Friday, July 8, 2011

The case for family meetings

"Wait, I didn't know you were going out tonight. What are we to do about dinner?"

"Well it's not like I overdrew our account on purpose. We needed those things!"

"Oh really, and how was I supposed to know I needed to do that? I'm not a mind reader!"

Any of these questions familiar in your home? Possibly with more passion and expletives? :) It's common for couples and families to have miscommunication, especially around finances and schedules. But I have a simple suggestion to help get everyone on the same page -- weekly family meetings!

Stop rolling your eyes, I'm serious. They don't have to be long, they don't have to be boring, but if they cover some basic household management topics, you can prevent a lot of confusion and irritation later. My husband and I try to meet every Sunday for 30 minutes or so. When my sister was living with us for awhile, she also joined our meetings. The cats are optional attendees (sometimes they do have grievances to report, ha ha). If we had kids, I'd make them join us too.

Our typical family meeting (or family check-in, if the word "meeting" makes you break out in hives) covers these basic topics and gives us a chance to voice any concerns, make requests for the household, etc.:
  • The F.U. (Financial Update) - how much $ in our accounts, upcoming bills and expenses for next week, etc. We sometimes transition this into larger financial goals, such as discussing life insurance or investments, or a big purchase we want to make.
  • Where's Waldo (scheduling) - overview of each person's schedule for the week so there are no surprises later (in theory) and meals can be planned more easily
  • Keep It Clean (chores) - if you split chores amongst family members, this is a good time to get everyone to agree to the schedule and make adjustments if needed
  • Making Progress (goals) - we like to set family or household goals once a year, and then check-in occasionally, like when and where we want to take our next trip or the next home improvement project we want to tackle. Meetings are a great time to set priorities!
  • Plus any other topics regarding the household

We've been doing this for over five years now and find it works well for us. We always know there will be time to talk about things on Sunday, even if we have busy weeks and feel like we've hardly seen each other. And I'm never in the dark about how much money we have (my hubby handles all of our finances but that doesn't mean I don't need to know the information - it's my money too!)

Do you have a creative approach for staying on top of finances and schedules for your family?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lessons learned from our garage sale -- and a side benefit

This past holiday weekend, my hubby and I had a garage sale to help clear out clutter in the basement and his shop, and to earn some extra money for summer fun. Lately we've had renewed enthusiasm for streamlining our home. This quote (from Whole Living magazine) was part of our inspiration: Don't think of de-cluttering as emptying your home, you're filling it with possibility. Sounds nice, doesn't it?

We learned a few things this weekend that I wanted to share. First, a holiday weekend is not the best time for a garage sale! Both Saturday and Sunday were rather slow, although we did still make nearly $200 so that's nice. We're going to try again next weekend since we still have stuff we want/need to sell -- and we're going to add MORE stuff from our parents' homes.

And that's where our second lesson comes in: you need to have a balance of "nice" stuff and "cheap crap." We had many compliments on our items, but very few buyers. A lot of our items were "too nice" (in other words, more than $10)...and there wasn't enough low-end stuff for people to feel like they were really getting a deal. Many people came specifically for books, CDs, and DVDs of which we had little to none. We will make some changes this weekend and add more small, cheap stuff, and see how we do.

The third lesson I learned is to put on sunblock! :) Standing in the driveway talking to people I managed to get a nasty burn on my lower left leg...oops!

We also learned that having something large, eye-catching, and funny out by the road helps attract people. We had cars stop in the middle of the road to laugh at our drum-playing gorilla! Unfortunately no one purchased either item...or maybe that is fortunate, as we can use him as our mascot again this weekend.

And finally, the side benefit to garage sales: you really get to know your neighbors! It gives them an easy excuse to come over and chat, and often you find hobbies and interests in common as they look through your stuff. My husband and I talked about how we didn't know any neighbors names until our sale last year...and how if you're moving, while it's good to clear stuff out beforehand, having a garage sale a few months after you move to a new neighborhood is a great way to introduce yourself and get to know people. And hopefully make some money too!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

We all fall down...

We all have those times when life seems to run ahead, just out of our grasp. We stretch and stumble a little trying to catch up. We may even fall down. But no matter how hard we fall or how long we lay there in a daze, the important thing is to get back up, dust off, and try again!

As I dust myself off and jump back into the world of blogging, I want to apologize for the gap. As life got hectic, some things had to "give" -- and one of those things was blogging. I was lacking the energy and focus, but now I'm back -- re-energized, re-invigorated, and with lots of fun organizing and design related fun to talk about :)

A good friend of mine is going on her first-ever international trip today. Yes, today! She's probably killing time in O'Hare right now waiting for her flight to Germany. Her questions as she prepared were actually a main source of inspiration for me re-starting my blog. I provided her with a few tips and a packing list...and thought, others might be interested in this too! So stay tuned...


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Minimalist inspiration

Lately I've been drawn to reading blogs about minimalism and the spirituality of living simply. I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you for inspiration -- including this interview with Miss Minimalist on Castles in the Air. This is my first introduction to Miss Minimalist, aka Francine Jay, and I've already put her on my list of role models. I share some of her dreams and passions, like living in a foreign country, writing, and travel -- and it's always good to find others doing what you want to do so you can learn from them! I love the fact that she always leaves a weekend bag half-packed so that she's always ready to go traveling - in her own city or abroad - on a moment's notice. She is living proof that living minimally doesn't mean going without, it means only having the things you really need and make you happy.

Other fave blogs currently include the ever-popular Zen Habits (Leo recently did a thought-provoking post on why to not exchange Christmas presents) and The Middle Finger Project (with the best tagline: rejecting the status quo & rebelling against mediocrity). I've also been inspired by Danielle's advice at White Hot Truth. Where have you found inspiration lately?

Happy reading!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pantry Update -- Change is a Good Thing

About two months ago I decided to tackle our pantry area and get it back under control. I'm happy to report that this project was a success -- and was completed several weeks ago I'm just being lazy with the blog post ;-)

What I'm most excited about is the "extra" space we now have. We owned an extra set of black wire shelves that had been sitting outside collecting dust and a few BBQ odds and ends. By bringing these shelves inside we doubled our pantry space, without spending money (I love free projects!). That means there's now space for when I go on crazy Costco runs and stock up! No more re-organizing the pantry every time I shop -- which usually meant not re-organizing at all, but rather piling things haphazardly and setting things on the floor until there was room.

I've read a number of books on organizing and one of the key take-aways from most -- plan for future use and be ready and willing to adapt your area/system if you need to. If you only set up your system for now and are unwilling to change it, then as life unfolds and you acquire more things, the whole system falls apart! And then if you're like me, you blame yourself for the system failing. It's not your fault you couldn't forsee everything. Just be willing to adapt your system and you'll be fine.
For months I was in denial that I needed more space in the pantry. No, no, I can make do with what we have - I just need to organize it better. I finally came to my senses and am very happy with the results! And now to get a better system for the BBQ tools outside...
Happy organizing,