My Intentional Spending Year Reflections, Part 1

For those of you new to my blog, last year in 2019 I did a no spend year. You can read my reflections from each month by clicking on the “No Spend Year” link under categories on the right side of the home page. After that experience, I didn’t want to go back to my old spending habits. The reason I decided to do the no spend year was to reset some of my negative spending habits. Moving into 2020, I decided to do an “Intentional Spending Year,” focusing on being more intentional with what I brought into my home. I wanted to give an update on how that has been going now that we are well into the third month of the year.

At the beginning of the year, I was struggling to buy anything. Since I took a year long spending fast, it almost felt like “cheating” because my brain became so accustomed to not spending. So far, I feel like I have been very intentional about certain purchases, while other purchases I don’t feel like I am being as intentional as I had planned on being.

My biggest struggle so far this year has been with Poshmark. This is a clothing resale app in which you can buy and sell clothing to other users. There were several clothing items which I had “liked” even when I wasn’t purchasing clothing. For those of you not familiar with the app, it is set up similar to social media where you can follow certain people (their closets) and you can “like” certain clothing items. I did purchase several items from my “likes” over the first couple of months of 2020.

The other struggle I had was having items “stored up” from the year that I had my eye on or needed to replace, and really still wanted. Where I would only purchase 1-2 items like this per month in the past, I had several items I wanted. I needed a new black leather jacket (as my old had an obvious worn spot). I also had my eye on a specific pair of shoes that I had first seen probably 6 months ago. In addition to that, I had some workout clothes that were no longer fitting me right, and needed replacing (whoever designed high waisted workout pants are a genius! No more slipping! I replaced a couple pairs of tights that were not high waisted.) I needed to replace one of my white t-shirts that had a stain. And the list could go on!

Leather jacket and basic white t-shirt which I replaced.

Another struggle, which I mentioned in several of my no spend year reflections – was this idea of the slippery slope. I think I purchased some items just because it was “okay to buy things.” I realize now that my biggest struggle is with SHOES! I definitely make excuses as to why I “NEED” a pair of shoes.

Just one of my three shoe racks! I also have some shoe storage boxes on the top shelf of my closet to store out of season shoes!

I do feel like I’m slowing down on the purchases now that I’m through those first couple of months. Part of it is now I’ve purchased those things that I’ve had my eye on, or needed replaced. Another part of it is just being disappointed in myself – wanting to do a better job at being intentional with what comes into my home.

Pair of shoes I had my eye on for over 6 months!

If you read my past reflections from last year, you will know that clothing items were much more difficult for me to not purchase versus the home decor. I feel like I have been much more intentional with home decor purchases. In addition to that, I feel like I’m getting to a place where I can appreciate something in a store without having to purchase it. I probably am erring on the side of NOT purchasing when it comes to things other than clothing.

I purchased these brass birds from my friend’s vintage Etsy shop.

Even with clothing items, I did have a couple of “wins.” Unfortunately, in February, I had to travel back to my home town for my Grandma’s funeral. Ordinarily, I would want to purchase a dress for this occasion. I remembered back to my experience with wanting to purchase a dress for my son’s graduation, and realized I have plenty of dresses to choose from (even though they were all sleeveless or short sleeved and I was traveling to Indiana in the middle of winter! But I added a blazer and it worked!) I also went on a trip at the end of February. I often will purchase clothes specific for trips, but I chose to wear what I had – and I made it work!

Me with my four sisters at the lunch after my Grandma’s funeral.
My son and me at Magic Kingdom!

One other thing I wanted to share, which is difficult to open up about, is one of the reasons why I may have been spending more (other than I was “allowed to.”) I learned while on my no spend year that when I was tempted to shop, I replaced it with other habits – like watching Netflix for instance. As I reflect, I realize that oftentimes I am tempted to shop when I am stressed out or going through something difficult in life. It was my way of numbing out life. I have gone through several difficult personal things over the last few months – making me more susceptible to seeking out ways to find comfort. I’m thankful for the no spend year, and how it has contributed to my ability to see more clearly reasons behind my habits. Moving forward, I will find more healthy ways to deal with the stressors of life. I used to journal a lot, but have not been consistent for several years now. I want to use journaling as a way to brain dump my thoughts and feelings. I also want to turn to meditation and prayer when I recognize that I’m going down that path of self medication.

Moving forward this year, I would like to be more intentional than I have been thus far. Practically I am going to do this by doing a few things. First, I want to come up with more concise “rules” for my year. For my no spend year, I had specific rules that helped me stay on course. I didn’t really come up with specific rules for my intentional spending year. I think this will help keep me grounded. I plan on cutting way back on looking through the Poshmark app. I also plan on just not going into stores. This will be easy now that we are staying at home more with the Coronavirus pandemic. In addition, I plan to shift my focus. I found during my no spend year that I had so much extra time, and this was because my focus was shifted away from things! I will also, as I mentioned find healthier ways to deal with difficult circumstances in life.

Inspired By Grandma

Unfortunately on Sunday February 2nd of this year, we had to say goodbye to my Grandma. She had lived a long, beautiful life. She was 93 years old, and suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, so it was bitter sweet to say goodbye. Grandma was basically like another mother to me. My grandparents lived 10 minutes from our house, so we spent a lot of time over there. Before my Grandma was a mother or grandmother, she was a teacher. Even after she retired, she continued to “teach” us. I wanted to write about my Grandmother to honor her. Tomorrow I will be saying my last goodbye at her funeral, so I thought it was an appropriate time to share.

Grandma taught me that you don’t have to follow a recipe to whip up something with ingredients you have on hand. Or if we were following a recipe and we had missing ingredients, she always knew how to improvise. Not to mention her cooking was amazing! There’s just something about a grandma’s cooking, right? Almost every Sunday after church Grandma would host us all for lunch – our family, which included 5 kids plus my two cousins. I remember she would wear her apron to the dinner table. I always thought that was funny until I became the main cook of my own little family and learned her secret – that an apron is a sly way that an adult woman can wear a bib! Grandma grew up in the south, so it was fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, fried okra, and banana pudding! There was always a feast on Sunday afternoons.

My Grandparents with my husband and me on our wedding day.

Grandma’s house was a wonderland for kids! They lived in a big house with a basement – where all the fun happened. They also lived on acreage, including a wooded path behind their home. They had a big red barn where Grandpa did all of his woodworking. Every summer they had a garden, and they had a pool too. We spent many summer days over at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, picking ripe fruits and vegetables from their garden, swimming in the pool, and slurping popsicles out in the sun on the deck attached to the front of their house. Summer was the best time to spend the night at Grandma’s house. She would let us sleep with her. We would balloon up the sheets to make a “tent” and laugh and laugh. With the windows open, and the cool summer breeze rushing in through the screen, we would be lulled to sleep by the tune of the bull frogs and crickets who lived outside her window.

My Grandma meeting my firstborn, Cora. Her namesake is from my Grandma’s mother.

A famous story told in our family is “that one time Lorraine (age 6) and Joy (age 4) ran away to Grandma’s house.” Who doesn’t love Grandma’s house more than their own?! Now as a mother with my own children, I am horrified to think about two little pairs of legs walking nearly 4 miles to their Grandma’s house! Don’t worry, I apologize to my mom every time this story comes up! My Grandparents raised our cousins, so our plan was to live in Tim’s room and he would bring us food. When we arrived on their property, we hid out by the big pine tree at the edge of their front yard. We kept peeking around the tree, to see if anyone would see us. We then ran to the next tree – a little closer to the house. Grandma caught a glimpse of the flashes racing across her yard. When she came out and saw that it was us, she of course immediately called our mom – drat, the plan to live in Tim’s room was up. But, she did give us popsicles and let us swim in the pool in our clothes. We were hot after all.

My Grandma with my daughter Cora at my sister’s house in Atlanta.

I loved writing and poetry when I was younger. Grandma always encouraged me to write – a poem or a short story, or just write about your day – what you saw, heard, or felt. A few days after Grandma passed away, I had the urge to “deal with” my teenage angst ridden journals. I had found them in my closet several months back when I was doing a closet purge and I had decided then that I was ready to let those journals go. I didn’t want my kids to one day stumble on these horrible tales of my childhood. I seemed to write only when I had negative feelings, and I wanted to shred those and dispose of them for cathartic purposes. I began the process of shredding. When I got to the mauve Precious Moments journal, and opened the cover, I saw the beautiful scrawling which was my Grandmother’s writing. I ran my fingers over the words, tracing them as I read them. She had given it to me right before I entered high school. She wrote in the front a sweet poem about keeping record of your days. This journal I noticed I used in a different way than the other journals. The other journals were more of a “Dear Diary” scenario. This journal I WROTE. I wrote poems, deep thoughts, and unprocessed unfiltered feelings. Although the content was still angsty, I decided to keep this journal. The timing was so serendipitous. It’s like my Grandma was talking to me through the history of words on paper.

My Grandma, sister, and my sister’s son came out to visit us when we lived in Oregon.

My Grandma  was a teacher at heart, and never passed up opportunities to teach us. She loved to bird watch, and would teach us about the different birds and different bird calls. When we would walk through the woods, across the dilapidated wooden bridge, she would point out different types of trees. One time, I remember collecting leaves, which we would bring home and preserve between two sheets of wax paper using an iron to melt the wax. We got out the encyclopedias to look up what type of tree the leaf belonged to.

Grandma with my son, Luke. My Grandparents came to Austin to visit us!

A great way she taught her grandchildren was through travel and learning about other places. Her and my grandfather traveled all over the world! For each of their 7 grandchildren’s 5th and 11th birthdays, they took us on a special trip somewhere. I had to share my trips with my cousin Tim, because he was my age. Which I didn’t mind because we were good friends. For our 5th birthday trip, we loaded up the camper and drove to Savannah, Georgia. I don’t really remember much from this trip, other than a ride on a ferry boat. I also remember walking down the shoreline, and finding a huge jellyfish. A photo of my cousin and I squatting over this sea monster is still displayed in her home today.

My Grandma with my daughter, Cora.

For our 11th birthday trip, we drove all the way down the northeast coast states – starting up in Maine and working our way down. We went to a small fisherman’s town in Maine, where I learned you don’t eat the tails on shrimp. We went to New York City where I saw the first homeless person I had ever seen, was lectured by a woman with a cane on the subway that I should learn manners and give my seat to the “elderly” (referring to herself), and tried to walk up all the flights of stairs in the Statue of Liberty because the elevator was broken. Well, at least we made it to her feet! We went to D.C. where we walked past the white house, saw the Capitol Building, the Lincoln Memorial, and of course The Mall. We also went to the Smithsonian Museum.

Grandma always had funny, made up songs for everything. She liked to make us giggle. One time, on a trip traveling in her camper, we were sitting in the top bed overlooking the road as Grandpa drove the 5th wheel. We drove through a section of roadway that was nothing but pine trees across the hillside, as far as the eye could see. She started singing, “pine treeeeees, pine treeeees, pine trees. Pine treeeees, pine treeeees, pine trees,” then she paused for a moment and started this chorus again. We were both rolling with laughter!

My Grandma with my sons, Luke and Cade.

My college degree is in Journalism. I loved writing, even when I was very young. I attribute my love for writing and poetry to my Grandmother, who encouraged it in me. Today, I may not have a job using my journalism and writing skills, but over the years I have written in different capacities including currently writing blog posts. I thought it apropo to write a tribute to my Grandmother. I’ll end with a poem that I wrote about my Grandma when I was young.

A Grandma’s Love For Nature

By Joy L. Vendrely

I always wondered why Grandma stopped to look at flowers…

…For hours.

Why did she want to look at a waterfall?

That’s all.

Or admire a mountain with trees spread across…

…As if she were lost?

Grandma loves to collect shells from the ocean off the sand,

Just because she can.

I always wondered, but now I know…

…Because nature told me so.

My Last Decade: What I Did Before I Was a Professional Organizer

It’s hard to believe we have entered a new year, but even more difficult to believe we’ve begun a new decade! So much can happen in one decade. As we rang in the new year, I was reminiscing about the experiences I had enjoyed over the last 10 years. I thought it would be fun to share what I did prior to being a professional organizer (and now YouTuber!)

First day of 7th grade, 3rd grade, and kindergarten

Ten and a half years ago, in July of 2009 we moved from the Northeast side of Austin to the Northwest side. We moved primarily to live in a better school district for our children. Our oldest child, our daughter, was entering 7th grade that fall. Our two boys were about to enter third grade and kindergarten. We moved into a home that was a bit of a fixer upper.

That year was filled with soccer, basketball, band, and piano lessons. My daughter was involved in a non profit Christian club, Wyldlife (middle school version of Young Life) and I became involved in that as a parent helper. In addition to that, I volunteered in both my boys’ classrooms, brought them each lunch once a week, and began the long process of remodeling our home.

When we first moved into this neighborhood, I looked to see if there was a Mom’s In Prayer group. I found one for my kids’ schools, and joined right away. MIP is an international organization for moms of school aged kids to gather together to pray for their kids, schools, teachers, and administrators. I participated in this group for the last 10 years, and for the last 2 years I was the leader for the high school group.

I continued to help with Wyldlife when my daughter was in 8th grade, and ended up taking over as the lead parent role for Wyldlife. Once a week I coordinated dinners for the leaders, snacks for the kids for club, communicated with the parents to keep them informed about club and special events. Our parent team also planned our annual fundraiser every fall. The leaders were college students from the University of Texas in Austin, so I mentored a couple of college age girls each semester. It was fun to get to know them, make them care packages, meet them for lunch or coffee, text them, and pray for them! I was involved with this organization as the parent leader until the spring of 2019. It was bittersweet to leave that role. I developed so many amazing relationships through that role. I will be forever grateful for that experience.

In 2010, I trained for my third half marathon, we went on our first family ski vacation, and I continued to be chauffeur for after school sports for my two boys. That fall, I unfortunately began down a long journey of health issues and trying to figure out why I had some severe digestive issues and anxiety. Thankfully, I eventually landed in a holistic doctor’s office where I learned all about gluten intolerance. Within weeks of changing my diet, I was feeling so much better and eventually was able to go off my acid reflux medication.

In 2011 I undertook the big project of painting our kitchen cabinets. I loved how it turned out, and ended up painting our game room and bathroom cabinets as well. It was a huge project, but well worth the effort!

BEFORE
AFTER
BEFORE
AFTER

My boys had been playing soccer and basketball since they were in kindergarten, but both of them decided to try flag football in 2011.

In 2012, my boys continued to participate in sports – in the spring my older son played flag football and my younger son soccer, then in the fall my older son decided to join the middle school cross country team. My younger son played basketball that winter. Needless to say, I was busy running kids to practices and watching the games. That year, we decided to find a smaller church where we could make more connections. We found a church which we loved and started developing lifelong relationships. The pastor was looking for someone to take over some of the administrative roles that he had been doing, and I stepped into that role and worked there for a year and a half. 2013 and 2014 brought more sports, homework, and friends revolving through our house. I continued my role as admin for our church, and as I mentioned was still the parent leader for Wyldlife. My older son started the orthodontic journey in 2014, and my daughter decided she wanted to take ballet lessons. We decided it would be fun to do together, so at age 40 I picked up ballet! In the midst of all of this, I was still working on updating our home.

2015 was a momentous year for us. All three of our children graduated from their respective schools – our daughter from high school, our older son from middle school, and our youngest from elementary school. It was definitely a year of big changes. In 2016, with my oldest in college and my boys beginning to be more independent, I was searching for something I could do with my time other than the Wyldlife role. I became a BeachBody coach for a very short time – leading online fitness challenge groups. I quickly learned that I was not thriving in this role.

There was a home decor and furniture boutique that I loved to frequent and became friends with the owner. I told her to let me know if she ever needed help. In the fall of 2016, she contacted me to take me up on my offer and I started working for Vintage Fresh, managing the store while the owner was not there. It was there that I learned my love for organizing as I organized the inventory in the stockroom. I left this role in the winter of 2018 to begin research on starting my own business as a professional organizer. I worked with several friends that spring – helping them organize spaces in their homes. I worked on building a website – using Wix, as I knew this would be a good place to learn website building.

I loved organizing the stock at Vintage Fresh.

In the fall of 2018, our youngest son got very sick. He had GI issues that his pediatrician could not diagnose. He ended up missing many days of school, and in and out of the doctor’s office and finally a specialist. By the time he saw the Pediatric GI doctor, he had missed so much school that it was going to be difficult to catch up. We decided it was best for him to do online school instead because of his health. Overnight I became a “homeschool” mom, something I was totally unprepared for. Because of my son’s health and getting him settled into his new schooling routine, I had to put my organizing business on the back burner. I continued to write blog posts here and there. I also managed social media accounts for my business, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2019 that I really pursued marketing this business. I transferred my Wix site to a WordPress site and began more consistently writing blog posts and posting on social media. In November of 2019 I took the big leap of starting a YouTube channel in conjunction with my business.

The last decade has been a wild ride for sure! I feel so privileged to have had the opportunity to stay at home with our children, volunteer at their school and in other organizations, and pursue my hobbies – one of which has turned into a business! I’m excited to see what the next 10 years will hold for me!

5 Excuses We Use to Hold Onto Things

Purging our homes of unneeded items can be a challenging task. Marie Kondo makes it look so easy to know what should stay and what should go, but the reality is it can be difficult to part with things we don’t find are useful or bring us joy. There are several excuses we use as to why we keep items. I will share with you a few and the truth about why it’s okay to let go.

Money

One of the most common reasons we tend to keep things, in spite of not using it, is that we spent money on it. There are many areas in our homes where we keep things because we spent money on them – clothes, home decor, toys to name a few. We may even keep unused toiletries or cleaners that didn’t work out because we spent money on them. The truth is, holding onto these items that we are not using is not going to get our money back. It might even be wasting our money because if we gave the item away, it could get new life and be used again instead of sitting in the back of a closet or cabinet.

Gift

Another reason we keep things is because it was a gift. I think it is a universal feeling to feel guilt getting rid of something someone gave to you. Even if you are someone who doesn’t attach sentimental value to things readily, it is difficult. I’m sure it’s even more difficult for those who do attach sentimental value to items. The truth is, when someone gives you a gift, that item now belongs to you which means you can do with it what you please. You can appreciate their gesture and experience the joy of the act of giving in that moment, but if this item is not useful to you or does not bring you joy then it is silly to hold onto it just because it was given to you. If the person who gave you the item would be upset because you didn’t use it or you gave it away – that is a boundary issue they have, not you. Usually, your friends and relatives would not want an item they gave you to cause stress or clutter in your home. I think most people would rather the item that they spent money on be given to someone else to be useful than to sit in a drawer or closet in your home.

Some people keep things because they might need it someday. This one is tricky, because certainly there are things we keep for the future – perhaps you just had a baby and you are keeping your pre-pregnancy weight clothes until you settle into your post baby weight. Maybe you are keeping clothes or toys to be passed onto younger siblings.The truth is, many times we hold onto things because we think we will use them in the future when these items will never get used again. Maybe there are those jeans you hold onto as incentive to lose weight, or a home decor piece that is really no longer your style but you might like it again. For these items the 20/20 rule, created by The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus – works well. If you can replace the item for under $20 within 20 minutes of your home and you are considering parting with it, then it’s okay to let go.
Some people keep things because they might need it someday. This one is tricky, because certainly there are things we keep for the future – perhaps you just had a baby and you are keeping your pre-pregnancy weight clothes until you settle into your post baby weight. Maybe you are keeping clothes or toys to be passed onto younger siblings.The truth is, many times we hold onto things because we think we will use them in the future when these items will never get used again. Maybe there are those jeans you hold onto as incentive to lose weight, or a home decor piece that is really no longer your style but you might like it again. For these items the 20/20 rule, created by The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus – works well. If you can replace the item for under $20 within 20 minutes of your home and you are considering parting with it, then it’s okay to let go.

Sentimental photo albums


Many times, we keep things because they are sentimental items. Obviously we don’t need to get rid of all sentimental items. It’s okay to hang onto items that have meaning and remind us of events or times that bring back positive thoughts. However, we need to evaluate how many things we hold onto. It’s good to give yourself limits on what you keep as far as sentimental items. Choose a box or two, and keep only what fits inside those boundaries. Some items, especially large ones can be kept digitally by photographing the item(s) prior to letting them go. Typically, the picture of the item will bring back the same memories as the item itself. Also, if you have sentimental items that cause negative feelings, I would recommend letting go of those items. There is no need to hold onto something that causes you pain.

Lastly, people often keep things because they have the space for it. I relate well to this one. I used to not purge things that were difficult to purge because I had the space for it, so why not just leave it. The truth is, physical clutter can cause mental clutter. If every time you open your cabinet and it is filled to the top, your brain has to process everything that is in there. With less stuff, it’s less the brain has to process. I am beginning to enjoy having empty cabinets! For me personally, I realize that one day (maybe sooner rather than later as number two of three children is headed off to college next fall), we will likely downsize and live in a smaller home. I like the idea of being able to slowly over time purge my items rather than being forced into it when we do choose to downsize. Even further down the road (or not since we never know!) when we leave this earth we will leave our things behind, and our family will have to make choices about what to do with those things. I don’t want my stuff to become a burden to my children or family members.


This is certainly not an exhaustive list of reasons why people keep things. What are the reasons you keep things?


American Accumulation

One of the biggest obstacles in staying organized is the amount of items coming into our home. I’d like to think I am a relatively organized person, however I began to notice that really I had just become what I like to call an “organized pack rat.” Yes, I had boxes neatly labeled – but they were stacked high and I often did not open or look through any of those boxes.

A few years ago I discovered the idea of minimalism. Really, I have always been one to purge things. Once my youngest entered elementary school I began to find ways to purge things and organize the important things so they were on display and I could enjoy them daily. But, learning about this idea of owning less in order to live a more fulfilling life intrigued me. I began to read blog posts and watch YouTube videos from people who were pursuing minimalism and what that looked like for them. So, over the past three years I have been slowly decluttering my house.

Through some of the minimalist blogs and YouTube videos I began to learn about more important reasons to pursue a minimalist lifestyle, like the impact our consumerism has on the earth and on the people who make the products we purchase. I recently watched a documentary on Netflix, “The True Cost,” which was very thought-provoking. This documentary revealed some of the poor working conditions people in third world countries are experiencing in order for people in America and Europe to have cheap clothing. Not to mention how these factories are polluting the communities of these individuals, which is impacting their health. The fashion industry is number two in the pollution of the world, only second to the oil industry. Our planet has natural limits and cannot continue to sustain the impact consumerism has on it. It’s not just the clothing factories that are polluting the earth, but the clothing itself once it is discarded. According to the documentary, only 10% of clothing donated to charities are actually sold to a customer. The other 90% ends up in a landfill or shipped to a third world country to be sold there. Again, most of that ends up in polluting their communities. Many of the low-cost, fast fashion items are made at a price.


Back to accumulation… recently, after cleaning out my closet AGAIN I began to think about why I seemed to still have SO much stuff in spite of decluttering. It can be easy to bring home a new shirt here, and a piece of home decor there; but over time it adds up. My closet was an example of this. A couple of years ago I reorganized our closet, decluttered it and bought the number of matching hangers we needed for the remaining articles of clothing. I proclaimed I would do the “one-in-one-out rule,” but somehow that went by the wayside. My accumulation could not keep up with my decluttering! So, believe me, I know this is easy to do! And this was just my closet. There are so many areas of our homes that we are accumulating and not decluttering. What complicates things more is when you have other people living in your home. Spouses and children also bring things into the home.

This is embarrassing, but I have a feeling I’m not the only American who struggles with accumulation. THIS is a pile of things I recently took to the Goodwill. It was a pile I had been accumulating for the last three months until I could take it in, but this is still A LOT.

I decided that it’s best to not get rid of my husband’s and kids’ things without their permission, but I could make a significant impact on our home by decluttering my own things. This impact would be even more significant if I slowed the inflow of stuff. In 2019, I am choosing to do a “no spend” year, in hopes that by focusing on not accumulating our home will STAY decluttered. Once we declutter and slow the inflow, then organization has the impact we were hoping for. Organization systems set in place work best when everything has a home. It can be difficult to stay on top of incorporating new items if they come in faster than we can find homes for them. Of course there will be ever-evolving needs in our homes as our children grow and our hobbies change, but if we are intentional about the day-to-day things we allow into our home, it can have a lasting effect on the organization of our homes.