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Saturday, July 20, 2013

2013 Resolutions: June Update

This year, I am working on new resolutions each month and am using Gretchen Rubin's monthly resolution system to create and track behaviors that I hope will increase my overall happiness.

June Update

My updates have been coming later and later each month, it seems!  For June, I had two goals in the area of "home": to improve my basic maintenance of the housekeeping and chores, and to keep better track of how we spend our money.

I have settled on a chore system that works for us based on the ideas of The Flylady and The Tidy Tutor.  If you are looking for good ideas about how to start getting organized around the house, both of these ladies have great suggestions as to how to develop housekeeping skills when they don't come naturally.  I gained a few insights while following the system I have established for the past 6 weeks.

First, it takes a lot of practice to establish new habits, even ones that are motivating and fulfilling (like doing the dishes each night).  At the same time, when I actually do these things I am measurably happier.  The difference between beginning the day walking into a clean kitchen versus one with a pile of dirty dishes in the sink is substantial.  I feel much happier and less stressed when I get the chores done according to schedule, because then they are done and I don't have to think about it anymore.  

I realized that another way that I can relieve stress in this area is to relax my expectations of how clean the house needs to be.  Sometimes I get stuck in a cycle of thinking, "well, I need to sweep and mop but I can't do that until I get all the dishes done and then I should probably vacuum first but also on the list is windows..." and then my brain goes into shut-down mode and nothing gets done.  To move past this negative thinking, I need to just do something on the list and it doesn't really matter if it's perfect or in the right order.  The main point is that it gets done!  It's not like each time I mop the floor is the last definitive mopping.  This may seem obvious but for a high achiever like myself the need or desire to do thing to the absolute best standard can be very compelling.  While striving for excellence is the drive that leads to my success in life, it can also keep me from moving forward with simple, non-essential tasks.  I am learning to save my energy for the things that really matter and that I value more than, say, vacuuming the sofa correctly.  Things like spending time with friends and family, working on my fitness goals, and being the best I can in my professional life.

I feel like I learned a lot this month about my attitude toward keeping the house clean, and will continue to work on sticking to my chore chart while also releasing my expectations of doing every task "right" every time.  Sometimes good enough is good enough.

Another goal for June was to track our household spending.  I used a system originally presented in the book Your Money Or Your Life, which has influenced many of the other "simple living" authors and blog readers I follow including John Robbins in his book The New Good Life: Living Better Than Ever in an Age of Less.  Since the beginning of June, Jason and I have saved all our receipts and I have used Quicken to track income and expense into categories based on where our money goes.  While I have always used Quicken to balance our checking accounts, for the first time ever I tracked our cash spending as well.  The results were eye-opening.  First, I learned that we spent more in some categories (like food and groceries) then I expected, and less in other areas (recreation and fitness, for example).  Also, our spending really does align pretty well with our values.  Overall, we spend the most on things that are important to us (quality food and desirable housing in an incredible location) and less on things that we don't value as much. In those areas where we are spending more than we think is warranted (transportation is one example) we are taking steps to make changes to bring spending more in line with our values.

Keeping track of every penny that goes in and comes out of our possession has been extremely helpful.  I am going to continue this system of bookkeeping in order to stay conscious of how well our spending aligns with our value system and to avoid wasting money on things that aren't important to us or that my actually detract from our overall happiness in the long run.

For my next focus area, I'm going to combine July/August into one period and think about "friends and family".  A longer time between posts means more to say I suppose, so since this entry has gotten quite long I'll write about my goals in this area in a separate post.

Thanks as always for taking the time to read my blog!

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