Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Lessons Learned: Three Years After Building and Purchasing a Home

Greetings faithful blog readers! 

It's hard to believe, but January 28th marked three years of homeownership for Brendan and I. Sunday, I was reflecting on what I think we did right (and wrong) when building and purchasing our home. I hope by passing along some 20/20 hindsight (from both of us), you faithful readers can benefit. 

What We Did Right: 

We stuck to a more conservative budget. Despite being approved for larger loans than the one we took out, my research told me that we should cap our home search at 2.5 times our annual combined salaries. By following this formula, we bought the best home we could really afford. While there are times I wish we had a little more space, I'm thankful that our cost of living stayed consistent (we hardly saw an increase between apartment rent and our mortgage) and that we still had money to furnish and landscape. 

We put money into upgrades that really matter to us. It'd be easy to look at an upgrade list and go wild. For us, upgrades made up 10% of the cost of our home, and we picked the ones that really mattered to us. Namely, we don't have any carpet in our house. Wood and tile floors are relatively easy to keep clean, we've laid down rugs where we want them, and the cats have nothing to destroy. We're also happy that we spent money upgrading the bathrooms (tiled showers/jetted tub) and the kitchen (stainless steel appliances, double oven, and under cabinet lighting), and adding a water softener and reverse osmosis system were key. I'm also glad we added ceiling fans in all the rooms and on the patio and a keypad for the garage. Everything we paid extra for has been enjoyed, but there's nothing we upgraded and then thought "why did we bother?" because we really gave some thought to what we wanted. 

We made the most of our warranty. I'm also glad we went ahead and built. Knock on wood, but we haven't had to fix anything (yet!)

Location, Location, Location: We bought a home just a few miles from work, and it has been extremely convenient. I can be in the car at 7:45AM and in my classroom at 7:57AM (and that's with traffic!) We love being near work.

When picking our tile, counter, wood, paint, and cabinet colors, we used the most neutral palate possible. Doing so has provided us with a lot of flexibility, and we hope that if we sell the house, it will appeal to a wider range of buyers than some of the more eccentric combinations. We're also happy we picked traditional looking brick rather than some of the less common color choices (which look a bit off to us).  

What I Wish We Had Known: 

One thing we didn't really think about when selecting our lot was the placement of the nearby cul-de-sac. I'm not sure it would have changed our minds, since we selected our lot based on many factors (like curb appeal, placement in relation to undeveloped lots, and distance to the neighborhood playground/pool), but we have less backyard privacy than we anticipated because we have neighbors behind us in addition to on either side. 

When we were building, we got asked all kinds of questions, and one of them I didn't think about  enough was placement of light switches. I made a mistake by not having a switch placed in the kitchen dining area, which is right outside our bedroom. If I want something, like water (or lately, a snack), in the middle of the night, it's a long and dark walk to the fridge. 

One of our favorite parts of the kitchen is the bar, but we didn't think much about the paint color of the wall under the bar. Honestly, we should have done brick here instead. Needless to say, off white gets really dirty, and we're constantly using a magic eraser. Which brings me to my next point...

I'm not sure we could have avoided this, but in hindsight, we wish our walls weren't textured. This may be the way every home in the neighborhood was built, but when cleaning a textured wall, the paint tends to rub off. 

Landscaping, even if you do it yourself, is really expensive! Luckily, our yard has become like a hobby to us (especially Brendan), and we enjoy making it attractive and don't mind spending money on it. However, I do have to remind Brendan not to be so self-critical--getting anything to grow in the desert is an accomplishment. When buying a new home, add in money for what you will need to spend on the front and backyard (add in more money if you need to hire someone). 

You can push for things you really want. I think we were too willing to accept no as an answer on some issues. For instance, we really don't like our fireplace mantle, and I think we could have insisted on an upgraded one, even though it wasn't on the given list of possibilities. 

When building, monitor constantly. Our builders made a few sloppy mistakes we may have caught if we'd known what to look out for (or had the time to visit the construction site more frequently). While maybe only we can notice a few things that aren't ideal, it would have saved stress to catch errors, and we wouldn't have to live with the mistakes. 

Those are the big things we can think of. If you have any wisdom from your own experiences to pass along, please feel free to leave a note in the comments. 

Happy Home!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Showered With Love: Our Work Baby Shower

Greetings faithful blog readers,

I'm backtracking to nearly two weeks ago to tell you all about the amazing baby shower that our co-workers put on in celebration of baby girl Egan.

Before the recap, a story: Over seven years ago, when Brendan and I first arrived in Midland, we never thought we'd stay for a substantial amount of time. But something unexpected happened: we realized just how wonderful the place we work and the people we work with are. They become a little family to us, and realizing our luck to find such opportunities, support, and a school with a mission we felt empowered by, we decided to make Midland our home. 

At our baby shower, we were reminded again of how fortunate we are to have found this place. The room was full of nothing but love and support, and so many people stopped by to celebrate with us (we took the photo at the end, so not everyone was in it). Sometimes in life, you just stumble into good luck. Such was the case for us when we applied to eighty schools and ended up here in west Texas. 

Read on, and you'll see what we do: a large support system of people that we're grateful to have; they've made work comfortable for us, they've helped shape us into better teachers by giving us resources and guidance, and they've seen us through every major life milestone. Their thoughtfulness was absolutely touching, and we're so happy our baby will get to know such kind people. Without further delay, here's all the baby shower details: 

Our co-workers knew we are doing a southwest theme for the nursery, and they really went all out with the cowgirl invitations and the amazing cake. 

Fun fact: one of my co-workers MADE this cake. In addition to looking beautiful, it was absolutely delicious too. I told her she could open a bakery, but she says she just likes to do it for fun. Can you imagine being so talented with fondant? Aren't the coyotes a cute touch? 

There were great snacks galore: a huge variety of homemade cookies, veggies, fruit, trail mix, chips & hummus, cheese, and the most delightful punch. As a bonus, we got to take home lots of leftovers and enjoy them with family in Austin. 

My coworker used a bundt cake pan to make this raspberry ice ring to keep the punch chilled. Genius!

Me with the amazing hostesses (Karen, Lynda, and Sara) and cake decorator (Stephanie)! 

I blog a lot about our friends Dagan and Steph. We work with Dagan, and his wife Stephanie took off from work (in Odessa, over half an hour away) to be at our shower. It was wonderful to have them there. 

After snacks and some visiting, it was time for present opening: 

We were really blown away by people's generosity. It was overwhelming in the best way. Our co-worker Emily took these photos: 

Baby's first swimsuit: is it summer yet?! 

Feminist Baby, a must for any little girl! 

We got books galore, ensuring baby girl will be the most well-read baby on the block. 

Super cute cacti nursery print says "though she be little, she is fierce." 

There will be no shortage of adorable dresses in this little girl's life! 

There were so many sweet cards! I'm saving them all to make her a book (fun fact: I still need to make a book of our wedding cards, but I do still have them all. File under: one day). 

Finally, have you ever seen someone so excited about diapers? I think diapers are adorable. Someone remind me I said that! 

We're so thrilled that our co-workers took time to celebrate our daughter with us. This was the sweetest way to kick off our semester. Thanks to everyone who made it so special! 


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Reflections on 700 Posts in 7 Years

Greetings faithful blog readers,

Yesterday's blog post was Lola & Zoe's 700th(!), and Feb. 1st will mark the blog's 7 year anniversary. Putting this in perspective: I've been blogging for almost the entirety of Brendan and I's relationship and for nearly one quarter (22%) of my life. Over the years, I've had many friends ask me for advice on starting a blog, but when I reflect about why I blog, it isn't for the reason most people choose to. I don't want to sell anything, the blog isn't part of my "brand," I'm not trying to make money or even get free stuff (though on occasion, I have earned some referral credits), most of all, I'm certainly not going to impress you with beautiful photographs of food, fashion, or home decor.

In other words, I'm probably the last person you want to ask about starting a blog!

While this blog has recipes and maybe an idea that's useful now and then, there's no real focus to it. Now you know why I always refer to you as "faithful blog readers" (because, well, you keep coming back despite the chaos). This blog is bits and pieces of our lives tucked into a random corner of the internet. I started it mostly for our families, but I've continued it because I enjoy the act of writing (and of looking back). It's a convenient place to come when I can't remember what recipe I made for Valentine's Day dinner 3 years ago. It's like being able to do a Google search for your own memories (which is weird and sort of wonderful). Mostly, it's a scrapbook of our lives together. I can go back and see my apartment in Lake Charles, photos from when we lived with my parents for six weeks, I can remember how we celebrated all the jobs we've ever gotten, what dress I wore when we got engaged, the details of planning our wedding, what our old apartment looked like, how we've celebrated every anniversary, what the house looked like before we could afford to furnish it, what we did that day in Namibia (or wherever), what museum it was that I really liked in Amsterdam (or wherever). You get the idea.

Perhaps the best part of blogging has been the chance to connect with other people, but specifically, with people that are actually interested in whatever it is I'm writing about. Unlike posting a long story or reaction to a world event on social media, I can link to a blog post, and I know if someone reads it, it was because he or she wanted to. And many people have reached out to me as a result of a post, and I've felt a greater sense of genuine connectivity because of it. Blogging has taught me how much of humanity is a universal and shared experience. Life is wonderful, but it's hard too. 

So would I recommend blogging? Absolutely. But mostly what I would recommend is blogging leisurely and writing what you feel like just because you can. I would recommend blogging without purpose. It's a nice way to calm your mind, to procrastinate, or to enjoy a glass of wine (I miss wine).

I don't know that this blog won't be wiped from the internet one day, so I can't say it'll be permanent, but I do hope to be writing it for a long time.

And I'm thankful that it's given my life a little more context. I can pull up a photo and really remember almost everything about a day or a night.

This photo was taken in February 2011 at a McNeese M.F.A. party (we called that house "the pleasure dome" though neither of us know where that name came from) for visiting writing Gary Jackson. Brendan and I had been dating for about 3.5 months at the time. Thanks to the blog, I could tell you absurd details such as what lip gloss I was wearing and where I bought that shirt (Target). Thanks to my memory, I could tell you how happy I was because of the people in that program and because I was so so in love.

There's a poem that our teacher from McNeese, Amy Fleury, wrote. It's called "The Wound You Need," and it's published in her collection Beautiful TroubleI've read it with many classes of students, and it always makes me feel deeply. My favorite line is the last:

                   "That was long ago, my friend,
but you can still get there from here."

I love this line, and I talk about the concepts of time and place so often that Brendan merely tolerates my musings on those topics.

So, maybe that's what these 7 years of blogging have really been about. No matter how wonderful, difficult, insignificant, or weird a day was, this blog is like a map I made myself to find it again.

What is the purpose of all this? I still don't know, but I'm glad you're here asking with me.

Here's to you, faithful blog readers. Thanks for letting me share.


Friday, January 19, 2018

Pregnancy Weeks 25-28

Greetings faithful blog readers,

When we last left off with the pregnancy updates, Brendan and I were enjoying our babymoon in Maui and finishing off the most enjoyable month of pregnancy yet. Baby girl had started to kick constantly, weighed over a pound, and I'd purchased more maternity clothes to keep up with her growth spurts.

He's a look at our month since then:

Week 25
Baby Size: A rutabaga (link to Wikipedia in case you, like me, are thinking "what's that?")

We start off the week in gorgeous Maui, and on our last day of vacation, we take maternity photos with Jane Johnson. This was more important to me than Brendan, but he was a great sport, and I'll always treasure these pictures (and I hope our daughter will too). When booking, I'd worried 25 weeks may be too early for maternity photos, but the bump was obvious, and I felt beautiful. We had a wonderful end to our vacation, and I managed the red eye plane ride (which involved a night sleeping on the plane rather than in a bed) really well. (Tips: change into pajamas, brush your teeth, and take out your contacts before the plane ride. Bring a sleeping mask and ear plugs. We had exceptionally bad turbulence, and I still managed to sleep for most of both plane rides). Once we're back in Austin, we're busy preparing for my family's Christmas Eve party. I get to see lots of family and high school friends, which is awesome. My gag reflex is super sensitive this week, and brushing my teeth makes me sick for the first time in a couple of months. Our Christmas is wonderful. Our gifts to each other mostly center around our anticipated arrival. I gift Brendan a fancy camera lens (for taking closeup portraits of the baby) and "Papa Bear," "Mama Bear," "Baby Bear" pajamas for next year (cheesy, but I can't resist), and he gifts me books and movies (for staying in once the baby comes), a super soft nursing gown and robe, and a baby girl deer to complete the deer family we display on our mantle each Christmas. Unfortunately, on Christmas night, I come down with a cough. The next day, I cough so hard that I throw up (yuck/sorry to Amanda and Matt's rug). At the end of the week, we celebrate Brendan's birthday with a trip to the movies and hanging out with friends at a bar. We also celebrate Christmas with Graham and Erynn. Luckily by then, my cough is replaced by a runny nose, so I'm feeling well enough to stay out and be the designated driver.

Week 26
Baby Size: A red cabbage 

Are you guys as sick of seeing this outfit as I am of wearing it? It's not easy to find outfits that fit these days. We spend the beginning of the week in Austin. During the first part, I'm still getting over my allergies or cold sickness, so I take some very long naps. Since baby girl is able to hear us now, we enjoy playing her music ("Till There Was You" both the Music Man and The Beatles versions and Beyonce). Baby girl kicks a lot, which we hope means she's enjoying herself. We ring in the New Year by having dinner with Elda (who gifts us some adorable "I love mommy" and "I love daddy" onesies) and then playing board games with my parents and Cole. I'm pretty sure I feel baby's first case of the hiccups this week, but it's hard to be certain. We return to Midland midweek and are kept busy with unpacking, laundry, sending out New Year cards, going to the grocery store, and beginning the process of clearing out our office to make way for the nursery. I finish the week with my first doctor's appointment in six weeks (travel has me behind schedule), and it involves the dreaded glucose tolerance test. Luckily, the drink isn't that bad (for reference, I picked the fruit punch flavor), and best of all, I don't have gestational diabetes, which is a huge relief. Baby girl's heart rate is 146 bpm, and the nurse confirms that she is having hiccups (so I guess I was probably really feeling those earlier this week). I get my Tdap vaccine (Brendan doesn't need another, thanks to our 2016 Africa travels), my blood pressure is good, and I've gained 12 pounds total so far during the pregnancy. My friend Julie had her baby the same morning of my appointment (a second little girl, which I predicted correctly!), and texting with her is a good distraction while waiting for my blood to be drawn. After we leave the doctor's office, we head to Babies R' Us to order a dresser and changing table topper (which is a gift from my mom).

Week 27 
Baby Size: A cauliflower (Brendan says the comparisons have become ridiculous)

Remember week 20? Such a big change in just 7 weeks!
We make some more progress clearing out the office and take several old bookcases to Goodwill, and we finally order the crib (a gift from Brendan's parents). Speaking of Brendan's parents, his dad has picked his grandparent name ("Buddy," so cute). I'm pretty sure my dad wants to go by "Pops," so now we're just waiting on my mom's decision (As mentioned in my last update, Brendan's mom choose the sweet name "Gigi"). Once we have all the furniture ordered (and more of the space cleared), we really start to get excited about the nursery coming together and order the curtains and rug. Strong kicking from baby girl continues, and Brendan enjoys poking my stomach and having baby girl kick him back. We can definitely see my stomach shake visibly, which we continue to think is so funny. Heartburn has been bad this week, and I've started taking over the counter medicine for it. I return to exercise after a holiday hiatus by going to a prenatal yoga class, which is really enjoyable. It's fun to meet some other moms due around the same time as me. We take down all the Christmas decorations and are both a bit bummed that the holidays and winter break are ending (but we're also getting closer to eventually meeting our daughter, which is an exciting thought to say the least). We head back to work, and suddenly, everyone is congratulating us as the pregnancy is now completely obvious. I also get a lot of comments about how big I look. With a short torso, there is no where for baby to go except for out in front! I've accepted it. A co-worker in the SimLife center is super sweet and does an ultrasound for us. Baby girl loves to stay right up against the placenta (our co-worker says it's because she can hear my heart that way and it's comforting), so it's hard to get pictures of her full face, but of course, like any parents, we think she's the most beautiful baby ever. Our co-worker even points out the start of hair growth to us (I read that a John Hopkins study showed heartburn during pregnancy means the baby will be born with hair, so I'm not surprised!). Baby weighs 2 pounds, 10 ounces and measures right on track. That night, we attend our first childbirth education class. We were on the fence about registering but were ultimately convinced it'd be useful. While none of the information we learn is brand new (since we've been reading a lot), we still both think the first class was useful. We learned some information about our hospital's specific options. And while I kind of wish I didn't see some of the visual aids, I guess it's good to know (fully) what I'm getting into. The next day, our coworkers throw us an absolutely gorgeous baby shower. We are seriously blown away by their generosity and eagerness to celebrate with us, and things start to feel real once I get home and start organizing all the baby stuff. I Facetime our moms, and they can't believe how lucky we are either! What a great ending to the second trimester!

Week 28 
Baby Size: A large eggplant 

Baby girl and I have officially made it to the third trimester. It feels like a big deal, and three months until we meet her seems both like an eternity and like it won't be enough time to get everything done. Our house is filling with all the stuff we ordered for the nursery, but we don't have time to unbox most of it. I get my Rhogam shot (since I'm O- and Brendan's O+, the shot prevents complications with my body attacking the baby if she has a + blood type), and the next day, we're off to Austin! Brendan's parents and sister fly to Austin for our baby shower, and we get to spend the whole long weekend with our families, which is great. Speaking of our families: everyone has their TDAP vaccines! On Sunday, my cousin throws us the most amazing baby shower (blog post coming soon), and we're surrounded by so much love and generosity from family and friends. My mom signs the shower guestbook as "Lolly," so I guess she has picked her grandparent name (she told me she didn't think it'd be right to sign as "Dr. Huling," haha). Week 28 is full of kicks (I'm supposed to start kick counts, but so far, kicks are so consistent that I haven't had to make a conscious effort to count them), and Brendan's family gets to feel baby girl move. Brendan's sister, Annie ("Auntie"), starts crying the second she feels her niece kicking, which is a sweet moment that I'll always remember. My stomach is visibly moving and shaking this week...whoa! We get to meet my friend Belle's baby, Maggie Lyn, and it's wild to think we'll soon be responsible for a little baby of our own. Belle gives us some diapers that Maggie Lyn grew out of, and I think newborn diapers are adorable (remind me I said that). On Monday, we head home (and stop for a DQ Blizzard--I guess this counts as a craving), and I organize the shower gifts in the nursery, which is now completely full of baby stuff. We got most of what we need from the showers and feel so fortunate and grateful. A cold front blows into Midland and with it a cold for me (of course). I'm very congested just in time to kick off the semester. Unlike last semester when I avoided discussing the pregnancy with students, this semester, it's a topic I address on day one. Half of my course load will be flex courses that finish before spring break; the other half of classes will need a few weeks of (already arranged) coverage after the baby comes. My students are understanding and sweet about the news. Other odds and ends: my heartburn continues to be problematic this week but especially so at night, childbirth class is canceled because the instructor and guest presenter both have the flu (I hope everyone has had a shot, this season is nasty), I start shower thank-you notes, and my end of week weigh in shows I'm up 15 pounds for the pregnancy. The snoogle and  mama bee belly butter continue to be favorites.

I'll be back in a month with week 29-32 updates!

We hope everyone has a great weekend.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Maternity Photos + What to Use Them For

Greetings faithful blog readers,

It has been a whirlwind week and a half since I last checked in (one that involved going back to work, helping to organize a luncheon for the teaching excellence awards, assessment, book edits, starting childbirth classes, TWO baby showers, and a trip to Austin where we saw both our families). We're exhausted but happy, and we're looking forward to a new semester.

Today's blog post is funny to write because maternity photos, like many things, were something I didn't think I'd ever be interested in doing. I was so confident that I even promised Brendan that if we took engagement photos, we could skip maternity photos. I've always thought maternity photos look cheesy. A few months into pregnancy though, I started to wonder how I'd feel if we skipped them. I cherish the photos that I have of my mom when she was pregnant with me (I've written about a particular photo in this post), and I liked the idea of having nice photos of Brendan and I that documented this special time to share with our baby. Brendan was skeptical--professional photography is expensive, and he felt we wouldn't really have much use for the pictures. I've also had friends tell me that once the baby comes, maternity photos seem to just take up frame space you'd rather use on baby pictures, but I couldn't shake the feeling that if we found the right photographer, we could get photos we'd love and cherish forever.

But it turns out, a good maternity photographer is hard to find. I wasn't in love with a lot of portfolios that I saw. After we planned our Maui babymoon, I decided to look into Maui photographers, and I finally found what I was looking for when I stumbled across Jane Johnson's website. I thought her photos were beautiful and authentic, and she was willing to schedule short sessions too, which I knew Brendan would appreciate. I'm so glad that she was our photographer: she was easy to work with, personable, and was even able to reschedule with us multiple times to get the perfect weather for our sunrise session.

As soon as Jane sent me a preview, I knew we'd made the right choice. She captured our happiness, love for one another, and excitement about our baby girl perfectly.

Here's a sampling of our maternity pictures taken at 25 weeks pregnant. I searched high and low for the perfect outfits and finally found them through Le Tote. I did my own hair and make-up. At the end of the post, I'll talk about what we're doing with our photos.

Here's how we're using our maternity photos:

I always send Christmas cards, but, as these were taken on Dec. 22nd, I decided to do New Year cards instead this year and used the photos for those. (I used the website Minted to make cards this year).

I used Shutterfly to create Thank You cards with the photos.

My favorite use: we bought floating picture frames and had prints made for our parents, grandparents, and siblings. We wrote everyone notes on our wedding stationary about what they mean to us and how happy we are that baby girl will have them in her life. We taped the notes to the back of the print, and since the frames have glass on both sides, they can hang the picture but take it off the wall to read the message.

We'll frame some for our home and baby girl's room.

I plan to use them in baby girl's baby book.

Finally, you know they'll make an appearance on my 2019 Erin Condren Lifeplanner (along with plenty of pictures of baby girl herself!)

Ultimately, Brendan says he is glad we took these photos. Though I'm sure part of that is just seeing how happy they make me.

Here's to memories to treasure forever and ever.


Saturday, January 6, 2018

Organization Projects for the New Year

Greetings faithful blog readers,

We packed so much into the last week of 2017 (Christmas, Brendan's birthday, New Year's Eve) that I've been extremely thankful to have this past week to recover. We came home on the first day of 2018 and have spent the past week getting organized both in typical ways (grocery store, unpacking, laundry, putting away Christmas decor) and in atypical ways (we're in the process of cleaning out the office to make way for baby girl's room).

Today, I wanted to share a couple of easy organization projects that I am really enjoying the results of. The first is an idea that came from my friend Emily Shewmaker. You know those people that Martha Stewart has nothing on? Emily is one of them. I always admired her recipe binder in graduate school, but for some reason, my own recipes (collected from friends and family and magazines) ended up folded up inside of a recipe box or inside of a file folder. The recipes would get wet, torn, or lost, and I had to look through a big stack to find the one I wanted. I knew there was an easier way, but I never got around to making my own binder until this week.

The supplies list is simple. You need a binder (mine is just a regular one inch), a package of page protectors (I bought 50, which was plenty to start), and tabs (I recommend the kind you can peel and stick onto the pages rather than dividers which take up space.

If you let your husband design the cover, beware that it may turn out like this:

But whatever. It took me about an hour to catalog something like 50 recipes. I used both front and back sides of each page protector and made tabs for new categories as they came up (I ended up with breakfast, drinks, slow cooker, pizzas, pastas, casseroles, beans, stuffed veggies, Mexican, salads, sides, & desserts). I have extra tabs and can easily make more when I need them. Make sure to blow on the tabs to avoid smearing (I smeared a few, so I could pass on this lesson).

The page protectors worked perfectly for typed of recipes and those I'd torn from magazines. 

It also was easy to slide index cards into (and I like that I can take them out when I want to). I didn't obsess over making it perfect (no alphabetizing and my categorizing isn't 100% accurate as some magazine pages contained more than one recipe per page), but it's certainly more useful than the file folder and box method. I also like that my recipes are protected from liquids and other ingredients. 

I plan on filling this binder and then starting on "Vol.2" (I can't wait to see what the cover looks like for that one!). 

Our next project involved a file cabinet that I purchased at an antique store a few years ago. We've always used it, but the way we used it was a joke; we just stuffed important papers into it and never looked at them again. We could never actually find anything, and so, of course, it wasn't useful. 

This project was more time consuming, but we made it through in a few hours. The only thing we purchased was a box of 25 hanging files. If you want to get fancy, you can use the computer to print on your divider tabs, but we wanted the project to go faster and just hand wrote on each tab as new categories came up. Again, I didn't worry about perfection here (some of our categories may seem random, but it is what we needed, and I didn't worry about alphabetizing). Some of the categories we ended up with are: grad school memories, Stacy's evaluations, Brendan's evaluations, cars, investments, insurance, letters of appointment, Brendan 0-18, Stacy 0-18, house papers, tax forms & appraisals, photos, and my favorite category: old papers (whatever that means!) We still have plenty of folders if we decide we need new categories, which I'm sure we will. 

Some tips for this project:

You'll probably want to throw out some papers you've been saving if they are digitally backed up or outdated to the point where they are no longer relevant. We recommend using a paper shredder, so you don't throw out any documents containing your personal information. 

We plan to go through our file cabinet about once a year and purge anything that's no longer worth saving. 

I hope these projects give you some ideas for worthwhile organization techniques. I'm excited to share a future post on how we work around not having a home office. We've already found several ways to make more efficient use of coming when we truly get all the kinks worked out. 

Hope everyone's 2018 is off to a good start! 
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