Plan Ahead

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it is to plan ahead. For everything. Am I perfect at it? By no means. But this I know, when I do not plan, I do not do. And when I do not do, let me tell you, it is a slippery slope my friends!

When I fail to plan, or fail to follow my plan, things seem to set off on a collision course to chaos.  And it is never good.

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I am a note taker. And I have planners – I love my planners! I like to make them messy and use colors and stickers, quotes scripture, and record my dreams and goals.  I enjoy making lists, and checking them off as I complete each task. I like looking back over the month to record my successes and determine where I could use a nudge the following month.

Some people may think this doesn’t sound like simplicity. Well, for me it is just that – a method to keep on top of my priorities and make sure that things get done. Because I am way too good at multi-tasking myself into an impatient, forgetful, angry, hurried, harried, and burnt out mess. Which is when I am the farthest from simplicity, and left feeling like a hypocrite for even entertaining the idea that I can blog on the subject!

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Amazingly, however, with a little bit of planning I can be on time. I can have everything I need, and will remember to dress for that afternoon meeting. I won’t forget that I need to mail that package, pick-up food for lunches, or complete the activities for my study. I can have dinner prepared for my family, not get road-rage in the traffic on the way home, and get my girl to dance lessons with time to spare.

There are other ways to plan ahead as well. By figuring out a weekly menu you can shop for what you need, cook from what you already have, or thaw meat ahead of time. You can also plan meals in your crockpot, make dishes ahead, cook and freeze double batches for later, or prepare freezer meals months in advance.

Some folks like to have a specific day for each activity they need to complete, like a specific cleaning task or laundry on one day, errands on another, decluttering or bill paying on yet another. I am trying to develop a plan like this that will work for me. Not quite there yet with my crazy schedule.

Recently I did sit down with my planner and block out the time that I spend each day and on what activities. I’m working on creating margin in my life and have been really surprised at how I have been able to do so. Not loads of extra time, but a bit here and there.  With careful planning and smarter use of what time I’ve got, I am enjoying a bit more margin.

We all have 168 hours in a week. 42 of mine are spent sleeping. 50 are used up working or commuting to work. 25 are unscheduled obligations (ie: Laundry, cleaning, decluttering, meal prep, gardening, doing dishes, grocery shopping, running errands …) and 12 are spent during scheduled obligations like my daughter’s dance lessons, church and church activities, chauffeuring or volunteering.

That leaves 39 marginal hours. Sounds like a lot, I know. Most of them, however are between 8-10 PM. The rest are weekends which seem to have a way of filling up too easily. So, I’m being careful what I allow to encroach upon my time. It is precious and I am not living a life of simplicity when I let it get away from me. Time to be more mindful of time!

S – Spend less

I – Identify your priorities

M – Minimize your possessions

P – Plan ahead

L –

E –

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Coming To Terms With The Capsule Wardrobe…

I can’t stop thinking about the capsule wardrobe. I’ve been trolling Pintrest and have found lots of great ideas. I’m still a little scared to try it. Really afraid to let go of some of my favorite comfy clothes!  Not to mention that it is definitely a bit intimidating with the extreme cold we have been experiencing in the North East this winter.

I have loosely mentioned before that I’ve given thought to trying it on a trial basis.  I actually did do this with my work clothes for one week – allowing myself to come up with as many outfits as I could from just a handful of pre-selected clothing items. It was kind of fun.

So, while it still strikes terror in me (maybe that wording is a little harsh! Lol!) to let go of my stash of after-work-cozy-clothes, I think I am ready to challenge myself with a little wardrobe experiment (Cheesy pun intended ;).

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I got to thinking about the steps I used to take while decluttering my daughter’s room when she was younger. Naturally, she would never want to let go of any of her beloved stuffed animals. It was tough. They were all her favorites for one reason or another.

So, we would set aside the ones that she played with on a regular basis, or couldn’t sleep without, and tucked the others away in a bag to store in the basement.

I was pretty up front with her that we would leave them there for 6 months or a year, and if she ever missed one and needed it, it was right there and I would get it for her. And I would have been happy to. But I don’t think she ever asked for them. She was always happy and played with the few favorites she chose, enjoying the fact that her room and bed were much less cluttered. In the end, after the designated amount of time had passed, we would donate the stored toys to bless someone else.

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I can’t help but think that this same concept could work for me with my closet and dresser. In fact, I could store in the basement whatever items don’t make it into the test-capsule wardrobe, and allow my teen to be the keeper of them. I won’t even look and allow myself to be tempted. In fact, she would probably love having control over that! Lol! And in 6 months to a year – if I haven’t needed any of them – time to let go and bless another!

I would feel much better about doing it this way.  Just as not all methods of simplifying are for everyone, I am not ready to part with everything in my clothing repertoire without a trial run to see if it is for me. I may find that simply downsizing is enough and after a month (or whatever amount of time I choose to test this minimal-wardrobe concept) – I might ask myself why I didn’t do this sooner!? We won’t know until I try.

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The Ever-Tempting Capsule Wardrobe

For a while now I have been kicking around the idea of creating a capsule wardrobe. I am in awe of those who have managed to reduce their full wardrobe down to a bare minimum of pieces.

My closet has been thinned and the dresser gone through a few times over the last year. I am preparing to do so again soon.  So, I have been contemplating the subject yet another time.

It seems that I should be able to manage this. I am fashionable by no means. I don’t collect shoes, and I don’t often buy new clothes for myself. It wouldn’t be difficult to manage with the wardrobe that I’ve got with no worries of pining for the latest styles and accessories. So, what’s the issue then? Well, there actually are a few things that have me stumped.

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For example – we live in the North East where we experience all 4 seasons – during which we require different types of appropriate apparel. Another thing is the fact that I work in an office, but my personal style “at home” is very sporty and relaxing… I’m talking yoga pants and hoodies or flannel shirts, jeans and tennis shoes, or boots.  And I do own exercise clothes which I, personally, consider to be vital to my motivation and attempts at maintaining a regular exercise routine.

Some may argue that you can just wear a t-shirt and shorts, which is fine, but it is still another piece of clothing – so, why not? Anyway, my point here is that I don’t desire to have a capsule wardrobe, and be getting sweaty by exercising in business attire, because I will only “allow” myself so many articles of clothing.

7AEED3C6-7EF9-4BC3-BE7D-27D3AC0D0FFEAnother set of wardrobe consider-ations that have me stumped are my 5 gardens. I spend a good amount of time in the warmer months working hard and getting soiled in my extra “work” clothes that are ok to ruin.

So, while loving the idea of a simplified wardrobe, I think that what you do is simply a matter of personal taste. That’s the beauty of a simplified life – there are no requirements. There is no contest. A simplified life can look many different ways. And each new endeavor that you take on to simplify should reflect your own personal style and values.

So, if you are young, fashionable and living in a downsized city apartment, a capsule wardrobe may be just the thing for you! Go for it! And let me know how it goes.

776DF8E4-1F81-4555-AA4A-45C420FBA9FBOn the other hand, if you are a rural suburban mom experiencing all four seasons, who works in an office, attends fundraising functions, drives the carpool, does volunteer work, and gets dirty on the weekends while decluttering the garage, hiking in the woods, or shlepping a wheelbarrow and shovel… maintaining a few smaller wardrobes with select items just might work for you.

So don’t be discouraged. Assess what you have, what you can live without, and what is essential in your wardrobe. Then dig in!

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Minimize Your Possessions

Perhaps the most obvious accomplishment in living a simpler lifestyle is to minimize the amount of possessions you own. This is one of my favorite parts of moving toward a simplified existence. I don’t generally find it difficult to let go of what I really don’t need. And there is nothing better than that feeling of peace, space, and relief to walk into a room that has been newly decluttered, cleaned and organized.

But what about the hard E1172DC3-76F8-43C2-8723-52FF007C2F09questions? What happens when others in your family don’t share the same ease of letting go? Or the shared goal of picking up and putting away? It’s not an easy thing. Sometimes it is just too overwhelming. I struggle with this in my own family more often than not. I’ve found that the only thing to do is lead by example. Continue to declutter my own things, clean up and find places for what’s left, and hope that my family is inspired to follow suit. (Then giving praise and encouragement with small accomplishments.) Sometimes it works. Sometimes… I move onto the next thing and hope for the best when it comes around again.

As I’ve mentioned before, I habitually ask myself a few simple questions when decluttering any area of my home, regardless of wether it’s one drawer in my nightstand, a bedroom closet, or a larger project like an entire room or the garage.

  • Do I really need this?
  • Will it bring me closer to my goal?
  • Do I have another one like it, or something that can be used in its place?
  • How often do I actually use it? Do I even use it?
  • Can I borrow one instead?

8A789C89-BF34-42B3-AC32-EB569A09DCE9Finding that you don’t truly need it or love it? Box it up to send off to the Vets, or place it in the car for the next drop off. Don’t look back.

I have been working temporarily from home for the first time this week and I have to say how much I have had the itch to sink my efforts into another round of decluttering. But alas, I had to keep my head down and focus on other priorities! Still, the New Year is coming and I am dreaming of fresh starts. Aren’t you? Let’s make it SIMPLE and encourage one another along the path to our goals in this new year!

S-pend significantly less

I-dentify your priorities

M-inimize your possessions

P-

L-

E-

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The Immense Power of One Simple Word

For a number of years I have been practicing the discipline of One Word. One Word is the simple act of selecting a single word (not a phrase, not even two words – One. Word.) on which to focus throughout your entire year. This has never failed to both dramatically challenge me as well as improve my life in many unexpected ways.
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Your word can be a fruit of the Spirit, a discipline, an attribute of God, or even a character trait that you wish to develop.

For me, the annual selection of this word is done prayerfully and with much meditation. I have come upon my word in various ways over the years. Sometimes it is something that weighs heavily on my heart, and I don’t want it (Fearless). But, in the same instance, cannot deny it. Other times it is something I am sorely lacking and know that I need much of to make an extensive change in my life (Joy). And still other times it is revealed to me by God through scripture, a feeling that will not go away, or repetition of a subject coming up in my life in many areas that resonates with what I have been struggling with, or seeking (Journey).

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This year my word was revealed to me early on and with little effort… Clean. Excuse me, what God? Did you mean something else?
No, Barbara, CLEAN.

Ok. I know what you’re thinking, because I was thinking it too. Oh, this can’t be right. I am focused on simplifying, decluttering, letting go… cleaning! This must be a self imposed word.

So I spent a little more time in prayer. And it was swiftly revealed to me that I need to focus, not only on cleaning my house, but in having a clean heart, a clean spirit, a clean mind. My body needs to be cared for, as His temple, through clean eating, and that there are many other ways in which I need to “clean” up my act. Well, ok then. Clean it shall be!

So, what do we do with this One Word once we have it? There are numerous ways that you can choose to focus on your word throughout the coming year. Do a word study and journal everything about your word that resonates with you. Questions about an aspect of your word? Write it down and do a little research into that, too. Do a scripture search and memorize some verses that feel right with what is being revealed to you. Pray and meditate often on how your word is moving in your life, and how you can live it out. Share your word with a group of trusted family or friends (or blog readers!)and discuss how this word is coming up in your life often, and what changes are occurring in you because of it. Jot your word down in different places so you won’t forget about it. I plan to post mine in my planner to come across unexpectedly throughout the year, just penciling it in, as well as getting creative with fancy lettering, color and stickers to remind me how vital this simple word will be to me each time I stumble across it. Remember it. Ruminate on it. Allow it to follow you throughout your days and make a conscious effort to have it at top of mind each time you are challenged. (And you will be!)

There are books that can be found on this subject if you want to know more – simply search your favorite online retailer. One Word can also easily be found and read about on the internet, through blogposts, etc. and there are even free devotionals on the YouVersion Bible app (which is always free of charge). But, if you are not a person of Christian faith, no worries! This awesome annual discipline can still be an amazing tool to focus your priorities and goals for the coming year!

Best to you all! Blessings in your One Word selection, and have a happy and healthy New Year!

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A Mary Christmas

First let me say, I promise that I am going to continue posts on the S.I.M.P.L.E. acronym after the first of the year!

For now, like many folks, our family has had much going on this holiday season and margin is tight. (Goodness how December gets away from me!) But, coming home from a Christmas gathering last night, as we passed by magical twinkling lights, whimsical inflated holiday characters, and serene nativity scenes, I found that I was smiling to myself in the car. It’s the small things that mean so much. I recounted in my mind some of the warm memories we are making in these weeks leading up to the celebration of Christ’s birth.

Beautiful hymns being sung in church and decorative lights, tucked into pine garland, swagging the balcony. Christmas cards being exchanged on the card tables where parishioners may leave greetings for one another each week. The lighting of the Advent candle wreath, and snow coming down outside so softly and quietly, blanketing the ground, and offering a sense of peace among the chaos of holiday preparations.

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Just this week we attended our daughter’s holiday chorus concert, I enjoyed my small group Christmas gathering where we shared about our word of the year and played the plastic wrap party ball game. (Several minutes of pure entertainment!)

Bowling with co-workers, decorating the tree with my daughter, petting the new puppy across the street, and visiting with an elderly neighbor. Yesterday was an ugly sweater Christmas Party with extended family – never mind we were the only ones that went all out and looked more than a little silly! It was the time spent with family catching up and sharing our joys and a little fun that made it special.

Waving at Santa as he made his annual rounds to each house around the borough, on a fire truck, to wish the kids a Merry Christmas. One very memorable time was when we moved here and they blocked the road off for our daughter so she could approach the truck, and then Santa reached down and handed her a stuffed horse.

The annual life-sized crèche is up 40F9E728-0E5A-4E52-81D9-FFF6C45EBCDEat St. John’s parish, and it isn’t Christmas until we stop by to admire it close up and marvel at the feeling of being a part of the most holy of nights. It is wonderful, and serene, and quiet. Silent and reverent, looking on at the scene and imagining all of those years ago. What it must have been like for each character depicted. What would it have been like to be there on that very night? I give pause and contemplate the true meaning of this season. It is not Santa, or all of the hustle and bustle of shopping, decorating, baking, visiting and giving. While those are all important elements of celebrating the holiday season, the true meaning is God with us. A Savior, born of the Holy Spirit by a virgin girl, not much older than my own daughter, whose lot in life was lowly. I imagine Mary’s world to have been full of simple and direct purpose. Chosen for her loyalty and trust in God’s Plan for her life. Simple, direct, and honest.

What better example of attributes could we have for the coming year? As I plan ahead and set goals  for what may come over the next 12 months I ruminate over those 3 meaningful words… Simple. Direct. Honest.  I realize that this has become the reflection of my own needs as I continue the journey toward simplicity, and I know that I want this all of the time. Not just during the holiday season when all seems magical and we’re immersed in a more giving spirit. I have come to require my day to day life, with all of its ins-and-outs, and ups-and-downs, to be a place of slowing down, shaking off all that is unnecessary.  Attitudes, grudges, over-spending, procrastination, possessions, inclinations, or whatever else is standing in the way of a simple, meaningful, more deliberate lifestyle. And I will continue to strive for simplicity through direct and honest assessment of my home and myself.

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Catching Up On Simple Pleasures

Catching up on simple pleasures this morning. I woke, again, to the purrs of our little Milly next to my pillow. Always a joy to hear that soft little vibration, and feel her tiny cold-wet nose and whiskers brush against my cheek, rousing me back to consciousness following a deep night’s rest.

As my eyes adjusted to the early morning light, I noticed a rosey glow around me and turned to face the window. I was immediately taken by the majestic sky before me and jumped from bed to snap a few photos. Just gorgeous. God’s simple gift to start my day in gratitude.

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No edits or filters used – simply our Heavenly Father’s creative touch.

It lasted only briefly as the sun lazily rose in the sky, but long enough for me to breathe the cold morning air deeply into my lungs and open my heart and mind to a fresh new day laid out before me.

I couldn’t help but pause to give thanks for the amazing beauty of this fresh morning slate. And a simple two word phrase quickly came to mind, “But God…” There is no worry, struggle, or challenge I will face today, followed by those one syllable words, that I will not have the strength to overcome.

So, I look forward, setting my eyes on my goals and knowing that there will be more beauty in my day if I am aware and open myself  up to receive it. The simple joys in life that can be missed if we are not intentional about slowing down and seeing the small pleasures in our day.

Slow your pace. Be intentional in your plans today, and each day. Make it a habit to look up and notice what’s around you. Really see it. What is right outside your front door today?

We can move through life so quickly on our personal missions, driven by our to-do list, obligations, and responsibilities. But God…

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Morning on the hill.

“From Mount Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines in glorious radiance.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭50:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The Simple Act of Being Thankful

Being grateful for what you have FAC3E2E8-1B03-4DB4-AA3B-3E1D521D7BCFin life is one of the easiest (and best!) ways to simplify. When you are genuinely happy with what you have, no matter how much or how little, you will find that you live with true contentment.

On this Thanksgiving Day, pause for a moment and think about the blessings that have been bestowed upon you. Jot them in your journal, giving thanks for the simple things that bring you joy.

Happy Thanksgiving!

  • The joy of a beautiful, frost-covered morning.
  • A soft kitty nuzzling me awake as I snuggle down deeper into the warm blankets.
  • Quiet, peaceful time to study my Bible and reflect on God’s goodness.
  • Watching my daughter become more graceful and confident as she dances on her Pointe shoes.
  • A hot, steaming cup of coffee to soothe me into a more wakened state.
  • A dear friend to share in my health and fitness quest.
  • Talking to my husband about our plans for the house and what projects to start next.
  • Knowing my mom is rising early to cook us all a lovely meal today.
  • Reaching the ability to have much contentment in the small things.

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Identifying Your Priorities

After revealing a bit about our spending habits, (in my previous post Spending Significantly Less) it makes sense to think about what our true priorities are. Not what the world dictates that they sihould be, but what matters most to you deep within your heart. If you delve in to find that your biggest and only priorities are sustenance, a few articles of clothing, and a roof over your head, congratulations! You are already a true minimalist and need to read no further. But seriously, creating a simpler life does not mean that you must let go of quality of life.

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You can have things, you can do things, and you can dream and reach goals while leading a simpler life style. You may want to pause here and jot down in your journal what you know to be some of your personal priorities. Mine look like this (in no particular order):

My faith: My faith is a tremendously important factor in who I am. In my belief system, my moral compass, and the spiritual family I have been blessed with in my church and growth group there.

My family: My days revolve around the needs and desires of my immediate family. I love them intensely and feel the pull to do so much more for them. I truly want to focus more on doing fun things with my hubby, and nurturing that delicate relationship with my teenage daughter. (And don’t even think of doing anything to cause my Mama Bear to come out!)

Hospitality & Encouragement of Others: Wouldn’t it be wonderful to honestly have an open door policy with no worries of your stuff embarrassing you? This is my number one goal for simplifying our home. I want my family to feel ensconced in peace when they are at home. I want to be able to have anyone, at anytime, stop at our house and be warmly welcomed and invited in to sit down and chat awhile. I want our home to be a refuge and a safe place for kids to hang out, and neighbors, friends, and family to relax, feel welcomed and catch-up.

Finances: Well, you already know that I am not fond of this subject. But some things that are really important to me here are spending locally, buying with less packaging, gardening to provide a supplemental food source, cooking and baking more from scratch, and learning more ways of sustainability.

Health & Wellness: Sigh. I definitely need to spend more time taking better care of myself and feeding my family healthy meals. More organization, and planning, would go a long way in this area!

Our Home: What can I say? This one’s a biggie!  This is by far the greatest obstacle to reaching my goal of a simple life. For those of you that are not aware, we made quite a downsize in our home about 4 years ago. This happened quickly and a lot of baggage (from a much larger space) came along with us to our small and cozy home, without a chance to really go through it. Oh. My.

My Work: Over the years I have spent my “life away from my family” by putting my efforts toward work at a non-profit organization. Though I still would not choose to work if I didn’t have to, it has evolved into something I can truly be proud of. Working in a non-profit that serves kids, we are making an undeniable difference in their lives. There has been considerable change, and growth, in me, as well, as I welcome new challenges and opportunities into my days. It has pulled me out of my shy turtle shell, and generated much confidence.

Unfortunately, during this season of life, despite knowing my priorities, I can never seem to stretch myself thin enough and I know I need to simplify further. It takes effort. It is not as easily done as simplifying sounds to be. I find that, like restoring a long neglected home, once you begin to tear down one wall, you find everything else that it effects and the project seems to hinge on so much more.

Simplifying life is much like that. But it’s time to dig in and get serious about our renovation project. For example, last night it was late and I was lying on the couch watching reruns of Law & Order. I thought to myself – I could accomplish so much more if I wasn’t so exhausted all of the time. Immediately I was convicted with the reality that if I went to bed earlier I would have more energy. How could I go to bed earlier with all that needs done? I could plan better. Utilizing my planner and scheduling in time and ideas for things of importance – and going back to it to look at and do what I have written down!

Have you narrowed down the things that are truly important to you?  It’s time to break them down further into segments of action that you can begin to work toward. Those items on your list should be receiving regular attention – and if they do – will aid in moving you toward your own goals of simplicity. Let’s renovate!

I = Identify Your Priorities.

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On my teabag this afternoon. I know it’s blurry (it’s still a blur for me too) but I do want this every day. Don’t you?

For we are God’s handiwork. – Ephesians 2:10

 

 

Spend Significantly Less

What do you spend your money on besides food, clothing, shelter, utilities, tithing (if you belong to a congregation of faith), and other necessary personal or household items?

We each have our own ideals and principles for what we cannot, and should not, do without. For many it’s an education to make life better and to do something they love. For some it is travel, a substantial savings, a business, dance or music lessons, or sports for their kids, a homestead, or serious hobby… whatever it is, only you can determine the importance of it in your life and no one else should attempt to do so.

But aside from those things, What else are you sinking your hard-earned cash into? I can think of too many things I spend more than I should on, and I even consider myself to be quite frugal compared to most. I don’t need to have the latest or greatest of anything, and I like what I own to do double duty if possible. I don’t consider myself fashionable. I like sporty or classic styles, I don’t get manicures, or pay for expensive hair styles, treatments or coloring, and I genuinely enjoy the hunt of shopping second hand.

My home is not fancy, in fact it really is pretty simple, despite the fact that there is still much to declutter.

So, I have to ask myself, where does my money go and how does my house keep filling up?

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A frivolous purchase?

I don’t like to think about spending, saving, or money in general. I definitely don’t really want to write about it. But this I know, my home will never be decluttered without addressing it. Why? Because there are always purchases that can be avoided if I make myself fully aware of my spending habits. So what do I spend on that I could focus on changing?  Various things – from the occasional iced mocha, impulse purchases when I’ve had a rough week and feel that I “deserve it,” to fast food in a pinch (too often, I’m afraid), and fun treats from online shopping.

Most of the time I really do have a plan for my purchases, however, and I get better at spending less every day. Especially when all that I have given to charity, recycled, shared with a friend, or thrown into the trash is fresh on my mind! Not to mention the things I’ve unearthed that I’d forgotten I had or just couldn’t find.

Throughout my life I have learned to get by, and be content with, whatever financial season I find myself in. Money truly is not everything.

Actually shopping, for me, is often like decluttering. (Say again?) Yes. Like decluttering. I look at an object and I subconsciously ask myself similar questions as I do when I am purging my closet, garage, or any room in my house. Do I really need this? Will it bring me closer to my goal? Do I have another one like it, or something that can be used in its place? How often would I actually use it? Can I borrow one instead?

And one final thought… I find that with most things, planning ahead is paramount. If I know what I am going into a store for, and stick with just those items, I will save money. If I know I need something and I plan to borrow, I save money. And if I ask myself key questions when I find that I am contemplating a purchase, I will ultimately save money as well.

So, S – Spend Less.

1. What do you spend your money on?

2. What are your spending priorities?

3. What are some unnecessary purchases you know you could cut out?

4. Do you ask yourself questions,  not only when you purge, but when you purchase?

5. How can you plan ahead so you don’t splurge?

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“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭NLT‬‬