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Intentional Living

Is This Book Revolutionary or Just a Useless Fad? Tidying Up Our Junk

September 17, 2015

Welcome back!

In case you missed my first post, this week here at True Good and Beautiful, we are reviewing the book  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up!

It’s been a good read thus far, despite a few cultural differences here and there. For example, in America we don’t really talk to our clothes or think about how they “feel” about being folded. With those little things aside, the content KonMari shares is insightful and practical.

What are some golden nuggets I’ve gleaned so far?

To get inspired, she encourages readers to start with the end in mind.  She says, “Think in concrete terms so that you can vividly picture what it would be like to live in a clutter-free space.” This activity alone really got me excited. Our house is fairly neat to begin with but to image every ounce of clutter being GONE? What a peaceful thought.

Then before beginning the work of tidying, you must reflect on the question, “Does it spark joy?” This is the yard stick you are supposed to use in helping you choose what items to keep and which to discard.

With these things in mind, we began tidying by category. Thus far we’ve tidied our paperwork and all kitchen items. She recommends getting all the items relating to that particular category you are tidying out on the table. This way you can see everything you’re working with and actually handle and feel each individual item to ask yourself if it sparks joy.

Below is our kitchen, before and after:

kitchen

As you can see, we had a lot of stuff…

We didn’t follow her advice exactly since we left our pots and pans in their cabinets. We knew they sparked joy and didn’t want to move them. Pretty much everything else was on the table and counter tops. It took about 2 hours,to sort through every item and place the ones we loved back in their drawers. Per her advice, we folded our napkins, towels, hot pads, and wash clothes upright so they are visible upon opening the drawer. MUCH easier to find what we need!

There were two full bags of donations and one full bag of trash. It’s pretty cool knowing that everything in our kitchen is something we actually love and use on a regular basis.

Then it was onto paperwork:

paper

KonMari says that when dealing with paper, she always leans towards discarding it…unless it falls into one of three categories: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or must be kept indefinitely. 

She also then encourages to, “Make sure that you keep all such papers in one spot only. Never let them spread to other parts of the house.”

So we gathered all the paperwork. Boy was there a lot! We even had receipt paper…for all those times we’ve never printed receipts. We had paperwork from almost 8 years ago spread across three different acordian folders. It was a mess. Thanks to KonMari, we filled an entire trashcan with paper clutter. Oh, and we found our social security cards that I’d misplaced! Oopsies!

Whew!

In the book she states that on average a proper tidying up takes on average of 6 months. There is definitely part of me that was like, “We’re going to tackle it all in ONE WEEK!” And then reality smacked me upside the head and I remembered that other little human living in our house who likes attention every now and again. 🙂 So we won’t be going as quickly as I’d hoped but we’re making progress!

Next on the list is cleaning out our clothing, stay tuned, since she has a really awesome way to fold and store clothes!

Intentional Living

Is This Book Revolutionary or Just a Useless Fad? First Impressions

September 14, 2015

Have you heard about the popular book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up?

It’s a #1 New York Times bestselling guide to decluttering and tidying one’s home developed by Marie Kondo.

For weeks now I have been hearing about it from friends and the blog-o-sphere…all of them simply raving about the KonMari Method. I looked it up in our local library database and was shocked to see it had 300+ holds! Wowzers!

100holds

All this hype got me thinking: Is this book actually life-changing like it claims or is it just another one of those self-help books that produces buzz but fades in time without making a lasting impact?

Hmmm. I wonder.

Jonathan and I do a decent job at keeping things in order. If I am being honest though, the Casa de Teixeira is prone to what we like to call “blow ups” a few times each month. OOPS! We then have to carve out an entire weekend afternoon to clean the whole house until the next inevitable blow up. Nearly four years into marriage and we can’t seem to break this pattern. If this book is the key to getting a tidy home once and for all, we need it.

So I figured I better do some investigation and bring you all along with me. This week here at True Good and Beautiful, I will be reading and blogging my way through the book.

What first impressions do I have thus far?

Marie Kondo begins the book by claiming that if you do it her way, you will never revert to cluttering again….bold but I love it!

She then lays out the core of her method, “Start by discarding. Then organize your space thoroughly, completely, all in one go.” She says that if you follow the age-old advice of simply cleaning up one room at a time or a little bit each day, you will never fully get rid of the clutter within your home. I see the wisdom in this. If Jonathan and I clean out our entire home the way she describes and we finally see what things can look like clutter-free, we’ll never want to go back. Our mind-set will be changed forever.

Marie then goes on to say that, “A booby trap lies within the term “storage” because “Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved.” Boom. This is a large part of our problem. If you took a peek into Jonathan and I’s closets, attic, or drawers you would be scandalized. I know I am! We are experts at shoving things out of sight…creating an illusion of cleanliness. EEP! This will be something I am excited to see change drastically through implementing the KonMari Method.

Lastly, I was very surprised to see that she encourages tidying up by category and not by location. Habitually when I begin cleaning, I start in the kitchen and then work my way through the bedrooms and then onto other common spaces. She mentions that this is a mistake though, since many people will store similar items in more than one location. She says to tidy by category: clothes, books, papers, etc. instead.

It’s safe to say that first impressions were good. I was surprised by her strategy but I am hopeful that it will work. I have yet to dive into the practicals but that’s for the next post! Stay tuned this week as I implement this method in our home and even post some before/after photos.

Intentional Living, Mission

My Prayer Life As A Mother

May 18, 2015

Let’s just go ahead and sum up my prayer life as a mom in one photo.

Yup.

It’s been blown to smithereens.

There are days that I am alright with that fact and other days I grown impatient with it.

All in all I know it’s NORMAL and for some amount of time it’s appropriate.

But Josie is nearing 6 months now…and believe it or not, I am getting a hang of this thing called motherhood. I sometimes know what my day will look like, as opposed to being clueless as to what this tiny creature would do the next minute let alone hour.

I could start praying with more regularity and structure again…but why has it been so hard to do?

First, I am lazy. It’s just easier to pull up Netflix and watch some Gilmore Girls or Grey’s Anatomy during nap time or when I am folding cloth diapers. Sure, I could use that time to pray a rosary or dive into scripture but I’ve gotten lazy. Ruh roh!

Second, I am scattered.My brain used to running in Q1 mode whenever Josie’s around that it’s hard to switch into a focused, prayerful, and intense meditation mode.

Lastly, I am afraid. I was used to praying a holy hour every day for over a decade before Josie was born. I am scared that I’ve forgotten how to pray or that I won’t be patient with myself if prayer feels “dry” as I come back to it more formally.

So to combat these fears, I am going to write up my HOPEFUL new prayer routine here at True Good and Beautiful to gain some accountability. What am I hoping to do each day to rev up some daily convos with God?

First, I will embrace the first nap. I know that about 2 hours after waking up for the day, Josie will take her first nap. That nap will usually last anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. I want to start with 20 minutes of that time dedicated to reading scripture and praying with it.

Second, I will pray the rosary throughout the day. If it’s nice enough to take a walk, I will plan to pray the rosary before I make phone calls like I typically do when we take walks. If I know we won’t take a walk that day, I will begin praying the mysteries during our morning nursing session and hopefully get all five in by bed time. I plan to use You Tube or an app to listen to an audio version of the rosary to stay on track and focused as I pray.

Lastly, I will shoot for one daily mass per week outside of Sunday. I’d been going to mass daily for years before Josie’s birth and I knew what a gift it truly was. It’s really hard to make daily mass work in our schedule these days but I will try my very best to make it work once a week. The rest of the days? I will plan to do a spiritual communion.

And that is how I plan to start building a prayer life once again. Slow and steady wins the race and I am hopeful that if I just start with small seeds, it will grow into more over time.

Or, God-willing, we will have another baby just as I get the hang of things and it will be blown to hell once again. 🙂 But at least the next time I will know how to get back on the saddle more quickly!

All you busy people out there, mommas or not, how do you make sure to have prayer be part of your daily schedule? I would love to hear!

Catholicism, Intentional Living

How to Have a Great Lent

February 23, 2015

Admittedly, this post probably would have served you better if it came to you last week. But hey, better late than never! And for everyone out there who got their butts kicked by the first (half) week of Lent, this one’s coming just in time.

This is the busiest time of the year for me creating web content for FOCUS. We go a little Lent crazy, which is why we call our Lent content Lentsanity. Also, as Shaun T’s Insanity aims to get your body into shape, we try to get our souls into shape during Lent, and we’re here to help you do that.

1. Pick a Fast or Pius Practice

I know, Lent already started. If you want to start a Lenten practice now, go right ahead. Don’t worry about not having done it the first few days of Lent. Pick something and do it.

What to Do for Lent: 7 Reasonable Ideas
What Should I Do for Lent: Pope Francis’ 10 Tips 

2. Do What the Church Asks of You

There are a few things the Church asks us to do for Lent, mainly skip the meat on Fridays and fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. What exactly does the Church mean by fasting? And how do we remember to skip the meat? We gotcha covered:

Illustrated Guide to Lenten Fasting & Abstinence
FREE Lentsanity App with Reminders to Skip the Meat

www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b1i_e_VL3o

3. Pray

Praying is the most important thing you can do during Lent. Spend some time with God by praying with Scripture. If you don’t know how, I made this handy guide. You can even print it out as a little booklet!

Do the Lectio 3 Step: An Illustrated Guide to Praying with Scripture

 

We’ve got a lot of great stuff coming up for Lentsanity, so be sure to keep an eye out on focus.org/lentsanity to see it all as it’s published. Better yet, subscribe to Lentsanity email updates, and the best of our resources will be delivered straight to your inbox.

Have a great Lent! (And don’t get busted by the Meat Police!)

www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLRv8sNa7ZzClS4XovoZPrqbEiT4omv6Er

Intentional Living, Money

How To Make a Budget

January 26, 2015

In the past we’ve discussed why you need a budget.

We’ve also discussed how to derail your budget.

But we have not discussed HOW to make a budget. Probably should have done that first.

Whoops.

Here we are though, getting back on track and here to provide you with the practical tips on how to create a budget. This will be especially helpful if you are new to the world of budgeting or if you are trying to budget but end up confused and unable to keep up with it. I plan to post a lot of links to Dave Ramsey articles on this subject so you have more resources for motivation and inspiration.

So, how do you make a budget?

1. Income

First things first, you need to know your income so you can allocate it properly.

This includes things like paychecks, freelance work, child support, interest, birthday or holiday money, and side jobs. Any money that comes TO you is part of your monthly income to budget. It might be irregular and that is OK. It may be slightly trickier for you to gather up and predict your monthly income but it won’t be harder when it comes to the actual budgeting process.

Some of you get paid twice a month and will create a budget twice a month. Or however often you get paid you will make a budget for that payroll period until the next one.

For us, we only wanted to create a budget once a month. We simply combine paychecks from the 15th of the prior month with the paycheck on the 1st of the current month to create our new monthly budget. That way we have a month worth of income to meet a month worth of expenses.

2. Outflow

The next part is to know what your actual expenses are.

Who do you pay every month? How much is your rent? What do you have set up on auto withdraw you aren’t even aware of? Basically, where are you spending your money?

Knowing how and where you spend your money is vital to creating a budget since you know where you need to allocate funds.

 3. Get a Head Start

In order to walk into February with a complete budget, you need to do some advance preparation. The last thing you want is to have an incomplete budget and to spend money un-tracked for several days before you get down to budgeting for the month. It derails the budget and defeats your overall goal.

For example, we are going to host a new budget link-up for the month of February. All you cool cats who create a February budget will have a chance to photograph your budgeting in action and upload it to our blog for accountability. Cool huh?

BUT in order to join in the fun, you will likely need to have spent time working your budget a few days in advance.

4. Host a Budget Committee Meeting

If you’re single, you are the only one who needs to be in attendance for this meeting. If you’re married, BOTH spouses must be present to agree on the written game-plan for the month.

To save time, I typically prepare the budget for what I think looks about right for the month. Then Jonathan and I have our meeting. We go over the budget together and he has the freedom to ask questions, insert changes, or propose a reallocation of funds. Then at the end of the meeting we review everything once more and verbally agree to it.

5. Zero-Based

This is the part I think people get confused about.

Many people feel successful if they budget out the month and then have extra left over. That means the budget wasn’t zero-based.

Zero-based budgeting means every dollar has a job. You want to assign all your money into a category, so that at the end of budgeting, you have no money left to allocate anywhere. It’s either working for you in savings, gas, groceries, tithe, etc. Money that doesn’t get a job will blow out of your hands fast!

This is where you want to have a budgeting tool for help as you create the zero-based budget. The most important things get funded first – food, lights, water, shelter, and basic transportation. Then you work your way down the list assigning money to various categories in the budget until you reach zero.

Whatever Baby Step you’re on will impact how you budget dramatically. Are you in the first two steps? Then your budget will be pretty bare bones and your goal is to get that “debt snowball” category as fat as possible. Perhaps you are in the middle baby steps, so you will likely be saving a lot of your monthly income and the reins will be looser in lifestyle categories. Or maybe you’re in Baby Step 7!! At that point you can do whatever you want with your budget since you literally owe no money to anyone, not even on your house.

6. Staying On Budget

This is where your budget will sink or swim.

You have to consult your budget and track your spending throughout the month. You can’t just create a pie in the sky budget on the first of the month and then let all hell break loose. You have to steer the ship or your lack thereof will steer you into financial ruin and perpetual disorganization.

Dave Ramsey has some simple tools to help with this. There are like a million budgeting apps you can download. We use YNAB – You Need a Budget and are absolutely in love with it. Budgeting has literally never been easier for us but we went months in our early days of doing pen and paper tracking with cash envelopes to build discipline into ourselves.

7. Roll With the Punches

In your first few budgets, you will learn that you grossly underfunded particular categories and overfunded others.

This is OK.

You have the ability to rework the budget during the month if that’s what needs to happen. You can assess that you won’t be using as much money over in gas for example so you can shift the extra over to groceries or the forgotten birthday gift for your brother.

Just don’t make a habit of this. Over time you should be getting better at making a budget so that eventually you will need to readjust next to never since you are a master at knowing your expenses and what you spend in particular months.

There you have it, friends. Some tips, tricks, and pointers on HOW to get budgeting!

Join us here at True Good and Beautiful at the beginning of February for our NEW budget link up!

Happy budgeting! 🙂

 


Photo for this post CC-BY-2.0 Jacob Edward. Filter, title, and logo added.

Intentional Living, Money

3 Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill in 2015

January 8, 2015

That grocery bill tho!

It’s one of the hardest categories to control in your budget without high levels of intentionality…and that’s what I want to discuss here today.

It’s time to get intentional about your grocery spending and reduce that category in 2015.

1. Meal Planning

I don’t want to admit it but more often than not, I wandered into the grocery store the past several months without a game plan.

This resulted in a higher incidence of impulse purchases…I can’t resist those chocolate covered peanut clusters at Sprouts if I don’t have a handy dandy grocery list in hand.

It also led to buying random items that didn’t necessarily make a week worth of meals, so I ended up being at the grocery store making impulse purchases more frequently. It left me feeling like we never had any food in the house since I bought tons of groceries but none of it necessarily went together. Last but not least, it left me throwing out spoiled food since I would buy things and never know what night I was cooking it or with what foods I was pairing it with.

Ugh.

Why wasn’t I using eMeals, the meal planning service being SENT to my phone app weekly?

Laziness.

How could I be so lazy as to not use the pre-made plan being sent to me weekly? I have no clue. Can I blame the adoption? 🙂

I am jumping back on the wagon and committed to reigning things in this year. To my delight, eMeals just sent me an email all about their NEW plan – Budget Friendly. That sounds like my kind of plan.

Below is a sample recipe from their latest plan:

Smoky Chili

1½ lb ground beef
½ (9.6-oz) pkg ground pork sausage
1 cup chopped onion
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1½ cups homemade chicken broth
2 (15-oz) cans tomato sauce
1 (15.5-oz) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
½ (15-oz) can corn, drained
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp liquid smoke
 
Cook ground beef, sausage, onion and bell pepper in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until meat is browned and crumbly; drain. Stir in broth and all remaining ingredients; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Head over to eMeals for your 14-day Free Trial and check out all the plans they have to offer.

Do yourself a favor and meal plan in 2015. It will make a massive difference in your grocery bill and significantly reduce waste, trust me.

2. Couponing & Price Matching

Have you heard about Grocery Smarts?

If I am going to coupon, it HAS to be easy. I don’t have time to search and scan all the ads and my coupons from the Sunday paper.

That’s where Grocery Smarts comes in handy. I literally tell it what state I am located in and then select the stores I shop at and it shows me what items are on sale, how hot of a sale it is, what coupons I can combine with the sale, and the final estimated cost of the item.

All I have to do then is find the coupon in my paper ads or print it from online.

As for price matching, you can absolutely bring all the ads with you to your favorite grocery store and price match at the checkout counter. We’ve also been using Walmart’s savings catcher and they more or less do the price matching for us and give the savings back to us on a Walmart gift card.

3. Staying on Budget

Last and absolutely not least…a way to reduce your grocery spending is to set a realistic budget for you and/or your family and then STICK TO IT!

This can be the hardest part but it’s vital to actually bringing more order and control to this area of your life. Once you know your budget, meal plan around it, and then have a system in place to hold you accountable.

Cash envelopes are pretty darn hard to argue with. When the money is gone, it’s gone.

We use YNAB – You Need a Budget software and are totally in love with it. Every time we are at the grocery store, we immediately pull out our phones first to consult the budget and determine how much is left in groceries for the month. At checkout, we then enter in the grocery store and amount spent..and seconds later our budget auto syncs to let us know what’s left in the grocery category.

So simple.

You can sign up for a FREE 31-day trial with YNAB or use this link to get $6.00 off if you do decide to purchase it.

I hope these tips are helpful to you for not only saving time but lots of money in 2015. We all have bigger goals than the grocery bill on any given month so freeing this category up will allow you to hit some other milestones in your budget!