Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Handful of Pills Can Get a Little Out of Hand

Part of the reason I checked myself into a psychiatric hospital back in August was that my meds were no longer doing their job. I was suicidal on a daily basis and paralyzed by anxiety, and I knew it. I felt it was important that I be somewhere where I would be safe from myself, and somewhere my medications could be adjusted safely. This is because medications are unpredictable. One major change in meds could take me from suicidal to happy, or happy to suicidal. Or anything in between.

Luckily we mostly figured out my meds in the hospital. I've had a few tweaks lately and it's made taking my medication more confusing, and I've been missing doses. That's not helping me manage anything. Here's my new system for organizing my meds. 

Before: my bathroom sink loaded with meds 'n stuff

 An old train case became the perfect place for all of my meds and viatmins. 
I've labeled the tops of the Rx bottles so I know what they are without having to remove the bottles.

All nice and organized!

Hopefully it will make it a little easier to take this lovely little pile of pills each day. Yuck. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Paging Nurse Ratchet

The girl who used to post almost every week suddenly stopped writing, with no warning. So what happened?

My bipolar disorder pushed me to a breaking point, so I spent 5 days on a locked psych ward. Voluntarily. And in some peculiar way it changed my life, for the better.

It's been a while, a lot has happened since then, but I think I'm ready to write, and to respond to the folks out there who have shared your words of strength, support, and affection with me.

Oh, and to get back to writing about uncluttering and de-hoarding. Because my closet is a disaster :o)

Thank you all again for your support. Look for more from me in the coming days!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Gifts from the hoarder parents and more money wasted

I learned a long time ago to never admire anything in my mother's presence, because she would immediately run out and buy it for me. Exhibit A:

I stopped by my parents' house last week, just for an hour. My mother made excuses about how there are still piles of things that are headed for the thrift shop (sure, I'll believe that when pigs fly.)  But it wasn't the stuff in the living room that bothered me. No, it was the "care package" I got without asking for it.

My mother sent me home with a box of gluten-free pasta (no problem, I'll eat that). Next was a huge box of coffee filters, a brick of coffee, and a ceramic coffee maker.
For the record, I vehemently dislike drip coffee. This incredible disdain for coffee ran so deep within my soul that when I was at a family party at the age of two, I snuck a sip of my uncle's coffee, then promptly spat it back all over him.

At this point I only drink lattes. But apparently my mother thought I needed all of this coffee-making stuff. The multiple times I said "I'm really okay without it" were ignored. Finally I gave up and went home with the bag of stuff. Nevermind the fact that I have NO SPACE in my cabinets!

In fairness, I did give the Melitta coffee maker thing a try. It just didn't work out for me. It was too watery, the water drained too fast, and I had to waste two filters and two tablespoons of coffee to get 2 ounces of strong espresso-style coffee each time I tried.

I will see my parents again this weekend as we have another wedding to attend. I will return the coffee maker, filters, and coffee. If she refuses to take it, I'll drop it off at the thrift store. Gosh, I hope she didn't spend a lot of money on this stuff. Is it so hard to call someone first and ask if they really want a particular thing, before going right out and buying it? Why continue to pour money down the drain when a simple question could solve that problem?

Do your family members randomly give you stuff you don't want/ask for?

**For those of you who remember that I stopped talking to my parents last year, here's what's happened since:

I'm back on vaguely speaking terms after enjoying nine months of freedom from the hoard and all of the absurd behavior that accompanies it. It finally seemed to click with my parents that if they want me in their life, I expect them to get a little bit of help for their disorders. After nine months, they are far more stable than before. I feel safe enough for short visits. Thanks to everyone for their support during that time.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A cheap and fun weekend

In keeping with our goal to dramatically cut back spending on anything that isn't food or medical expenses we planned a cheap weekend filled with good food and good times, a couple errands, and a very small treat for me.

My best friend from work lives out in the country so normally we'll just hang out around where we work. But fortunately for our friendship, Miles' next door neighbor is a certified Honda mechanic and our car needed a bit of work. Andrew does all of the work on our car at a fraction of the price at the dealership. This means we had another excuse to visit my friend.  The car got fixed, we saved a bundle, and Andrew got to make some extra money.  Good all around.

So while Andrew was working, Miles, his girlfriend Mara, the Chief Engineer and I enjoyed a good lunch and literally hours of conversation. Miles then took us to a really awesome used bookstore. In the DC area used bookstores don't exist because they don't make enough money. This was an hour outside of the city so the used bookstores were back and it was a real treat. Sadly there's no picture of me skipping down the aisles.
Miles is hiding in there somewhere

We did splurge and I got a hardback book for $5. I'm devouring it and I'm sure it'll be a book I read several times over. I skipped the chocolate-covered maple-smoked bacon soda and the Leninade that they offered at the cash register. Perhaps next time. Got a good laugh out of it though.

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Office decluttering before and after!

 I'm back to decluttering again. The office is one place that I keep meaning to declutter and it never really happens. This AM I finally bit the bullet and started cleaning my two largest drawers.

Drawer 1: Towel for the days I run at lunch, several pairs of heels, 3 umbrellas, and a push-up bra?!

Drawer 2: more shoes, another umbrella, a winter hat, my lunch bag for the day, an ice cube tray and a box of grapenuts.

I decided to declutter by completely emptying out the drawers and then adding items back in. 
This is how it looks now.

This drawer is now for bags and the day's items. The red bag contains a reusable grocery bag. Both bags will stay there for use on days when I have large items to carry home. The blue bag was my handbag for the day, and the tall thing was a sodastream cylinder to take back home to get refilled. 

 The top drawer is now my food drawer. I eat breakfast and my afternoon snack at the office so there are several shelf-stable food items: oatmeal, tinned fruit, sardines, instant latte mix, protein powder, and the red tin has jars of peanut butter and packets of grits and grapenuts for breakfast.  The purple tin contains tea and coffee. I keep enough plates/cups/silverware for two meals or two people. The white box is my box for dirty dishes, which makes it easy to do the cleaning before I leave. 

I can't say it's minimalist, but I can say that every single item in that drawer will get used at least once a week.

Now on to the other drawers!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

What the Spanish taught me about money


This is what I feel like I've been doing with money lately. Money can never make it to the piggy bank because I burn it on a new kitchen. A trip to Williamburg. A trip to Spain. Meals out. Trinkets on the internet.

Yes, the kitchen's gorgeous and was ultimately worth the expense. It took up a lot of time and kept me from feeling bored or depressed. Going to Spain was also another expensive distraction. Williamsburg was a trip to lift my mood (and reconnect with good family).

In Spain I lived for three weeks with a wonderful, wonderful 76 year-old lady. This woman had her life figured out. She was extremely wealthy but didn't live like it. She took students because they were interesting, not because she needed the moolah. She lived off the interest of her many assets and mostly spent money on two things:

Food. The food she made was incredible, and I took notes. After a couple weeks I noticed something weird. I had absolutely no desire to eat out. At all. When I got home I heard a quote from Paul Newman: "Why should I go out for a burger when I've got a steak at home?"  Her food was so good that I didn't miss eating out one bit.

Quality time with family and friends. She'd visit her daughter and grandson weekly. Each day at 10 AM she'd go take a walk and meet friends for a $2 coffee, then chat away the morning. Her adult son stopped by each day for lunch (this is normal in Spain).

I didn't see her spend money on anything else except medicine, rent and utilities. She cleaned the house daily and it was immaculate and a joy to stay there. And in spite of being a widow she was one of the happiest people I've ever met. I don't think my home needs to be immaculate but I do think that a clean, decluttered home makes you want to stay and relax there and not need so many distractions.

What to take from this? If my goal is to stop shopping to fill an emotional void, I want to try to attack that emotional void like a Spaniard.

1. Focus more on preparing really, really good food.
2. Spend more time with friends
3. Clean the house a bit every day.
4. Walking every day.

These things should make me happy and take up quite a bit of time. I'll be less bored, healthier, and happier, I hope. Maybe less in debt in the end. It's an experiment. Let's see how it goes!

I'm back!

Hello everyone! I'm back from my study abroad trip to Spain albeit a little early. The country was beautiful, the people were wonderful, and I learned a lot about a great many things. And my history class was pretty awesome too. I think it was one of the best classes I've taken in the course of many, many years in school because the professor taught me a new way of thinking about the events of the past.
A recap of some of the sights we enjoyed:

Oh look, the new king and queen!
We arrived the day before the coronation.
We got up early and got a spot on the parade route right at the edge of the barricade. Super exciting.

Famous sites...The Puerta de Alcala in Madrid

Over-looking the royal palace and the cathedral in Madrid
Don Quijote's windmills along the road to LaMancha
The mosque/cathedral in Cordoba
I am also now addicted to lattes, as in Spain they are excellent and very cheap. This is a problem. But figuring out how to get a latte fix that tastes like it's Spanish and is priced like it too should be an adventure! Any suggestions?

Now back to decluttering, learning to spend less and be happy where I am in life.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Back in a While

I'm headed out today for my long-awaited six-week trip to Spain. The first week the Chief Engineer will sightsee in Madrid, then he'll return home and I'll begin classes at a University for the next five weeks. It's truly a dream come true and I can't wait to get to practice my Spanish. Thank you to all of those who have posted comments of support during the last few weeks. They were wonderfully inspiring and I'm in a much better place now thanks to all of you, your thoughts and your prayers. See you all when I return!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Some things are worth the money

In my last post I debated whether it was financially worth it to take a $300-$400 vacation to run a race. The trip had been planned for months, before the specter of debt began to loom. Interestingly enough I got offered $180 worth of contract work the week before we were scheduled to go. $180 was exactly the cost of the hotel. So we decided to cash in some old frequent rider train miles and travel for free, pack as many meals as possible, vote for low-cost restaurants when we couldn't, skip the souvenirs, and JUST GO HAVE FUN. 

Ultimately it was absolutely the right choice. First off, my mental health benefitted enormously from the trip. I rarely get time to see or talk to my aunt and uncle. They are the sanest people in the family and always help me put things in perspective. I finished the race in 1:02:32, which was two minutes faster than the first time I ran the race (when I was 15 pounds lighter than I am now). Slower than last year, but only by two minutes. Take that, ED. 

Runners got a free pass to the nearby Busch Gardens Amusement park,
so Aunt C. and Uncle F.  convinced me to go. 

I'm terrified of log flumes, roller coasters, and amusement park rides in general. Aunt C. gave me a lot of encouragement and really helped me with my anxiety. I actually had fun and am *gasp* willing to do some of those roller coasters again in the future. 

We did enjoy a few meals out. One of my favorite places in Williamsburg has oreo milkshakes. I adore them and sometimes even start dreaming about them before we take the trip. I actually allowed myself to drink the whole thing which was a serious victory over ED. I drank a milkshake and the world didn't end. No guilt here. 
Almost done! So yummy.
I came back home much more relaxed than I'd left it. I ran a race, had fun, and gave ED a couple smackdowns. It was a very, very, very good weekend.  All of this was worth it. I don't think it hurt us financially very much. I think I can catch up elsewhere. Our first loan isn't even due until October. There's time. I'm back on track with my eating now. Thank you all so very much for your support. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

This is what relapse looks like

So my mother came and visited us last weekend. There are no words besides "epic disaster" that can describe what happened.

I stopped talking to my mother last June. She got into a car accident which then launched her into a panic attack in which she repeated "Your father's going to divorce me" over and over again. For eight hours, until I went home. My father has been emotionally abusive my whole life, but I also forced him to get medicated back in 2005. This "I don't like what you did, now I'm divorcing you and leaving you with nothing" behavior was typical and frequent of him before he was medicated, but not really afterwards.

So, a week later, I checked with my uncle. My uncle said that indeed my father had said that he was going to divorce my mother and that he would be out of the house by August. At that point, I wrote my mother a letter saying that I was going to take some time for myself. When I was ready I would contact her. I ignored my father because he'd made it pretty clear over the years that I didn't matter much.

A month ago or so I figured that I should contact my mom before I go to Spain. I figured things would be alright since, after all, my eating disorder had been behaving very well since I stopped talking to my family.

So my mother came to visit and dumps on me some new information: no, my father never actually threatened to divorce her this time. All the info I used to make a decision to cut them both off was apparently false.

Or was it? I trust my uncle more than I trust my parents. I still haven't been able to get hold of my uncle.

Unfortunately, I have been able to get my hands on lots of food. I binged seven days straight after my mother left. My binges were so bad that I gained seven pounds in that week. In the entire history of my eating disorder, no binge lasted longer than four days. This was singularly the worst binge I've had in thirteen years.

So why did I binge? I wanted to numb the feelings of confusion, anxiety and deceit. I can't trust either one of my parents. At that point in time we also had decided not to go to Williamsburg, so I had no motivation to run or to try to eat healthy. I completely threw in the towel.

My dietician has been very helpful. She made it clear that anytime I interact with my parents, I need to be prepared to deal with ED screaming at me for a good week afterwards, not just hours or days. I'm seeing both her and my therapist this week.

And I think it may be time for another letter to my mother. I obviously need more time away from her.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Where debt and my eating disorder meet

Ever wanted to know what it's like to have a binge? Well, here you go.

*Trigger warning for those with eating disorders.**

This morning I continued a conversation with the Chief Engineer, one we've been having for a couple weeks now. Do we cancel our trip with my aunt and uncle to Williamsburg or not? Cancelling it will save between $200 and $300.

I absolutely love the foot race that's the reason we go to Williamsburg every year. The race in 2012 was the first time I completed an 8k while still struggling daily with my eating disorder. It was a huge win for me, proving that I can still run even though I'm not thin anymore. Last year it was even more special because I don't have a relationship with most of my family anymore, except for my aunt and uncle, and I got to spend a lot of time with them.

The CE and I informally came to the conclusion that Williamsburg is probably an unnecessary expense right now. It left me seriously depressed the whole morning. My mother is also coming to visit for this mother's day, though I'm still so angry that she refuses to divorce my abusive father that I can barely talk to her anymore.

By 10:00 this morning I was so upset and so unsure of what to do with my feelings. The idea of going to see my aunt and uncle at another time just doesn't seem to live up to the fun we always have in Williamsburg. And besides, ED says that if we we're not going, then I have no reason to stay in shape, right? No reason to eat well, right? Go ahead and binge.

And that's exactly what happened.

First it started with the chocolate in one cabinet. Then the chocolate in another. Then it turned into the ice cream in the freezer. Then to the chips. Then I stopped. I was more or less out of interesting food. At this point I turned to the vending machines, but stopped. I had promised myself that I would skip the vending machines until our debts were paid off. So that's what I did. I can spend $10-$20 on binge foods in a typical binge. I kept eating what was around the house. Telework days are not good for my eating disorder. My "no vending machine" rule also helped.

The Chief Engineer won't be home in time for dinner today which leaves me on my own. There's not too much interesting to eat at home, so hopefully this will help slow down or stop the binge. But I really want tomorrow to just get here and fast, so that I can make peace with not going to Williamsburg and figure out how to motivate myself to run or go to the gym without knowing I have a race to prepare for.

The obvious solution is to call up my uncle and just ask if we can visit a few times this summer. It just doesn't feel the same though. But I don't wanna.

What would you do? Go to Williamsburg because it's good for your mental stability? Or go to your aunt and uncle's place more often?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

How to stick to your grocery budget when you've never been able to

I don't know about you, but I can NEVER stick to a grocery list when I go shopping. I always end up adding a few things to the cart that I forgot, or some items that looked so good that I could've sworn they were whispering "buy me!!" in my ear. 

But of course, right now we're trying to spend as little cash as possible because of our debt situation. Going off-list is not a luxury we have anymore. Besides, it's easy to waste food when you buy based on wants not needs. I'm proud to report that for the first time ever we kept to our grocery list! It ended up saving us a lot of money. Normally our grocery bills are around $150 (twice a month). This time?  Drumroll please.....we got all the food below for $95. 

Bok choi, canteloupe, two cans of tuna, organic carrots, bananas, green beans, a sack of oranges, six kiwi fruit, two zuchini, a benzoate-free salad dressing (yay, no allergic reaction for me!), two packages of English muffins....
1/2 gallon ice cream, 1 gallon milk, 1 tub butter, two gallons orange juice
Two large bags of frozen veg, and a pound each of sausage, pork mince and beef mince. 

How to Stick to your Grocery List when You've Never Been Able To

1. Bring a friend or spouse and keep each other accountable. When we shop, the Chief Engineer and point out to each other the things we chose that weren't on the list and then discuss whether we need to put the item back or not. 
2. Remember why you need to stay on track. I intentionally looked at my credit card statement and my bank account balances right before I went to the store. They reminded me how not good our financial situation is right now and those feelings were fresh in my mind when I went to shop. Extra motivation to behave! You could even write your credit card balance on your list, which should remind you of your priorities while you shop. 
3. Try shopping the store backwards. When you buy the frozen stuff first it gives you reason to get out of the store in a hurry because who wants melted ice cream? There's no time to browse for foods that might be interesting -- you just have to get in, get what you need, and get out. 
4. Use alternative transportation to get to the grocery store. The times where we've biked or taken the bus to the store we've bought far less than usual because we can only buy what we can carry. Oreos and other boxes of treats we don't need don't fit in the Chief Engineer's bike panniers!
5. Check what you've already got in the freezer to avoid buying duplicates. 'Nuff said.
6. Reward yourself for sticking to the list. Sometimes I'll add a treat food to my grocery list before I go. If I end up putting something I don't need in the cart, I'm no longer allowed to get the treat food.
7. Make a list of what to get next time while you're doing your current shopping. That way you'll know that you can have that item, just not right away. It then gives you time to think about whether or not you really want that item by the time you go to the store again.  

What's grocery shopping like for you? Do you stick to a list, and how?

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Refrigerator archaeology

Growing up in a hoarded house, I never knew what I was going to find in my parents' fridge. Some food would be fresh, but most of it got shoved to the back and would stay there for months or even years. Needless to say, I try to keep my fridge from looking like my hoarder parents' fridge.

Today we took stock of the fridge. This is everything that had gone bad. 

I was pretty surprised, it was a lot of food! Half of this stuff I didn't even realize was in the fridge.  
Our fridge and freezer aren't that stuffed. 

My sister-in-law had an idea about this. She's an urban farmer who tries to make sure that she wastes practically nothing. She suggested that a whiteboard could help. Each week she lists out everything in the fridge and freezer and then makes her weekly meal plan. They scratch things off the list as they use foods during the week. At the end of the week they know what has to get used first for the next week.

I figured, why not? So I made a "whiteboard" (ha!) out of an old envelope and then we planned our meals for the week. We're much less likely to buy doubles of things if we know what we already have.

We'll see if this is a habit that sticks or whether I give it up. But it would be nice to waste less food, as food in D.C. is terribly pricey. 

How do you avoid food waste?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Getting out of debt step 3: cut the lifestyle creep

Have you ever experienced lifestyle creep? I sure have. I was once a grad student living in this tiny room you see here on a $1000/month. The room was $545 a month so I lived on $455 for the whole month, including food, textbooks, clothes, and anything else I needed or wanted.

Yes, that's the Duchess of Cornwall. She toured my dorm when she visited Philadelphia while I was in grad school, and my hallmates and I even got to have tea with her! But back to lifestyle creep. It's not just having tea with royalty that inflated my ego and my desire to spend. My first job took me to one of the top ten most expensive zip codes in the U.S. and I immediately felt like I had to live up to it.

Fancy clothes. A fancy address. Fancy hair. Fancy makeup. One woman actually walked around the office asking how many of us got our eyebrows professionally done. The fancy kitchen to keep up with a now former friend who constantly has the newest, fanciest stuff (and also still has an eating disorder that she has no intention of doing anything about.) Fancy music lessons. And last but not least, a fancy housekeeper. There's only one person in my office who doesn't have one.

My lifestyle needs to take a few hints from the way it was during grad school. This means that the following "creepers" in our current budget will go:

1. Guitar lessons. I just told my guitar teacher I want to do lessons every-other week instead of every week. Monthly savings: $100

2. Eyebrow waxing. I'll be skipping this until I get back from Spain. Monthly savings: $60

3. Housekeeper. I need to learn to do my own cleaning. Monthly savings: $100.

4. Clothing. I regularly spend about $150/month. Thank you, eating disorder, for a body that constantly changes size. I can shop at the thrift shop instead of The Limited from now on. Monthly savings: $100

5. Extra charity. I sponsor a child but right now I have to take care of me. I can always sponsor one again later. Savings: $38/month

Total monthly savings: $398!!

So, friends, has lifestyle creep ever happened to you?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Could you eat this?

Today the Chief Engineer and I enjoyed some free fun by biking to the US Science and Engineering festival downtown.

The things to see were pretty standard. Lots of 3D printers, plenty of liquid nitrogen demonstrations (dip a bottle of coke in the stuff and it explodes!), hands on models of solar panels and deep-space telescopes. That sort of thing. There was just one thing I didn't expect.

Crickets for lunch, anyone? 
Plain crickets not your thing? We've got cajun! Parmesan and ranch, too! 

I couldn't stomach it. I had to go hug this guy instead. 

And then laugh at the fact that this is what you do when you're Walmart and you have a public image problem.
You bring the most fuel efficient truck in existence to show off how much you care about the community. And to advertise obnoxiously. It was pretty interesting, though.

So we got in a 20 mile bike ride, had some fun and enjoyed the day together, all without spending a penny. And without any cricket appetizers, thank you. 

Could you have stomached the crickets? What's the most unusual thing you've ever eaten?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A plan to get out of debt -- steps 1 and 2

Friday was keep-Zoe-from-freaking-out day. The realization of our impending debt settled in. It was time to start making a plan.

Step 1: Make sure we have cash when we need it. 

I sat down with the calendar and figured out how much debt we'll have and when. We are at risk of overdrafting our bank account as early as next week. At our worst point, it looks like we'll be $4400 in debt by September with our current bills before we're able to start paying back our debts. What to do?

I stopped by the bank that manages our loan for the kitchen (~$4000 balance). It's a line of credit which means we can borrow against it again without having to take out a new loan. So I took another $5000 out of the loan. The loan balance is now $9000.

Step 2: Find cheaper credit than our credit cards. 

The line of credit is currently at 1.99% interest. Yay! But in October it goes up to 14% interest. That's still better than credit card interest rates. We may be able to do a balance transfer onto a zero percent interest card before that happens. We'll have to see how much we can pay off before then.

We're taken care of for the moment and our mortgage checks won't bounce now. More steps of our plan tomorrow!

Have you ever made a plan to get out of debt? What worked for you? Any suggestions would be appreciated.


For your viewing pleasure, here's the progress on the kitchen I wanted so badly that's gotten us into all this mess.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

a new problem and a confession

For a long while I've whined about my inability to spend money wisely. I was never in credit card debt. I spent a lot, usually everything I made, but not more.

Until now. 

You see, dear reader, for a while I've been living a lie. I am about to be in debt. The bad kind of debt. I've never had this happen before. We are fortunate to have a high income, I am married to a frugal person, I felt financially protected. We had a comfortable bank account. 

Then this year I started making really dumb, really expensive decisions. I'm pretty much the one in the family who 'manages' the finances and makes the decisions so the blame rests squarely on my shoulders. Here's how it happened.

"Let's just take down this one wall to improve the condo..." became "I want to redo the countertops." Which became, "now we have to do the backsplash." Then the dishwasher broke. Then the heater. Then I wanted a new stove. To distract myself from the insanity of my own depression I encouraged us to go skiing a half dozen times this year and to take one ski vacation. "Let's go to Texas." Next, "Let's take our usual vacation with my aunt and uncle to Williamsburg. "  Then we thought we wanted kids, and I really panicked. 

"I have to do one last thing before I'm tied down by children," I said. "I want to study in Spain again. See there's this one-month program..." 

So like I said, I've been living a lie. I talk about frugality and being cheap and efficient, meanwhile my wants have whittled our savings down to nothing. The remaining bills for kitchen renovations just came in. I did the math on all of our finances and with our typical spending we'll be somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000 in the hole by this summer IN ADDITION to the kitchen loan we already have. The new debt will likely come in the form of high-interest credit card debt. Assuming nothing else happens. That emergency fund I started to build will be gone. If my calculations are right it'll be December before we have enough saved to pay off everything and still leave enough to cover even one extra month's expenses.

Many of you know how much I adored my grandmother. A very frugal, very simple lady who retired at 60 with $300,000 to her name. She lived comfortably on that $300k until age 85. All I can think now is, how disappointed she would be in me. You don't need to tell me. I screwed up and I know it.

Where do I go from here? How do I get on track when I've never really been on track? I'm locked into the study abroad program so skipping out isn't an option. Serious suggestions are welcome. 

Another trip to the thrift shop

We made our last big trip to the thrift shop for a while (we hope!) as you can see here.

What all is here?

Bar stool that didn't fit under our table because I didn't measure first: $10
Hot/cold dip server from our wedding registry that we never used: $20
Two books we read and enjoyed: money well spent
Tree stand: got it free on freecycle
Blender/food processor combo: money well spent but it's too small for us now
Toolkit for a product I don't own (we bought the wrong one): $15
Blanket that was so static-y we couldn't use it: worth it for a while
Two baskets: free with presents
Quilt hoop from my wedding registry: $200

Total: $245 gone on 11 things that didn't work out for us.

One of which was the quilt hoop. I'd had such hopes that I would use it. But in the end I only quilted to stay connected to my deceased grandmother. I finally admitted to myself that I actually don't like quilting.

In total, it brings the Reckoning to

244 items decluttered

$3129 wasted on junk

At this point we're pretty much done the decluttering process. Yay!!  How should I celebrate? Hopefully now I can focus on learning to buy less stuff. Where are you in the decluttering process?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

More stupid things I bought to make myself temporarily happy

Amazingly we found even more stuff to declutter this weekend. Unfortunately this batch was loaded with expensive stuff I never should've bought in the first place.

One pair of pants, four work blouses that are too worn to continue to wear at the office, and three pairs of shoes. I'm a recovering shoe addict, apparently. The black boots and the heels I bought because I was trying to be fashionable like Kate Middleton. I spent $130 for those two pairs together and all I got was blisters. Three shoes down and plenty left. Guess I'll have to count them at some point. After I find all of them.
Black boots plus nude heels: $130. Finding out that I wasn't a princess: priceless.
This pile of stuff included
  1. An old keyboard that doesn't work with our laptops (free)
  2. Cafeteria trays that I mentioned in a previous post
  3. A creme brulee set my mother got me (free) 
  4. Gloves that don't fit ($25 wasted)
  5. Harry potter music for the cello (free from Mom)
  6. A pile of old books (worth the money)
  7. A grocery cart-like fruit basket (free from Mom)
  8. Brown betty teapot, used twice ($25 wasted)
  9. Pill case when I lost my first one and found it again ($3 wasted)
  10. Small hydrapak, for storing water while on long bike rides ($50 wasted, I picked a style I hate)
  11. Keen sandals ($70 wasted because they were the wrong size and I didn't return them)
  12. Curling iron ($35 wasted)
  13. Day planner ($16 wasted)
  14. Barette ($5 wasted)
22 items gone, $359 down the drain. Sigh. 

What have you decluttered lately?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Just when I thought I couldn't declutter anymore

Clutter apparently never stops, even when you're a minimalist wannabe.

I thought we were done decluttering but we found a ton more stuff that were able to donate this weekend. The Chief Engineer cleaned out the linen closet for me! This was all the stuff we ended up with.

3 mismatched queen-size fitted sheets
2 mismatched flat sheets
1 full-size sheet set
1 queen-size sheet set
3 pillows
5 pillowcases

15 items! all gone, and the closet looks like this now.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

End of month financial check-in

Another month down and it’s time to review the finances again.

All told we made some good progress this month. I finally settled on my priorities: kitchen loan gets top priority as it’s due in full by October. In tandem we fund the emergency fund until it’s full. Then we work on my student loan.  

We had two huge household problems this month that convinced me to put some serious effort into building an emergency fund. We had a very expensive furnace repair. Then we had some serious water damage into our bathroom from the unit above us. Fortunately this repair was paid for by the condo association because the leak wasn’t our fault. If it had been our fault we couldn’t have afforded the repair. Now I’m pretty scared that we don’t have an emergency fund.  

As a result, here’s where we stand.

Emergency fund
goal: end of year
Kitchen Loan (1.99%)
deadline: Oct 2014 
Student Loan (2.65%)
goal: end of year
Starting balance: $0
Goal: $20,000
Balance on 3/31: $2,520.88

$2520.88 saved so far

12.6% filled

Starting balance: $10,000.00
Balance on 3/31: $4,130.43

$5869.57 paid so far

58.7% paid off

Starting balance: $8,127.00
Balance on 3/31: $7,750.58

 $376.42 paid so far

The next few months we will likely have to pull back our savings as we pay for the kitchen and then focus on rebuilding our very unhappy-looking checking account. But as I learn to spend less money on dumb little things I'm confident we can reach at least two of our three goals this year. I realize that we likely won't be able to make much of a dent in the student loan this year. But I'm okay with that because we'll have a good emergency fund set up by the end of the year. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

sweet and sour

Our lemon tree 
One of my favorite activities is gardening. It's not quite gardening season for us here in DC but I'm getting psyched. It's something I can do that costs very little money but brings me a lot of joy.

This year we got very lucky with the little lemon tree we got from my sister-in-law. We got six lemons. We used every single one. We made dairy-free lemon gelato with the last lemons and the candied the peels. They're even better than those gummy fruit slices you get at Passover.
Candied lemon slices

Unfortunately the poor little tree has died back now. We've kept it indoors through the cold temps, but we'll have to see if it comes back as the weather gets warmer.

Have you ever tried growing lemons? Did your tree die back?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

One thing they don't tell you in those self-help finance books

I've read a lot of self-help books about money management. I don't go into credit card debt, but I do have a nasty habit of spending any money that's not locked up in retirement.

Some of this is a result of a symptom of my bipolar II disorder. When I'm having a hypomanic episode, I shop. It helps the high I'm on during hypomania go even higher. That's usually when I'll blow any spare money I've had in my allowance. As soon as a reasonable expense came along, usually days later, I wouldn't have any money left. I'd go begging to the Chief Engineer and then I'd often spend some of "our" money on something I needed.

This seemed to stop when I went on my bipolar meds. For the first time ever, I'm almost at the end of the month and I have money left in my weekly allowance budget. I haven't gone on any shopping sprees this month.

But I'm far from cured of my poor spending habits. We spent an incredible amount of money redoing our kitchen and now need to be super duper extra careful with our moneys for a few months. But now I'm very restless. I want to go out and window shop. I want to think about what my purchases of fun stuff like hair coloring or a new shirt will be. But that needs to be put off for a while.

Now what? I used to always be planning some kind of big purchase, or setting a big goal for myself (I'd look great in a Tesla roadster....or not).  I'm not going to go window shopping or kill time on

So I'm feeling a little bored. That's what I wish I had been warned about when I read all of those personal finance books. You need to come up with activities to fill the time that you used to spend shopping or browsing. My eating disorder tells me that when I'm bored is a great time to eat. So I need a little help, need some ideas.

What do you do to keep busy instead of shopping, oogling, or planning to buy stuff?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A love / hate relationship with psychiatric meds

For about a month now I've been on medication for my newly-diagnosed bipolar II disorder. Here's how things have gone.

I'm definitely more stable. The Chief Engineer says that my emotions don't come out of nowhere anymore. I can feel emotional changes when they happen and be able to have a little bit of control over them instead of being completely swept away by a change in mood. So far so good, right?

Well, there's just one little problem. This particular med, Abilify, has some interesting side effects. Like making me want to go to sleep at 9 PM and wake up at 6 AM (not a bad thing!) But it also makes me feel incredibly restless. I need to bounce my leg or pace all the time. At least I have a standing desk at work so at least I can move around constantly. It's pretty frustrating, and bad enough to make me want to stop taking the med. But I will be a good little patient and wait until my next visit with my pdoc to say "TAKE ME OFF THIS STUFF NOW!"

She did tell me that she had a backup plan, one which involves Seroquel or Latuda. The Abilify hasn't made me gain weight but I haven't lost any more than the 5 pounds or so that came off right after I stopped the 20-pound pill-o-poison that was Cymbalta. I hope that the med she chooses doesn't make me gain weight.

I do hope that some of the other positive side effects, like being able to keep my mind on things and being more organized also happen on the next med. It's nice to have an organized house again.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

I just saved $50 with a needle and thread

And so can you!

I'm short which means that finding a pair of pants that are the right length for me is pretty much impossible. I used to get my pants professionally hemmed at $10/pair. That was fine when I was consistently one size and wasn't buying new pants every other month. This time I decided to hem my five pairs of pants by myself.
Here's a good video that shows you too can hem pants without much time or talent. Do you do your own hemming?


Saturday, March 15, 2014

An experimental haircut

We both panicked a bit after we saw the final bill for our kitchen renovation and thought it would be good to cut back on expenses for a little while. Naturally, this decision was made just about the time when my hair started looking really ratty. What's a girl to do?

My normal thrice-yearly fancypants haircuts cost $75. Long hair plus D.C. prices equals expensive! I get a super simple cut so $75 seems absurd. Instead I found a local beauty school.

Including tip it cost me $ 17. Not bad.

I'll probably splurge for professional color when I go up for a promotion at work. Hopefully soon!

Have you ever gone the beauty school route for your haircuts? How do you keep your haircuts inexpensive?