Monthly Archives: April 2014

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Isn’t life wonderful on Bragbook… er I mean Facebook? On Facebook I’m so ambitious. I ran an Iron Man, baked 5 dozen cookies, did 20 loads of laundry, and it’s only 5 am. It sounds so much better than sitting on the couch in my PJ’s till 3pm. On Facebook , my husband and I have the perfect marriage. We write each other Facebook status love letters and have riveting conversation every night at the family dinner table while our children throw spaghetti-o’s at each other in the background. We never fight or lose our patience with each other. On Facebook, I am rich. We have a mansion, take lavish vacations and drive Maseratis. On Facebook, my children are wonderful. They get straight A’s, get chosen for the lead part in the play, and listen to everything I say. They are prodigies. On Facebook, my job is glorious! I LOVE managing people and I get to travel to glorious places and I never get stressed out. I’m the CEO of a Fortune 500 company at 35!

 

These of course are exaggerations but I have been known to do a bit of bragging and glossing over the not so fun parts on Facebook. If you say you haven’t, I’ll call BS. The worst part is that we compare ourselves to these glorified statuses and feel worse about our own lives. I have had the opportunity to have conversations with a number of friends over time and have realized that underneath the surface we all have our struggles. Whether it be kids, marriage, job, finances…. we all have a cross to bear. If you were like me in college and high school, we used to spill our guts to anyone who would listen. Now, we keep it all bottled inside and try to make our lives look more put together than they always are.

 

I can’t say that I will completely stop bragbooking but just remember when you read those glorious statuses from me or anyone else that life is hard and not to feel worse about your own life. Be happy for them but don’t wonder why your life isn’t as fulfilling as theirs. Part of simple living is learning to not compare ourselves to others. We all have a struggle and their life is probably not as glorious as their Facebook status would imply.

 

 

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The journey to simplifying your life has to begin in getting your financial house in order. Although I claim that my simple living journey started when I left my stressful career in healthcare, it truly started several years ago when my husband and I decided to pursue financial peace. That is, in my humble opinion, the foundation of everything. Financial peace is a must for simple living and is truly the cornerstone in pursuing your dreams.  Until I was out of debt, I had to make decisions based solely on money rather than other factors such as stress level and job satisfaction. My husband and I made a commitment to paying off our debt and made goals for ourselves that we usually finished far before our target dates.

Here are a few of my tips for getting and staying out of debt:

-Find a program that works for you. Ours was Dave Ramsey. He has taught many average people how to win with money and cut away from the chains of debt to give yourself financial peace. The program is really common sense but does take discipline. We started by listening to his CD’s on long car rides and then took the class one fall. We were able to pay off $124,000 in debt in 5 years following the program and we are almost done beefing up our emergency fund (Baby Step 3). Check out DaveRamsey.com to see what it’s all about.

-Stop buying more than you can afford today. If you can’t pay off your expenditures that you put on your credit card for that month, at the end of the month, then you have to stop the bleeding first. Dave Ramsey says to pay only with cash and that is probably a good policy if your credit card purchases get away on you. We never did the envelope system like Dave Ramsey suggests. We used our reward credit cards and have been successful in paying it off every month but it takes a lot of discipline.

-It’s a lifestyle change, not a diet. You know what I’m talking about. You go on the diet for a few months and then fall off the wagon and get right back to where you started. The same is true with debt reduction. Make it a lifestyle change and make changes for the long haul. That also means that you can cheat a little too. We didn’t follow the Dave Ramsey plan religiously. We did it the way that worked for us. We took a vacation or two, ate out sometimes, and bought other things. We paid for them all in cash though and saved up for it or budgeted for it. We didn’t want to fall off the wagon so we allowed ourselves to cheat now and then. Every raise, every bonus, every tax refund, every reduced expense, overtime, etc. went toward our debt though. We used some of the money for the other things we did but we always put most of it toward our debt before paying for fun stuff. We also didn’t stop contributing to our 401ks as Dave R would suggest. With a company match, I couldn’t give away free money.

-Find friends who are also reducing their debt. It was really motivating to be in class with others going through the same thing especially when most of the people around us weren’t. Read inspiring stories from others who have paid off their debt. Thankfully frugality seems to be a lot “cooler” now.

-Don’t keep up with the Joneses. They are likely up to their ears in debt.

-Sell stuff. I sold a lot of  little things on Facebook and Craigslist that helped me lighten the load and pay down our debt.

-Make a budget. I didn’t enjoy it but it helped to see how we were spending our money and to control it rather than have it control us. I have to get back to doing one this year. I fell off the wagon and need to get back on.

-Put all your debts on a mirror in your bathroom and keep a running tally of how much you have paid down and how much you have left. It kept us motivated and was incredibly inspiring to see how far we’d come. I have kept all of the sheets that we had on our bathroom mirror and look at them occasionally to see how much we were able to accomplish by making our goals visible. Pay down using a debt snowball or line up debts with the highest interest first. Either method works well. Choose the best one for you. The debt snowball concept is that you line up all of your debts from the smallest debt to the largest. You pay the minimum payment on all of your debts except for the smallest one which you pour every extra penny you have towards. Once that is paid off, you move on to the next smallest debt and so on. The idea is that you’ll gain momentum by getting quick wins and it will keep you going for when the larger debts are left. The other concept, paying the highest interest first is most financially beneficial. Line up your debts by the highest interest rate first to the lowest and pay the minimum on all but the highest interest rate which you will concentrate on first.

-Cut cable. It was liberating when we got rid of cable especially that DVR. The DVR was one more thing I had to clean up every day as I tried to keep up with a ton of shows. When we cut cable, we watched the news more often and found new shows on Netflix. We lived without it for a year and a half as we finished up paying off our debt. I didn’t miss it (much). We have it again now that we are debt free but I could definitely survive without it.

-If you have credit card debt, play the 0% interest game. I hardly paid any interest on my debt when I had it because I moved the money around to 0% cards. Be careful with this though because since the time when I was paying off credit card debt a few years ago, adding transaction fees has become commonplace. Those could wrack up really easily and negate your efforts.

-This next one isn’t a debt reduction tip but will save you a lot of money. Always, always, always ask the clerk at stores if there is a coupon for the items you are purchasing. You would be amazed how many times I have gotten 20% off or another discount just by asking. Often there are coupons that I haven’t received in the mail or email and the clerks are either more than willing to give it to me or tell me they shouldn’t but they will.

The bottom line is that you have to be financially secure before you can become less stressed or be able to take a less stress job. None of this is earth shattering advice as it takes good old fashioned hard work and discipline to get out of debt. It is an amazing feeling to be free of debt though so it is definitely worth it.

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Last October, I opened my store, TheSimpleLifeDecor.com.  It has been overwhelming at times (okay, most of the time)  to sort through all that needs to be done and trying to balance it all.  I also have a full time job and am raising a young family so simple living with so much going on seems unattainable. But I’ve discovered that it is as much a state of mind as it is a product of my surroundings.  One important lesson that I’ve learned is that quieting the noise around me is the best way for me to be successful.

Anyone with young kids is probably thinking that “quieting the noise” must be metaphorical, and that I could not have possibly found the Holy Grail of child rearing.  In many ways you are correct. There is not a great way of quieting the kids (my kids at least). There is a time when this magic occurs though… 5 am.  I get up at 5 am nearly every morning before I head off to my full time job and have over an hour of complete peace to grab my coffee and work on whatever I need to get accomplished before the harried day begins. More on the power of 5 am in a future post.

What I really want to focus on though is quieting the noise from the metaphorical sense.  In a new business, there is so much to do and it is difficult not to compare myself to other long-established businesses.  There are customers to serve, products to add, SEO to complete, blogging to do, networking to be done on several social media platforms, books to read, blogs to read, podcasts to listen to learn how to improve, prices to monitor…. the list goes on and on.  It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.  There have been three very powerful lessons that I have learned recently though that have helped me in quieting the noise.

The first lesson comes from “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. I ask myself this question which is the premise of the book: “What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” By focusing on the ONE thing and not letting the noise from the rest of the world distract me, I am able to complete the most important thing that I need to get done.  Once that ONE thing is complete, rinse and repeat. “What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” and on and on chipping away at the things I need to accomplish. Instead of being overwhelmed by the mountain, I can focus on the step immediately in front of me.  I still struggle with this as a multi-tasker at heart but the book also discusses how multi-tasking actually slows down progress.  I am starting to believe it and I’m working at focusing at the one task at at hand rather than trying to do many tasks.

The second lesson is from Jon Acuff to not compare my beginning to someone else’s middle. It’s easy to get caught up in the comparison game and see that another business/site/employee/parent you name it is doing better than I am. It’s important not to compare especially comparing where I am to others who have been long established. Everyone starts somewhere and so have I. Rarely do we get to hear the struggles that it’s taken to achieve the success that we compare against.

The third lesson is to quiet the voices (seek help if you really hear voices : ) but what I mean is the voices that tell you you’re not good enough, strong enough, smart enough, dedicated enough … They may things that you tell yourself or people around you that don’t support your dreams.  These voices are often wrong and destroy more dreams than failure ever will. They don’t deserve any real estate in your head.

There are many lessons to be learned about staying focused in a noisy world if you seek them out. They say success is a journey, not a destination. We need to treat ourselves with grace and be patient to take the next step without beating ourselves up if we stumble.

 

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Like many of you, I have found myself wishing I was somewhere else when chaos and imbalance have gotten the best of me.  While I won’t be able to eliminate the chaos, here are some tips I have found for creating an escape in the midst of chaos.

  • Create a playlist on your MP3 player with songs that remind you of awesome times.  Songs have a special way of tying to memories. A song that can calm me down and make me smile no matter what is going on is “Never Let You Go” by Third Eye Blind.  It reminds me of a great spring break in college (now I’m dating myself) and takes me back to that awesome trip.  Another great song is “Island in the Sun” by Weezer that has such an awesome mellow tune that reminds me of being on vacation.  Throw on some Bob Marley or Jimmy Buffet. There are so many other great songs out there. Pick ones that remind you of happier times.
  • Find a picture of your happy place and pin it up at your desk, make it your desktop wallpaper, tape it to your kids’ foreheads (okay, not really) but you get the idea.  Keep it handy in those places where stress and chaos are prevalent for a quick mental vacation.
  • Buy a scent that reminds you of vacation. Coconut Lime Verbena from Bath and Body Works reminds me of sun and sand. It’s a great way to calm myself when I’ve hit my limit.
  • Make a fruity cocktail.  I know this won’t help you at work but when you get home, throw together a margarita and top it off with a little umbrella.
  • Watch HGTV or The Travel Channel. You may become a bit jealous but there are plenty of shows with people buying vacation homes on the beach to help fuel your dreams
  • Load a digital frame up with pictures from your vacations and let them rotate throughout the day. I have one on my desk. Not only do I finally get to use my digital frame, I also get to finally see those thousands of pictures I never printed. Even though I’m not on vacation, the memories always make me smile.

These are some of the ways that have helped me create an escape amidst chaos. What are some of your tricks?

 

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Last May, I went through a traumatic experience that left me feeling deeply betrayed and foolish.  I learned a good lesson about simple living and considering the source.  A good friend of mine had been deceiving me for years and she skillfully manipulated me and many others.  During the midst of the roller coaster of emotions ranging from shock, denial, anger, grief, and humiliation, I let my guard down and I opened myself allowing people to see me vulnerable.

An outpouring of support came from most people who were just as shocked as I was. I was even surprised by a few who showed compassionate support.  There were a few that decided to kick my while I was down though, and they were the ones I obsessed over.   I was already feeling guilt for being so foolish not to discover something that would have been impossible to see.  In my moment of weakness, I allowed myself to be berated, not for what had happened, but for every little beef that they had.  I found myself apologizing for things I shouldn’t have and tearfully accepting each kick and punch they had.  I obsessed about it for days but then started coming to a realization.

Those who were berating me were the same ones who criticized everything.  They were the same ones who were guilty of some of the crimes they were throwing stones over.   In my moment of weakness, I did not uphold my usual MO to consider the source. You see, in my book, your opinion holds no validity if you are consistently complaining without being part of the solution or accepting responsibility for your role in a situation.  If you criticize all the time without offering solutions, it just becomes white noise to me.

So when you are feeling down and out, consider the source.  When someone is criticizing you and wants to kick you while you are down, consider the source.  Are they the ones out in the ring getting their butts kicked or are they merely sitting on the sidelines throwing stones?  If you they are part of the latter group, they can keep their opinions to themselves.  Simple living starts where letting criticism influence you ends!

 

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There are many powerful messages of simple living and living your dreams out there if you seek them out. One such message comes from Randy Pausch in The Last Lecture. If you have never had the chance to listen to his message, you absolutely must. He did a compressed version on Oprah several years ago which you can find here.

There are many fantastic nuggets from Randy Pausch who had a great perspective even while dying.  When I haven’t watched it in a while, there is still a message that resonates with me. The message is that you have to decide early on if you’re going to be a Tigger or an Eeyore.  Tigger is positive, enthusiastic, curious, and always having fun. He’s the eternal optimist. Eeyore always has a cloud over his head and all is wrong in the world. He’s depressed and gloomy and the eternal pessimist.  I’m sure you know people like this in your world. You see the Tiggers on Facebook with positive status updates, always having fun, sharing inspiring messages.  You see them in meetings at work not letting obstacles get them down. You see the Eeyores too (aka Debbie Downer).  Just being around them sucks the energy out of you. There is always something wrong and they make sure everyone knows it.  The world is out to get them.

I have to admit that I think I was an Eeyore for many years. I complained…a lot …but mostly to my family and a few close friends. I could switch it on and off depending on where I was. I didn’t decide early on that I was going to be a Tigger but it’s never too late to change your mind. You see, I’m starting to realize that it is a choice that I can make. I know I am capable. After all, I was able to switch my persona depending on my surroundings. I’m sure I’ll slide back into my old ways on occasion but with determination and patience with myself, it will happen.  Who will you choose to be?

What a great way to repurpose an old rowboat!  This is a fun way to add to your cottage style decor.

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Found on gonautical.wordpress.com

 

Get ready for summer and give a fabulous gift to your favorite host/hostess or keep one for yourself. These fantastic outdoor rugs have a lot of character and will wow your guests.  What a great way to complement your coastal style decor!

Coastal rugs for the Sea Enthusiast:

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Crab Rug

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Flip Flop Rug

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Mermaid Rug

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Seashell Rug

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Surfboard Rug

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Nautical Rugs for the Nautical Enthusiast:

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Compass Rug

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Nautical Flag Rug

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Sailboat Rug

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Anchor Rug

These and many other  outdoor rugs are available at The Simple Life Decor.

 

 

 

My coastal style furniture and decor store was featured on Completely-Coastal.com! Check it out!

4/2/14

Coastal Decorations & Furnishings from The Simple Life Decor

Bring calm beachiness to your home with furnishings and decorations from The Simple Life Decor Store! Founder and CEO Wendy Schultz created The Simple Life Decor out of the desire for simplicity and a stress free environment for herself. She sure is not the only one who turns to the beach for serenity! So take a look! Here are some of my favorite coastal decorations.

A lovely set of Sea Life Statues.

A glowing Ocean Wall Sconce to enjoy a little bit of underwater world in your home.

A sleek and beautiful Ship Wheel Clock. Check out all these Ship Wheel Decor Ideas!

Coastal furnishings from Seabrook Classics, like this Plantation Nightstand.

And a fun Daybed that features friendly crab cut-out embellishments. The Simple Life Decor Store has many cottage style home decorations that will complement your coastal theme home. Go browse through their selections!

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My name is Wendy and after leaving a stressful career, I am on a journey to a simpler life. I have started a business called The Simple Life Decor (thesimplelifedecor.com) specializing in mid to high end cottage style furniture and decor for cottages and primary homes. My blog is focused on living a simpler life whether it be through creating a serene environment in your home or simple living tips! Subscribe to my list and shop TheSimpleLifeDecor.com!

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