Alicia Does Weekend Adventures: Cincinnati

When I was growing up, my Dad and I would take pretty regular trips to see the Cubs play in Atlanta, Cincinnati or St. Louis. One glorious time we actually made it to Wrigley Field. I have lots of fond memories of the road trips, filling out the score cards with my dad, and rooting for the Cubbies in “enemy territory” as Dad liked to call it.

Recently, we got to take J along on one of these trips for two games of a Cubs-Reds series at Great American. We drove down on Saturday for the second of a double header. We listened to the first game on the drive up, as it went into more and more extra innings. We were some of the first people at this gate for the night game, and we got to watch the sun go down as it went on.

Ignore J’s silly aversion to taking a normal picture.

We slept, had breakfast, and had just enough time to walk around the river front before the day game on Sunday. J and I have a thing about downtown bridges where if we find one over a river we have to walk across it.

We drove home immediately after, just like Dad and I used to do. Like he did with my brother before me. Like his dad did with him and his brothers, I’m sure. Like I hope J and I will get to do with any kids we may be blessed with.

Alicia Does Wardrobe Wednesday: Spring

When I switched my closet from cold weather wear to warm weather items, much of what I pulled out was the black and blue remnants of a former job and a smaller size me. As a result, I ended up terminating my solo spending freeze early and buying new basics in a more neutral color palate.

These outfits are what I’ve been wearing for the last month.

I have worn a few variations on some of these outfits, particularly the cropped jeans and Cubs tee. I have 5 different shirts to represent that particular team, and we went to a couple games and volunteered at a sports-themed vacation Bible school, so I didn’t think it was necessary to show all 12 jeans-and-baseball-tee combinations. That particular thing also means that I have been wearing men’s tees pretty much every day I’m not at work or church.

I am wearing a lot more black and white than I have in years past because those are the basics that I chose to replace the blue tops. I have also been wearing my red shoes quite a bit lately as a result.

With some of these outfits, I tried out the 1/3 rule, paid particular attention to using a column of color, or experimented with low contrast choices. It’s not perfect yet, and I’m still figuring out what works, but I will begin posting about those trials and errors as well soon.

Alicia Does Updates

Three months is quite a long time to have a blog about getting things done and not post, so I have come to give updates before I attempt to return to business as usual.

Update #1: Spending Freeze

I did not make it more than one month since J’s part in the Spending Freeze ended. I’m a bit ashamed that I couldn’t stick to it for a full 6 months as I had planned. The only real defense I have is that I had to replace things that were worn beyond simple repair, and I didn’t feel like I had what I needed for everyday life available in my closet when I switched to warm weather clothes.

This time last year I had just left a very physical retail stocking job with a uniform, and I honestly couldn’t get the smell or stains out of some of those blue shirts. That job still dictates the color palate of my wardrobe, so it was good for my sanity to replace some of the items.

In the spirit of full disclosure, the month after ending the spending freeze, I purchased: two basic camisoles, a pair of black leggings, a black and white blouse, a pair of black pants, three tees, a woven tunic tank, those bedside tables I kept talking about, and a copper pan. They have all gotten lots of use.

Update #2: Recent Projects and Adventures

I have not been idle in the last 3 months. I have been trying to be present and engaged in whatever I have been doing, which often means not taking a ton of pictures.

Starting with my 7x7x7 Challenge, I have been filling my guest room with things to donate or go through. Over the last month or so, I’ve been finding where there is local need of those items and started preparing them for delivery. I plan to have the room cleaned out and sanctuary-like by the end of this month.

One of the major things we wanted to do with our simplified lives was take weekend vacations and do fun things we’ve never done, or that J and I haven’t done together. We also wanted to spend more time with family. We met my parents at a condo they were renting at a resort a couple hours away, and later went with my dad to see our Chicago Cubs play the Reds in Cincinnati. Now that the weather is warmer, we should have more adventures to share throughout summer and fall.

Most recently, J and I have volunteered at Vacation Bible School at our church, which is always an exciting and rewarding thing. We have also been helping to redecorate our Sunday School classroom, which sounds like a small thing, but it’s been great for everyone involved.

Update #3: The Big One

The biggest thing keeping me from the blog lately is that I have been admitted back to my former university to take my last two classes and complete my bachelor’s degree! I return to campus in the fall and will graduate in December, if the Lord is willing.

I am currently working my way from FAFSA to registration, and yesterday I walked from building to building trying to get every other little thing sorted out. I am certain I will post more about this as things unfold, because I will be the weird 31-year-old lady in buildings full of 19-year-olds.

Alicia Does a Spending Freeze: Day 85

We’re so close. There is light at the end of the Spending Freeze tunnel.

My husband has been extremely supportive of this endeavor. He hasn’t let me even replace his worn out under shirts or stained T-shirts. With his help, we have successfully avoided sit-down restaurants and coffee trips (with the exception of one date night that was budgeted), any home furniture or decor items (no matter how much I want to get a couple very specific and very reasonable items), and we haven’t purchased any entertainment outside of our normal streaming service charges, and we musicians haven’t purchased any strings, picks, or sticks (which is kind of a big deal for us).

Since my last update, we did have to buy J a new, rather expensive computer mouse for use at work because he has severe tendonitis in his clicking hand. If it had been for any reason other than making sure he can continue to work 40-hour weeks without so much pain, we wouldn’t have done it.

We have made significant progress paying down last year’s emergency dental work with the money we haven’t spent on other things. We have also saved some money every month.

Per our agreement in January, J’s part in this freeze ends Sunday. Mine will continue for another three months. I am interested to see the impact that will have. Will we save half as much, or will he just spend little bits on himself here and there for his two favorite things: books and drumsticks? Also, how will the household expenditures that affect us both be handled now? We have five days to make a plan.

Right now, as a Southern church girl, I am most concerned about how I’m going to look like I’m “supposed to” for Easter service. I will have to wear something I’ve worn many times before but in a new way somehow, OR I will have to spend every evening figuring out how to sew an appropriate dress from my stash of vintage fabrics and patterns…

Alicia Does a Spending Freeze: Day 58

I have been stuck at home quite a bit since my last Spending Freeze update. I broke a toe on baseboards while chasing the cat away from my Valentine’s Day flowers, and I later pulled a muscle in my lower back doing the strenuous activity of brushing my teeth. (I have no idea how that happened, but it happened once before from moving laundry out of the washer and into the dryer because I live dangerously and take risks like that). As a result, we have spent more on food this month than anticipated, particularly the drive-thru kind.

I have worked in bursts to do things like get all of my clothes that were stored in plastic bins into the wooden dresser, mend the lining of my goes-with-everything black blazer, take a previous alteration out of a structured dress, and hem pants that J purchased even though they were 4 inches too long because they were on sale. He has been wearing those pants anyway for two years now, and I finally convinced him that I could make them fit properly pretty easily.

In the past, we may have been more likely to put those too-long but nice pants in the give away pile and buy a new pair. I may have used the ripped up lining as an excuse to find a newer blazer, too. And I have made strides toward the new goal of using only wooden and canvas storage as we continue getting rid of the things we’ve been storing and organizing that we don’t really need.

Besides the increase in fast food spending this month, we also spent a few dollars on cooking items so that we can have gluten-free friends over without worries. I don’t consider that a Spending Freeze failure so much as it is an investment in particular friendships that we part of the larger 2018 goals.

Alicia Does a Spending Freeze: Day 37

I’ve been going through my Facebook feed, trying to snooze all of the shopping pages that I follow or that have somehow gotten me on their list. I bought quite a bit of LulaRoe last year, so it took some doing. I even posted my first Spending Freeze post on my timeline because I was added to three shopping groups in one day, and I wanted people to know why I was blocking them.

But Facebook in their marketing genius, still tries to sell me things from larger retailers that they think I’ll like. I see a lot of “Shop Now” ads for places like Wayfair and Ikea, which I nearly always scroll through because they catch my eye. I even click through on the Target and Modcloth ads nearly every time.

I have gone through the nightstand section of the Target site multiple times adding things to my “loved” list. Today I actually sent J links to two Modcloth skirts that I liked, because I’m guessing I’m going to need them in the office this summer.

I also have a pretty significant Amazon wish list going, with items like glass food prep containers and books on minimalism that I want to read.

When you take each item individually, none is a bad purchase. None of the things I have mentioned here are actually frivolous or unjustifiable, which is why these sorts of things added up to a problem in previous years. We’d get 3 or 4 reasonable items in one month, completely miss our budgetary goals, and I’d have more stuff to move around, dust, and generally deal with.

Here at Day 37, we’re still doing pretty well. We have already made an extra payment on our first debt (a series of emergency dental procedures from the end of last year). We are spending more time at home, rather than walking around shopping malls, which we used to do often. I am taking the time to not only evaluate our actual purchasing habits, but also the seemingly harmless proclivities that lead us to them.

Alicia Does Clarification

I’ve done a lot of reading on Minimalism. A lot.

Part of the reason it’s taken me so long to actually take the first steps toward this ideal I’ve been enamored with for years is that I research all sides of just about everything. In my head, I’m like Rory Gilmore with her pro-con lists about multiple potentialities on any given day.

Nearly every article brings up how expensive it is to have only the best, multi-purpose items. One article I read said that only rich white guys can really pull it off because no one else can replace all of their furniture with the most perfect, clean, white-on-white-on-white onmi-functional pieces and upgrade all of their shirts to cashmere.

If you’re insistent on a very specific, very sterile-looking aesthetic, and determined to do it all at once, then of course you’ll end up dumping a bunch of money into it all at once. If you carefully consider the things you already have, pare them down, and stop buying new things that aren’t absolutely necessary, you’ll be able to make an incremental upgrade when you need to replace things that wear out.

So here is what we are NOT doing as my husband I seek to be less owned by our stuff:

  1. We are NOT going to move out of our condo and into a tiny home or RV. While that sounds like a cool adventure, it’s not on our radar as a goal right now. We are much more likely to move into a house that is only slightly smaller than this current space.
  2. We are NOT seeking to quit our jobs. We both basically like our jobs, enjoy working, and don’t intend to give up the investments we have made and will continue to make in our future by continuing to work.
  3. We are NOT replacing any functional or regularly used items until they are legitimately worn out. I am much less interested in any particular aesthetic than I am with frequency of use. When items DO become unusable, I will first see if other items can serve its function before I seek a replacement.
  4. We are NOT letting go sentimental items. I would estimate that about 60% of our furniture, home decor, and kitchen items are either gifts or heirloom items. My parents and grandparents have been very generous to us, and we appreciate a great-great-grandmother’s hand-knitted blanket much more than one we picked up from Wal-Mart because we thought we needed it. My grandfather’s medals from his time in the Navy will make a much better wall decoration in the home office than something I picked up on clearance at Target, no matter how good the deal was.
  5. We are NOT getting rid of ALL of the clothes that don’t fit us right now. Most articles recommend starting with everything that doesn’t fit when you purge your closet. But we don’t make enough money to go and buy a couple new pairs of pants every time we go up or down a little in weight or change jobs. So I keep a small selection of clothes that are a little too fancy for my current job or just a little too snug for regular rotation, mostly pants and structured dresses, since shirts aren’t as much of an issue.
  6. We are NOT limiting ourselves to a specific number of anything. I used to think I needed to have a 50-piece year-round wardrobe to really be “finished” culling. Those lists of people who live with less than 100 things are really interesting and inspiring. But we don’t need to be able to stay on the road for months. We just want to make the best use of the space we have and keep like items together. For us, then, it’s more about only keeping the amount of candles that easily fit on that one shelf, or sheets and blankets that comfortably go in my grandmother’s cedar chest in the guest room, or books that can be neatly arranged on the bookcase.
  7. We are NOT removing our personalities from our home. We are nerdy folks. We like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter quite a bit. I’m not giving up the fun little reminders of that quirkiness (like our glow-in-the-dark custom Doors of Durin mat or my Ravenclaw cardigan or my wand!) for anything. I’m also NOT going to buy and display a bunch of Funko Pop! figures, either. There’s a difference between nerdy clutter and having something nerdy displayed on things you would probably have anyway. Maybe my wand is an exception, but just try and convince me to ditch it, I dare you!

Minimalism looks different for everyone. That’s another recurring mantra among the articles I have read. For my husband and me, it looks like being much more intentional about how we use what we already have, including our time.

When you add this post to my first post on Minimalism and my WHY post, I hope it’s pretty clear that we’re not incredibly rich folks who want to project a certain image to anyone. We’re just a regular couple who recognize that we’ve held onto too much stuff for too long without any good reason, and we want to set ourselves up to act differently moving forward.


Alicia Does a Spending Freeze: Day 24

I may not have written about our Spending Freeze until Jan. 16, but we started at the beginning of the month. We have done quite well so far.

We haven’t spent any money on clothes, shoes, or clothing accessories. In fact, I’ve been mending and making minor alterations on some of our best things to make them perfect things.

We have spent our Sunday afternoons at friends’ houses, and Sunday lunch is really the only time I would have allowed eating out with a tip. It’s been much more relaxing and easier to get to know people anyway.

I’ve been rearranging the furniture and decor we have from one room to another to make each room serve a single purpose, and it’s showing me how many things we can actually put in a Spring yard sale.

I’ve been making all of our coffee at home. We have been using iPods and Spotify’s Web Player for music. We’ve been watching movies and shows on Hulu, which we already budget in as a utility since we don’t get cable.

The one spot where we had a bit of a struggle was with books. J got a $25 Amazon gift card for Christmas. He started a new job where he is expected to study and buy textbooks for a pretty grueling exam, and he also wants to replace his leather-bound study Bible from legitimate wear. We ended up deciding that the next textbook he needs is an acceptable work-related purchase, but that we have other Bibles he can use until his 90-day portion of the freeze is over.

I am a bit concerned that, in some ways, we’re just making a list of what to purchase at the end of this. So far that list is 2 matching night stands for the master bedroom and a new ESV leather-bound study Bible, and we still have 66 days to go…

Alicia Does Wardrobe Wednesday: January

By this point, most of what I’m wearing are just variations on last month’s favorites. Here are some highlights of this month, for the sake of continuing to nail down the best Minimalist Gold winter wardrobe.

I think the only items in this set that weren’t in the last are the taupe TOMS ankle boots and the navy long-sleeved tee. Both are incredibly comfortable, fit right, and made of natural materials that are easy to care for and will last a long time. So they are now permanently on the Minimalist Gold Winter Wardrobe list.

Fun related story: I have lots of laundry, mostly my husband’s, piled up to be done today. I ended up wearing my only nice button-up blouse (the teal one shown here under the gray sweater and in the last set tucked into a black skirt), the gray pants and wedge heels (shown here with the navy cardigan), and my black blazer. I felt a little overdressed, but completely professional. Around noon, my direct supervisor who comes by from another location about once a month and the owner of our company came in together. Oh, no, I thought, I’m about to get it for something. I’m about to lose my job. How am I going to tell J? Turns out, they were just there to take one of my coworkers out to lunch. After the panic subsided and I was able to go back to my world of invoices and inventory, I was quite glad that they popped in on a day that I was wearing my absolute best. In fact, it’s probably the outfit I would have chosen if I had known they were coming.

Alicia Does Snow Days and a Home Library

photo 2 (2)

It finally decided to be winter in Tennessee about a week ago. My husband and I have been stuck in the house for 4 of the last 5 days.

Disclaimer: I realize that we only got about 3 inches of snow. If you don’t know about winter in the Southern United States, we are notorious for shutting down over one inch. We don’t get snow very often, so when we do, our infrastructure isn’t really set up to handle it. For example, they were only able to salt the main roads and interstates, and the temperatures rendered the salt ineffective overnight. More often than not, the temperatures drop so quickly that there’s a layer of ice under everything. People can’t drive up our many hills, so they abandon their cars on the side of the road. It’s a mess to be avoided at all costs, so we all grab milk and bread as soon as we know it’s coming and just hunker down.

Mercifully, my husband and I both have the ability to work from home when we need to, so we haven’t lost much income. (Hooray!)

What we have been able to do is get a lot of projects done around the house. I cleaned up my dining room. I did lots of laundry, still not understanding how two people go through so much clothing in a week. I did some mending and minor alterations of clothing and household items.

And I finished THIS home library (before and after):

All of these items were moved from other areas of the house. The bottom bookcase came from our bedroom, the rug and chairs were taken out of the living room when I redid it last month, and the table came from the guest room. There are no longer any storage cubes or plastic drawers in these shelves, only books. And the shelves can hold ALL of our books, which were previously spread out all over the house.

I feel like even though this space has more in it, it serves a clearer function. Maybe next time we have a snow day I’ll be able to sit in there and read, rather than moving furniture and rearranging small items.