Sunday, July 31, 2011

Go for a Walk

Carlo Tardani- Flickr

In my opinion, the absolute simplest way to make anything better is to go for a walk. Have a headache? Go for a walk. Writer's block? Go for a walk. Feeling guilty that you ate an entire roll of frozen cookie dough? Go for a walk.

I'm pretty lucky because I live with the ultimate walking companion:


A dog is basically a furry treadmill that wiggles too much for you to hang clothes on. And, unlike the actual treadmill, you can't avoid walking with them or they will poop on your floor.

I love going for a little walk (about a mile) with Oscar almost every day. I get to be outside for a few minutes, which seems to be a great mood enhancer. Also I get out in the sun a little, so I make some vitamin D (it's amazing how many Floridians have a deficiency!). Being out walking gives me some quiet time to think, and it really seems like I can solve some problems while I'm out there. When I was in nursing school, if I got stuck writing a paper, I found that a 20-30 minute walk usually helped me get unstuck. Now that I am working 12 hour shifts as a nurse, a little walk after work helps me let go of the day so that I don't lay awake at night re-living it.

When I travel, walking is my favorite way to explore an unfamiliar city. It seems like you can go slowly and really look around in a way that's impossible by car or bus. If you want to stop somewhere unexpectedly, you just have to do it- no looking for parking involved. Being on foot makes it possible to really experience the sounds and smells of the community, read signs, stop for street performers, and chat with strangers.

Right now in Gainesville we are having 102-heat index days with 50-60% (or more) humidity, which means my long Oscar walks are limited to early morning and late evening. We take a quick bathroom break in the middle of the day, but it's pure misery. I keep trying to remind myself that days like these make me more grateful when the fall weather arrives. For now, I am grateful for antiperspirant and air conditioning.

So long for now, try not to melt, don't forget to KISS (keep it simple stupid), and take a little walk now and then!

Friday, July 29, 2011


I can't say exactly when it happened, but at some point this former teenage mallrat has become unable to handle the mall. There are too many people, too many signs, too many folks in kiosks trying to straighten your hair and give you hand lotion samples. I find it completely overwhelming.

Another problem is that when I get to the mall, I understand how my closets got so full of monsters (and by that I mean crap I don't need) in the first place.

First, there is the pervasive message that if you buy a little more, you can save money. For example, buy one get one half off deals mean that you have to buy a second item that you were probably not planning to get, otherwise you miss out on a great deal. Did you ever end up buying a second pair of shoes that you didn't really love, just because you knew you would get them half price? And God forbid that you chose to only buy one anyway, the poor saleslady will give herself a hernia trying to convince you of the folly of your ways. Similarly, there is the "one is $4.50 but you can get three for $10" set up. You definitely spend less on each item, but in the end you spend $10 instead of $4.50. Did you need three tubes of lip gloss? Are you going to use them all, or will you find the extra two in a closet somewhere years later and toss them?

Then there's the mall deal that almost draws out my inner Clutterella every time: the purchase-with-purchase. This is like my kryptonine- there must be some marketing concept to say that if you offer to "let" someone buy something, instead of just plain old selling it to them, they will want it even more. I'm pretty much a big sucker for this kind of thing, and I must not be the only one.

Case in point: today I went to the Bath and Body Works to buy a gift for someone. I can actually resist B&BW gimmicks pretty well because I have really gotten away from wearing anything scented (not a political stance or anything, just a personal preference). I got to the store and the friendly sales clerk immediately began to offer helpful suggestions, then brought me a big bag to carry my items around in, then thought of other things I could get to add to my gift. He and the lady at the register told me about this great deal: if I spent $30, I could purchase this Exclusive Tote Bag with over $75 worth of products for only $20.  My total purchase was $27, but the cashier made sure to let me know that if I only spent $3 more, I could "get" (BUY!) the Exclusive Tote Bag. If I had followed her advice, I would have walked out of the store having spent at least $50 and with a bag of products I really didn't want or need. So helpful!

So if you are wondering why your closets are packed full and you can't seem to accumulate any savings, you can probably blame at least some of the problem on the marketing geniuses at your local shopping mall and the pushy helpful salespeople who make sure you are getting the best deals.

I have told you before that I am not trying to be a minimalist. I do still shop sometimes, and occasionally I find myself at the mall. Luckily, we have been on this awesome get-rid-of-the-closet-monsters journey together. Now that I have taken the time and effort to get rid of so many things I didn't really need, it's much easier to resist buying more stuff that I (still) don't really need. Most of the time anyway.

Thank you for making it all the way through this rant. So long for now, KISS (keep it simple stupid), and don't forget that, no matter what the sales clerk tells you, it is impossible to save money by buying more stuff.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Old School Ebay

wallyg from Flikr. Not totally relevant to this post but a great message anyway

My overall experience with eBay is that you spend several hours photographing, posting, and following your item, and you end up earning around $8 for your trouble. Has anyone had a different outcome? I don't have unrealistic expectations about how much money I will get from stuff I don't really want or need myself, but I feel like the process of getting rid of it can be pretty cumbersome.

I did a little more decluttering last week, and I had a handful of things to get rid of that had some potential value, but were too big and heavy to be easily shipped. Since I'm the kind of girl who knows people, or actually maybe the kind who doesn't know people but does know people who know people, I knew just what to do.

So that's how I had my first pawnshop experience. Chris, a former co-worker from my cubicle days, is now the CFO of TB Goods, a couple of pawnshops in Gainesville and Alachua. Chris is a totally stand up guy and someone with whom I once took a business trip to Delaware (if you've been to Delaware you'll understand), so I knew exactly where to take my stuff!

To make a long story short (do you notice that by the time people say that it's already too late?), I walked out with less clutter and some green in my pocket. It's possible I could have ended up with more money if I had tried the eBay route, but my in person transaction took 45 minutes total, including catching up with Chris, and I think I saved myself a lot of hassle. Lately I value simplicity over dollars, so I am pretty satisfied with the outcome.

I am taking one more shot at eBay sometime soon with a handful of things that are popular brands and easy to fit in a box. I'll let you know how it works out. However, if you're looking for some great advice about selling your crap, I refer you to the expert in the field- Baker from Man Vs. Debt.  If you have any experience with or advice about selling on eBay, help a sister out. Or, you know, start your own blog.

Speaking of simplicity over dollars, I have ended my coupon quest. I think I am the kind of person who ends up spending more using coupons, because reading all of those sale adds just makes me see things and think I need to buy them. Instead, I am going to work on saving money by not buying as much stuff. Some days are more successful than others.

See you soon and don't forget to KISS (keep it simple stupid), even if it means you get less money than you hoped to for your Foreman Grill.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Arguing with Crazy People

Another nurse who argues with crazy people
The thing about the ER is that there are lots of people with mental health problems. They might not look different than anyone else (or maybe they do), and they might present with a medical complaint, but sooner or later the psychiatric issue gets mixed in with everything else.

Today in triage I found myself arguing with someone who was a little manic, a little psychotic, and very adamant that he did not need to have blood drawn. I was trying to convince him that since he had a fever, and his post-op knee was suddenly swollen, it was important that we check for infection. People are entitled to refuse procedures, but he was not outright refusing. He was just interrupting me a lot. Loudly.

We all have moments at work and in life where we realize that what we are trying to do is useless. In my experience, this often involves arguing with someone that I know I will not convince. Sometimes I get so emotionally invested in the argument, and I am so convinced of the logic of my opinion, that I continue to belabor the point long past the time when I should have moved on to something else.

What I hope to learn someday soon is how to identify these situations and extract myself from them.  It will probably require swallowing my pride and letting the other person have the last word (not my strong suit AT ALL). Being willing to pick your battles and not browbeat someone else to make your point is a more mature, common-sense approach. My desire to be right is not helping me accomplish anything great. And getting into impossible-to-win arguments is not part of a simple life.

In this example, I finally got fed up with arguing and sent the man to x-ray. I basically told him that the ER physician would see him in a while and at that point he could let the labs be drawn as ordered or leave Against Medical Advice. A little ER tip: if you go in seeking care, you do not get to pick and choose what diagnostics will be done.

The point is that my 10 minute argument with that guy didn't accomplish anything except getting my feathers all ruffled and preventing me from triaging the next patient. It would have been better to document the refusal of blood work at the beginning and move on.

What situations have you encountered at work or in your personal life that involve a battle you can't win? Did you take the intelligent, mature way out, or did you find yourself in a yelling match in the ER waiting room?

Until next time, KISS (keep it simple stupid), and don't argue with crazy people. No one ever wins that fight.

Shameless mixing of Jack Nicholson images

Thursday, July 21, 2011

My Weird Addiction

Jane's Melissa's Addiction

I wish I had an interesting addiction. Something they make 12-step programs for, like online poker, or feet. At least you can get some good reality TV out of those.

Sadly, my addiction comes straight out of a sitcom. Not an edgy, award-winning sitcom where the dad turns out to be a serial killer or a polygamist, but one where there is coordinated Ethan Allen furniture and a laugh track.

I, Melissa Clutterella, am addicted to buying floor cleaning devices.

The problem is that I hate mopping, sweeping, scrubbing, and any other "ing" that is required to get the dirt off the floor. What happens is that I am just hanging out, watching TV, when some lady with perfect teeth and pressed khakis comes on and tells me that her device will solve all of the floor hygiene problems in my entire house, and also bring about world peace.

Seriously, I have a problem...
You are probably thinking, "Wow, you must have the cleanest floors ever. Like you could eat off of them and walk around in white socks on them."

Sadly, no. It doesn't matter how many gadgets I buy. The ultimate problem is that I can't purchase the desire to put my fun plans on hold for an hour and clean the floors. So the devices all accumulate in the closets. And the floors stay dirty.

I really haven't come up with a solution to the problem. All I can do is try to keep my floor cleaner buying more or less under control. I just keep hoping that I will one day find the perfect one and then I will never have to buy another vacuum, mop, scrubber, or doohickey again.

On a separate note, my bedroom closet is once again infested with monsters.

Leo prowling for monsters

Those suckers have got to go. Soon. Until then, maybe you can tell me about some of your weird addictions so I don't feel so lame?

So long and KISS (keep it simple stupid).

PS: I almost forgot to tell you about my new favorite blog, Flourish in Progress. This chick might be my Korean-American soul sister who says fuck a lot.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thoughts on Church

I can't explain exactly what happened, but in the past year I have become a (somewhat) regular churchgoer. Maybe becoming more religious is part of getting older. Possibly my quest for self-improvement exposed a spiritual vacuum. All I know is that I started to feel like something was missing in my life, and religion seems to be filling the gap.

I have always believed in God, except for maybe a period of skepticism in my teens and early twenties. I remember hearing someone say, "I couldn't believe in God unless I had some proof that He existed," and thinking- look around you. How can He not exist? To me, it doesn't seem possible that the whole universe and all of humankind can be explained by some random acts of chemistry.

Even though I was a believer, church attendance always seemed like an obligation before. I rarely attended. When I did I would endure the service but feel relieved when it ended.  Guilt would result, which would make the whole thing even more unpleasant.

What I learned is that there are TONS of congregations and denominations out there, and you can look around until you find one that really inspires you. I hope this isn't blasphemy, but I don't think there is  a wrong way to worship the Lord. He never seemed like a petty guy to me. Even if He is, going to some sort of church must be better than not going at all.

Here is what I love about my new church and church family: for at least 90 minutes on Sunday, I get to be surrounded by friendly, positive people. Everyone is welcome. We all have some not great things in our past, and we know God has forgiven us for them. We sing God's praises, literally, with and electric guitar and drums to accompany us.  Total strangers will pray for you if you ask. The pastors don't take themselves too seriously.  Global and local outreach are an important part of the church's work.

For me, the outreach is the main reason I have decided to stay with this particular church. Remember Emptying the Ocean with a Teaspoon? Here is the solution: join forces with other people! We can band together and send livestock to poor communities, shoes to Haitian orphans, complete home repairs for a local family...the possibilities are endless.  We get to be the hands and feet of God, and aren't we blessed to have the opportunity!

Anyway, I'm not trying to convert anyone, or bash any one denomination or promote another one. All I'm saying is that I really have been feeling the hand of God in my life lately, and it feels great to know that I'm not doing it all alone.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cash Diet

I'm going on a Cash diet starting this week.

Kafkan from flikr
It's not actually a Johnny Cash diet, but isn't that a cool mural?

What I'm doing is trying to use cash, instead of my debit card, for day-to-day purchases. As you might have guessed from my recent coupon post, I am trying to do a little better with my finances. Don't worry, I don't need a telethon or anything, I just feel like all of the money is getting spent and I'm not sure where it's going. Most financial gurus would say that the solution is to log all of my expenditures into a spreadsheet or something. Do any of you do that? Doesn't sound like simplicity to me, it sounds more like a cute handbag overflowing with receipts and a bunch more piled up on the dining room table, all waiting to be logged into Quicken.

For me, I think the problem stems from two sources: I have a LOT of bills on automatic deduction and I'm not really keeping track of what I spend on my debit card. The solution to the automatic deduction is pretty easy- most of those bills are fixed amounts, so I need to just create a record of what deducts when (and by that I mean write it on a post-it) and keep it around.  The solution to the debit card problem is to use the thing less.

I have done the cash diet before. When I was in nursing school, my spending money was so limited that it was easier to just get whatever was left after bills in cash and use that for extras.  It helped prevent overspending, which meant I was not afraid to check my bank balance. I continued the cash habit for a while after I graduated, and I noticed that I spent less money that way. There is something about getting the cash from the ATM, counting the dollars out of your wallet, and watching the wallet get empty that connects you with the amount you're spending in a way that swiping a debit card does not.

Sadly, I have fallen out of the habit and am back to using my card for almost everything. I was embarrassed to buy a newspaper at the gas station for $1.50 and not have enough cash to pay for it. I also overdrafted my account in June because I lost track of what was deducting and what I spent. The bank moves money from my savings to cover it, but charges me an $8 fee (how many coupons does it take to make that up?) and the money never seems to get moved back to my savings.  Worst of all, I am usually very disciplined about moving a certain amount money to savings right after I get paid, but lately I wait until right before payday and just transfer some of what's left.

If you look online, there are tons of articles about all-cash diets, like this one and this one (guess who learned how to use the link button!). The second article, which has profiles of people living on all cash, has people saying things like, "we don't feel like we're skating on the edge of a cliff," and "[I] would dread going to the mailbox..." Personally, I am hoping to stop getting nervous when I log onto my bank account webpage because I will actually know how much money is there. Worrying about finances is not the key to a simple life!

Unlike the folks in the articles, I am not giving up plastic entirely. I am still planning to use my debit card for gas- it's just too convenient and I am always out of gas when I'm in a hurry to get somewhere. I will also use a credit or debit card for online purchases. My super low tech solution for keeping track of what I have spent is a little slip of paper in my wallet. I balance my checkbook (including pending deduction), write down what's left, and subtract whatever I pull from the ATM or spend on a card.

The most compelling argument for an all-cash diet might be this: some people find that an all cash diet leads to healthier food choices, which can lead to weight loss. Now that I have my CEN, it might be time to set a new goal. But more on that soon...

Until next time, KISS (keep it simple stupid), and try carrying some dollars in your wallet!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Coupons without Chaos

The question I am attempting to answer right now is: "Are coupons a way to help me focus my finances on the things I really want, or just another way to add clutter to my life?"

Don't worry, you won't have to stand behind me in line while I purchase 3 cartloads of garbage bags and canned ravioli for $5.49 plus 37 coupons. I have neither the time, the space, nor the inclination to go overboard. I am just wondering if I can save a few bucks and make some smarter purchases.

Interestingly, Yahoo featured an article just this week about the impracticality of Extreme Couponing ( The article pretty much highlights some of my reasons for not using coupons that often: they take time and organization, they cause you to buy extras that have to be stored, you can mostly save on unhealthy food, and they tempt you to buy things you don't really want or need. My personal coupon issue is that the target coupon audience seems to be families with children and I am a single girl who lives alone.

Nevertheless, I am going to make a concerted effort to use coupons as much as possible for the next few weeks. I will need to be extra careful to make sure that they help me spend less and not buy more. I also need to make sure that they don't cause any undue chaos in my life or (more likely) across my dining room table.

This week I bought the Sunday paper and flipped through the sale adds. I did find a handful of coupons for things I would be buying anyway, probably enough to offset the $1.50 cost of the newspaper. I also found out what brands were on sale at what stores. For example, I knew I was running low on eye cream. Normally I would buy it at Target, but I saw in the flier that my brand was $2 off at CVS. I needed to pick up a prescription there anyway. I paid for my prescription, got a $1 CVS bonus bucks coupon, and used that coupon toward my eye cream purchase. So I saved $3 with very little effort. Win!

Today I decided to try one of those online coupon sites. I used and found about $2 worth of savings on things I would normally buy. Unfortunately it was very easy to get distracted by adds for surveys promising payments or entries into drawings for gift cards. I spent about 30 minutes taking some ridiculous survey, and will probably have to de-spam my inbox tomorrow after giving my e-mail address to that site. Fail!

I think I am going to keep getting the Sunday paper and limiting my couponing activity to that. I will have to make some specific rules for myself about newspaper disposal- I might as well read the thing but plan to get rid of it by Monday evening to prevent pileup. The coupons themselves were great, but the sale fliers were even better- I used them to plan what purchases will be made at which store to get the best deals.

My other plan is to sign up for a Target visa. I buy a lot of toiletries and household goods there, so I think the 5% savings will be worth it, even if it means keeping track of another card. I notice that with my Macy's card I get lots of special deals and offers, so I am hoping to get the same thing from Target. It will just take a little discipline to not overspend on the card- it will not save me any money if I have to pay interest on a balance.

Anyway, I'm sort of new to this couponing thing. Does anyone else have great tips on saving money without sacrificing simplicity? Please post in the comments- I am sure we would all love to hear!

Until next time KISS (keep it simple stupid) and wish me luck!

Monday, July 11, 2011


Thanks danorbit from Flickr
I don't want to sound like any one's dad or anything, but it really feels amazing to work hard for something and achieve it.

Last week I took the test to become a Certified Emergency Nurse, and I PASSED! This is a pretty big deal because it gives me some new letters after my name, and because I get a raise from the hospital. I also got a lot of genuine congratulations from my co-workers, which felt great.  I think I may have inspired a few other people to prepare for the test as well.

This exam is very challenging- it covers a broad base of content from ocular emergencies to pediatric trauma (which I hope to never ever see in person). I started studying around October of last year, and have been really working hard since February or so. I think that the hard work I put into studying makes getting the certification feel even better.

I like to think it is my new fewer goals/more focus mindset that helped me get there (thanks Leo Babauta). I'm not trying to eat all organic produce, keep the house spotless, dress well every day, start my Masters (yet), so I have the time, energy, and money to really work on the things I want most.

When I was in my early 20's, I decided to train for a marathon. Mind you I had no idea what I was getting into, and I have pretty much crossed marathon running off my life list forever, but I remember the great feeling that came from training hard and achieving something big. Going back to get my nursing degree was a similar, longer term, commitment. I spent a year taking pre-requisite classes after work and studying on weekends.  My nursing program was accelerated and very intense, so it meant 14 months as a stressed-out unemployed college student. I had to sacrifice a lot of my laying around time and pretty much all of my disposable income, but it was a great decision and now I have a job that I love.

I feel great about my big professional accomplishment, and I can't wait for my trip to Ireland next month, but I am also getting ready for the next challenge- a medical mission trip to Haiti in November. This is a fairly expensive trip that comes right behind another expensive trip, so it will take some financial sacrifices. It also entails "primitive camping" for four nights, which I find pretty terrifying.  But most importantly, it is a new challenge and something to really look forward to.

Before I go, a quick cautionary tale about a focused lifestyle: The chore I dislike most and have been letting fall by the wayside lately is housework. I took my test last Thursday and promised myself that once it was over I would get the house (which was very messy and a little dirty) in order. Thursday afternoon I got a call from my friend Sarah, who was in town and needed a place to stay. Now Sarah is possibly the kindest and most unassuming person on planet Earth, who would never criticize and never judge. But OMG the house was a disaster! Luckily when property motivated I can get quite a lot of cleaning and straightening done in an hour.  The point is that if you focus on your big goals, someone might catch you with a grubby bathroom or a messy car or a wrinkled dress. Just a warning!

Otherwise, KISS (keep it simple stupid), focus on what's important, and listen to your dad!
If you liked this post, please leave a comment. If you loved it, tell your friends, or post it on Twitter or Facebook.

"Retweets are the sincerest form of flattery." Oscar Wilde