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Monday, December 13, 2010

Simplifying Your Life For The Better

For the last few years I've 'simplified' my life in major ways so I'm not sure if I can come up with enough content to fulfill this prompt but here it goes:

December 11 – 11 Things What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life? (Author: Sam Davidson)

Like I said, the last few years have required me to make some significant changes to how we live day to day.  Most of these changes were a result of the bad economy and our efforts, as a family, to survive and keep a roof over our heads.  So, to satisfy this prompt, I'd like to reflect on what we've 'given up', it's effects, and to note if there is anything left we can do going forward.  These efforts will make up the eleven things.  We'll consider this entire list a recipe for change and simplification in one's life during hard economic times.  This concoction can also be used to arrive at a greener environment or a healthier you.  Just pick your favorite cause, mix the ingredients, and bake until a new level of happiness is attained.

1.  Downsize the amount of vehicles in your family.  Since November 2007 we have been a family with one car.  Three years!  Oh, such a tragedy...not really.  When we were getting crushed with every possible obligation to Tom, Dick, and Harry (of Chase, Citibank, and Credit One) we really had to evaluate what was important.  Just like every other family we struggled to fill the gas tank when the price hit $5.00 per gallon.  Let's see, should we feed our family or drive to work, to get paid, to feed our family and keep a roof over our heads?  Decisions, decisions.  At the beginning, it was difficult to maneuver every day life and deal with the restrictions of having one car.  It has gotten progressively easier over the years.  I 'work' from home and 'get' the car maybe one day a week whereby I 'run' all of my errands.  I plan my routes carefully so as to optimize the usage of gas.  I've utilized my mother and her car on the weekends to make extended trips to places like:  the library, grocery shopping, and retail shopping.  The overall positive effects to such a change is a greener environment (one less car on the road), appreciation for what we do have (hey, one car is better than none), and closeness to family (an increase in time spent together even if it is just running errands on a Saturday morning).

2.  Elimination of coffee.  Okay, some of you may totally disbelieve that one could actually eliminate coffee from their daily menu.  You might be thinking, 'How does this girl function?'.  Well, I wonder myself how I am able to get through the day but then I think of the reason why.  When I had my first 'episode' (read previous blogs) I was inhaling at least four cups of coffee a day.  I would grace Starbucks with my presence at least three times per week (or more if I had the money).  Those days of 'venti white mocha' are so distant right now.  It was crazy to think how much money I spent every year just going to Starbucks.  Hundreds of dollars; sickening when I think about it.  But, in August of 2009 when I had my health scare I knew that caffeine contributed to high blood pressure and I completely cut the coffee out of my daily routine.  Nowadays, I treat myself once a week to a 'grande chai tea latte'.  Yes, tea has caffeine in it and it isn't exactly cheap.  The change in comparison from today versus a little over a year ago is so drastic it must be noted.  I feel so much better, have more energy, and I am not indebted to Starbucks.

3.  Basic cable.  Yes, only the very basic in my house.  No HBO, MTV, Cartoon Network, CNN (ouch), or ESPN.  Everyone in my house made a sacrifice when I cut our cable bill down to the very basic service.  I did this about three years ago when, yes, we were hard up for money to pay the mortgage.  More importantly, I had to evaluate our dependence, as a family, on television for entertainment.  I was probably the biggest culprit of sitting on the couch, clicker in hand, waiting to be entertained by the same crap, channel by channel, on cable.  I knew my kids' dependence on t.v. for entertainment was lessening as they got older.  They either played video games or watched shows on the internet.  I also hoped that by getting rid of the cable we would not only save $50 per month but I could possibly start writing and the kids would study more and improve their grades.  This is a sacrifice that paid off in every way possible.  Although, my husband has suffered with the loss of his sports options, like no Monday night football.

4.  Land line telephone...gone!  Funnily, this probably should have been one of the first things to go but I'm still kind of old fashioned when it comes to the power of new technology.  We were down to just local service with again the very basics but it was costing us $30 a month and most of that was taxes and fees.  We were using our cell phones to place long distance calls.  I still believed in my heart that we 'had' to have a land line home phone just in case there was a fire or medical emergency.  Finally, I bit the bullet and waved AT&T goodbye.  It got to the point that the only people calling me were bill collectors, anyhow, so I am really enjoying the peace and quiet these days!

5.  Haute couture?  I think not.  I've always been a frugal retail clothes shopper.  I get a thrill when I find the item marked down three times to less than half of its original price.  I know that most retailers have 100% markup or more so I know when I'm getting a deal.  I was never a mall shopper but would go maybe once per month.  I used to go to Target at least once per week.  Those were the days of old.  For the last three years there are only a few retailers that I frequent:  Old Navy, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and Ross.  I only look on the clearance racks.  Even if I'm shopping for Christmas gifts and the only thing on clearance is short sleeved I will still pick up the items because where I live winter lasts only a few months.  My favorite place to shop is Old Navy, hands down.  I can (and have) picked up tank tops and bathing suits for less than a dollar.  I have spent $20 and gotten at least six different outfits.  The other great thing about Old Navy is that you can fill out a survey and receive 10% off your next purchase.  This incentive runs various times throughout the year.

6.  AVON.  When I first found out that AVON sold more than just lipstick it piqued my interest.  You mean I could sign on to become and Independent Sales Representative and get a discount on sandals, clothes, and accessories?!  I could have my own website where people could go and shop, pay online, and have the items shipped directly to them?  Okay, let's do it.  Well, I did this about two years ago.  I have never been a pushy sales person and I did not plan to be the person saying, "AVON calling".  I just wanted to shop for reasonably priced stuff so I could get a discount.  Recently my husband and my mother, who work at state offices with hundreds of employees, have increased my client list.  I really appreciate all of their efforts to hand out the books, take the orders, and make the deliveries.  I must develop a plan for 2011 whereby I can increase my internet sales.  By having just one person order online using my website every month, it should pay for the monthly fee.

7.  Drama.  I can hear Mary J. Blige in the background singing, "no more drama".  I just can't deal with drama.  An over-exaggeration of insignificant events is just not worth the elevation of blood pressure.  So, how can I eliminate exposure to these unnecessary events?  I guess I can avoid situations that I know will be drama-filled.  I can physically remove myself from potential blow outs.  I can take a moment to breath.  I can take a moment to think about the repercussions of my actions.  I can have a more positive outlook on people and their intentions. I can remind myself of what is important in life.

Okay, so I didn't really follow the prompt exactly as it was written.  My bad (I hate that saying).  But, I did take time to reflect on some great changes I've made in my life, things I've gotten rid of, and I took the time to look at things that can be improved in 2011.  So, it's not eleven but it's a start.  I'm sure I can come up with more and perhaps you will see them in future blogs.

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