Sunday, October 9, 2016

Minimalism is HARD!

After years of being physically unable to do the type of things I used to, I felt my house was beginning to look like something from Hoarders.

After the move from Connecticut, I felt suffocated by the stuff around me.  I was so fed up of bumping into this tote or that I finally snapped.  I told everyone around me, "Don't be surprised when this place starts  looking like some Japanese house with nothing in it."

But trying to go minimalist is HARD.  There are some serious choices you have to make about what goes  and what stays.  In addition, you have to rope your children into it too.  They are not always willing to part with their things no matter how much reason or bribery exists.

I told myself I needed this.  I needed to simplify my life as much as I could. Dealing with a chronic illness is hard.  Dealing with a chronic illness, teens, tweens, and too much stuff is harder.  I want to live smarter not harder for longer.

The first thing I had to tell myself was to go slow.  It took me 20+ years to accumulate this stuff so i needed to be patient and give myself time to go through it all.  I decided to do one room at  time.  Go through every single item in that room and make a split second decision on everything.  Then go through again and fine tune.  I made myself open every single thing.  Drawers, totes, trunks, bins, bags, boxes - EVERYTHING. 

I came up with the following criteria for getting rid of things.
1-Is it broken or torn?
2-Is it outdated or unfashionable?
3-Does it fit right now or has it fit in the last year?
4-Have I used it in 6mos to a year?
5-Do I really like it?

I managed to donate  six large totes to the Veteran's Thrift store by using this method.  I never realized how much useless and outdated things we had.  I still have a ways to go but the end is in sight.  Thanks to some useful information I gathered from other Pinterest pinners  and the links below, it won't be long until the makeover is complete!

Have you gone or are you thinking about going minimalist?  What are your tips or tricks?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Money Tips

One thing that happens when your income is slashed is that you become money savvy real quick.  You start looking at alternative ways to get done what needs to get done.  That certainly was the case for us. 

Now, I consider myself pretty frugal.  I've been called Scrooge by family members because I'm not the type to spend unwisely.  Every major purchase is well thought out and considered over a long time span.  In fact, I resisted buying a flat screen tv for YEARS until it was fried during an electrical storm.

I had to make some major cuts in every arena of my life.  I will do separate posts with tips on each section.  This posting will just be about food.

The first thing I did was look back at my expenses over a two month period.  I looked at what we purchased and where we purchased it from.  Then I did some comparison shopping to see 1-if we could get the same item at a different store for less 2-if we could get a generic brand of equal quality.  The answer to both was yes.  Instead of shopping at the big name stores, I hit up the neighborhood 'discount' grocery stores.  I saved almost $200-300 doing this.  When you have active kids with big appetites this is HUGE!  I also discovered that the neighborhood shops sometimes had ethnic spices and sauces that you couldn't get at the big name stores.  The stores that became my favorite were Aldi, PriceRite, and Sav-A-Lot.

Another thing I did was make a monthly menu with a weekly theme.  This helped in several ways.  1-I only had to buy ingredients necessary to make a certain type of cuisine.  2-I knew what I needed at the beginning of the month and could do all my shopping all at once.  3-It cut down on the amount of time spent figuring out what was for dinner.  It was all laid out.  4-It made meals less boring because we weren't eating the same things over and over and over....

Alot of people have food in their cabinets just sitting there.  I was no exception.  Now I go on Pinterest and try to find recipes for the ingredients I have on hand.  There is an app that helps with this too.  The name escapes me as of this writing.   I've started letting the cabinets get nearly bare before going shopping.  This has helped us cut down on food waste AND made us more creative with our meals.

Something else that has helped is to divide and conquer.  When we go groceries, each person gets part of the list and goes off.  They have to evaluate the cost of their choices and see if it is the better value for their money.  I don't recommend this for kids under age 10.  But for my 11 and 15 year old it works well.  They are learning several real world math skills all in one trip as well as life skills they'll need later on.  It takes some strain off me especially when I'm having a flare up.  They also have a day they have to cook a full meal for the family so they learn how to menu plan as well.  Win-win. 

So to recap:
1-Look at spending habits
2-Kompare shop
3-Look for generic/cheaper alternatives
4-Make a monthly menu
5-Try a theme week
6-Let the cabinets get nearly bare
7-Get kids in on it
8-I didn't mention it because I don't do it, but coupons are always good too!

What other tips and tricks have you tried to reduce your grocery bill?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Japanese update

I must confess-I quit my study of Japanese for a short time.  I was burnt out and felt I was getting nowhere.  Not to mention the health stuff, I was homeschooling both kids, and other external factors - I just had no interest or motivation in studying. 

However, I DID keep listening and using the little Japanese words and phrases I knew on a daily basis.  I restarted my studying last summer I believe using a different approach.  Instead of using expensive texts, grade leveled kanji and vocab lists, I started watching videos on YouTube, using Pinterest more, websites that discussed grammar, and vocab lists based on frequency of use in media.

By doing this a few things happened.
1-I was able to speak faster because I knew how words were strung together in a sentence.  Thus, I was able to start off with simple sentences then make them more complex.  Plus, I focused on topics I wanted to talk about - Movies, grocery shopping - you know, stuff important to adult parent types.

2-By focusing on words by frequency, you eliminate words you may never use.  In addition, you see the kanji and kana strung together to make words instead of just focusing on this kanji symbol means blank.  You see the kanji in a word and go, "Oh.  This word is .....".  I also found a frequency list that separated them by part of speech.  I alphabetized the list in Excel and this helped tremendously. 

3-I found an old series on YouTube called "Let's Learn Basic Japanese."  It follows the life of a foreigner named Yan in Japan.  It's a little dated BUT the lessons were very helpful and more suited to adult learners than "Erin Speaks" or NHK's "Easy Japanese" which I recommend for kids.

Another thing I did was use  It's an online dictionary.  You may type in English, Japanese, or Romaji and it will pull up everything under the sun for you.  I also took repeated words from manga I read in English and looked up how to say them in Japanese.

I'm a long way from being where I want to be but this has helped me get there faster and helped me to stay motivated more as I have seen more growth.  What about you?

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mixed connective Tissue Disease - My story

So, if you read some of my previous writings regarding my health you know that for a long time I was  suffering with no idea of what was happening to my body.  I went from one specialist to another, having this lab done, this test done, this scan done and nobody knew nothing.  I was angry, frustrated, and physically weak.  To say I was tired of it all would be an understatement.

Unable to work and provide for my hellspawn, I gave up and went back to my family in Connecticut.  It was a hard decision to make.  I thought, "It's okay.  We'll make the most of it."  It was the worst of it.  Truly.  My extended family was less than helpful and my social life was...non existent.  My new primary made me feel like everything I was feeling was in my head and he and my pulmonologist said that I needed to just change my diet and exercise more.  But I started having MORE things happen.  The numbness and tingling in my hands and feet grew worse, my joints ached so bad I couldn't walk up stairs, I couldn't lift more than 5lbs, I kouldn't hold anything in my left hand, and I was always tired no matter how much I slept.  After the initial onset in 2012, I had to suffer from spring 2013 to the fall/winter of 2014.

I had some labs done and the doctor said some stuff showed up in my labs and he was sending me to a rheumatologist.  By this time, my joints ached so bad I went to bed with a heating pad and took pain pills just to get through the day with no pain.  I kouldn't stand for long periods or sit in a shair.  Kooking was out, playing with my kids was out, forget doing my daughter's hair or tying shoes.

The rheumatologist was more friendly and compassionate.  She listened to everything I was saying.  I told her I felt like maybe I was wasting her time and it was all in my head.  She said, "No.  There's something going on and we'll figure it out."  We did blood work and she told me I had high markers for rheumatoid arthritis.  I was given some new meds and sent along for a follow up.  

Around that time, I also broke out into a rash on my face, neck, shoulders, and my hair was falling out in patches.  When I went to the dermatologist he felt it was something else-dermatomyositis.  Some photos were taken and he opened up communication with my rheumatologist.   Between the two of them, the meds I was given were diskontinued and a new round started.

Winter in Connecticut can be a beast and that winter was no joke.  My hands turned red, white, and blue.  My primary said it was Raynaud's and suggested ski gloves.  What the heck!?  How can one 37 year old have so many things NO-ONE ever heard of?

I noticed my eyes were really dry.  I attributed it to the cold and dry air.  Nope.  At my next appointment, the rheumatologist did a test and said I had Sjorgrens.  Another diagnosis.  Another disease.  Another specialist.  Another medication.  She did another panel of tests on me that was sent to Mayo clinic.  At my next appointment (Feb 2015-I think), she explained I had Mixed Connective Tissue disease.  It's an autoimmune disease in which several diseases are putting around inside all at once.  I was told I also had markers for lupus and that either the lupus or the rheumatoid arthritis caused my lung issue and hospitalization in 2012.  She said it doesn't happen often, but the organs can be affected long before the joints are affected.

So great.  When I do it,  I do it big.  I get stuff no-one ever heard of in health class or most of their science classes.  So, what do I do?  Start searching the internet for any and every shred of information I could.  Some of it was scary.  Some of it was enlightening.  But almost 3 years later-I finally had some answers. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Time truly does fly.  I didn't realize I'd been M.I.A for so long.  My apologies!  So many things happened.  I will do all that in another post. 

For now, I'm in the Sunshine State again (for now) and things are finally getting on track.  There are many things in the works and I will be posting something new every week or two from here on!  Bear with me.