Monday, February 9, 2015

Routines

For as long as I can remember, I've hated routines. Loathed them. Lots of people feel liberated and stress-free with a daily routine. I just feel trapped. Absolutely caged and boxed in, like there is nothing exciting about my life. There is nothing more boring and redundant and hopeless-feeling to me than doing the same thing at the same time every single day. In fact, that's a large part of why I chose a music major over a biology major in college (it was close!): the prospect of a free-flowing day throughout my career, being able to travel where the breeze takes me, and the ability to learn/practice/perform new and exciting rep all the time.

It's pretty surprising to me that I've wound up in an 8:00-5:00 job with a strict home routine with my Kimmy-girl. It's even more surprising that I don't hate it--actually, I'm learning to like it, especially since I know it has so many benefits for my baby! I guess there was a slight oversight on my part because I didn't realize how valuable financial and personal stability and health/retirement benefits were with this type of career path.

At the same time, I am actively trying to change up my routine as much as possible, so I don't get bored and revert back to that "trapped" feeling. I actually dread the day that Kimmy starts school because it will start a long set of consecutive years of routine. I don't even want to think about it!

One of the things I dread most about routine is the feeling of waking up to the same ol' thing every morning and the realization that I have so much to do before I can actually start my day. I'm supposed to get up at 6:30 each morning. Does that happen? Nope! I hit the snooze button, re-set my alarm for random times like 6:51 and 7:03 and 6:37 and 7:06 and my personal fave: 7:17am...only 30 minutes before I'm supposed to leave for work. I also change the names of my iPhone alarms periodically to change things up. Current alarms are "Alarmed," "Alarming," "WAKE UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" and "Don't Hit Snooze!" The unintentional multiple-snooze approach leads to me being sluggish, having a bad attitude about waking up, feeling stressed over all that needs to be done before I can leave for work, and being super grumpy until I have my coffee.

I've recently caught on to a gem of a concept, which is much more bearable for me. I spend my weekends working on pre-completing my routine, so I don't have to do much of anything but roll out of bed and get dressed come Monday morning. I can plug away at my checklist at my own pace, stop and start, take a nap, work late into Saturday night if I want to (great option for this night owl, who doesn't get her big burst of energy until around 7:00pm each day). It's brilliant! I'm wondering why it took me so long to work it to its fullest extent.

I'm going to share a little bit of what I did late last week/this weekend in hopes that it will help anyone else with the same routine woes.

Thursday Evening
Since Kimmy was at her dad's, I worked tirelessly on our budget. I paid off what debts/bills I could pay online. I wrote down what needed to be handled by phone the following day. I worked on my budget sheet, daily expense tracker, and balance sheet. I basically got all of our ducks in a row and allocated our entire federal tax refund to all the things it needed to be allocated to and wrote everything down, so I didn't have to stress about how much money I had and what expenses were going to be coming in over the next few days. I always feel so stressed about money until I sit down and plot everything out. I feel so much better when I get down in the details and come away with an overview of what's going on with my finances. Before bed each night, I memorize the amount that's in my checking account going into the next day.

This budgeting evening was my best yet! We're so close to being into the black it's not even funny. Car is paid off. All but one medical bill is paid off. All credit cards are paid off. Everything but student loans, really, and if I continue to work for a non-profit/government institution for 9 more years, my loans will be forgiven. I'm on a Pay As You Earn plan for my loans with a total of $0 set for my monthly payment, so I'm just releasing that debt from my worry bank entirely!

I got a pep in my step walking into work Friday morning with my giant document shred pile and my newly very slim financial planning folder! I truly thank God for that tax-refund money. I know that the several years of financial struggles were so I would know how to use that money intelligently when it arrived. All things for good.

Friday Evening
I picked up my baby, and we splurged on a Pizza Hut pizza (our fave) for dinner: large pan with pepperoni and black olives cooked just a few minutes extra. Delicious and worth every bit of $16 including tip. I kept my pre-routining simple that night and just made a detailed list of everything I planned to handle over the weekend. I won't bore you with that list, but I will say that writing things down is key for me, both with getting my life organized and relieving my stress (hence this blog, which is the best Kelsey therapy ever).

Saturday
We got an early start to our Saturday! Well, Kimmy did. She woke up at 7:00am on the dot and wanted to watch "Peppa Pig." I set her up with my phone, and she cuddled with me in bed for another hour, while I slept. Love when that happens! It's a rare treat.

We went downstairs and ate breakfast. Then I busted out my computer and got started. First, I made a list of all the things we needed to buy. Next, I scoured all kinds of weekly store ads to find the best deals around town. Then I re-wrote my list by store and wrote down everything I planned to get from each store, along with the prices of each item and the estimated total to be spent at each store. I also gathered my coupons for each store and put each store's coupons in a separate Ziploc bag. This whole process took me a solid 2 hours, but it saved me a lot of time and hassle throughout the rest of the day (and a lot of stress about how much money I'd have left in my checking account after each shopping extravaganza).

After my list-making, I packed a lunch of leftover pizza and blueberries and water. I gathered all my shopping supplies (Thirty-One's Making Memories Rolling Thermal, Deluxe Utility Tote, Essential Storage Totes, and Fresh Market Thermal) for the day and packed my list and coupons. (If you don't have any big totes for shopping, I can hook you up! I love the income from selling my Thirty-One products, sure, but I love the functionality even more and truly stand behind the usefulness! They are seriously just so functional and total lifesavers, especially with a toddler in tow.) We got dressed and headed out of the house around 11:00.

Where all did we go? Everywhere, it seems like! The post office, Lowe's, Walmart, Sam's Club, Kroger, CVS, Target, and Speedway. That's 8 times getting Kimmy into and out of her car seat, which is tiring in and of itself, as any parent knows all too well. What a long and tiring 5 hours, but so worth it! I saved a crap ton of money shopping like this, and we only went to a few more places than we usually would. Not to mention all the free food samples at Sam's on a Saturday afternoon. Oh, and the pretty weather outside. It was a really enjoyable day, and Kimmy was very well behaved because she was having so much fun.

Normally, we shop for food every 2 weeks the Friday or Saturday of payday week, but I think I've managed to get us set with groceries and household items for at least the next 3 weeks this time. If I can keep shopping like this, I *think* I can get away with only going on one big shopping trip once a month with maybe one teeny tiny trip for fresh produce and a few gallons of milk in between. Buying in bulk is an amazing luxury to have in this country!

Once we got home, I put all our groceries away. I left my meats in the fridge, so I could separate out the portions and freeze them to save lots of thawing time once we're ready to use them. We had an easy dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches, put together our new shoe shelves and organized shoes, and called it a day. The rest of the evening was spent playing and talking and laughing, and the Kimmy and I went to bed early around 8:00!

Sunday
Perhaps it's just the sudden change in weather, but Kimmy and I both woke up not feeling well with coughing and sore throats. I decided we better not go to church, in case we were contagious, so we spent the day at home for the most part. Pretty sure it's just allergies, but you can never be too safe when volunteering in a room full of 2-year-olds who can catch things.

Sundays are my meal-prep and cleaning days. I like to space it all out throughout the day, so I don't get too bored with any one activity, and so I make sure to spend plenty of weekend time with my sweet girl. She so cherishes our weekends together (I do, too), and it's easy for me to get caught up in my to-do list and miss lots of moments with her if I'm not careful.

So, I tried to juggle a lot of activities, but I have some practice to do, especially when Kimmy wants to help in the kitchen while I just really want to get things done quickly. It's going to take some practice. Here is what all we/I did:
  • took out the trash (I'm still gradually unpacking, so there are a ton of boxes and packing supplies accumulating through the week. Kimmy's Radio Flyer wagon has been a God-send for carting our trash to the dumpster!)
  • vacuumed the entire downstairs
  • did 3 load of dishes throughout the course of the day
  • changed our sheets and pillowcases
  • ran to CVS for a few things, including a Sunday paper with coupons
  • clipped coupons
  • checked/sorted/trashed mail that I had accumulated through the week
  • balanced my checking account
  • cleaned up toys (several times...lol)
  • washed and dried 2 load of clothes (Kimmy and I have established a brilliant system throughout the week. During our bathtime routine, we take off our dirty clothes and put them directly in the washer, which is in the laundry closet right outside our upstairs bathroom. Usually by Friday/Saturday night, we have enough for a full load of laundry! I wash everything in cold water, so color sorting doesn't matter so much. I can start the washer before our evening bath/bedtime routine every weekend and pop everything in the dryer right before bedtime. Then on Sundays, I can wash sheets, towels, pillowcases, washcloths, and rags before church and stick 'em in the dryer after church. Painless! The sorting and folding and putting away part? Well, let's not go there.)
  • set my coffee pot on auto timer mode (If you don't have a plain ol' coffee pot with auto timer setting, you're ruining your morning routine. Just sayin'. Keurig takes time. Auto timer takes a few non-rushed minutes of your evening and does all the work for you, so you just pour and go in the AM.)
  • did food prep (Bagged my chicken thighs and chicken leg quarters in smaller portions, labeled them, and stuck them in the freezer. Started dinner in the oven: 1 lb. ground beef, 2 sliced potatoes, 5 ribs sliced celery, a sliced onion, and a can of diced tomatoes. Made a Mommy-sized hamburger and a Kimmy-sized hamburger with a little more ground beef and stuck those in the freezer. Turned the rest of the beef into pre-formed meatballs with some parmesan, egg, bread crumbs, basil, parsley, salt, and pepper and stuck those in the freezer. Made my refrigerator oatmeals for the week. Made some banana muffins with our old bananas and stuck most of those in the freezer for easy toddler breakfasts. Made my lunch salads and my veggie and hummus snacks and my sliced apples and oranges. About an hour of prep for all my work foods, and I've saved myself tons of morning hustle and bustle...and calories and money!)
  • watched Frozen with my Kimmy Jarae
  • took some silly photos
  • cleaned my kitchen counters
  • somehow got our baths and bedtime routines handled on time
It was a lonnnnnng Sunday, but it felt so nice to get everything done early. All I did this morning was wake up, unload the dishwasher and put my breakfast and lunch and snack containers in my lunch box, pour my getting-ready coffee and my work coffee, go back upstairs to throw on some clothes and make-up, put on my shoes, grab my lunch box and coffee, hug and kiss my baby, and head out the door.

That's a routine I can live with! It's so short that it feels like no work at all.

Over and out.
-Kels