As you all know, my year-end around here is the end of June. For many reasons, it makes sense to think of the year re-starting then. It’s when we finish collecting business revenue for about 6 months, it’s my birthday, and it’s also when I put a big pause on work for 2-4 months.
Before then, there is a LOT to do! I have two big projects to finish by the end of May, in addition to my usual teaching and also putting together my summer program (which starts in July). Then we’re traveling for two weeks, then I have two weeks to get ready for the program to start (among other things).
I’ve booked a ticket that allows me to stay abroad until the end of October, which means I’ve got some travel adventures ahead! And it looks like, if all goes according to plan (although when does it ever go according to plan?!), I will have $75,000 saved by the end of June. That’s well over my initial goal of $50,000, which is good, because next year that number might get cut pretty drastically.
I’m taking a huge step back at work… which used to be my “side job” and now I’ve come to really think of as a full-time job. I need less of that and more of everything else. I don’t have the huge debt as an excuse anymore, and I have a couple rather realistic (though not certain) dreams that I want to pursue that aren’t getting lived out at all because I’ve let the job take over and become sort of a soul-crusher. So next year’s savings will likely be paltry, if anything. But that’s okay.
In fact, it’s great.
So I’m going to be spending the next couple weeks at my parents’ house, which is also where my boyfriend and I keep all our stuff when we’re out of the country. So my bedroom here has, for the past four years, had to hold everything we both own, in addition to, you know, a normal bedroom.
And the Santa project. I’m trying to put together 1,000 Christmas presents to donate to a shelter next year. So far I have over 500. Those are all in my room too.
In other words, we don’t have a lot of stuff. I’m pretty vigilant about getting rid of things we don’t use. Before we moved out of our house, I filled two big bags with clothes and books and things that I really didn’t want to store again. So it seemed like a lost cause.
But between last night and today, I managed to get rid of over 100 things. It feels awesome! There’s a little more breathing room in my space, I have 100 fewer things to take care of, and there’s nothing I miss. What’s gone?
- 17 pieces of clothing. Anything that’s been in this room for over a year without me taking it out to wear it? Finally time to go.
- 9 3-ring binders. I really had a lot of 3-ring binders. And I know I might use them eventually. But eventually isn’t worth storing them for, with such limited space!
- 10 donations into my parents’ house. Instead of storing laundry soap, Kleenex, toilet paper, and shampoo, I just put them with my parents’ stuff in the house. I can get new ones next year, they’ll be happy to use them, and I won’t have to store them.
- 100 bits of junk. I just took out the trash can and made myself throw out 100 little things that weren’t worth dealing with. Paper clips, bobby pins, broken chains, pieces of plastic that went to something, mystery cords, etc. So nice!
- 15 presents. I gleaned out 15 new items I could add to the Santa project, including two packs of batteries and some jewelry.
- 13 cups/glasses/plates that I don’t really need to keep for “someday”.
- 4 picture frames
- 9 make-up items I chucked in the trash because I never use them
- 3 stuffed animals
- 4 condiment bottles I threw away
- 5 folders and binders of papers I’d saved, mostly because I didn’t know they were here and hadn’t gotten around to throwing them out. I filled an entire cardboard box with recycling!
There’s a little breathing room in my space again, which is amazing when you consider how packed it is. We even got rid of everything that was stored in the basement, so the only thing we own that isn’t in this room with me right now is our car.
I seriously, seriously encourage you to rid your house of 100 things. Whether they are old clothes or pieces of junkmail, you’ll feel so good!
So I’ve been going full-tilt lately, and after working an 18-hour day yesterday (oh yeah), I was really excited to sleep in today. But then I woke up at 6.
My room was a mess. I had no food in the house. (Well technically, I had 7 baby carrots. But I think we can count that as no food.) I barely made it home yesterday because the car was completely out of gas. I still had my makeup on. It was like a work hangover zone.
I took a shower, made it to the gas station, got some breakfast, ran a couple errands, went to the grocery, and got home to do about an hour of work. And then I crashed.
My body just decided I needed a day off, I guess, because I went right to sleep and woke up now. I do have to teach a class tonight, but it honestly felt great to have a day that wasn’t work, work, work. There is work waiting around every corner, and I really should have done some of it today. But I’m so happy to have had a break and feel a little bit back to my normal self.
I’ll probably get more done tomorrow than I would have today and tomorrow if I’d tried to keep going at the pace I was going. I guess we’ll never know, but I’m going to assume that’s the case. And even if it isn’t, what the heck. Naps are awesome.
I was teaching a class yesterday when I had a feeling I’ve only had maybe twice before. In the middle of my sentence, I thought, “I can’t teach the rest of this class. I just don’t want to. My body won’t stand here. My brain won’t make the words. Can I just stop? I mean, I know I’m not supposed to, but what would happen if I did? If I just… left.”
I’ve not enjoyed things I was doing before, but I still sort of saw that they matched with a long-term goal I had. This was a different feeling than that. It was like what I was doing didn’t match at ALL with what I cared about or wanted. I just wanted it to stop, and I seriously contemplated just leaving.
I gave our class a short break and just went and sat in the lobby, trying to get myself together. I did manage to finish out the day successfully, but I realized that I really have to transition out of that job. It’s boring and repetitive, but not in a way where I can just zone out. I have to be fully focused and engaged in something that’s totally boring to me, and I can’t keep it up. Well, I CAN, and I know that I COULD, if I needed to. But I don’t.
Have you ever had that sudden onset of wanting, almost needed, to stop what it is you’re doing? Did you stop? Or did you find a way to get over it?
I’ve been out of the SAT tutoring game for a long time, but I have a new SAT tutoring student. What I don’t have anymore is books.
Before Amazon or even the library, I did a quick check on Craigslist: one group of 12 books that I can pick up for free tomorrow, and one group of 8 that I can pick up for $10 tomorrow. So that’s 20 different books for a total of $10.
Man, I love Craigslist so much! It’s always worth at least checking to see if what you need is there.
In other news, I don’t have to go to my office tomorrow for the first time in two weeks. I’m going to try to wrap up 3 big projects from home, which I’m actually looking forward to a lot. I’ve spent the last 5 hours sort of leisurely getting organized, cleaning out email accounts, throwing out papers, taking care of little errands, and getting ready to take on the bigger stuff tomorrow, which is exactly what I like to do at the end of a long week. So here’s to a productive Saturday!
I’ve had a little time to breathe in the past few days, and I keep coming back to the idea of space. Space is valuable. When I take the time to think about what I need and want, I want space.
I don’t mean that I want a bigger house. I don’t mean that I want to be away from my friends and family — in fact, I want to be closer to them. But I need space in my schedule that isn’t preset and filled with tasks. I need enough of a margin to make mistakes and have the time and energy to fix them and learn from them. I need to open my plans and leave myself the space to think and plan and have good ideas and follow through with them.
I know I could call that “time”, but you can’t get more time. You get the same amount of time each day as everyone else. What I need to do is open up that time and jettison the things that aren’t bringing enough value to my life to warrant the time they take. I need to open up the mental space to permit myself to think about things on a longer-term, bigger scale.
I think this is why I’ve gotten so obsessed with getting rid of things. My desire for mental space is manifesting itself physically. And I think that’s okay, but I don’t want to end up in an empty house with a schedule full of things I don’t care about — oh my gosh, I’m a hoarder! I’m a hoarder of tasks instead of things.
… I have to stop. The quest for more space might mean that my savings doesn’t grow quite as quickly. But it will save my sanity and improve my quality of life, and that’s worth a lot more. Space. The final frontier
I’ve been inspired that Crystal over at Money Saving Mom is trying to get rid of 7 things every day this month. I love having a minimalist life. We move so many times a year, we have our stuff as pared down as possible. I couldn’t possibly get rid of anything else!
But then on Saturday, I was at my parents’ house, and I did manage to find 10 items I could donate, with almost no difficulty. And so I thought, hey, I actually CAN get rid of some things and free up some space, if I just try a little bit.
So I’ve decided to try to get rid of 100 things this month. The 10 things I’ve already donated don’t count, so I’m going forward from here. We have limited storage space, and with 500 presents stored in that space, it’s already getting a little tight.
I don’t actually think we need to get rid of anything, but I think this will be a good challenge to make me give a critical eye to our possessions. I think it will force me to assess what I’m actually using and donate things that are doing nothing but taking up space. I think it will be sort of cathartic.
I also just… really like getting rid of stuff.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: don’t be shy about returning things you don’t want!
I acquired a cardigan that still had the Macy’s tag on it with a $39.98 price. I think my mom picked it up for me at a rummage sale. I didn’t really want it, but I never go to Macy’s, so I just kept it in my returns bag in the car in case I was ever at Macy’s and had a chance to return it.
Today, I was having dinner with a friend when we realized that Macy’s was a short walk away. I brought the sweater in, hoping they’d be able to give me at least something. $39.98 in store credit! I was able to buy a pair of gold ball earrings (which have been on my want list for over a year) and a Mother’s Day present for my mom, and still have a $10 credit left over!
I really don’t know why the person who donated the sweater to the rummage sale didn’t return it, but I’m happy that I did! I strongly suggest you keep a bag in your car (or hall closet, if you don’t have a car) where you can put items you purchase or gifts you receive that can be returned. If you buy an item to try it and don’t like it, most stores will take it back, even without a receipt.
You can return groceries that weren’t quite right, make-up and body products you didn’t like, clothes that didn’t hold up well, almost anything unused, and cleaning products that didn’t work the way you expected. Sure, you can’t return things to every store, but here are my suggestions:
- It never hurts to ask. If you aren’t sure if something can be returned, tell the cashier that you aren’t sure and ask politely if there’s anything they can do to help you.
- Keep receipts. When I buy clothes, I generally stow the tags and receipts in a box in my dresser drawer. If the item doesn’t get worn, I just take it back.
- Shop at stores with good return policies. CVS, Kohl’s, Stop and Shop, Shaw’s, L.L.Bean, and Macy’s are all examples I can think of that have great return policies. Generally, grocery and department stores have very good return policies.
- Keep items accessible. You don’t really save as much if you’re running out to make a return. When I find something I want to return, I keep it in my car until I’m at the store anyway. A small grocery bag in the trunk isn’t in the way, but it cuts down on errand running. Plus, if I’m already headed to a certain store, I probably have something to spend the credit on!
- Be honest. Tell the truth about your returns and ask if the store can help you. If they can, great! If they can’t, you know for next time. But if you lie, take advantage, or make a stink, you’re making things worse for other people with honest returns to make.
Back in December, I found that what I liked the best about Christmastime this year was donating some presents to organizations in need. So in January, I decided to try to gather 1,000 presents to donate to local shelters next Christmas. They could be small or big, but they had to be new presents that a child, teen, or woman without a home would want.
I gave myself a budget of $500. And having spent under $200 of that, I’ve just hit 500 presents!
Most of the presents before now have come from drugstore freebies, regifts from my own stash, Christmas clearance, and donations of regifts from friends and family. But today, my dad and I went to a big rummage sale and another yardsale, and for under $10 we were able to get 8 brand-new games in plastic wrap, a bag of Disney stuffed animals with the tags still on, 6 brand new fleece hats and mitten pairs, and a bunch of small, fun (new) toys. The 50 presents we picked up today brought us to the 500 present mark!
At under half my budget and under half the year, I’m confident that we’ll get OVER the 1,000 present mark. It’s going to be a very fun Christmas!
Some good lifehacks. A couple new to me. Check it out here.