed like a lot, but I think it’s a fairly simple system. I’m certainly not planning on downsizing my actual bag anytime soon, especially with Twig on the way (thank goodness breastfed babies don’t need you to carry much stuff!), but I think that I carry a reasonable amount of stuff. For the most part, Peanut carries her own stuff in her bag, but now that’s she’s having fewer and fewer accidents I sometimes just throw a change of pants into my bag rather than bringing her little backpack. Overall I’m pretty happy with my system, but of course I’m always looking for ways to pair down even further.

My bag hanging on it's hook by my desk (keeps the desk free for use and discourages small hands from playing with Mama's bag).

What’s in your bag? If you’ve done a post like this, please link it in the comments! I find it so interesting to see what others carry. Any recommendations for where I can pair down further?

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No Spending Update

My 21 days of no spending actually ended a while ago, but with the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival I was much too busy to post about the end results. Actually, if you didn’t notice, I took a mini blogging break afterwards to rid myself of the burnout.

So, I’d say overall it was a success. I went 21 days without buying stuff. Just as promised, the first week was really hard, the second week was easier, and the third week I was determined to not ruin my good record. It really didn’t end up that badly in the end.

Obviously this isn’t one of those 21-day challenges that makes me kick the habit forever, but it has made me think about what I really want to spend my money on. We’re going through a big reform of our spending habits (look for a very revealing post in the near future) at the moment and I’m starting to realize how much I can live without. Beyond that, I’m realizing how much more I can spend on the things I really love if I’m not spending them on unnecessary objects I think that I need.

For instance, immediately after starting the challenge I thought “Dang it, I forgot I need to buy more clothes pins!” I, brilliantly, left my big tub of clothes pins outside through a big storm and they all got ruined. I mean, a bit of water is okay, but these things were soaked (and stayed soaked for a few days because I didn’t realize they were out there). I did have a small tub still left, but I figured I wouldn’t be able to hang much with that little pins. Actually, much to my pleasure, I was wrong. Shirts I can hang on their hangers first (also prevents funny pulls in the fabric where you hung them). Many things can simply be folded over. It also decreases the amount of time it takes to hang my laundry!

There are still things that I’ll need to buy. I’ll never be one of those people who lives with 100 things, but I can be someone who lives with just what I need. I’m sure we could all do with some of that.

No Shopping Challenge Update

Wow, this 21-day challenge has been hard.

I know, I know, plenty of people go without buying things for extended periods of time, but that’s just not me. Within days of starting the challenge, I came up with a new project I want to do and it’s killing me that I can’t start it. We’ve been letting our bunny run free in the backyard and she loves it. Like she fights me when I try to bring her back inside, which is something she never does inside. While I’ve thought in the past that it’s inhumane to have an outdoor-only animal, I’m really thinking that our buns will be happier outside. So we’ve decided to build her a shelter (though she’ll have the whole yard to roam and the shelter is just for sleeping and bad weather) and possibly a bunny friend (bunnies are happier with friends, but I’ve never been able to talk my husband into a second until we started talking about having her outside).

Either way, that’s given me two things that I really really want to buy. I’ve been trying my hardest to not actually buy them and succeeded so far, but it’s still really difficult. It’s helped me to become resourceful in finding things for free though. Like how I really wanted a big cup to carry around full of water and rather than buying one, I borrowed one from my mom. I’ve been looking at the free section of a local classifieds for wood and bunnies, but haven’t found either that match what we need yet. I’m really just trying to focus on the fact that if I really need something, it’ll still be there in 2 more weeks.

I think another thing that helps our challenge is the fact that we’ve reformed how we do our budget. It’s not a complicated reform. Actually, it’s what people who don’t have credit cards do every day–just spend what you have.

We sat down and figured out how much comes out of our account per month on automatic payments (bills and such), subtracted that amount from wages earned, and that’s what we have left over to spend. In order to do this, we’ve started transferring the money over to the account that I had prior to our marriage (and we never closed because it’s supposedly better for our credit) and using a debt card. That means that bills come out of one place and spending comes out of another. It’s going to be rough to suddenly run out of money at the end of the month (which I’m sure we’ll do), but I think that’s what we need. It’s too difficult to decide how much every individual section needs per month and monitor each thing. In the end, if we spend all our money on going out, we’ll have to figure out how to eat just from things already in the house rather than grocery shopping. If we having a big bill at the vet, we’ll have to spend less on entertainment. It all affects the whole, so we’re treating it as a whole.

We’re also working on starting our debt snowball with the money left over (we’re transferring over slightly less than what we actually have after bills). In the end, we want to be like my in-laws. They’re so smart with money it hurts and they don’t deny themselves either. Case-in-point, my father-in-law’s brand new Dodge Charger. It’s because they’ve been smart with money from the start. They never let themselves get into debt and beyond that, they built up incredible savings and other financial equity.

So all-in-all, major financial reform. Hopefully for the better. The 21-day challenge, I’m hoping, will help me to prioritize what I actually need to buy rather than want, which will tie back into the plan.

21-Day Challenge – Don’t Spend Money?

First off, happy 4th of July for those in the United States!

As you all know, I loves me some Minimalist Mom. While my minimalist journey has been side-lined by pregnancy and life, I still try to keep the same mindset. It’s hard though and I will admit that I’ve slipped up more times than I remember, but I’m trying. Honestly, I think I’m going to start going again with getting rid of stuff, but that’s another post for another day.

While reading through The Minimalist Mom’s archive, I found this post talking about how to get started with minimalism. A great post to read in general, but also a great link within this post to The Unblogger’s 21-Day Challenge series. The idea is that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. I immediately started thinking about all of the things that I would love to change about my life. Her posts about drinking only water interest me. I love the idea of watching less TV (or having my toddler watch less TV). Maybe something in regards to cleaning my house. So many options!

Then I realized what I really need to change-my financial habits. I am Absolutely. Awful. With. Money. I know everyone says it, but I am so beyond that person. I think of money in my pocket as something to spend. I like to shop to make myself feel better. I need to minimalize my toddler’s play area again purely because of my own spending. I see something I want and I have to have it. I actually cried yesterday over a debacle regarding buying Peanut a princess dress yesterday. Cried. Yeah, I’m pregnant, but I cried over a princess dress and I am over 10 years old. I think that says I have a problem.

Beyond being awful with money, I am the one in the family that is awful with money. Yes, my husband makes the occasional purchase that I question, but I’m certain that our finances would be in order if I had no control of the money. And oh my, they are not in order.

So here is my 21-Day Challenge (inspired while reading this blog post by The Minimalist Mom): 21 Days of purchasing only consumables.

I definitely need help in the consumable department too, but this is where we’ll start. I can’t just say “I won’t buy anything I don’t need” because I talk myself into needing everything. I can’t say spend X amount a day because I always end up spending more and feeling sad for myself, then spending even more. I think I need to have a full-on spending cleanse and since I still need food for our table and gas in my car, consumables are still in.

I’m sure that you all will quickly get annoyed with my posts on this. I’m going to be keeping track of myself strictly. I know this is supposed to be a blog about parenting, but I am a part of parenting. I need to fix my own habits if I want to teach good ones to my children. I need to stop my money problems in their tracks so I don’t pass them onto my children. I need to parent myself before I can parent them.

So here I go. Starting today, no non-consumables (with bills obviously not counting towards this). I will not bring anything new into my house for 3 weeks. Sounds relatively easy, but believe me, this is going to get rough.

Peanut’s Birthday

Peanut has been 2 years old for 2 weeks. Weirdly enough, we haven’t finished her birthday celebration, but we certainly started. Her birthday fell on a Sunday this year and we already visit family for lunch and dinner on Sundays, so we just continued as normal with some extra birthday pizzazz.

Peanut woke up early and made Daddy cuddle with her on the couch while she watched Super Why.

Mama made Peanut birthday breakfast scones. Mmm...

Peanut opened her gift and handed Every. Single. Little. Piece. Of. Paper. to daddy as she did so.

Peanut was pretty thoroughly happy about her tea set. It sings "I'm a little teapot" when you tip up the teapot!

Then of course she had to have some tea.

And Daddy needs tea too!

Then we went over to Oma and Opa's house for lunch.

Oma and Opa got her a bike!!! (along with some books and coloring books)

Uncle Jason and Aunt Sabrina gave Peanut some cute clothes. I told her to hold them up to her like she was wearing them. She didn't understand. 😛

Peanut got a whole cupcake to herself!

Peanut, Opa, and Oma

Then we went over to Boompa's, Great-Grandpa's, and Great-Grandma's house. She got LOTS of books!

Mama, Peanut, Boompa, and Great-Grandpa

Then we went to dinner at Mema's and Pop Pop's.

Peanut got letter, number, and color cards and another book!

Peanut got a happy birthday brownie cake!

And she blew out the candle almost all by herself!

As I discussed in this post, we’re trying to minimalise around our house. In light of this fact, we asked everyone to limit their birthday gifts and to put money into her college saving fund more than anything. Big thanks to everyone for adding to her account! At this rate, she’ll have plenty for college!

We still haven’t done our family celebration. We decided not to do a big party with friends this year. Figured time could be better spent out doing something fun as a family. I’ll do another post later on our trip to (hopefully if the weather agrees with us) the zoo. Seems like a great place to go because she loved going there for her birthday last year!

Minimalism and Organization

I am slowly, but surely, learning that I am not a person who lives well in chaos.

Somehow regardless of that fact, I’ve grown up a very cluttery person. I’ve never been one to keep trash or dirt around, but I’ve just always had so many things that my areas would be cluttered with stuff. I emphasize those words because that’s what I really valued for such a long time. I’ve grown up using “retail therapy”, buying things I don’t need, and spending more than my means. I’ve known for a long time that this is a problem because—having such a frugal husband—it has caused arguments and unhappiness in my marriage. Little did I know, it has also been causing unhappiness in my life.

Not to say my husband isn’t part of my life. Of course, he is a very important part of my life. What I’m saying here is that I’m not a happy person when surrounded by things. There are certain items that are necessary for living or that make life better, but—at least in my world—there are many things that are just unnecessary and adding stress to my life.

I was turned onto the idea of minimalism when reading this post by Hobo Mama. If Hobo Mama introduced me to the idea, The Minimalist Mom gave me the road map to get there. There’s more to minimalism than the lack of stuff, but it’s a mind-set. It’s buying less. It’s reducing your carbon footprint. It’s having a clear mind. It’s increasing your self sustainability. For me, it’s being at peace.

I’ve been reading through The Minimalist Mom’s blog (which I very much recommend doing) to get ideas and inspiration, but a lot of it is just finding out what I need to work on. I’ve already gone through my clothes, my shoes, my bags, Peanut’s old clothes, Peanut’s toys, my {intensely large} pen and pencil collection, my books, and I’m sure there’s more I can’t remember at the moment.

I figured it would be hard. I figured I would start regretting losing my possessions as soon as I put them into plastic bags. Surprisingly, it’s been incredibly gratifying and {gasp} has made me happier.

When I say that I used to rely on retail therapy, I am far from using that as a cliche. In our most recent money argument, my husband went as far as to say I’m a “shopoholic.” Really, he hit it right on the money. I’ve used buying things as my “hobby” for as long as I can remember. I thought that I just enjoyed buying things and had problems saving. Hindsight, of course, is 20-20, and now I realize that it’s how I spent money was the problem. I would buy something new and make myself feel better short-term, but almost instantaneously I would start to feel bad again, so I would covet something else. I became so reliant upon the cyclic spending that I would actually start to feel sad if I didn’t spend money.

I can’t say that I won’t ever fall back into my habits, but I feel like I have an amazing new view on my financial habits. I realize that so much of my self worth is tied into my possessions and that’s not healthy. So much of my time is spent buying things, wanting things, managing my life around things and so little is spent on just making lasting memories. I took my dog to the park today. I played with my daughter on the floor. I wrote two blog posts. I made lunch and dinner. I lived.

So even as I take trash bags full of things to sell at consignment stores or give to good will or throw in the recycling/trash, I feel happier. I feel a burden lifted from my shoulders because I don’t feel like all the stuff surrounding me is going to eat me up. I feel less stressed about going to this store and that store and cleaning my house. You know what? My house is actually clean. It’s an incredibly easy thing to do as you decrease the amount of stuff to clean and/or work around when cleaning.

It’s easy to find things to let go of too. Do I need to keep purses that I will never be able to use because being a mom requires you carry too many things? Does my daughter really need to keep the toys that are pull-your-hair-out annoying or broken or she never touches? We have yet to go through any of my husband’s things because he’s not comfortable with that, but that’s just it—don’t do more than you’re comfortable with.

Some minimalists don’t have a TV. Some live in studio apartments as a family of 3 or 4. Some live with a total of 100 things. These are things that won’t work for me. Getting rid of books that I will never read again, that I’m okay with. That, I’m actually happy with.