Small Steps

Two months until our family expands by one- and from what I remember from having my son 5 years ago- our time management will need to radically adjust. From late night feeding, to extra loads of laundry- and even time for simple luxuries like showering- all will now revolve around the needs of a little one who cannot articulate in a spoken language what she wants.

I am taking a step back and thinking about how I can survive those first few time crunched, penny-pinching,  sleep deprived months- and my journey in Minimalism can help me.

Some small steps to sanity I am taking now:

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  • Pre-cooking meals:  I like to have a hot breakfast for my son.  It’s something I’ve done for him ever since he’s had solid foods; a Continental breakfast of sorts. But let’s face it, who has time for that?  Today is Saturday- so I spent some time cooking waffles ahead that I can portion and freeze for the week ahead.  Same thing for bacon (if you are the meat-eating kind).  During the week I can then re-heat, add some fresh fruit, or quickly scramble an egg and he can have a warm breakfast to start his day.  I could buy these things in the frozen food section; but I prefer to make my own and add his favorite touches to it (fresh blueberries or strawberries) and it does end up being a little less expensive for me.
  • Refillable Foaming Soap Bottles:  Something my Mother always did while growing up, before being frugal or Minimalist was trendy.  I purchased empty foaming soap bottles- and from there you can fill with whatever variety soap meets your needs or budget.  I currently use a bulk soap from an essential oil company (which I then also dilute with some water to stretch out the value of).  But you can use any brand you choose. I figure besides saving $3-5 every time I need a hand-soap, I reduce some waste by reusing the soap bottles.
  • Speaking of Bottles: My husband is the King of repurposing plastic containers.  Sometimes too well, so some end up in recycling once I have done some cleaning.  Some now hold small toys, others hardware or supplies in our tool area.  The point is, we at least try to think of a use before we throw away empty containers- but I won’t allow hoarding of empty ones “just in case”.
  • Furniture Polish: I was tired of commercial polish for our dining room table not cleaning and leaving behind a streaky mess.  I found some different recipes online- my favorite at the moment is Olive Oil on a cloth with a drop or two of Orange Essential Oil.  We had some minor surface scratches that this mixture sealed up quite nicely, and the shine has held for two weeks now.  Wipe down with mixture, and then buff off excess with a microfiber, lint free cloth.
  •  Mirror Cleaner: My days working at a cosmetics counter at a department store taught me many things.  My favorite tip was to use 93% rubbing alcohol to clean mirrors- it was less expensive than the blue stuff, and left a streak free shine behind.

Some of these are time-savers, some money-savers. All help me stay focused on what’s important these days- Spending the bulk of my time with my family and enjoying their company.

Have It All

“Mommy, what are you writing?”

“I am writing about what I want to be when I grow up”

“But you are already grown up. You can be anything”

“What should I be?”

“You can work around the house on chores.  And then you should be an artist.  That would be good.”

I’ve been awake since 4 am, mindlessly scrolling thru Facebook and Instagram posts- back and forth, looking for what? Today, it seems like affirmation that I am not ‘enough’.

Some examples of my feed: “Bossbabe” Memes and Quotes.  “Dream it and you can Achieve it”.  “MLM” is the same as working for a company. “Don’t let a man take care of you, earn your own money” “Buy your own Chanel Bag, don’t let a man do it for you”. “You can have it all- travel a few months a year, take your son to school, download my e-book”.  “I replaced my income with (Fill in the blank MLM of the week).

To top it all off, instead of feeling empowered, these and other posts, made me feel sick to my stomach.  I have failed, I have not been able to work a full time job,  have a few side hustles, clean a house, raise a child, be a wife, a writer, an artist.  Why can’t I do it all? Not enough positive affirmations each morning? Did I forget to write in my goal orientated planner all I want to accomplish?

Some days, I am thrilled to manage a hot breakfast for Vince, feed the dogs, and get two cups of coffee (decaf these days, baby is on the way).  Other days, I feel like I can take on the world.

Why the guilt? From what I can remember, my girlfriends are all very successful career women raising wonderful families.  We were raised by Mothers with high standards, who told us to have our own money, and go to college for what we wanted before settling down with a family.  They were probably raised by Mothers who were housewives, limited to careers that were in education or nursing- and when the 60’s and 70’s rolled around, told our Mothers to break free and be independent.

For the bulk of my life, that’s the route I went.  A great education, a fantastic career before and during marriage before starting a family.  My ‘own’ money (which led to fights with my ex about his ‘own’ money, and what was a fair way to pay bills).   And bought with my “own” money- a house, two cars, piles of electronics and expensive makeup.

And with that career, I lost track of being a Mother to my son. He spent a large chunk of his first 4 years at my parents home while I worked (out of necessity for several years as a single mother).  I can remember telling him to be quiet when I needed to run a conference call.  I remember taking him to Mcdonald’s drive thru and running a conference call from my car while he sat in his car seat munching chicken nuggets.  Who knows what little gems I missed by shushing him and telling him to go to another room when I had ‘an important call’. I am glad he saw me working hard; In other ways, I can’t forgive myself for the teary eyes he would get when I hustled him to a spot in front of the tv while I worked.  I spent an hour or so with him in the morning before I dropped him off at my Mom’s; then another hour or so at night for bath and bedtime-  what did I miss? I will never know.   I was a single Mother- and those who have spent time as one know the struggle to balance putting food on the table and giving attention to the one you are working to feed.

“Mommy! Look at this!”

These days, I can stop what I am doing and truly look at what he is showing me. I am blessed just for the precious ability to stop and put down whatever I am doing to really listen to my child, and give him my full attention.

What will I teach my daughter? I hope to have enough self confidence to be secure in whatever dream she decides to chase- whether it is a high power, high paying career; or a stay at home mother to her children, or some combination of that.  I just hope to teach her not to listen to the constant stream of what the world thinks she should be- and to some extent, what I would want her to be.  She will have plenty of role models to choose from as she makes her way in this world- but I want her path to be one she chooses- not one that a Facebook Feed tells her to take.

Minimalism as a Single Mom

Today, a post on a Minimalist Facebook Group got me thinking about my time as a Single Mom.

At the time, there were some drastic changes that had to be made- I was downsized out of work due to a corporate merger, and at the same time became a single Mom to a two year old- while still managing a mortgage and car payment.

Some of the items on my list I have reinstated in life as my circumstances have changed- but I do remember that those few years as a Single Mom were some of the most stressful and joyful of any I have ever had.

  • Dropped cable television: I replaced with slower internet and a Netflix account so I could still job hunt and have some entertainment for my son.
  • Text Only Prepaid Phone: This one I sometimes wish I had stuck with. Once my income dropped, I switched to a $25 a month prepaid plan with a text only phone.  It is amazing to be free of the constant notifications of email, but still just a phone call away.
  • Sold Items on Ebay:  Once my corporate job was done, I was able to sell off a collection of gently used tech products (old phones, tablets) and ‘career wear’ clothing or purses- In one month I ‘made’ around $1100 on these items.  You would be amazed what people will buy on Ebay.
  • Bought and Sold at Consignment Shops: The good and the bad of small children is they are constantly moving up in clothing sizes. We almost exclusively shopped at consignment stores, and I was able to sell back an amazing amount of clothing once my son outgrew them.
  • Donated nearly 100 Books:  A splurge during those times was a book on Kon-Marie; and part of it was dealing with the volume of ‘stuff’ I had collected.  Namely, my precious library. But after sorting it, I found multiple copies of books, and in the end, donated about 100 to local charity.  While I didn’t have a ton of money to donate to favorite causes, I felt better being able to give back something during this time.
  • Dined In- Gardened Out:  To save money, my dining out budget was slashed to- zero.  During the summer, my son and I planted a small garden- enough to keep both of us busy and to provide fresh tomatoes, pumpkins, onion, and carrots. He enjoyed the benefits of nature and fresh air, and I saved money on fresh veggies while having quality time with him.

I have a very supportive family and circle of friends who helped me navigate all the changes in my life during that time.  But even with the stress of it all, we survived and thrived- and once we were back on our feet, I could look back and be happy with all that we accomplished then.