When we moved to the farmhouse, almost two years ago, our Harlee-girl was ten years old.
She was (still is) VERY into basketball.
We had recently redecorated her room at the old house in a basketball theme...including a huge LeBron James cutout on the wall.
We had the best intentions, but...
Mr. Farmhouse hasn't gotten around to building that bedroom wall yet.
LeBron has been traded to the Lakers.
And now, our Harlee-girl is a 12-year-old who does still love the game of basketball, but asked for a "grown up room" for her birthday.
So goodbye to (most) of the basketball decor...and hello to her own pre-teen space.
Harlee's room sits on the west side of the upstairs and although it seemed like the smallest area when we first moved in, it really makes for a pretty large bedroom...just kind of long and rectangular-shaped.
Here are some "before pictures" of her bedroom. We painted the paneling and added a "closet" area. The original basketball decor can be seen here, as well.
Over the last year-and-a-half, Harlee expressed the desire to get rid of the loft bed and start to move away from her basketball-themed bedroom.
So...that's what we did.
Of course, her basketball curtains are still there and she still had to have her MU Women's Basketball poster and favorite Duke memorabilia!
So without further ado...Harlee's new room!
I love how even with the "grown up" parts of Harlee's new room, I can still see that little toddler who said, "Go Duke!" over and over for her Uncle G...and I love that her baby blanket still lays folded at the end of her bed.
Feeling sentimental here at the farmhouse tonight,
And let's be honest...it can be so dark and gloomy outside!
Days and days of inside recess. Need I say more?
In the education world, the "third quarter slump" is alive and well.
But this year...I'm not in the classroom.
I'm sitting in an office doing a job that I love working with a team of leaders and staff members that just warm my heart.
I have lamps and a little peaceful fountain and I can use the restroom whenever I want.
We have had a few unexpected days off and I feel like I'm basically in control of my house right now.
And I'm still feeling the "third quarter slump".
I think sometimes this time of year is just hard.
This time of year is often lacking sunshine.
Illness is making its way around.
It's cold...and sometimes snowy or icy, making it hard to get from point A to point B.
It's dark when we leave the house and often dark when we get home.
And let's be real here...some of us feel like we have already failed at some of those goals we set on January 1st (less than a month ago).
The winter blues are very real, but there are a few things I've found that help me to heave myself out of that third quarter slump when the days feel long and not as enjoyable as we would like them to.
For example, participating in the Farmhouse654 12-week challenge has given me some direction over the next twelve weeks.
My days are filled up with purposeful tasks that help me to meet goals that I set for myself at the beginning of the year.
Another example would be the fact that Matthew and I have booked a cruise for mid-July for our 15-year-anniversary. This helps me to be hyper-focused on a few financial and health goals I would like to accomplish before then.
There are some projects around the outside of the house that we would like to get finished before next school year. This winter, we are working on identifying these projects and breaking them down into manageable steps we can start NOW.
In fact, Mr. Farmhouse and his crew (our dads, brothers, cousins, Harlee) got the outside fence posts put in a few weekends ago when we had a spring-like day! And he's out there again today...at 19º. Brrrr!
2. Keep Moving
This weather makes me want to hibernate.
I want to run to the car in the morning, drive to work, do my job, leave work, and come straight home to curl up in my bed.
I don't want to do anything extra...including housework, cooking supper, or especially exercise.
However, I have found that when I set a schedule to get some movement into my days, I truly and honestly feel better.
Even if it's only three times a week, if I can get onto that treadmill and force myself to DO something...it really makes a huge difference in how my week goes.
3. Turn on the Lights
It's no secret that sunshine is good for the soul.
Seasonable Affective Disorder (SAD) is the scientific name for the winter blues.
While experts have lots of suggestions to help beat the winter blues, they all seem to agree on one thing...the importance of LIGHT!
Turns the lights on and turn them on early.
Start the day with artificial lights on to trick your body into thinking that rest time is over and it's time to get going.
Open blinds or curtains to let as much natural light as you can throughout the day and SOAK THAT STUFF IN!
4. Stay Connected
When we are feeling down, we sometimes have a tendency to slowly separate ourselves from others.
We spend more time at home.
More time cooped up inside.
More time disconnected from others.
There's a fine line between taking some at-home rest & relaxation with your own little family and putting up walls to start and build a barrier with the outside world.
And it's all a slippery slope.
The more time we spend disconnected from others, the easier it is to not let people in.
The more days we go straight home and avoid human interaction, the easier it becomes to think of that as the "norm".
Stay connected with others. And not just online.
Meet up with a friend for coffee.
Make a phone call (gasp!) to a friend.
Go out and run errands...talk to people!
5. Do Something
Finally...do something. Do ANYthing.
Sometimes the winter blues can become extreme and paralyzing.
And sometimes it is hard to make yourself do anything above and beyond your necessary daily responsibilities.
On days like this, I think it's important to just START.
Do ONE thing.
And then do another thing.
Take it moment by moment, task by task.
Do something and then sit down and rest.
Do another thing and then sit down and rest.
We sometimes need to work through our days (or evenings) like this...just babystepping our way through some of those tasks we tend to put off during the winter.
Sometimes those first few tasks can get our motivation rolling enough to make some serious progress...even on a hard day.
Here's the deal.
The winter blues are real.
They can come at different times and at varying degrees for all of us.
For my dear friends struggling with clinical depression, I know that these five suggestions won't cure that.
There are medications and therapists and lots of options for support available and I hope and pray that you are taking advantage of these things.
However, maybe...just maybe...focusing on some of these suggestions will help to lighten the blow of the dark & cold days that comes with this season.
Day by day,
Goal by goal,
Step by step.
We can do this.
Looking forward to spring here at the farmhouse,
"Everybody up! It's 9:30 and we have things to do!"
Monday was a snow day and the two older girls were still asleep.
"Up and dressed to shoes by 9:45, please!"
I started down the stairs and Harlee shouts from her bed, "Wait...dressed to shoes? What does that even mean?"
So I explained that that meant getting completely dressed and ready, including shoes.
"But we're staying home today." Harlee said (whined?).
"Right, but we have a lot to get done, including work in the basement, and it's just easier to be productive in shoes."
After breakfast, we were downstairs purging and organizing the storage items in the basement and Claire says, "I think you were right...it IS easier to work in shoes!"
In fact, I get so comfortable going from one task to another in my good ol' house-cleaning shoes that I often find myself walking through the grocery store, pumping fuel at the gas station, or even heading into meetings in them.
Thankfully, Crocs are almost back in style these days.
So what about you? Do you wear shoes to clean in? Any specific pair of shoes or just whatever you're planning to wear that day?
Rocking the Crocs at the farmhouse,
Secondly, we have dirty clothes strewn throughout the house. It's like the children get dressed in every corner of the house. And of course, Mr. Farmhouse sometimes drops his dirty clothes DIRECTLY beside the hamper.
And finally...we haven't built a laundry habit that includes at least one load a day.
As part of the 12-week challenge, I chose my January daily habit to be one load of laundry a day...from start to finish.
Through the washer, through the dryer, folded, AND put away.
Last fall, I started to make my bed every single morning. Even if I got nothing else accomplished during the time I had before leaving for work, I still made my bed.
And now...I don't even have to think about it.
Since starting the "one load a day" laundry habit, although I can't say I'm to the point where I'm doing laundry automatically, I can definitely notice a huge difference.
In fact, I only have one load that could even be done right now because we're all caught up on the rest of our clothes.
These daily routines are so important to help keep the house manageable.
And when I started following the FlyLady 10-15 years ago, I learned how important cleaning zones in our homes can be too for those "deep-cleaning" tasks.
The basic concept is for you to divide your home into various zones.
I used to try and make sure I was getting through every single zone every single month.
However, starting this next week, I think I'll put my house on an eight-week zone rotation.
Today, and for the rest of this week, I'll be focusing on deep-cleaning the front porch, the living room, and our deck.
I make a list of tasks to get these three areas "all spiffied up" and I work on that list for 15-30 minutes a day (depending on each night's activities).
So...your task for today is to divide your home into zones.
You can decide how many.
You can decide what types of tasks to put on your zone lists.
The important part is to start to develop some habits for deep-cleaning a little at a time, instead of just constantly being stuck in the cycle of having a BIG cleaning day every few weeks.
Working my zones at the farmhouse this morning!
Yesterday, my Harlee-girl and I spent the day together.
She slept in while I got my morning routine finished, then I woke her up to head to the school.
I had a few things I needed to get organized before staff and students came back today.
After a few hours in my office, we grabbed some lunch and went to get pedicures...the last little treat for her 12th birthday.
She decided on a manicure and I got my toes done.
When we were finished, there was time for her to spend a gift card that she got for Christmas and to pick up my WalMart grocery order, before heading to get our eyebrows waxed and my hair cut.
Here’s a little before & after of the eyebrows...her first experience having them waxed!
I took off my tennis shoes and peeled off my socks...or tried to.
But they were STUCK to my big toes.
“Oh no. This is not good.” I thought.
Sure enough...my toes had not been dry when I put my socks and shoes back on at the nail salon.
No worries though...I think they’re fine.
Just a little added texture.
We made it.
It sounds crazy to say that. I just keep thinking, "Wasn't 1996 like a few years ago?"
Anyway, for so many of us, waking up on January 1st brings a renewed sense of motivation and excitement for what can happen in this fresh new year.
Over 2018, I read several books to work towards becoming the best version of myself that I can be.
Almost every single one of them spoke in the beginning about the importance of having a vision for your life.
"Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others." ~ Jonathan Swift
Your vision has to be yours alone.
Picture the life you want and decide TODAY to take steps to get there.
I'm hosting a "Twelve-Week Challenge" group here on the blog and over on Facebook.
So that's my one non-negotiable daily habit.
However, I have some other habits that will definitely help our days run more smoothly, so I have listed nine other daily habits that I would like to track each day.
I love using a habit-tracker for things like this, so I created one on Google Docs to track my progress.
You can view MY January habit-tracker HERE and follow along, if you'd like.
If you would like a printable BLANK copy of my habit-tracker, click the image below.
Using the insight I gleaned from these authors, I have set up a 12-week challenge to set goals for the first twelve weeks of 2019, to keep myself accountable, and to check my progress throughout the next three months.
After setting up my goals and weekly challenges, I thought to myself that maybe you all would want to join me!
Excited for the new year here at the farmhouse,
The Saturday before the new year.
Historically, this is the day where I lay out my vision and goals for the year to come.
I officially decide on my "word for the year" and start to build some specific goals around that word.
The last three years, my words (phrases) have been "simplify", "be intentional", and "be present".
This year, I've had four words that keep coming up as possibilities..
These are all wonderful words.
They encompass all that I want for myself and my family.
And as I have written these goals out on paper and dreamed about what my life will look like in December of 2019, one year from now, I am realizing that all of my goals revolve around inspiring others to live their best lives.
So...I think that's it.
My 2019 Word of the Year...Inspire.
Setting goals and making plans at the farmhouse on this final Saturday of 2018,
Like LITERALLY a week and a half ago, our checking account was OVERDRAFTED by over $1,000.
I had gone into the ol' Dollar General to grab a few gifts for the girls' friends.
I went up to pay and when I ran my debit card, it was declined.
"What!?! That can't be right. Try to run it again."
Sure enough, I pop open my banking app on my phone and we are in the hole...like WAY in the hole.
But why? We track our spending and I watch the bank account like a hawk. So what had happened that day that put us in the red???
Well, when two mortgage payments come out two days before pay day, THAT can be an issue when you stick to a zero-based budget every month (in other words, when you budget for and spend every dollar, in order to pay down debt).
So I went through that entire evening and the next morning feeling sick, just waiting for the bank and our mortgage company to open so I could make some phone calls.
Our bank was very understanding and said they would wait to hear from me after I talked to the mortgage company.
When I finally got through to the mortgage company, the sweet lady on the other end of the line was very confused because we had never been late on a payment.
In fact, we were running a month ahead. She couldn't understand why the payment would have auto-drafted twice.
So she started scrolling through the previous months.
And then...she saw it.
Because we had paid a little extra each month, it had added up to a whole extra payment this month...
and that whole extra payment went in two days before it was supposed to, which had put us a little bit too early on our payment schedule...
which in turn caused the computer to put our ENTIRE payment amount on the principal, as opposed to counting as our payment...
SO the mortgage company had auto-drafted our December payment in addition to the one we had already paid because it looked like we hadn't paid!
They fixed it and refunded it (two days later), but it was a stressful few days there!
But at least there was a logical explanation.
I would love to go explain to the Dollar General clerk exactly what happened because I'm sure he thought I was ridiculous trying to look at my bank account right then and there and over-explain the reason my card was declined.
Maybe he'll read my blog. 😉
ANYway, now that I've gotten that off my chest, let's talk about how Mr. Farmhouse and I set up our annual financial goals, our debt snowball, monthly budget, and spending tracking.
The first piece of the puzzle that I'm going to talk about is the debt snowball.
I've mentioned this before, but I'll do a quick review for new readers.
The debt snowball is based on the work of Dave Ramsey.
You take all of your debts and you line them up from smallest balance to largest balance.
Interest doesn't matter and monthly payment doesn't matter.
It's all about small victories in this scenario...the motivation that comes from a little success.
As you pay off the smallest debt, you take that monthly payment and "roll" it into the next payment.
I really don't like to talk about the specifics of finances, but I will tell you that we have a large amount of debt.
Some of our debt includes:
Just this, without the random little medical bills and the two credit cards we still need to pay off, is a pretty daunting amount.
However, with the debt snowball, we are making big progress each month towards paying it down.
But as you can see, the house and student loans will be our last two debts that need to paid off and without ANY extra money thrown onto the snowball, we'll still be completely debt-free in less than ten years.
So I use the snowball app to let me know how much needs to be paid on each debt monthly and those payment amounts fit into our monthly budget.
Monthly Budget & Spending Tracking
For our monthly budget, we use a free web-based software and app called EveryDollar.
We build our budget every month on the computer, but we mostly track our spending using the app.
The app syncs across all devices and the web, so it's pretty handy for a husband & wife team who hardly ever gets to sit down and talk about income and expenses.
If you are just starting a new budget, I would first take a piece of paper and write down every single expense you have each month.
Use your debt snowball to track your monthly debt payments, write out every utility amount, any insurance costs, groceries, fuel, home & car maintenance savings, other savings, charitable giving, childcare, costs associated with pets, business expenses, cash for spending on "fun" (Sonic drinks, in my case!), and anything else you can think of.
After you have all of those items written down, start building your budget on EveryDollar.
You'll need to write down expected income sources and amounts, as well as expected categories and amounts for expenses.
Your online EveryDollar budget will look similar to this sample screenshot below.
Because we get four different paychecks each month, I divide our expenses up and pay them on those four days. We also take our "fun money" out of the bank on those days and account for daycare/preschool expenses, as well as putting money into various savings accounts using sinking funds, which I explained in THIS BLOG POST last year.
I write out every expense on the planner. Most of them are automatic withdrawal, which means after I write them out on the calendar, I don't have to think about them again. If they're not automatic, however, I set up the payments to come out on the correct day or I write out the checks and date them to be sent when the correct pay period rolls around.
In terms of tracking other expenses, Mr. Farmhouse and I both use the EveryDollar app to track what we spend each month.
We used to be good about putting each expense in right when we spent it.
However, over the last few months, we have been tracking a few days worth of receipts in one evening.
We're planning to go back to the daily tracking in January though!
Those small expenses sure add up when you're not being cognizant of them!
Annual Financial Goals
The last little piece of the puzzle is to set some annual financial goals.
We have found that if we sit down together in the end of December and set some financial goals for the following year, it can help to frame our year, financially speaking.
A few examples of our past goals have been:
If we want to be able to give and live the way we want to in the future, we HAVE to be intentional right now...today...this year.
We've had times where we get to the end of the month and wonder where in the world all that money went. It's no way to live!
When you're not being intentional with your spending, not only are you missing the opportunity to make progress on your debt snowball, but you're also missing out on that feeling of peace and freedom that comes from knowing where your money goes each month!
Not to mention, the fact that these money conversations with your spouse are good for your marriage!
So today...think about your financial goals for 2019.
Budgeting & Planning here at the Farmhouse today,
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