Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Snowball Effect

This past week, we had some work done in our master bathroom by outside people, as the work was well past The Executioner's and my skills (which doesn't say too much in the way of home improvement!).  Now, we are left with a few more basic tasks that we are willing to tackle - painting the ceiling and walls, putting in some flooring (which the contractor assured us is "SIMPLE" to do...) and then dealing with baseboards - measuring, cutting, staining, attaching.  I am excited about this project - I have said since the day we moved into this house that this is the one room I would really like to redo.  And now, thanks to the second leak in the shower, I got it!  What I didn't want to do was spend a whole bunch of money on the house right before we moved out of it - in preparation for it to sell.  So, this is a win-win for me and, er, well maybe it is just a win for me and not so much for TE - I'll let him weigh in on the situation.  But, we are not planning to move out of our house right now, so I will get to enjoy the bathroom. 

The snowball effect is this... I walk out of the bathroom and look at the hallway, which we never repainted when we moved in.  It is a disgusting color that looks like someone ate purple grapes and chocolate milk and then threw up, or something along those lines - grayish/tanish/purplish ugliness is what it boils down to.  So, said hallway could REALLY use a new coat of paint.  And then there are our floors.  The upstairs carpet is old, and should probably be taken out sooner rather than later.  In addition to that, the whole house squeaks.  My parents live in a house that was built in the 1800s and I am pretty sure our house has more squeaks than theirs does... that seems wrong to me.  And then I move into... well, you get the picture. 

The battle that rages within me is this: some of these small-ticket modifications (painting the hallway) could handily be done by TE and myself.  A coat of paint wouldn't cost THAT much.  It would be quite a bit of life energy though:
  • empty these rooms/cover everything/move stuff away from the walls
  • I would probably want to take off the baseboards of any room we paint in a) to make it look better and b) because the last family that lived here let their kids play floor hockey regularly (no proof to this statement, but a more fun way to say that the baseboards are really beat up) 
  • taping 
  • painting
  • doing all the new baseboardy stuff
  • cleaning up 
  • blah blah blah.  
So now, we have the expense of the paint and the baseboards, and the expense of life energy to do said projects.  Is it worth the sacrifice of our money and energy to do these repairs?  Will it make the experience of this house (which I like, but also consider a place holder, not a forever home for me by any means) that much better?  On the other hand, if we do some cheaper repairs here, that could provide us with increasing our skills and confidence in tackling bigger projects - we could use this place almost as a practice house for when we move into our forever home and want to have really good-quality workmanship throughout.  That, my friends, is the battle that rages within me. 
I now walk into every room (mind you, we haven't gotten that far in the bathroom we are presently working on, which could change the way I look at rooms if the project completely blows) and think of the small renovations we could do.  For example, the cheapest renovation to our kitchen wouldn't entail too much - we could pull some of the 2.8 billion curtain rod support brackets out of the wall and patch those wholes (same with the window frames), paint all of the walls a lovely new color, put down the same 'SIMPLE' flooring, call it a day.  There is a lot of power in some putty for the walls, a can of paint, and new baseboards - it would help elevate the appeal of the house and hopefully help in resale, but is my life energy worth it?  That would mean fewer long runs, board-game nights, weekend hiking days.  There are also some MAJOR repairs that are well beyond our ability that I would love to have done - carpeted stairs turned into hardwood staircases, a barely-finished basement turned into a functioning finished basement, and did I mention all of the floors squeak?  :)  For those, in my ideal world, we'd somehow have the time to learn from someone doing those renovations - we'd be an apprentice of sorts.  But, we would definitely need someone who has the skills to pay the bills to teach us. 

I guess at this point, I will let the battle within rage and will take it one project at a time.  Maybe I figure out that I enjoy painting rooms, in which case I know what I am willing to do.  Maybe I learn that cutting baseboards makes me want to crawl over broken glass.  There is a lot to learn from this bathroom project, and I am excited for it.  Since we're still in the early phase, it is looking like it will be reasonable and enjoyable... I'll keep you posted on whether this Pollyanna attitude still exists in a couple of weeks or not!  Calm down - I know you just saw the word weeks and are going - wth Spicy Princess, why are you going to drag it out so long?  Work travel... can't make The Executioner do all the renovations on his own.  ;)

If you have guidance - feel free to dole it out.  :)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Not What I'm Here For

Last night, The Executioner and I had a productive night of running errands.  We are both non-shoppers, for the record.  We hit 7 different stores over 3 hours - we both were tired and in need of rehydration by the time we got back home. And we'll be good without stepping foot in a store for many months now.

The line that I said again and again (in at least 4 of the stores) was, "Not what I'm here for..." - consumerism is so easy to get sucked into!  At an outdoors/camping store I could have easily spent about 5 times the amount of money we did if I had given into all of the pretty/flashy/new/cool things I saw. Luckily, I was able to remind myself that all of those items were not what I was truly there for.  I figured, if I remembered any of the items today and still felt that I really want them, I could always put them down on a wishlist.  And in the light of the morning, I can remember one of them and it may go on my birthday/Christmas list... but I am not sure that it will.  The reminder last night served for me: you need to be strong to battle consumerism.  Put blinders on before going into a store so you don't get sidetracked by all of the shiny things.

There is one other thought I'd like to share from our adventure last night about the importance of mindset.  On Friday, I received a decent raise at work.  This raise puts my salary at a point that, when leaving college, I never thought I would reach (based on the fact that I was an elementary education major).  The power of the mindset is that instead of looking at this raise and thinking 'sweet, we can buy X, we don't have to carefully plan out how much money we spend on Y, I can get knick-knack Z' The Executioner and I have been thinking 'sweet, we can save X% more each week, that means we'll be saving $XYZ.00 more per month, that means we're that much closer to FI.'  So, to tie it back to last night... there were a few shiny things on the shelf that The Executioner and I thought could be a nice addition to our lives and were tempted to by.  However, with the iron-clad mindset in place, I was able to talk to the fact that none of those things were items we needed right now.  Additionally, they would be excellent items for our family members to give us as gifts, which would also make us really happy.  Win-win situation - my mom is reeled in and not buying us crazy stuff we immediately wonder how we can get rid of, and we get something new and shiny and useful!

 And finally, for the record - the best deal of the night (in my opinion) were my new hiking boots!  I desperately needed them and got them 40% off because I had a coupon, a store credit from a return, and there was a promotion of 10 off of $100 or more.  Now, if they can keep my feet happy during hiking, they will really be the best buy. 

I think the commercials on TV about shopping being a sport and how much effort, work, and energy it takes are accurate - but I think their focus is wrong.  Instead of trying to get the highest amount of non-essential items for the lowest price, we should be focusing on the energy, effort, work it takes to ONLY get the essential items and to do so at the lowest price.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Life Lists

A few weekends ago, The Executioner (referred to from here-on-out as TE in this post [except in one place where I feel the full name is needed]) and I were up visiting my family.  I saw something, and it disturbed me - so, naturally I decided to share it with anyone reading this.  I couldn't sleep and was walking around the house, reliving memories of days of my youth.  I heard something that sounded like muffled screaming coming from my parents' bedroom so opened... just kidding - let's not go there.

Seriously now - my father owns a small slice of heaven in my eyes - he has this cabin that is in the middle of a bunch of woods, no neighbors to see in any direction.  The place has running water from a spring when the land isn't frozen, and an outhouse completes the glorious experience.  TE and I were invited up to spend part of each day there while we visited.  We talked, enjoyed the beautiful outdoors, and just relaxed.  That for my father in and of itself is quite impressive - the man is always in motion, thinking, and more so - DOING.  But, when the weather is right and he's at this place, he relaxes and it is so nice to be a part of.

As we were up there, I noticed (one of) my father's always-on-hand To-Do list.  The thing deserves a Wiki entry all to itself, it is that impressive.  I can't remember a time in my life when I would climb into his car and there wasn't a To-Do list on the passenger seat or on the console.  He has the 'current To-Do' list, that one lives in the car most of the time; the 'Work To-Do' list; the 'Cabin To-Do' list, and I am sure he has more.  He puts EVERYTHING on his lists too - I haven't looked recently, but wouldn't be overly surprised if I saw 'wake up' on his list... just so he could cross it off.  As I looked at the list, many things seemed appropriate.  There were things like 'fix spring line' and 'move wood from cradle 3 to cradle 4' and things like that.  Additionally (this must have been 'Current To-Do'), there were things like 'balance checkbook'.  All tasks I deem appropriate for a To-Do list.  However, a few items have left me reeling.  One was 'Visit The Executioner and Spicy Princess' and one was 'Watch Duke & Louisiana'.  SERIOUSLY?!?!  You have to put 'hang out with your child who you haven't seen in over 2 months' on a list to make sure that it will get done?  Or, is it that you put it on there so you can cross it off and say 'phew - lived through that, glad its done!'?  I have a hard time wrapping my head around a college basketball game being something that he feels he MUST endure.  Either way - I have been left thinking about To-Do lists.

I have been known to make a list.  Mine are electronic, of course, and I do find power in collecting my many tasks into one common document when life is getting a little crazy.  I realized after that visit, that I don't want to feel it necessary to write down tasks I enjoy onto a to-do list to make sure they are accomplished.  I wonder - if my dad hadn't written these items down, would he have not done it?  Would he have forgotten?  Would he have deemed something more important - such as balancing his checkbook?  Would he have felt compelled to do one of the tasks on his list, simply because it was there and 'hang out with family' wasn't?

In that moment of seeing this list - I realized how different I am from him.  He is defined by work, defined by what he gets done on a daily basis.  I am not.  I see myself as many things, and if pressed to list them in order, my occupation would not be in the top 5.  Seeing that was like the saying "stop and smell the roses" - for me it was a reminder to embrace each day.  I don't want to be defined by a list - whether it is a list of what I got done or what I failed to get done.  I want to be able to enjoy life and wake up each day, be grateful for the day, my health, and my loved ones, and take it from there.  I have thought about this frequently since our visit and today I returned to the thoughts on To-Do lists - today was a gorgeous spring day and I would have loved to take my dogs for a long walk, join TE and friends in playing a game of Ultimate Frisbee, or even just sat outside and read my book.  But, my To Do list said I had to jump on a plane and travel for work.

I look forward to when my To-Do list has items on it that are key to helping us live, and are enjoyable tasks.  I also look forward to when there are very few items on my To-Do list, meaning that living life is really at its fullest.