Updated Day in the Life: 2018

I have no shame when it comes to my fascination with peoples day in the life posts. I love them. I love biographies and I love schedules, so it kind of makes perfect sense.

When I did one of these in January, I actually learned a lot about my life. It seems a little soon to be doing another one, but a whole heck of a lot has changed since that last post and I think I need to do it for me, more than for you (though I do hope you find it interesting). My class was actually cancelled this passed Monday so I was able to actually devote some time to this little blog. It felt nice to put this down on paper.

Here’s a peek at a usual Monday. I may also do a Tuesday and a weekend day, just for my own sake, if you’re interested.


5:15am – The alarm goes off & I roll out of bed. D gets up at 5:15 now and is not quiet at all.

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He gets himself ready and I take a laundry basket I’d sorted and filled the night before downstairs to the washer. I pull out D’s protein shake; unload and reload the dishwasher and then make my lunch.

5:40am – D says goodbye & I keep cleaning.

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I pour myself a glass of ice water and a protein shake and head downstairs to switch the laundry. When I come back up, I set a timer for an hour, empty (and reload) the dishwasher and wipe up the kitchen counters. I also defrost any meat I might need for a crock pot meal.

By 6:05am – Yoga

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This is, by far, the greatest part of waking up early. I do 30 minutes of yoga almost every single morning. In the past, I was trying to do it when I came home from work, but I would end up feeling like something else was more pressing, or thinking that yoga was something I “had” to do, rather than wanted to do. At that time in the morning, I’m too tired to know the difference, so I just get it done.

6:40am – Shower

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True story: I’ve started brushing my teeth in the shower and I don’t even care if people think that’s weird. I don’t actually have buckets of time in the morning even though it seems like I should because I jam so many things into. So, I start brushing my teeth while I get my hair wet, wash my hair with my toothbrush still in my mouth, and then finish brushing while I rinse my hair. It sounds ridiculous. Whatever. It’s working.

6:55am – Get dressed.

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Similar Dress

Usually, I pick out my clothes in my head while I’m in the shower. If I’m really on top of my game, I’ll pick out my clothes the night before or if I’m feeling like a total over achiever, I’ll pick out a weeks worth on Sunday (the weather lately has been way too unpredictable for that though). So, I get dressed and make the bed while I’m in the bedroom. Then, I give myself until 7:10 to get dinner going in the crock pot.

7:10am – Hair and make up

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I don’t know why I set an alarm on my FitBit for 7:10, but I did. I use it as the signal to go brush my hair and put some make up on. It’s working, so I don’t totally question it. I try to keep my make up simple – mascara, blush, a little eye shadow – and lately I’ve just been brushing my hair and then going. Once the snow comes, I’ll go back to blow drying / curling it, but for now, I’m giving my hair a break.

7:20am – Finish dinner / Start breakfast and lunch

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I know – confusing, right? Whatever I stopped doing at 7:10 to do my make up, I finish up, and then I pull together both breakfast and lunch.
I start drinking that protein shake usually just before I start yoga and I finish it on my way to work, so that drink plus a bunch of fruit is usually my breakfast. Lunch is typically vegetables and some cheese. Then, I also pack some crunchy things for snacks – popcorn and rice cakes. I also usually have a banana and something + hummus because I have class at night.

7:30am – head to work!

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I have about a 30 minute drive to work and my boss is really flexible about when we arrive. I try to be as close to on time as possible, but realistically, I have to drive through corn fields and if I get stuck behind a piece of farm equipment going 25 mph in a 55 mph… well, it is what it is. *shrug*
I have a little walk in from the parking lot and I try to use the time to text my best friend. My schedule is really jam-packed right now, so I don’t get to see her a ton and I miss her a lot, all the time. This helps a little and I hope it helps her know that I haven’t forgotten about her; I’m just slammed.

8am-ish – arrive at work

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I’ve started making my morning about something other than checking emails. I used to come in and be bogged down with emails for the first three hours of the day. Instead, I go through and clear out any spam emails, color code what’s in there (this takes about 5 minutes), respond to anything immediate (i.e. from the Director or my boss) and then start in a project.

10:00am – break time.

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I go outside for my break and text my bestie back. I like to physically leave the building because it helps me clear my mind (and get some steps in). I usually call my mom and ask about her day and what’s she’s planning to do. It’s nice to have a structured, quick check-in with her and my dad, so that I’m always in the loop.

10:15am – back to those emails

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I spend a pretty good chunk of the day in emails. There’s nothing fun or exciting about this.

12pm-ish – Lunch break!

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I don’t really eat lunch on my lunch break. On Mondays, I usually do work on the blog; Tuesdays and Thursdays I do homework; and Wednesdays and Fridays I do work on the book I’m ghostwriting. If it’s sunny, I sit outside. If not, there’s a great room in the building I work in that’s full of windows and I like to be there.

1pm – Meeting with my boss

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This is my actual boss

Every other Monday I meet with my boss. If you’re able to have a regularly scheduled meeting with them just to talk, I highly recommend it. We go over the projects I’m working on, how things are going in the office, with school and in my life. It helps me to stay grounded. I usually write myself notes throughout the two weeks and then use those to guide me through our conversation so that I don’t forget anything.

2:30pm– back to work again!

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I work on a team with two other people, not including my supervisor. We tend to collaborate for a little while, divvy up the work, then come back together later. We work in a cool space that was built with our process in mind. So, we collaborate for a little while, then jump into what needs to be done.
This is also when I usually eat my lunch.

3:30pm – break time!

I walk around the building and make a call to the doctors office about an upcoming appointment. The building is big, but only takes 3-5 minutes to get around. I walk around it 3 times, then head back in.

3:45pm – cleaning up.

There’s about an hour and 15 minutes left of the day. I use the time to comb back through emails and attend to anything I might have missed. I finish up whatever I can on what I was working on. Then, I make a list of what needs to get done tomorrow, followed by what it would be nice to have done by tomorrow. That way, when I leave, I can really, truly leave because the tasks are somewhere other than just my brain.

5:00pm – closing time

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I shut everything down and walk across the sidewalk to the building where my class is. There’s an hour before it starts, but there’s a semester-long project for this class, so my group meets every Monday from 5pm – 6pm. The two women I’m working with are awesome! They’re so funny and smart and dedicated to what we’re doing. I’m really fortunate to be part of a group like this; it makes the work so simple.

6:00pm – class time!

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The classroom buildings are all full of leaves this time of year

Our desks are arranged in a semi-circle, because the professor prefers we’re in discussion with each other. This week, we’re talking about Social Identity Development. I love listening to peoples stories of their backgrounds and what resonated with them about the theories.

7:15pm – break!

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He’s been helping me study lately

Because the class goes until 9pm, the professor gives us a break in the middle to use the restroom, get food, whatever. I call D. It’s the first time since he left this morning that I get to talk to him. I only have 10 minutes so I quickly ask about how work was, and what he did after work. He asks me the same. I tell him not to wait up for me.

7:25pm – group activity!

This professor really values collaboration, so in addition to our semester-long group project, we also break into groups (different than our semester-group) to talk through different theories. Each group is usually assigned one theory that we read about and has to give an overview to the rest of the class. It helps us get to know each other and puts the theories into accessible language, which is super helpful!

9:00pm – Time to head home!

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It’s a short walk to my car, and then a 20-25 minute drive home (since there’s no traffic). I usually text D and let him know I’m on my way since most of my drive is through the country with no street lights. The deal is: if I’m not home by 9:45, he comes to find me.

9:30pm – HOME

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Finally! I hug the cat and sneak into the bedroom to give D (who’s already asleep) a kiss. He’s turned off the crock pot so it can cool, and left me a plate of food in the microwave. He also cleaned the family room and tidied up the kitchen table and bedroom. I sit down on the couch and eat real quick while I look at social media.

10:20pm – Bedtime

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After I take care of the dinner dishes, etc., I change into jammies and get into bed. D has been asleep so I change the TV from his show to mine (which right now is Pretty Little Liars, for the 10 millionth time). I usually make it about 30 minutes into an episode before I notice my eyes drooping. I put on the sleep timer and my eye mask and knock out, ready to do it all again tomorrow!

 

 

One Month | One Year

It’s been over a month since I’ve posted anything here. I feel like the month of October didn’t slip away from me – it ran at full force.

So, a quick recap?

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The leaves started to change colors here around the start of the month. I can’t believe that I forgot the vibrancy of autumn. I know that I’m in a new place, but you think I would remember, wouldn’t you?

There’s something exciting about the idea that the world is about to close up and be blanketed in perfect sheets of white snow. There’s also something horrible about the idea that I’m now driving to work in the dark and soon will be driving home in the dark too. #notinlove

I’ve been using this calendar to meal plan and it’s freaking saving my life (this is also the calendar that I use for my general monthly calendar). I’ve never meal planned a whole month at a time before and I am totally in love. It’s legit the greatest. I promise there’s a post coming about how and why I meal plan my month like that.

I also made this cute, inexpensive jewelry/hat/coat hanger for my favorite 9 year old’s birthday. I had some scrap wood that I painted pink with craft paint, drilled 10 holes in it, bought these drawer pulls and painted her name on it! I believe I took enough pictures to do a step-by-steps if folks are interested.

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I also made myself this little printable and have been using it to clear out my brain and keep track of my life. It’s helping a ton. I was thinking that I would share a blank version of it, but I’m not sure the best way to go about that? Any tips?

I had my three favorite kiddos over for a shrinky dink party the other day and that was basically the greatest thing ever. I’d never done them before and seriously – I had as much fun as they did!

It was the first time I had seen them in a long time. I’ve been buried in work, other work and school. It felt so good to turn my brain off for the night and just be present with them. Grad School Pro Tip: schedule time doing simple things with people who make you feel good. Seriously. Schedule it. Schedule it and don’t let things get in the way of the plan. You need that shit.

I’ve made some exciting changes in my house recently, but the most exciting (to me) is this amazing pantry change. It’s going to be a process to get it together, I would imagine. So, keep your eyes peeled for something soon!

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My rockstar mom took me to the ER at 4am

And, truthfully, a good portion of my life has been going towards health – maintaining balance and changing things that hurt. It’s been a year, today, since I had my gallbladder out. Much of my desire to keep this little blog going has had to do with trying to make sense of my life now that I’m down an organ.

It’s been a weird and complicated year. I’m grateful to be able to say that I understand my body differently than I ever have before. And I’m grateful to share that things are getting easier – I have a much better sense of what hurts and what doesn’t, and what’s going to be painful in the long-run.

I’ve decided I’d like to keep as many organs as possible, so I’m hoping to be able to talk through what that means for my life right now soon.

All things in due time, folks. I’ll be back to posting more regularly soon.

A. Rose (1)

Grad School Real Talk

A few weeks ago I wrote this beautiful post about scheduling out all your school work and making this beautiful plan for the semester and being the worlds most organized person ever. It was a callback to a post I wrote last year about the same idea.

Scheduled Truth

I laid out this beautiful plan in my blogging calendar and on Monday I was going to talk about what kinds of things I plan and what the actual result is. A week and a half later, I was going to talk about how my school schedule was working out.

The truth is: the school work is getting done. I’m glad I put the effort in at the start of the semester because I’m definitely way more ahead of schedule than I normally would be by now. And I’ve come up with a weekend system that looks something like this:

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I can make this printable available if folks would be interested? Let me know.

But shit happens.

On Saturday, there was a standoff in my neighborhood. No homework was getting done that night.

In part because it was loud with the cops on a megaphone all night, and in part because on Sunday, I just needed to be with my family & D. So, I thought it would be much more appropriate to use the time I allotted to talk about schedules to tell you all, whether your in school or not, that it’s okay.

It’s good and important to plan. At least, I’m not going to stop doing it anytime soon! But let life happen to you. If something happens on Saturday that has you shook, but your assignment is due Monday, still give yourself some space on Sunday. You will be better able to do your work if you have rested.

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We have this idea that being overwhelmed with work and looking busy is a requirement of life, or graduate school, or the mid-20’s. But for real, it doesn’t have to be.

Do the things you love – I hope that if you’re here, you’re here because school is one of the things you l.o.v.e. But take the time to sit back and remember why you love it. Make a list and post it somewhere if you need to. Tell me! I want to hear it! And above all else, remember:

Action without reflection leads to burnout.
Reflection without action leads to cynicism.

Albert Einstein

You’ve got this. You’re going to be just fine.

Breathe. Relax. Hug someone you love. Then go do your homework.

Bedroom Art for Less

I’ve been trying to figure out how to make my bedroom feel a little less… Amish.

It’s been a while since I talked about it here, so here’s a little reminder of what it looked like:

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White. And more white. And more white. With a dash of blue.

I adore this room, that bed frame, those little embroidered flowers. But that white space above the bed makes me nuts.

So, I’ve been thinking about what I could put up there – three long panels, fabric on the whole wall, just leave it white because it’s an apartment…. ugh.

 

Then, a friend of mine told me about a deal on canvas, so I scooped up five thin canvases for $7 (all together!). And I wandered to the craft store to pick up some cheap craft paint.

I bought the bedspread because it reminded me of these quilt squares I bought to embroider (ten years ago and I’ve never finished one), which got me thinking that quilt squares might be cool!

I’m not sure what my life is that I just used “Quilt squares” and “cool” in the same sentence…

So, I started Pinteresting and found the ones I really liked and started to experiment with what I had – Prang watercolors and a sketch book from middle school:

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Clearly, I would need to measure. So, I just made the long canvas into a square and used a ruler to create some triangles and came out with this:

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A little too dark for my taste, but I was into the idea. I thought maybe I could lighten it up by adding a pattern:

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Much brighter! So far, I’ve gotten two done and started in on a third:

I’ll post an update once all five are done, but for $20, a lot of math but not a ton of time — I think it’s gonna be pretty cute!

A. Rose (1)

The Situation, Part 2

I talked in this post about my struggle to find a dresser that could work as a TV cabinet for my space. Nothing was the right size and things that were didn’t do the things I wanted.

But then I saw this glorious dresser at Pier One:

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It, also, isn’t the right size, but the idea was the best I had found in a long time. So, I’ve decided to make my own. Knowing next to nothing about carpentry, I decided the best option was to make a mock up of what I wanted and show it to people who do know a lot about it.

At first, I came up with something like this:

tv cabinet first draft

It’s 24″ tall and 55″ across. I was in love with my invention.

But then I actually used a measuring tape near my current TV arrangement and realized that 24″ really isn’t a lot.

So, what’s great about this initial drawing is that there’s definitely enough support that the middle on top won’t bow, and there’s buckets of DVD storage (each cubby hole fits a DVD sized bin).

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Yeah… I forgot that I was also hoping to find a home for books… Smooth move, A. Rose.

So, it was back to the drawing board… which in this case is actually just Excel.

First, though, I did a quick search of how high a TV should actually be. Houzz has a great, though complicated, explanation of how to determine how high your TV should be. According to this, that 24″ is correct. BUT, there’s that section about “Trade Offs” that says that style can trump function, which I’m definitely good with the idea of!

I found these adorable bins at Target that would be so cute, so I used them to start to figure out the math: if the bins are 13″, I need to make a hole that is at least 13.5″ all the way around. This will allow for both the larger bins and books. So, I increased the height and added larger bin storage and increased the DVD storage. Here’s what it looked like after some tinkering:

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It looks giant, but it’s actually just slightly over three feet tall! There’s still tons of DVD storage, and spots for up to four bins, plus a shelf for the PlayStation, etc.!

But then I started thinking… Each DVD bin should be able to comfortably hold 35 DVD’s. With this current arrangement, that means this unit can hold 540 DVD’s. I don’t really need that. I just need to move the DVD’s in my dresser out of my dresser. The bigger priority is the stacks of books.

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So, I started thinking… what if I added another bin spot, and lengthened some of the DVD boxes to make book shelves? Would I lose too much DVD storage?

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That’s still room for 210 DVD’s. The height of each of the three shelves on the bottom (stacked on top of each other) is 5 inches. That’s not really enough for books. Hmmm…

tv cabinet forth draft

This could work, though. This could definitely work.

I’m going to leave it up to you though! Which option do you like the best? One, two, or three?

A. Rose (1)

Updating the House List

A few months back, I made a list of everything I wanted to accomplish with my sweet little apartment. As a refresher, this is what the floor plan looks like:

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I gave a little update here, about where I’m at with the original list. Realistically, though, a lot has changed since creating that list: my work, my daily schedule, etc. So, the other day, I was getting ready to leave the house, and I snapped some pictures of the spaces that need some serious love.

 

Clearly, it was dark out and some of these photos just really aren’t great, but you get the general idea: chaos.

I spent some time with these pictures, and my list and I decided I needed to think about it differently. Some things needed to go, and some things needed to be more deeply examined. So, here’s the old list and where I was at:

  1. Talk to sisters about coffee table
  2. D – wtf is with this bean bag chair??
  3. Find home for reusable bags
  4. Bed frame to moms house
  5. Hang towel hooks in bedroom
  6. Find new home for donations
  7. COUCH
  8. Arrange bedside table
  9. Lower super high shower shelf
  10. Revamp system for online selling – I’m just done with selling things online, I think.
  11. Get a rug – $45
  12. Refinish coffee table – $20
  13. Get Bedroom Art – in process
  14. Replace the trunk with a dresser that can hold DVDs – in process
  15. Make desk a workable space
  16. Move off kitchen table
  17. Window treatment for sliding glass doors
  18. Reorganize Bathroom closet
  19. Upgrade the trunk
  20. Reupholster dining room chairs – meh. I don’t really need to do this…

But a new list is forming.

“Study”

I call the little nook where my desk is my Study or Office (sorry for the horrible photo quality – I took these at like, 5am).

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Some things here are great: I played musical desks with my parents and ended up with their much bigger desk. It’s working well but there’s still stuff everywhere, including that bean bag chair (not pictured) I still haven’t talked to D about.

The desk chair was at my mothers secretary when I was little. My sisters and I played on it. It’s really… not that comfortable to do homework in. I don’t want to get rid of it, because I would like to have it in my real house someday, but I want somewhere more comfortable to sit.

That pile of sparkly notebooks is for my classes this semester. They pretty much need to be at the desk, but they don’t need to be piled all crazy-like in the corner. I think that when I finish the TV Stand I can move the trunk under the desk as a combo foot stool / school work organizer

  1. Talk to D about that bean bag chair.
  2. Find home for desk chair
  3. Purchase more comfortable desk chair
  4. Find home for school binders/books when not in use.

Family Room

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I found this much better picture than the one above. Even though it’s been a few months, this is a pretty accurate presentation of what this looks like.

Some items from the above list are staying on here. I think I want to upholster the coffee table though, rather than just refinishing it. D isn’t in love with the idea, but I think it could be really cool.  I also want some art for above the television, and I’m not sure about those iron chairs.

  1. Get a rug – $45
  2. Refinish / upholster coffee table – $40
  3. Replace the truck with a dresser that can hold DVDs – in process
  4. Window treatment for sliding glass doors
  5. Upgrade the trunk
  6. Art for above the TV
  7. Make an iron chair decision

Bathroom

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What is even happening here? Towels are folded all crazy. Bins are overflowing, there’s a crochet project at the bottom. What. the. heck. I realized that I was saying “Reorganize” but I wasn’t breaking that down into smaller pieces that make it easier.

  1. Reorganize bathroom closet
    1. Make better use of under the sink space
    2. Consider putting towels out, not in linen closet
    3. Purchase additional bins to better sort
    4. THROW THINGS AWAY
    5. Dedicated crochet spot?

Bedroom

 

So, in the summertime, this is what the bedroom looks like: no quilt. I don’t actually care because it’s too hot to have a big quilt on there. But I’d like to warm up the bed a little. There’s a lot of blue and white happening.

There’s another crochet project on the ground. Pj’s on the foot board. Sketches of actual art hung with push pins. Those dressers are from my moms closet. And those metal lamps are hers and don’t really work with the space. And there are two chairs on either side of the tallboy that just collect…things.

  1. Warm up the bed – brown blanket? Different color sheets?
  2. Spot for Pj’s – maybe train myself to hang by towels
  3. Get Bedroom Art – in process
    1. Finish paintings
    2. Make frames
  4. New end tables – I want to build these, but need to assess what we really need.
  5. New lamps
  6. Spot for quilt in the summer
  7. Home for D’s robe

The Storage Closet

I like, don’t even want to talk about this closet.

Ugh. But I probably should.

Ugh. Seriously, I stopped writing this for a while because I just don’t want to think about it.

The Pantry

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The pantry actually works really well. It looks crazy because there’s a thousand small things on it. And there’s stuff on the floor. I got a Costco membership and my little pantry isn’t really built for Costco, I guess.

I know that one of the problems is that things are stacked on other things because the shelves are wire. I think I could easily solve this by lining them with foamcore, or something similar. I also think it would help to put certain things (pastas, rices) into canisters that could be stacked and, honestly, I’d like the chips up top to be in big baskets. There are two rows of snacks like that and I’m 5″2′. My rice cakes often get buried behind D’s Doritos and I end up purchasing things I don’t need as a result.

Now that I’m thinking about it, that would be smart to do with the cereal too. I don’t eat cereal, but I’ve noticed that D will buy a bunch of one kind from Costco and then one smaller box of something sweet from the grocery store. So, probably a cereal canister too.

And now that I’m looking at it, I’m realizing that my spices have way over-grown the small-sized baking sheet they’re on. I want to be able to hang something to hold them all, but I haven’t figured that out yet.

  1. Line shelves with foamcore
  2. Purchase canisters for dry goods
  3. Baskets for chips/snacks
  4. Purchase cereal canister
  5. Figure out spices

Okay, so this isn’t really that many things, it just feels overwhelming. This is why we write things down, people. 🙂

The Storage Part

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So, the vacuum and Christmas Tree pretty much have to be there because there isn’t another home for them. Which blows. You can also kind of see that there are boxes in front of the vacuum – that stack is a flat of coke, a box of protein shakes, and a box of single-serving nuts. This is how the pantry complicates things.

There’s also a bag of pop cans. In Michigan, you pay an extra $0.10 for every can / bottle you buy, but then you submit them to the bottle return and get your $0.10 back, so we hold on to the bottles. There’s another bag in the coat closet that’s in the process of being filled. I’m not pleased with any of this. I think I need to either start taking the cans to the store every time there’s a full bag and saving the bottle slips, or I need to ask D to take them to his shop so that they aren’t stored at home.

On that low shelf, there’s foods I’ve canned, which are stacked nicely. That’s fine. But then there are weird like, pasta jars with a humidifier on top of them, next to a printer.

I need to toss some stuff.

And make a shelf.

The same thing goes for the next shelf. There’s a stack of board games, which is great, but then it’s all crazy. I know part of the problem is the pile of stuff in front of the storage space, but shelves actually would help a lot.

  1. Figure out cans.
  2. THROW THINGS AWAY
  3. Build shelves

The List

So I’ve got my list for each room. I’m going to follow the same process I used to organize the last list and put this in priority order. Here’s the new end result, with the items from the original list in green:

  1. Replace the truck with a dresser that can hold DVDs – in process
  2. Find home for school binders/books when not in use
  3. Get Bedroom Art – in process
    1. Finish paintings
    2. Make frames
  4. Talk to D about that bean bag chair.
  5. Reorganize bathroom closet
    1. Make better use of under the sink space
    2. Consider putting towels out, not in linen closet
    3. Purchase additional bins to better sort
    4. THROW THINGS AWAY
    5. Dedicated crochet spot?
  6. Warm up the bed
  7. Spot for PJ’s
  8. Figure out cans in Storage Closet
  9. Throw things away in the storage closet
  10. Line shelves with foamcore
  11. Home for D’s Robe
  12. Refinish / upholster coffee table – $40
  13. Build shelves for Storage Closet
  14. Make an Iron Chair decision
  15. Art for above the TV
  16. Spot for quilt in the summer
  17. Purchase canisters for dry goods
  18. Baskets for chips/snacks
  19. Purchase cereal canister
  20. Figure out spices
  21. Find home for desk chair
  22. Get a rug – $45
  23. Window treatment for sliding glass doors
  24. Upgrade the trunk
  25. Purchase more comfortable desk chair
  26. New end tables
  27. New lamps

It feels a little overwhelming! But I think it will go quicker than I expect. I’ll keep you posted!

A. Rose (1)

Budget Tip: Christmas in September

There’s nothing like trying to find ways to save money when you don’t make much money. These budget series posts were created out of the desire to share what I have learned about alleviating some of the soul-crushing stress of living paycheck to paycheck – and the things I’ve learned that have helped me move away from that life. Please note that I am not, in any way, a licensed financial professional. None of these tips are guaranteed to make you money or save you money; they’re simply different ways of thinking about and using money that one person who doesn’t make much has learned over time.


Christmas in September

I love Christmas. I love twinkly lights and freshly baked cookies and laughing with my sisters so hard we cry and giving presents. I want to give all the presents in the world.

Last year, D and I went in 50/50 on presents. With five parents, nine siblings (including brothers-in-law) and six kiddos we adore, 50/50 still added up to a whole bunch really fast.

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We set different price caps based on how our families work, or what parents would prefer for their children. This year, I went the homemade route for my sisters and mom to save some cash. I made them personalized hand towels and hot pads that match their kitchens. I really prefer this, and will be doing it again this year.

 

For everyone else, though, we bought from the store.

So why bother talking about this now? Because I bought my first Christmas present in July.

Yep.

Tip #1: Shop Early & Often

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D and I had certain things we knew we wanted to get for folks – things like a nice set of towels, or classic, wooden toys for specific age ranges. So, every paycheck, we either buy something or set aside money for when we figure it out. That way, it doesn’t feel like we’re suddenly bleeding a ton of money, we don’t have to rush to the stores during the crazy holiday season, and we can spend our time doing things for others, like taking on an extra dish for a family event so our moms don’t have to, or planning a family service trip. Which leads me to my next tip:

Tip #2: Plan it Out

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There’s an (a) and a (b) to this idea.
(a) When it comes to time, start writing down your Holiday events as soon as you find out they exist. You can use an electronic or paper calendar. But make sure you include time for things like getting ready, driving to and from (especially if there’s snow) and rest. For goodness sake, make sure you allow yourself space and time for rest. Write it in now, as you’re reading this even. Maybe I’ll do a post with more details about how I plan this out in the future. Would that be something you’d enjoy?

(b.1) I have been using this holiday gift tracker from IHeart Organizing since it came out a few years ago (six years? Maybe?).

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I print it out at the start of the year and as I think of a gift, I write it down. For example, D and I went to Florida in March and saw something we just know his nephews will love, but it wasn’t Florida-y enough for us to buy as their trip-gift. So I wrote it on here so we wouldn’t forget.
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(b.2) The gift tracker is amazing because it doesn’t let you spend too much. I actually keep the “budget” and “actual” columns filled in as the year goes along. But, I keep a running “presents” lists on Amazon too. This has things like the nursery rhyme book is always get for babies, and things that could work well for a birthday party for a coworkers kid that I don’t really know. I also pop Christmas presents there.
In the case of the Florida gift for D’s nephews, I added it to this list while we were looking at it.

Tip #3: Plan to Wrap Away!

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So, this is going to sound nuts, but I actually bought wrapping paper in August. And March. I love cutesy paper for kiddos and will probably do that forever, but for my family – which doesn’t have younger children – I usually go with some kind of Hallmark swirly, classy, beautiful paper (like the top photo). So when I find a coupon or see a sale, I grab some up.

This goes for bags too. The Christmas themed ones are adorable and I definitely buy them. But I also buy the five-pack of brown gift bags and add embellishments in the same colors as my papers.

I also buy the cutesy paper at the start of the year, usually, when it all goes on sale. I’ve done that paper different ways and always end up needing to buy extra of it, so I just try to account for it in the budget.

One of my sisters wrapped all her presents in butcher paper for many years, and spent her money on ribbons and dried flowers. Her gifts always look gorgeous. I had a year where I bought a bunch of white tissue paper at the dollar store and then hand-made my gift tags with brightly colored construction paper. Thinking outside the box is another helpful way to save.

I write gift wrapping into my planner on the day after I plan to have all my gifts bought and I put on a cheesy Christmas movie or some music and wrap all in one session. It’s like a backwards Christmas surprise when I wake up the next morning to a tree full of presents for other people – exactly the kind of gift I want to give myself!

What kinds of things do you do to save money at the holidays?

A. Rose (1)

Bathroom Cleaning Hacks

I don’t live in a very big space, and, as a result, it only takes me about an hour and a half to give a good cleaning to it. #apartmentforthewin

But no matter what type of home I’ve lived in, keeping the bathroom clean has always taken the same amount of time.

Bathroom Cleaning Hacks

Secret: I worked in two different hotels for a cumulative four years after college, sometimes in addition to working full-time. #sidehustle? While I was technically a front desk clerk, when you work in a smaller hotel, it’s pretty much all hands on deck all the time.

So, I learned a lot about industrial laundry, and general maintenance, and cleaning bathrooms. A whole lot about cleaning bathrooms. This knowledge is just kind of sitting in my brain, so I thought it’d be good to share it!

Tip #1: Wipe the Counter Frequently

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I rinse out my sink every time I brush my teeth. But a lot of things happen in my bathroom – like hairspray – that dirty up the sink, so I keep some Clorox wipes under the sink so I can wipe it down while brushing my teeth or hair. It keeps the counter from accumulating a bunch of gunk that takes forever to scrub out.

Tip #2: Fill the Sink & Turn on the Shower

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When I’m going to scrub up my whole bathroom I start by filling the sink with hot water and turning on the shower (on super hot). A housekeeper once taught me to do this because the steam helps loosen up anything that’s really stuck on there (read: hairspray. all the time). I don’t leave the shower on the whole time I’m cleaning because it would make scrubbing the tub impossible, but I do pretty much everything else while it’s on.

Tip #3: Clean the Toilet Bowl with Your Hands

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Okay. I know. That sounds terribly gross. That’s why humans invented cleaning gloves. And toilet bowl cleaner.
I put the toilet bowl cleaner in, and then clean my mirrors / counters, then scrub with a toilet brush. But, when I’m cleaning the rest of the toilet (base, lid, etc.), I use a cloth and some cleaner and give a swish to the inside of the bowl.
It has already had cleaner in it, so it should theoretically be clean, but an extra coat of cleaning solution never hurts. And, according to the housekeepers I know, it helps you to clean the under-the-rim spots that often retain germs and gunk that the toilet brush doesn’t always get. And in my mind, it’s much grosser to think about leftover germs than it is to get rid of them.

 

Tip #4: Let the Spray Sit

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What does that even mean, A. Rose? It means that I turn the water on, and then spray things down – toilet, counter, etc. I spray the mirror last and clean it first, then I work my way around the bathroom, and having let the cleaner sit for a while with the steam lets anything that’s stuck on there come up more easily.

Tip #5: The Bleach Dress

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I have a dress that D calls my “Bleach Dress.” Because my bathroom isn’t exactly a high-traffic area (there are no kids, the apartment is empty for most of the day), I clean the toilet every week, and give the rest a quick scrub every two weeks. But once a month I clean it with bleach. When I first move into an apartment, I always clean the bathroom with bleach for a few weeks in a row because you just never know what the person before you was doing.
I have a light weight dress my sister gave me – it’s super comfy but it has a hole in it. It’s my dress I wear when I’m going to clean with bleach, because if it gets a bleach stain, I don’t care – there’s already a hole in it so I don’t wear it out.
As I’m writing this, I’m feeling really high maintenance that I have a separate dress for bleach, but I don’t own a lot of clothing, so I try to preserve what I have as best I can.

 

What about you? What are your tried and true methods for keeping your bathroom sparklingly clean?

A. Rose (1)

 

 

 

& Cookies

I’ve been an avid blog reader for the last six years and my favorite posts are always the personal, here’s-my-life-in-the-last-month-rounded-up kinds of things. I was thinking about this, and about my cousins son whose favorite time of the day is Cookie Time, where he, his mom and his grandma have milk and cookies. So I was thinking about the idea of having milk and cookies with people I like, but I stopped being able to drink milk around age 25, so here we are: & cookies.

You can read the rest of the series here, here, here and here


The past two weeks have been hectic, to say the least! With school starting the last week of August, everything in my life shifted a little bit to accommodate for what was new.

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I try to always get myself something at the start of the school year, almost like a pre-reward. It’s silly to do maybe, but I try to remember that, at this stage in life, even just registering for classes is a choice that isn’t always easy to make. I’ve wanted a pair of these earrings for a while, and when Natalie posted a coupon code, it seemed like a good time to jump on it.

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With school back in session, my commute has gotten about 15 minutes longer, each way. I drive through beautiful farm country, but sometimes find myself behind strange objects. I try to remember that I take this route for the experience – I’m used to palm trees and strip malls – and find it humorous. But my music has been getting a little stale lately. Any suggestions for great driving songs?

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I’ve given up on wearing dressy shoes to work. These sandals are so amazing that I cannot stop with them. You may have seen my Instagram post about them. I’ve been trying to post things to Instagram. To be completely transparent: I’m not great at it. I’m open to any advice folks have. I keep trying to remember that it’s a great way to keep in touch with folks and, really, it’s a lot easier to use than Facebook.

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Look at this perfect photo of my adorable dad and his dog, Maggie. I’ve been working on that TV stand that I talked about a while ago (I promise a great reveal post is coming soon!) and my parents hung out a bunch. That blue swing was my great-grandmas! My uncle recently had it repainted and surprised my mom with it! How freaking cute?

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I recently posted about getting my brain organized for school. I am juggling a lot of different things lately and trying to stay grounded while I do it. I think some of my struggle has to do with not having a planner that works 100% the way I need it to. So, I’m back to thinking about making my own.

I hope you all have been well. I’d love to hear what back-to-school time has been like for you!

A. Rose (1)

Class Schedule Management

It’s that wonderful time of year again, when the weather starts to turn and every now and then you see a leaf that’s a vibrant orange or red. I love the beginnings of fall. My absolute favorite part? Back to school!

I’m not even being sarcastic – I really love everything about school and learning and school supplies and assignments and readings. #hardcorenerd #lifelonglearner

The toughest part of school, to me, is managing the schedule alongside a full-time job and a new part-time job. I shared a little while ago about how I figure it all out, through a process I’ve been using since I started undergrad (12 years ago!) but I wanted to show you all some extra steps I learned over the Spring/Winter Semester!

 

I’m trying to stop using so much paper. I will probably always be a paper planner person, but I thought I’d try my hand at doing this in Excel. I pulled up both syllabi and reviewed them, looking for common themes. I realized there were four categories the work could be split into:

  1. Readings
  2. Major Assignments
  3. Minor Assignments
  4. Discussion Boards

So I made a spreadsheet and key that looks like this:

Step 1 of Organizing School

I have a hard time keeping the “EDH” and “EDF”‘s separate, so I gave myself a little reminder of what each class was. Then, I started plugging things in, based on the syllabus. But, I did it one week ahead of what the syllabus said. So if something is listed there for the week of October 14, I listed it under the week of October 7, because that’s the week I’ll actually be doing that work in. Does that make sense?

It looked something like this:

Step 2 of Organizing School

You can see how the color coding on the side went. I also made one class blue and the other purple. Last year, I did everything in the same color and wrote the name of the class next to the assignment. I much prefer this way in Excel. Here’s what it started to look like towards the time I was done:

Step 3 of Organizing School

So then, I created a new category called “Working Ahead.” For the items in yellow, I looked at them and what the syllabus says is involved and assumed what that means I’ll need to do. So for example, the week of September 2, we’re picking an issue we care about and we’ll be part of a group that writes and presents on that topic. So, that means, the week of August 26, I had to review the Topics:

Step 4 of Organizing School

I continued that process until the end of the semester for both classes, then I printed it out. I only printed it because I knew I had some times the day I made this when I could put some of these into my planner, otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have.

I put the items for each week on long Post Its just like I did last time:

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BUT, I looked at my calendar as I did this: when are Birthdays? other work stuff? evening events? For those weeks, I printed out some of these great sheets (link is at the bottom of the post; I just wanted to be sure to give you the chance to read her whole post) made by Megan at Honey We’re Home (who, btw, is amazing, y’all). For my really crazy weeks, I just went ahead and filled these out and stuck them in my planner for that week, so I don’t have to use my mental energy to figure it out at that point! #BAM

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And, for two weeks a head of time, rather than working off a sticky note, I just went ahead and broke the assignments up in to how much I thought I could get done on each day:

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My hope is that this pre-planning keeps me from feeling the crushing weight of all the things I’m juggling. I keep trying to remind myself that this is a choice I’ve made; these are all things that make me happy, and that it’s okay if I can’t always manage it all.

What kinds of things help you survive hectic times? What do you think is the most useful piece of going to (any level of) school that you carry with you now?

A. Rose (1)