2013 Themes: January Update

If you’re wondering how an all-out paint covered mess of a human being starts to put her life back together after a year of 150-year-old house related insanity… let me just tell you, in involves a lot of lists. It involves lists of my lists.  Okay, and that part where I built a tweleve-foot long desk to hold all of my crap. But mostly lists.

There were two parts to my January goals. The first was to keep up with my big themes for the year:

  1. Not frantically jumping from project to project — I’m adhering strictly to my 5 project list in all versions of reality that don’t require me to drop everything, build a stall in my barn, install a fence, and pump 4″ of water out of my basement in the same week.
  2. Work in my sketchbook/journal twice a week — I’ve been working off my 104 Journal prompts a couple of times a week, and it’s been a great to have little no-pressure creative time in my week. Some of my journal work as actually sparked ideas for larger wall art in the house, once I knock a few things off my current project list (stairs, I’m looking at you)
  3. Stop the madness every night — Eh. I’ve been both exceptionally good and exceptionally bad at adhering to my 9:30 PM quit-time. Oddly enough, on my vacation days last week I actually went to be and got up earlier than any other time in the last year (maybe because I wasn’t trying to cram so much shit into a particular day?) but the addition of farm chores to my morning routine pretty much ensures I’ll be going to bed earlier these days.
  4. Making time for others — The last few years of my life have pretty much been a constant litany of “I can’t, I’m working on the house” whenever anyone asked me to do anything. But now more than ever I’m giving myself permission to say yes, even if it means putting off house projects for another day. There might be a little less sawdust in my life some days because of this, but there sure is a lot of awesome.

And, specific to my Get Your Shit Together theme for January:

Create a budget and bill paying system –– This is about as much fun as having an inch-long splinter shoved under your fingernail, but with a few evenings spent with my spreadsheets (and more than one bottle of wine) I’ve got a pretty good handle on my finances. Which basically means that instead of thinking that maybe my eyeball should be twitching because of how much it costs to heat a big old house with fuel-oil, I know my eyeball should be twitching. Probably I should invest in an eye patch. But this is what it costs to live in an old-ass farmhouse, and it’s worth every penny.
The other thing that has made a huge difference in managing and paying my bills is the Pageonce app… it had a lot of great reviews, and let me just tell you something, this thing probably singlehandedly just saved my bill-paying ass. For real.


I’m not going to be able to sing all of the praises due this thing (you just have to check it out) but I’ll tell you a few of my favorite features:

  • It gives me a look at all of my finances at a glace. It took me about 10 minutes to set up almost all of my bank accounts and bills in the app, and I can see how much money I have available how much I should have going out in upcoming bills (and what it looks like if I pay my minimums on credit cards vs the whole balance).
  • All I have to do to see my info is enter my 4 digit pin instead of logging in to 15 separate apps or websites
  • I can pay my bills right through the app, and it costs about as much as a postage stamp
  • I can also log directly in to any of my online accounts right through the app if there are other details I want to see
  • It sends updates to my phone in a non-annoying way. And not just about bills that are due, but it also monitors the minutes on my wifi hotspot (hey, there is no DSL in the middle of nowhere) and let’s me know when I’m getting close to my limit. Super handy.
  • It is in my pocket. The biggest hardest thing for me isn’t that I never remember to pay my bills, it’s that I remember when I’m in the middle of my hour drive into work, or right before I go to bed, or when I’m using my drill… I do not remember when I’m sitting at my desk with nothing to do and a checkbook in front of me. The fact that I can pay bills from anywhere with just a couple of taps on the screen? Game changing.

Creating a house calendar for maintenance– Next up was organizing maintenance tasks for the house. While it would be nice to have an app that gives me a small electrical jolt when I need to check the level of the fuel oil, I haven’t found one that will be quite that useful, so I went old-school instead, and build this chalkboard calendar:


I also started a very long list of maintenance tasks, compiled from several monthly home maintenance checklists and my own brain.


The idea is that I can take a look at this list each month as I re-do my chalkboard dates (or my 5 project list) and see what needs to be added  to my ever-growing to-do list.

Finding a spot for important things– Here’s a post-christmas miracle, last week when my well tank exploded with the force of a small bomb (exaggeration), the basement turned into a wading pool, and Newt the salamander moved in, I needed to write a check while simultaneously moving the water pump around the basement and taking a work call…  and I knew right where my checkbook was.


Making a concerted effort to get the office in working order helped, so most of my important things do have a “spot”, albeit not a permanent one. I’m keeping my eye out for an old metal filing cabinet or something similar, but in the meantime, my current system seems to be working.

Putting together lists and budgets for upcoming projects — And this is the one thing on my Get Your Shit Together list that I haven’t even touched yet. With the donkeys, the stairs, the imminent sanding of the dining room floor, and sprucing up the guest bedrooms, I feel like starting a new “big” project is at least a month or two off… and frankly, I’ve had enough of looking at spreadsheets for the time being.

So, that’s January. And it only took until the middle of February to write about it. Good news is that I still have a couple of weeks left to make headway on my February themes:

  1. Writing love notes to friends and strangers.
  2. Spending one-on-one time with as many people as I can.
  3. Reading an epic love story.
  4. Writing or creating something from the heart.

Anyone have any recommendations for an epic love story?

UPDATE: I went with The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Fantastic book. Fast paced, funny, tragic, with an undercurrent of truth… definitely an epic love story.

31 Responses

  1. You have made great progress Kit. I would be in jail if it wasn’t for my automatic bill paying from my bank. I really don’t know how we functioned before we had such handy devices. And I know exactly what you mean about finding that checkbook when needed! I needed it Monday and luckily it was in the first place I thought it was. Organization is a tough one for me too. But as they say recognizing you have an issue is the first way to solving the issue.

    Stay warm and safe. Don’t know if this big storm coming through the heartland is moving up to Michigan or not but it is to get pretty ugly here in the middle of the US.

  2. Check out the app HomeSavvy for help with maintenance reminders. It has some programmed in there and you can add your own. It helps with things that you only have to do once every few months and it will keep track of when you did them and even what product you used (or what professional you used).

  3. I have a VERY similar bill paying issue and I want SO badly to use an app like that. However, my boyfriend is panicked about internet account hacking and does not want me to provide an app with our account info. So I guess I may try to make my own spreadsheet and set up reminders on my calendar. Anyone else share his concerns?

    1. Yes, they just did an excerpt this morning on the news about people stealing phones while people are on them & getting instant access to everything. I still don’t even have data on my phone, I’m too nervous about it.

      1. don’t have to ask twice here… identity theft is bad, and the more we depend on technology the more vulnerable we are. only pay one bill online. and thinking hard about buying a more effective antivirus program because my desktop screen has been “highjacked” twice… which can result in a hacker or someone being able to trace my keyboard strikes to get passwords and so forth. Scary what someone 5 feet or 5000 thousand miles away can do that will cost me lots of hard earned money and a sterling credit rating that I have worked 35 years to get.

  4. I love the house tasks spreadsheet. Every once ina while the smoke detector beeps and I have to wonder if its something I have to care about. A list would take that giant fire colored question mark away.

  5. I’m not really into love stories all that much, but I will tell you my newest favorite book: The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. It’s epic and it’s got a few different love stories in it….but I wouldn’t consider it an epic love story. It’s typically labeled as magical realism. Great book!

  6. Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl. May not be exactly what you had in mind, but keeping an owl as a pet sounds pretty epic to me. Maybe there’s a donkey version of this story somewhere? Or maybe you’ll write one… from the heart? 🙂

  7. i know it sounds kind of cheesy, but i have yet to read anything by Nicholas Sparks and not bawl my eyes out at the awesomeness. personal faves: The Choice, The Guardian, The Notebook.

  8. I like that master list for home maintenance! Will have to try that one. Love the February items and am actually accomplishing those myself…but I don’t have a 100 year old farmhouse to “get in the way”! As far as I’m concerned, you’ve done and continue to do a phenomenal job of staying on the sane side!

  9. Hmmmm…..JD Robb’s Lt Eve Dallas and her gorgeous Irish husband Roarke and the murder mysteries have kept me entertained through about 10 books…Clive Cussler is a master of action and suspense, and Nevada Barr’s Anna Pidgeon (Park ranger and mystery solver) are some of my favorites…quick and never a dissapointment….maybe not so ‘epic’, but be warned, sleep takes a hit when you are into one of these authors!

    1. I’m also a huge JD Robb fan (I’ve been reading those books for a decade)… new one comes out next week! (They are great for entertainment and a little mystery, but it’s definitely a fictional love story.)

  10. How about a kick-ass love story? Sabella by Tanith Lee. A suspense/mystery love story? Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourne. Quirky magic adventure love story? The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff.

  11. Griffin and Sabine. That is all.

    Actually it’s not: thank you for living your life and blogging about it! My suburban heart dreams about doing what you did, and I’ll live vicariously through you until I can!

  12. I just happen upon your site the other day, bookmarked it and came back today for another look. I LOVE IT! Far as bills; try putting as many monthly bills as possible (cell, internet, cable) on a credit card. Cuts down on the hassle & now U have 1 monthly bill & not 4. Far as maintenance, try a calendar app. iCalendar on my Mac has been a life saver. You put stuff in and can have it repeat weeks, months, days or even years. Things like, change direction of ceiling fans, put weed killer down, check smoke alarm batteries and vacuum out dryer duct. A book I really liked-Nora Roberts, Tribute; I liked it because the woman was power tool wielding bad-ass. That’s putting it over the top but you get my point.

  13. I cannot give you a book to read without it coming across as a history lesson or a profile on current events (I read a lot of biographies, etc.), but one I do have and really like is The Pioneer Woman’s (www.thepioneerwoman.com) “From Black Heels to Tractor Wheels.” It chronicles her romance with her husband, a/k/a Marlboro Man on her blog, through the first two years of their marriage. She is witty and a very good writer.

    You ticking off your to-do list just speaks to my poor type-A soul in a way nobody can possibly know. Congratulations to you!

    1. Atonement I’ve read, but one of my friends suggested Anna Karenina as well… I might have to add it to my future reading list!

  14. I use Google Calendar, and always set up events with multiple reminders in both pop-up mode and email mode. By multiple I mean as many as four or six reminders. Without Google Calendar, I’d never remember to do such things as changing the furnace filters, paying the semi-annual taxes, getting the farrier out to trim the Clydesdale’s hooves, and so on.

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