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With Earth Day just around the corner many of us are thinking about ways to create less impact on the environment. We will remember to do little things like bring our own reusable bags to the store, recycle our paper and plastics or turn off the lights when they’re not in use. While these are all points to consider, one thing most of us don’t really think about is how our homes can potentially leave a carbon footprint.
Home ownership has always been part of the American Dream. To some this means buying biggest, best house one could afford. While house size is a matter of preference, it may not be a practical reality for many. With larger homes comes more responsibility in terms of time, money and resources, which many of us don’t have with work, family and other life obligations.
This spring, the real estate market is expected to rebound and buyers can expect sticker shock as home values rise according to Realtor Magazine. While more square footage is desirable, it may not always be the best solution.
Here are five reasons to consider a smaller home:
1. Less Expensive Mortgage Have we learned our lessons from the 2008 housing bubble and credit crisis? Many were reduced by circumstances to move from McMansion-sized homes to smaller spaces which caused us to rethink our home owning options. Want to read up on extreme cases small living? Check out this one family affected by the crisis who went from a large home to a less than 700 square foot sized cabin. For even more extreme cases, read up on the Tiny House Movement where people opt for less than 200 square of living spaces.
2. Less Maintenance Costs While HGTV has great profiles of beautiful dream homes, one thing it fails to present is the cost to maintain. Let’s say you buy a 7000+ square foot home filled with massive, chef grade kitchen, eight bedrooms, six baths, tons of living space, a pool, sports complex, beautiful gardens. We don’t live in the age of Downton Abbey where you have Carson the Butler and Mrs. Hughes the Housekeeper and their staff on hand. That’s fine if that’s really your dream and you have the resources to make it work, but most people find it more cost effective to either themselves. With a smaller space you can maintain your own house and save money on labor.
3. Less Hoarding With less space, you can’t hoard or have a collection of rarely used tchotchkes. Have you ever seen TV shows like Hoarders or Clean Sweep where people have tons of junk and keep accumulating stuff? Not to say that people don’t hoard in small homes too, but if you wanted to be able to live comfortably in your space, you’d have to get rid of stuff you don’t need or use or you’d literally be consumed with all your stuff.
4. Less Clutter Having little space will require you to ruthlessly edit your possessions and keep only those things that you truly need. You are forced to rethink buying habits and make decision about what you need versus what you want.
5. Eco-friendly By default, smaller home means you will use less natural resources. You won’t need a large sprinkler system for the large lawn. You will spend less time and energy mowing the lawn and general yard maintenance. Your heat and electricity bills will go down as you won’t have a lot of spaces using energy. If you’re building a new home from scratch and opt for a smaller sized home, you’ll use less building materials as opposed to if you were to build a larger home. It’s a win-win.
What are your thoughts on small home living versus living large?
Can’t decide whether or not to stay in the city or move to the suburbs? Join the club. Most people start out in the cities because of a job or school. While it’s all well and good when you’re a student, single or in a DINK (Dual Income No Kids) household, it may not be the best case scenario if you decide to start a family. The first step is to consider your own goals and your own reasons for moving. While the grass almost always seems greener on the other side, like anything else in life, there are almost always tradeoffs.
Here are some questions to consider before making the choice:
Kids & School
Where will your kids (or potential kids) have space to roam around and play?
What’s the quality of the school districts? Will you have to enroll your child in private school because the school districts in the city by where you live suck?
How’s the competition for admission to those urban private schools?
How’s the school district in the suburb you’re consider moving too? How much are taxes?
If you did opt for private school outside the city what are the costs there?
Home Improvement, Exercise & Transit
Would buying a real house with yard space in the suburbs or country work better for your situation? Instead of walking or taking public transit everywhere you will need a car and you will need to drive everywhere. Can you imagine yourself carpooling your kids (and/or) pets in a minivan?
You will probably gain weight because you don’t walk everywhere like you do in the city.
Can you discipline yourself to workout at home with the distractions of a busy family life? If not, would you pay for a gym membership and if so will you actually use it?
You will no longer be a renter but a homeowner. Problems with leaks, plumbing, wiring, housing structure, etc. will become YOUR problem. Are you prepared to become a home improver and take care of DIY projects yourself or hire a professional to take care of home improvement or maintenance matters? What about snow days? Will you be okay with shoveling your driveway when you get a couple feet of snow? Will you be willing to invest in a snow blower for those mega snowstorms to keep your driveway clear?
What Worked for Us
When my husband and I got married, we decided that once we had a family we would definitely move out of the city. Cost was a big factor. Space was another. While the Boston area was a great place to live we knew it wouldn’t work for us once we decided to have children or pets. First off, it’s expensive, even in the surrounding Boston metro area. Second, you don’t a lot of space for the money. Third, we also factored in having family near by. That was important. We had both sets of family within a one and a half hour radius of Philadelphia PA so we decided to move to a suburban bordering on rural town in eastern Pennsylvania. That made a huge difference in terms of cost and proximity to family.
What We Gained & Miss
While we miss the cultural diversity like the best museums, events, a huge selection of restaurants to choose from, our set of friends, we decided that leaving the city worked for us. While we’re still figuring things out here, we’ve learned how to embrace the tradeoffs of one situation for another. It was certainly a big adjustment leaving the city but we’ve gained a lot.
Advantages: We’ve made a home for ourselves here, we’ve made a lot of new friends along the way, we see family more often than before when we were a lot further away from each other and we’ve made the best of it. We haven’t abandoned the city completely. If we want to do cultural things and have more dining options other than chain restaurants we make the plans to visit our friends in the city. When we see how cramped their situation is in their apartment living space, we appreciate the space we do have and invite them to visit us whenever they’re in our neck of the woods. We see how they shop and how they take the elevator down with their empty cart bags with wheels to the nearest Whole Foods while their children walk along side with them and wonder if that would have been our life if we had lived in the city with the families.
Making the City Work
There are some diehards that make it work. I met a lady in New York who lived on the Upper West Side in New York City and she had three children. She and her husband had a two bedroom where the three kids shared one bedroom and she and her husband shared another. She agreed yes they have no space. But the city is basically an extension of their living space. The Natural History Museum is just steps away from their apartment. Central Park is right there. They all get to walk everywhere and not worry about cars. Their doorman knows their children by name and high five each other. They’re like an extension of their family.
What Works for You
Whatever situation you imagine yourself in you can make it work for you. It just depends on what tradeoffs you’re willing to live with, what’s important to you and what you’re willing to sacrifice. Most of all, it’s really your attitude, approach and willingness to embrace change or to adapt to where ever you are that will make urban, suburban or rural lifestyle successful for you. There’s no perfect answer except the one that you consider after weighing all your options and talking to people in the situation you want to eventually be in.
Life Bucket List
One of the things on my bucket list was to complete a triathlon which is a race that consists of swimming, biking and running. I was in need of a new athletic challenge this year. I had completed two full 26.2 mile marathon races in my lifetime. But running was something I had been doing ever since I was in high school. Cycling I knew was doable since I’ve used it for cross training in the past and survived a spin class. Swimming however always scared me. I was never good at it. I was okay at backstroke but I always had trouble swimming freestyle and coordinating the breath with each stroke of the arm while keeping my body balanced at the same time.
So getting over the fear of swimming was one thing I had to work on. One of the ways I conquered this fear was by signing up for an indoor triathlon race at my local gym. While this seemed totally doable, I knew there would be challenges since these were three separate activities and you had to ease into transitions from one sport to another, otherwise you could potentially injure yourself.
Calendar Made it Real
I signed up so the race was on my calendar. Having an actual date and deadline was something I had to do to get motivated. It’s motivated me to get to the gym at least 5-6 days a week. When weight loss was not the end goal but just a bi-product of the process that I’m going through anyway for an upcoming race, hell yeah I’m gonna go to the gym!
I looked at the training schedules online and chose to use the one on Athleta’s website.
A lady at the gym had a daughter that completed the triathlon and had done a Total Immersion swimming program. She recommended the book and DVD. After a quick Google search, I found the Wiki helpful and also Tim Ferris’ old blog post. I’ve printed his notes and looked at the three videos included in the post. I felt watching the videos repeatedly helped my subconscious programming so that when I was in the pool, I tried to keep everything streamlined.
The Race Itself
Unfortunately, I trained solo for this even and did not have the benefit of a training group like I did for my marathons in the past. It was great to make friends with another newbie triathlete in the locker room. Her tip was to look at the race as a regular morning workout, which helped calm my nerves.
I noticed others had their cycling and running outfits laid out on the benches and empty lockers for the T1 transition so I followed suit and did the same. I already had my swimsuit on and was ready to go.
During the swim all I did was focus on the same things I did in practice, and that helped calm me down and conserve energy for the next two sports. If that meant stopping for water or Gatorade to keep hydrated, then that’s what I did. My plan was to run my own race, not worry about my competitors, go at my own pace, finish it and hopefully at the next tri event I could improve my time then.
Relieved the swim portion is over, we had 10 minutes to transition to bike. Unfortunately I was running late as the cycling was on the other end of the gym and the other tri newbie and I were catching our breaths and chatting. I also thought I’d have time to blowdry my hair. NOT! Anyway, we get to the cycling studio, we lost maybe one minute so not a big deal there. I was still breathless from the swim so started out really slow. Then by the end I sped up and was able to push myself more.
My quads hurt like hell, off we were to the track, 5 minutes transition. Fortunately the walk from the bike to track wasn’t far at all and was on the same floor.
I went slow the first couple laps, then got into a rhythm, then sprinted the end. I really pushed myself the last couple laps. As anticipated, running was my best sport out of the three.
What I Learned
Finishing the race brought a sense of life accomplishment. It also encouraged me to sign up for another race in the near future. Other takeaways included enjoying and savoring the moment of the experience despite the nerves and feeling rushed during transitions. I met some great people and we plan to be in touch for future races. Doing this race got me out of my comfort zone and made me think of other areas of my life that I could maybe improve and grow on. Another thing I learned is that from past experience, groups help me move forward faster so I’ll seek out tri groups in the future.
I was a little bummed I came in last for swimming, but couldn’t be too hard on myself since I basically learned freestyle from books, videos and the Googlesphere three months ago. Others probably swam for years. I look at those who did well as motivation for me to get better. Based on that, my husband and I decided to sign up for a live TI Workshop seminar in our area. We plan to improve and have fun with it!
Before the Internet, we gathered information via offline sources like encyclopedias, print magazines, print newspapers, old school radio and television. I remember feeling excitement when I browsed through favorite subjects in World Book Encyclopedia. Before Kindle, Nook and iPad I remember spending hours at bookstores or libraries and filling my basket with fiction and non-fiction titles alike. Gathering information was simpler as there wasn’t an overabundance of sources to choose from.
Fast forward to present day and you could pretty much get anything you could ever want or need through the web’s information highway. While I still love going through offline materials every once in awhile, getting information online is easier, mostly free and convenient as you never have to leave your home. All you need is a computer and Internet connection. In today’s digital era we’ve got online newspapers, online magazines, Wikipedia, blogs, podcasts, vlogs (video blogs), Netflix, YouTube and other social media. Information is constantly being updated and you almost don’t want to stop consuming content for fear of missing out on something that might be important.
While’s it’s great to learn, and knowledge is truly power, there comes a time when you need to be productive. While some information is great, too much consumption can distract you from getting what you need to get done done.
Think about your New Year’s resolutions. What are they and what are your priorities? Was this the year you would make time to go to the gym, start a new blog, experiment with techniques in art or photography, write a novel, get a new job, start a new side business, etc.? Have you found yourself researching aspects on how to get started on your goals or what to create that you found yourself either not moving towards your goals or not creating at all?
There needs to be a way to be more balanced, mindful and selective in obtaining information while also taking action. There are still times when I struggle with mindlessly web surfing and getting stuck in analysis paralysis. However I’ve found some ways to cut back on information overload so I can be more productive.
Here are five basic tips to help resist content consumption and make progress with your goals.
1. Get more selective about the content you consume. I had read Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week when it first came out and one of his tips was to cultivate selective ignorance. Basically stay away from sources that are not important, actionable or relevant to your immediate goals. He also uses the analogy of consuming content to eating foods with non-nutritional value. People excessive in their data consumption often get info from the wrong sources and get distracted from their goals.
2. Prioritize selected content you intend to act on right away. For information you can use right away for an immediate project, prioritize the top vetted 3-5 sources. And for each hour that you consume the “right” content, you should spend about an hour implementing what you read right away so you don’t get stuck in information overload and take no action. Think of it this way, how can you learn to swim in the ocean if you’re always staying on the shore? One of these days you’ll have to get in the water.
3. Done is better than perfect. This is one of the mottos that Facebook lived by when Mark Zuckerberg started his company. Others include “Move fast, break things.” The same could be applied when moving towards your goals. You don’t have to hit everything out of the ball park. Just doing a little at a time in the right direction is enough. Also don’t wait for all the stars to line up or all your ducks to stand in a row because that will never happen. Just move forward.
4. Commit your goals to a time slot on your calendar. Whether you work on something for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour or two hours, make sure it’s on your calendar and you’re personally committed to getting the important stuff done. If it helps, use a timer and work through your action items without any distraction.
5. Prioritize creation over consumption. This is a tip I got from Marie Forleo’s Marie TV. She discusses the Creation to Consumption ratio in which not only should you strive to create more than consume but be sure you create or commit to your goals before you consume content. Also make sure you create during peak hours and consume content only during downtime like when you’re waiting in line at the store, or commuting on the subway or bus.
One of the biggest challenges as a parent is keeping the amount of noise toys (and toys in general) to a minimum. Of course it’s easier said than done. Toys are one of the best ways for children to learn, grow and develop their motor skills. Some amount of toys are necessary to keep young children occupied and engaged. However when you find that every room in the house is becoming a playroom and the noise toy engagement level becomes too much, you know it’s time to clear some of the clutter.
Here are three ways to simplify:
1. Streamline with the 80/20 Rule. Have you noticed your children play with 20% of their favorite toys about 80% of the time? I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the Pareto Principle where 80% outcome is caused by 20% effort. (In clothing terms we tend to use about 20% of our wardrobe 80% of the time.) The same could be applied to toys. Anything my son has outgrown or is no longer interested in I usually donate to charity or pass down to a younger kid who might appreciate it.
2. Rotate toy selection. With the streamlined toys you do have on hand try to change things up on a regular basis. While I keep my son’s favorites out for him to play with, I also have containers of toys that I keep out of sight in storage. I rotate a small bin of toys (especially noisy ones) in and out about every week. This keeps things fresh and makes it seem like he’s getting new toys.
3. Opt for simpler toys. This could include learning flash cards, blocks, puzzles, etc. After becoming a parent and receiving an onslaught of high-pitch sounding noise toys from well-meaning relatives, I was pleasantly surprised to come across this old school chalkboard laptop from Anthropologie. What’s nice is that it allows for kids to be creative and work on motor skills without all the over-stimulation from noise toys. It’s also portable enough to take on trips and keep a child occupied.
Last night I was going back and forth on my television between the 2014 Golden Globe Awards and Season 4/Episode 2 of Downton Abbey. Downton Abbey is my favorite series on PBS’s Masterpiece Theater so I had to ditch the glamour and fun skits that is typical of the awards ceremony for a little upstairs and downstairs drama. So yeah, Awards ceremony first, Downton Abbey and then back to the Awards show. Phew!
Anyway, here are some thoughts on this episode’s Downton Abbey:
Oh the horror!
Anna: OMG, I was so outraged at what Gillingham’s valet Green did to you! I hope either you or Bates can avenge the wrong done to you sooner rather than later without bringing the authorities into this and keeping Bates out of jail.
Aren’t a lot of movies made like that where the guy at fault murders someone but no one ever finds out or they’re just lucky to get away with it? Where’s the accountability? I’m thinking of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers‘ character in Matchpoint in which he kills his brother’s girlfriend and no one suspects him. He’s just lucky and gets away with it. Why can’t the righteous ones be the ones to get away with things like that? It’s always the dodgy characters that get away with stuff. That’s not right. Not that someone was killed per se in this particular episode but the way injustice was done towards Anna’s character was just wrong. It’s still very disturbing quite honestly. What was Downton creator Julian Fellows thinking when he included a violence against women’s scene on PBS? I understand the need to shake things up plot-wise but that was not the proper way to do it. I just hope that in future episodes not only does the plot have more appropriateness for a PBS series but that justice is served and Anna gets revenge on Green for what he did to her.
On a Lighter Note
Lady Mary: Things are turning up as a new possible suitor comes along to help mend your broken heart. BTW Michelle Dockery: You looked stunning at the awards ceremony! Loved the Oscar de la Renta number.
Lady Edith: Things are looking good between you and your boyfriend. If you had doubts that your father would not warm up to your beau, rest assured! Your man was able to win back winnings from a poker cheat and your father Lord Grantham said he (boyfriend) “behaved in a way that was gentlemanly” so, yay brownie points! BTW Laura Carmichael: You also looked great on the red carpet too – hardly recognized you in Viktor & Rolf!
Dowager Countess: Favorite one-liner from Maggie Smith‘s character: If I were to search for logic, I would not look for it in the English upper class.
One of my resolutions this year is to find purchases that add value to my existing wardrobe as opposed to purchasing whole new outfits which I have done in the past. Right now I’m loving that Anthropologie has a pretty vast selection in their clearance section Freshly Cut. I don’t have a big budget and even their mark-downs are pretty pricy. Since I’m an 80/20 Rule person where I don’t buy anything wardrobe-wise unless I plan to use it 80% of the time, I could use a few accessories or choice items to round out the wardrobe I already have. Here are a couple picks I added to my wishlist:
My style these days is minimalist cozy. I’m a mom on the go and don’t have time to primp to perfection. Five minutes and I’m out the door! I already have a minimalist wardrobe. I just need a few items to update it a bit, keep it relevant so I could put my best foot forward in my work. Cuz if I’m feeling good, everyone’s feeling good!
Anthro Styling Service
One thing I would like to try is Antrhopologie’s personal styling service. If you go onto their website, there’s an ad for it and it looks like it’s FREE (at least the first session). I’ve done a Google search and found one blogger who was able to relate her experience here. I haven’t seen anything more recent so that should be a future blog post coming from yours truly.
The New Year brings with it many resolutions like going to the gym everyday, writing that great American novel, starting a new business or searching for a new job. We start working on our resolutions and get excited for a little while. Then we all of a sudden find ourselves disinterested, procrastinate and lack any kind of motivation whatsover.
Let’s face it, we all have jobs, a mortgage or rent to pay, kids school activities and lots of other commitments. We don’t have time to start this new habit or commit to a new resolution to do something better for ourselves. We stop what we started and leave projects unfinished. We start doubting ourselves on whether or not we’ll get to the things we resolved to change. We lose momentum as objects in motion stay in motion and objects at rest stay at rest. It’s like we’re rubber bands that snap back to the same old same old routine. Why is that?
I first read about resistance from one of Barbara Sher’s books. If you’re not familiar with her she is a career/personal development counselor and author of titles such as Wishcraft and I Could Do Anything if Only I Knew What it Was. I believe she mentioned that resistance is the body’s defense mechanism that keeps ourselves from taking risks in case we get hurt if we fail badly. So we don’t bother to try. It’s these mental blocks, these hurdles, the subconscious telling you you’re not good enough. I know in tennis I certainly feel this way and will tell myself “I should’ve gotten that ball, I’m letting my doubles partner down!” or “I suck anyway dude so maybe I should quit now.” Of course this negative self-talk and resistance is unproductive and doesn’t help anyone.
Here are 5 Ways to Deal:
1. Recognize and acknowledge your resistance patterns. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know it’s there. Journal it to make sense of it and where it may be coming from.
2. Sometimes you need to be able to better visualize the end goal. Create a vision board or Pinterest page for inspiration. See my post on how to create a vision board.
3. Track your progress. There are many productivity apps for that which you could find with a google search. Or you could go old school like I do and use an excel spreadsheet to log the number of times I go to the gym, the number of blog posts I’ve posted for the year, etc.
4. Force a deadline and put your goal on calendar.
5. Be patient. It could take anywhere form 30-60 days for a new habit to stick. But objects at rest stay at rest. Objects in motion stay in motion. Any kind of action is a good thing.
I’m a list maker and have been for ages. I’ve got my daily list, my monthly list and life list. The only problem is I have too many things on my list and I lack motivation to get started on some of these tasks. For awhile, making the gym a daily habit, “someday” running a 26.2 mile marathon and “someday” owning a dog had been on that list.
Here’s how I made those three possibilities realities with the help of a vision board.
My Vision Board
Now I’ve done the vision board collage thing since I was in college. I always found it therapeutic to go through magazines and pick out images and words that spoke to me, things I really wanted to accomplish in life. It was a great way to mind map and get a clearer picture of what goals I wanted to accomplish. I’ve actually seen some things from it – elements, threads, come true. Not right away of course.
For example, I had titles of marathon books in a collage I made because a lifelong goal of mine was to run a 26.2 mile race. I’ve added to my vision board images of fit, healthy, active women in athletic apparel running, playing tennis, doing yoga because I wanted to lead a healthy, active lifestyle. I’ve also had images of dogs because someday I wanted to be a dog owner. The pictures and text on the vision board provided a big picture of my goals and helped motivate me to find ways to break big tasks into small action steps to get the desired outcome.
Now the gym habit, finishing a marathon and owning a dog didn’t happen right away but I had always had these goals at the back of the mind as I went through my daily life.
Fitness wise I had struggled with finding the right diet and fitness regime. I’ve done South Beach Diet, Zone Diet, No Carbs Diet, All Carbs Diet. Exercise wise, I did the Zumba Fitness DVD’s, SHAPE DVD’s, P90X DVD’s, GAIAM Yoga DVD’s and took a few classes at my local gyms here and there. I liked variety in exercise. I wouldn’t always go to they gym or do a workout DVD. I would skip a day or two, even a week when I was on vacation. I’d feel bad, but that never led me to give up on fitness altogether. Having a vision board to look at kind of reminded me of the active lifestyle I wanted to pursue. It helped me make the habit of being consistent and JUST GOING. Even if it was just for 10-15 minutes and all I had time for was stretching and leg press. I didn’t have to hit a homerun and go all out each time I went. I didn’t even have to do 1 hour every day, I just had to GO and it made the difference in my overall lifestyle – making me more energized, putting me in a better mood, making me less self-conscious of my weight.
My First Marathon
As I started going to the gym I also ran little by little everyday. I had also listened to an old audiobook of Oprah Winfrey’s Make the Connection where Oprah shares her story of weight loss and her experience running her first marathon. Along with my vision board that had titles like First Marathons and Marathon, Oprah Winfrey’s personal story also influenced me to take action and take small steps to get there.
Action Steps: I had lived in NYC and decided I needed a group to help me get going so I put an ad on Craigslist to see if people wanted to start training and found a group of great people to run with each week at Central Park which certainly helped during the long runs. I also read through several marathon group forums and looked at Runners World and the web for tips and advice. I found a training schedule in one of Jeff Galloway‘s training books. Then I registered for the marathon race online, put it on the calendar and finally completed it!
My First Dog
Another thing I wanted was a dog. I never had one and thought we would never get one since my husband and I never grew up with one so it would certainly be challenge to include dogs in our lifestyle. Well, I put a few dogs on a vision board and thought all right, one day it would happen and we would own a dog. Again, it didn’t happen over night.
Action Steps: First, we found friends that were dog owners and asked questions and got advice on how to select one, what to look out for, if we should crate train them or not. We got books on the type of breed we wanted to get. We researched breeders and animals shelters online and weighed the pros and cons of buying a purebred or adopting a pet in need. Once we narrowed down what we wanted, we made the trek to a local breeder and took our first pet home.
While the vision board can’t MAKE you get your shit done all at once, it can certainly help you see the big picture so you can take small action steps to make your goals a reality.
Here are some steps on how you could create YOUR own vision board.
You will need:
- A sheet of paper or cardboard – preferably 8 X 11 or larger
- Magazines, newspapers, pictures and other print visuals
- Glue or glue stick
- Spend some time going through images in print materials and find pictures and text you’re drawn to, resonate with you and excite you.
- Cut out those images and set them aside.
- Once you’ve gathered enough images and text to fit a full page, spread them and glue them onto the paper.
- Place the vision board in a place where you see it everyday, whether it’s on your fridge, bulletin board in your office or somewhere handy like a scrapbook binder.