Meal Planning for Two

I’ve started posting on Instagram what I eat each day. I’m learning a lot about myself through this process and I intend to write a post about it soon, because I think it will help me a lot in my quest for balance and understanding.

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I’ve spent a lot of time leaning about how people meal plan for their families, written by parents who work (usually their work is blogging) and raise their kids who are heavily involved in their schools and sports, etc. Two people who work full-time and don’t raise children and don’t play sports have a meal plan that looks really different and so I thought it might help people to see what that looks like.

Why meal plan?

Yeah, I get this question a lot. Especially because there’s just two of us.

What was happening is that I was making our plan for the week on Saturday morning before I went grocery shopping. This resulted in us eating the same 4 meals every week, getting bored, eating out and throwing away what was in the fridge. It was like we were wasting double money because of the cost of eating out and the cost of what we were throwing out.

How I got started

So, I sat down one day and made a google doc of all our meals and sorted them in a way that made sense to me. I didn’t get crazy detailed, I just tried to write down as many thing as I know we like, not including things like Hamburger Helper or frozen lasagna (two of D’s favorites – I promise I’ll tell you why I’m just a second). Then, I grabbed a paper calendar and added five meals for each week.

The reason I only did five is because our life is probably differently spontaneous than the people I was learning to meal plan from. So if our friends called us to go swimming 15 minutes before work let out, then we didn’t end up throwing away a day of planned food by the end of the week. Having two days of wiggle room worked really well for us, and in the summer months I usually only plan four days, rather than five, because we tend to wander to friends houses more or eat a salad or sometimes just have ice cream for dinner.

What do you save?

It’s almost 100% about emotional labor for me. By the end of the work day, I’m so riddled with decision fatigue that I’m like, let’s just eat popsicles because they’re what’s in front of my face. So in addition to not planning well, I didn’t have a ton of mental ability to switch it up when it came time to cook. This way, I make a ton of decisions once a month and only ever take things away – if dinner at a friends gets scheduled, then I take a meal away. That’s it. Sometimes I even make my grocery list while I make the meal plan. When I’m super on my game, I buy all the meat and dry goods in bulk at the start of the month and just buy produce as we go because, again, less thinking.

There’s definitely money being saved. Partly because of the bulk shopping but mostly because we were throwing away about $20 in produce and spending an extra (assuming we’d eat out once a week, pre-COVID) $60 a week. That’s a monthly savings of $320, which is an annual savings of $3,840.

Y’all. That’s so much money.

I also think we eat more vegetables this way (not so much fruit, but I’ve always been a pretty good fruit eater). I feel like I’m more willing to spend money on organic, delicious veggies because I spend a bunch at the start of the month on stuff that isn’t that.

So emotional energy, money & health.

I think it’s true that we don’t need to overthink it. My mom has talked a lot with me about enjoying this age without children and embracing not needing to be hyper organized. I’m 100% with her in that. I think doing this helps me stay calmer because I know what’s coming. So that tense need to fix something means I can just fix dinner.

Do you meal plan? What works for you?

A. Rose (1)

 

 

Life in a Time of Unrest

When we last left off, I had every intention of sharing with you my 30-day gym update. I had started the year talking about my intentions; then my meeting with a personal trainer through my work; followed by my first full week at the gym. And then COVID-19 hit America. I started working and going to school from home. I was a month behind on my masters project, due to my mothers illness at the start of the year, and honestly, not having a commute gave me an extra hour each day that made it easier to complete. It was not easier to try to finish without meeting with my advisor, or to not get to graduate (yet!), or to go from working on a bustling college campus to being alone all day with two cats.

I continued a modified workout routine that includes a lot of walking on the trails by my house, wrapped up my last semester of graduate school and was excited to take a rest but then Ahmaud Arbery was murdered. If you don’t want to think about politics or the state of the word, I recommend skipping down to the first heading. I hope that my transparency will be a source of comfort, not conflict.

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I have been working in public education for over a decade, not counting my work while in college. And I have been committed to being an educator in public education since high school. My work is intricately tied to eradicating systems of oppression – my focus is on untying the mental knots that keep us thinking through the dominant lens by changing the way we talk. I try really hard to embody compassion, understanding and joy.

Lately, I’ve been outwardly angry. And disappointed in myself for that.

More than anything, I feel blindsided by my white friends, who simply don’t know that their line of thinking is rooted in white supremacy. I don’t feel blindsided by white supremacy, but rather that they don’t know. That’s confusing to me and it is a good reminder that I carry my own ignorances:  I live in education, where every day people see the impact (good and bad) of systems, where we are nationally criticized all the time and respond by saying “we’ll do better,” and where people critically analyze sources before assuming they’re accurate.

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That’s my real world. But it isn’t the majority. Folx don’t know the ways that they fight against or give in to the system, turn their noses up at national criticism, and assume that something with a percentage is a fact. And that’s fine. It’s actually fine. I hope that I can make waves in education so that individuals moving forward will examine and assess things differently, but we’re all allowed to be different, and hold to different ideals. That is actually the beauty of America.

The shame of America is that its system reflects ideals that injure entire populations – ideals that are held and defended by its people. It’s hard to jive with freedom of thought (which is usually totally my jam!) when the ideals include people being murdered or children starving or one group being privileged over another.

And so I’m worn out. I’m worn out from 100 conversations a day in my personal and professional world that require me to think about what will happen if we X instead of Y. What population is impacted by Z and will that impact be negative? I am finding myself spouting off in small moments because my every day is so wrought with a lack of closure. But the truth is: that’s how it’s been since I picked education and my white burnout doesn’t help anything. And, at the end of the day, I picked it and I’m not going to leave it, so I have to take educations lead and say, “I’ll do better.”

I’m unwilling to agree to disagree (why do we love this phrase so much?) because that’s what got us here in the first place and, honestly, it feels really anti-American when you read our founding fathers. Instead, I’ll do better. And part of how I want to do that is by revising my 2020 intentions.

Let’s talk about doing better

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When I first wrote them, I broke my 2020 intentions up into three categories: physical, mental, emotional/spiritual health. Then, from there I did a breakdown of what practical steps I could take towards those things. I’m going to put them here with some notes about the steps I’ve taken or hope to take:

Physical Health
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Eating more plants and lean protein – Yo, I’ve got this really great lunch I’m going to share with you that’s almost 100% plant-based (the dressing isn’t…and no, it’s not a salad). I’m also opting for vegetarian whenever possible. Meat is nauseating to me lately. 
Walking for entire lunch break – Pretty much every day, unless it rains. If it’s raining during lunchtime, then I walk in the evening.
Gym three times a week – In Michigan, gyms have been closed since March (or April?). I think maybe I’ll do like an exercise week in the life kind of thing to share what I’ve been doing to stay sane while working from home.
Track progress here – totally haven’t been doing that, but get ready, folx! It’s coming!

Mental Health
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Keeping school organized – keeping school organized by being DONE!! I have some steps I’d like to take in my professional career that I’m not sure I’ll share here, but I think I could share how I organize and stay on top of them… We’ll see. This is a tricky spot. What would you like to see?
Managing Expectations – At the start of the COVID changes, D and I decided to do things 3-5 days at a time. We just couldn’t plan for things because we didn’t know what was going to happen and we were both up to our eyeballs in stress (when you’re the operations person and all of your operations go remote…). That’s been the best move for us. 
More-than-a-month meal plan – This is probably a post all in its own. We’ve had so many changes to food since I started working at home. I’ll do that. I’ll write a post on that.
Weekly routine – We’re starting this! D and I finally started talking through our week. We haven’t really been because what even is a week anymore? But, not having the structure was stressing us both out more than we realized, so we’re moving past three days at a time.

Emotional/Spiritual Health
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Embrace the weekly plan – ready for it!
Use the free counseling at work – Telehealth for the win!
Go to church more than twice a year – Y’all. I’m super on the fence about church. I’ve been a long time non-believer who loves to go to church and the general attitudes of Jesus (per the gospels), but man. The more I see people in abusive relationships defending their abusers and then yelling at me (or friends in general yelling at me) for not being more Christian the more I’m like, “effing patriarchy” because Jesus wasn’t about any of that. Do others have this problem?
Meditate – On it. I’d like to share a little about this too, if folx are interested.
Write for fun, not just for school – That’s actually why I’m back here. I hope it will help and keep me from being so angry.

I also have a little mental list going of some projects I’d like to take on around the house. I have really been thinking about where our money goes and who benefits from it and how to change that, but I think that’s probably going to be a different post since this one was VERY long.

Thanks for sticking with it. I appreciate feedback, thoughts and intentional criticism if you have some.

It’s going to get better. Or at least, we can figure out how to be better. That’s something within our realm of control.A. Rose (1)

 

How to Budget When Your Income Fluctuates

There’s nothing like trying to find ways to save money when you don’t make 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. 

Like this topic or just want to know more? You can find the full series here


I’ve been thinking lately about the fitness / wellness posting that I’ve been doing and how it’s easy to think that’s my main priority if you don’t know me. I recently told a friend that one of my primary motivating feelings is safety: I do certain things because I want to feel safe – particularly, because I want to feel financially safe. Even exercising and eating healthy is, in some ways, about that: healthy people spend less money on doctors, etc. As I was explaining this to him, I found myself saying that is the topic that I really want to focus on here.

Changing Income

So, a little background about me: I currently am in, essentially, a salaried job. I get paid hourly, but I have enough and accrue enough PTO throughout the year that I haven’t had to go without full pay since I started working here three and a half years ago. I also work Monday – Friday, 8am – 5pm. This is really dreamy, but wasn’t always the case.

For the majority of my adult life I was either worked a shift job as my full-time job, or I was working two jobs and one of them was a shift job. So, for nine of the last 12 years, my income has changed week-to-week. When I wrote this post about budgeting when you don’t make a lot, I think that what I really wanted to talk about was how to budget when your income changes. So, let’s get started.

*Quick note: I am using whole numbers because it’s easier. You’ll want to look at your pay stubs to figure out how much gets taken out for taxes. I typically assume that about 10% is being taken out for taxes and that helps me to always come in under budget.

Figure Out Your Minimum

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Let’s say that I make $10/hour.

Usually, I work eight hours a day, five days a week. So that’s 8 x 5 = 40 hours a week. 40 x $10 = $400.

The key word there is “usually.”

Sometimes, I work as few as 5 hours a day, four days a week. Sometimes, I work as much as 12 hours a day, six days a week.

Track back through the last six months and figure out the week you worked the least amount of hours because that was what you were scheduled for. If you worked zero hours because you were on vacation or sick, that doesn’t count.

In this example, the least I worked was 5 hours a day for 4 days a week. 5 x 4 = 20, so 20 hours a week. I make $10/hour, so 20 x $10 = $200. $200 a week for four weeks, $200 x 4 = $800.

That $800 is what I need to base my budget on.

Fixed rates

From there, I figure out what’s a fixed rate. Usually, rent is a fixed rate, or has a “base rate” if you look at your monthly statement. Some common “fixed” rates are:

  • Rent/Mortgage
  • Cable
  • Credit Card payment
  • Insurance(s)

For this example, I’m going to use even numbers because it’s easier to do math that way. Let’s say that your fixed rates look like this:

  • Rent/Mortgage: $200
  • Cable: $50
  • Credit Card payment: $20
  • Car insurance: $60
  • Renters/homeowners insurance: $40

If we add those things together, we get $370. So then, we subtract $370 from $800.

$800 – $370 = $430

Variable Rates

With the remaining $430, we want to overestimate the remaining categories of the budget. Those categories might be things like:

  • Gas
  • Food
  • Fun Money
  • Miscellaneous
  • Savings

For two people, we would divide that up to look something like this:

  • Gas: $150
  • Food: $250
  • Fun Money: $15
  • Miscellaneous: $5
  • Savings: $10

$150 + $250 + $15 + $5 + $10 = $430

Every single dollar is accounted for. That’s really important. When we don’t have things categories, we spend it on stuff we don’t need. I’m sure there’s psychology behind why we do that – and if you know why, I would love to know! I just know that when I don’t have money in a bucket, I spend it, instead of saving it.

I was told that you should pay yourself first, meaning that you should put into savings before you do anything else. I think that’s a great goal to strive toward. I also think  it isn’t always realistic. There have been many times in my life where after gas and food, I had $11 that got swept into savings. I think the important thing is to always put something – even if it’s 50 cents – into savings. This helps create the habit so that when you do have a surplus, it gets put away.

What about when I make more?

Yep. I know. The burning question.

First, it’s important to talk about why it was based on the least amount you made: You have to have a game-plan for those weeks. If you go into a week where you’re working half what you usually work with no game plan, you’re just going to be panicked the whole entire time. But if you’ve got a game plan, you can more forward just a little bit freaked, rather than full-blown panicking. Ya feel?

So, in the example, we said usually, I work eight hours a day, five days a week. So that’s 8 x 5 = 40 hours a week. 40 x $10 = $400. $400 per week for four weeks… $400 x 4 = $1600.

That’s literally double.

What I did that saved my tail is that I doubled up on the things with variable rates (and actually sometimes quadruple the miscellaneous category) and instead of doubling the fixed rate items, I tossed that into savings. Let me show you what the original budget looked like and then I’ll show you what it looks like with double the income.

Original, based on making $800 per month:

  • Rent/Mortgage: $200
  • Cable: $50
  • Credit Card payment: $20
  • Car insurance: $60
  • Renters/homeowners insurance: $40
  • Gas: $150
  • Food: $250
  • Fun Money: $15
  • Miscellaneous: $5
  • Savings: $10

All those things together, $200 + $50 + $20 + $60 + $40 + $150 + $250 + $20 + $15 + $5 = $800.

Doubled, based on making $800 per month:

  • Rent/Mortgage: $200
  • Cable: $50
  • Credit Card payment: $20 + $20 = $40 (I’m assuming $20 is a minimum payment)
  • Car insurance: $60
  • Renters/homeowners insurance: $40
  • Gas: $150
  • Food: $250 + $250 = $500
  • Fun Money: $15 + $15 = $30
  • Miscellaneous: $5 + $15 = $20
  • Savings: $25 + 485 = $510

All those things together, $200 + $50 + $40 + $60 + $40 + $150 + $500 + $30 + $20 + $485= $1600.

So, those may not be super realistic numbers because probably your car insurance is more than $60 per month. And, maybe there’s a month you have three kids birthdays in a row so you need to put less in fun / savings and more into miscellaneous. Also, if you have debt hanging out on your credit score, you may opt to throw money there rather than into savings. Whatever, you do, make sure that money is assigned a name.

Also, I understand that things are not going always be as clean as it just doubling. I recommend adding more money to food first and then adding to the other categories because food lasts the longest (longer than a fun night out, for example).

The trick is to not add too much (so that extra is going into savings) and to spend to your limit.

I know it feels weird to put money into savings when you have a hole in your shoe and haven’t gone out to eat in three months. Your savings account is what keeps you from literally becoming homeless if you get sick, lose your job or your car dies. Your savings account handles the big picture while the rest of your budget is about the day-to-day details.

Hopefully, this process, done enough months in a row will make it so that you don’t have to borrow against the future.

How Can You Possibly Spend that Much on Food?

The answer is: not eating out.

You totally could spend double your budget by eating out, but then when your income suddenly plummets, you and your family will be very hungry.

So, if you all of a sudden have double the amount to spend on food, buy extra of things that go in the freezer – meats and frozen fruits and veggies, not pizza rolls. I also highly recommend that you purchase things like cough syrup and stomach aids when you have extra – those things sneak up on us when we’re sick and so it’s wise to have them in the house. Especially if being sick means you’re not working!

Take stock of your life and figure out what you use often – or what you don’t use often that is a quarter full. Things like salt and spices keep for a really long time, so buy an extra.

Spend ahead as best you can and when you’re maxed out on kitchen space, I also recommend buying for holidays way ahead of time, especially for adults. If you have space, I also encourage you to buy extra shampoo, soap (of all kinds – body, dish, laundry), socks, underwear and even shoes if you have a kind you love. My father buys shirts on sale and saves them until one he’s already wearing has a hole in it. Things like reusable travel containers also help cut down on disposable sandwich bags, etc. The same with washcloths instead of paper towels.

If, at the end of the month, you’ve spent $450 instead of $500, go out to eat if you want. Or put it into savings. Either one is fine – I’m not going to judge you and you shouldn’t either.

This Post Left Me with 1,000 Question

I feel you. I tried to keep this as simple as possible, but I know it’s not easy. I would love to hear questions, feedback and corrections!

You can comment down below, email me at intricatelyimperfect@gmail.com or DM me on Instagram.

I would absolutely LOVE to do an entire post of just your questions about money!

Happy saving, my friends!A. Rose (1)

2020 Intentions

One of my dearest friends referred to her plans for the near year as “Intentions” rather than “Resolutions” and I find that phrasing much more appealing. I actually “resolve” to do many things throughout the course of the year and, as a result, I’ve always had a hard time setting any “New Years Resolutions.” This feels much more accurate.

Physical Health

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The first bit surrounds the idea of physical health. In the last few years, you may remember, I had my gallbladder removed, experimented with an elimination diet and sought peace surrounding the idea of eating in new and different ways. I’ve had an easier process than many individuals, but I am still learning – always learning!

Last summer I ran from my apartment (3.28 miles) to my parents in 42 minutes. My goal for the start of summer is to be able to get there in 32 minutes. I need to take some weight off in order to do that, so I’ve switched up my meal plan, have been trying to walk for my entire lunch break, and go to the gym three times a week. I met with a personal trainer through a really cool program at the university I work with and she’s creating a plan for me. I think I’ll try to keep a record of it here or on Instagram.

Summary:
Eating more plants and lean protein
Walking for entire lunch break
Gym three times a week
Track progress here

Mental Health

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If you’ve been here for a while, you know that some of how I keep myself from having a total breakdown from overload is by being really super organized. You might also know that I think being organized doesn’t save you from the crap life throws at you. This semester, I’ve come up with a couple strategies that I think I’ll detail once I’ve used them for longer. I’m sticking with the class management technique that I talked about here. I’ve also started meal planning for more than a month at a time and I’m working on creating a weekly routine.

Summary:
Keeping school organized
Managing Expectations
More-than-a-month meal plan
Weekly routine

Emotional / Spiritual Health

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I really wish this wasn’t my most challenging category, but it is.
I could have lumped this in with mental health, but I like things in threes, so here we are.
What I’ve come to figure out is that none of it is separate. That hour-long lunch break walk is as much about physical health as it mental and spiritual. Creating a weekly routine is what will help me take a sabbath day. I want to challenge myself to meditate and do yoga more. There are so many things that are about the spirit that I put to the bottom of the list. And so my real intention is to stop doing that. Here’s my little plan for that:

Summary
Embrace the weekly plan
Use the free counseling at work
Go to church more than twice a year
Meditate
Write for fun, not just for school

Summary of the summaries

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I’m working my way back to blogging regularly and I hope I can use it as a way to hold myself accountable through the last stages of my graduate program. There’s this myth that your education needs to be this insufferably hard, unkind dragon that you have to slay. I don’t think that needs to be the case, and so I’m going to make sure it isn’t.

A. Rose (1)

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:

tv cabinet second draft

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?

tv cabinet third draft

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:

floor plan

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)