Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Matters

Part of the grocery shopping I did today.

Were you expecting me to say dishes and laundry?

They are important.

In the Tightwad Gazette, years ago, I once read that dishes and laundry were the two most important chores to stay on top of. It makes sense. They are always needed and it's a lot of work to catch up all at once. It is much less stressful to stay caught up by doing a little at a time, a lot of the time. I have since learned, though, that dishes and laundry are always needed--and that means they do get done. You really can't ignore them for too long, even when they pile up, it is always possible to do a load and get what you need.

And, hopefully, as we go along in this process, I will get these chores done before we need clean dishes and clothes.

But, for now, while we begin again, we have to figure out what's important. What, given the limited amount of time available, really needs to be done?

For me, there are two other chores essential for running a home and they are all but invisible. They aren't even related to cleaning! These magical stress-busting chores? Meal planning and keeping track of our expenses.

Planning our meals (and then shopping for the ingredients) makes life immeasurably easier. I have gone a few weeks without meal planning in the years I have been doing it--and I always feel anxious and unsettled. After work, I am much too tired to even think of standing at the stove and cooking, never mind trying to figure out what to eat and whether we have the ingredients on hand. (And then, of course, there are all those dishes to wash before I can even start!)

When I make my menu plan, I like to take into account what's on sale, whether I am home or not and who needs to prepare it, and especially in summer, the weather (too hot and we don't use the oven). In the winter, I also take into account our evening activities so I can plan something quick if the window for preparing and eating is narrow.

As for keeping track of our expenses, it is essential for paying down our debt--for if I don't know how much I have to work with, I can't send a payment. I have tried to "wing it" in the past. I would look at the balance in the bank account, roughly figure out the expected expenses coming up before the next pay cheque and send off something. Inevitably, I would send off too much and wound up using the credit card to buy groceries or something stupid. So, a detailed plan is essential. But there's no "trigger" for this activity. We could happily ignore knowing what we spend on what and just pay the minimums on our debt--many people do. But we decided we wanted to be debt-free, so paying attention is essential.

Gretchen Rubin has written a book about habits (in the process of being published) --and even better, she has distilled it into 21 sentences.

One of the pillars of forming habits is (as she writes),

Monitoring: You manage what you monitor, so find a way to monitor whatever matters.

The power of keeping track is truly amazing. We really do spend less--all across the board--whenever I record our expenses every single week.

So, two things. These two things take priority over all else as I endeavour to pick up the running of our lives and become intentional again.

How about you? Do you have essential tasks? Are they close to invisible, too?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Starting Again

Hello, my friends.

It seems I took the summer off!

School starts up here just after Labour Day weekend (so, on September 2nd.) That means that when I'll be home there won't be anyone here but me and the dog. I am looking forward to my solitude again! The only way I have been able to create it this summer has been to chain myself to the computer and read.

The first and second of four.

I've been participating a lot over at You Look Fab, as well, pursuing a new hobby of buying, returning, and wearing great clothes. I've done the usual total submersion thing I do whenever I am learning something new, and now that I've come up for air, I find I need to do a few things around the house.

Egads. Such a lot to do.

Today, I am focusing on the basics: dishes and laundry.

The second of three loads done.

I want to come up with a plan for maintaining the house so that, when I have a few hours to myself, or a day off, it doesn't make my skin crawl or call me to do lots of impossibly time consuming tasks when all I want to do is rest and relax.

I'll let you know how that goes, if it goes at all.
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