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Home management tips

Renee Ellison's tools for effectively managing your home--including finance and domestic skills..

Mom’s Day Out Workshop

Monday, 05. March 2018 by Renee Ellison

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Want to be queen for a day? Have a personal mentor all to yourself? Come to Renee’s “Mom’s Day Out” one-day workshop and you’ll never be the same.

You’ll expand your own skills in one to three vital domestic areas. You get to select one of these skills, or have a combination of two or all three. Not only do you learn them yourself, you also will be able to turn around and teach them to others.

With these highly focused streamlined remarkable methods, you can teach these skills to your children, or make some extra spending money from home via teaching other moms and daughters in your area.

Your own personal satisfaction, delight and expansion with your newly found skills will be your biggest gain. You’ll go home filled because someone invested in YOU, for a change, like you do with your children and others every day. Pamper yourself AND grow capable, in one day.

The three skill areas:

· Personal and domestic organizational tips and tricks

· Beginning sewing skills

· Beginning piano chording

The workshop fee is $99, and includes two free nights of simple sleeping accommodations, meals, and free pick-up and drop-off at the DRO airport for those who need to fly in. (The Durango-La Plata County Airport is just ten minutes away; no need for a car rental.) Bring a friend and/or your daughter, 12 years or older only; one fee per person. Make your reservation now via email.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Thoughts on committed love vs. sentimentality on Valentine’s Day

Wednesday, 14. February 2018 by Renee Ellison

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I think it is most interesting on this Valentine’s Day to observe our culture’s mania over engaging in sentimentality and materialism, all too often with a series of transient lovers (beginning in Jr. High, continued at the office, and ending in Senior retirement communities of multiple divorcees and re-marriages playing crib together) in preference to gripping the real foundations of a lifetime singular love.

Such a solitary love is built upon an increasing fidelity, loyalty, having each other’s back through thick and thin, focus, selflessness, self-sacrifice, adjustment to another human being in all of its delicacies, promoting the other human being in others’ eyes, believing in them, working side by side in various life projects, etc. One Chinese man built for his wife a stairway up their mountain of 500 stairs, made of rock, presented them to her with pride, and walked up and down them with her over the remainder of their crippled old lives together. She was his entire horizon.

As a culture, on the other hand, we would far rather throw money and tinsel at the situation with a temporary love than do the work of love’s longevity and depth of “knowing.” The old hymn expresses real love so well in its words: “He shall hold me fast.” That is the lead pipe of human love as well:“I shall hold thee fast.”

Filed Under: Home management tips

Two tips for successfully managing groups of children

Thursday, 11. January 2018 by Renee Ellison

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At social gatherings and even at church after the service is over we often forget that children need adult supervision at all times. Without close management, unsupervised children, running in herds, tend to descend toward deviant behavior, property gets damaged, and/or someone gets hurt.

There are two wise avenues of establishing a wholesome triumphant group life for children at a moment’s notice. They are found in the teaching concepts of “gathering” and “pre-positioning.” Let’s look at each.

Gathering all the children involved in an event to sit quietly at an adult’s feet will coalesce a group in good directions. The instructions given at the time of gathering provides children with clarity and security. Children need to know, at all times, that some adult is at the helm and that an authority figure can be found swiftly should he or she be needed.

Pre-positioning further provides specific guidance for boundaries. Standards are set in this way that help define the event and set the tone of the atmosphere.

The gathering and pre-positioning are where you set (and communicate to the children) the boundaries. When in groups, children need three kinds of boundaries—spatial, activity, and behavioral—for them to function at their best. Following are examples of boundaries of all three types.

One (spatial): “You may play in this area, but do not go out beyond X, Y or Z.”

Two (activity): “You may use this equipment, these objects, these games. You must put them back where they belong before going on to the next activity.”

Three (behavioral): “You must conduct yourself with kindness, looking for ways to serve or help others. Think of others more than yourself whenever you are in a group.”

These two simple management strategies of gathering and pre-positioning children are both wonderfully proactive, and are based on the fact that “an ounce of
pre-planning and prevention is better than a pound of chaotic cure.”

Let us value our children and their social events by remaining attentive to their needs. Let us determine to provide protection and security for them at all times.
There is no time when children are unimportant. Each social arena is a place to continue to tend, to train, and to treasure our offspring. Parenthood is all about vigilance. Do it carefully and prayerfully for just a few short years, a sprint across time, and you’ll reap the rewards again and again in years to come.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Some thoughts on the care of our elderly loved ones

Thursday, 09. February 2017 by Renee Ellison

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Our care of the elderly is really three-pronged:

One: Protection
from the cold, cruel world. The physical shelter alone and the food one provides, at far less expense than any commercial solution anywhere, gives their life a SURE context/structure/dependable fortress.

Two: Psychological stability

You are there to diffuse many and relentless anxieties right at the “letting out of waters.” You embody comfortable, familiar sameness from their past. Also, you and your family’s presence provides variety by the rush of life that swishes past them, rather than abandon them to gaping, no-ending loneliness, of absolutely nothing happening, long day after long night.

Three: Nursing

Since the very condition of old age is that the body starts falling apart in little ways and in big. You are constantly mitigating that pain/discomfort by immediate alternative solutions as much as possible. When left alone, they let maladies of all sorts go until they reach crisis/hospital stageEVERY time.

The one driving thought that should give us tender endurance along the “care-taking” way, is that someday we, too, are likely to be in the same conditionwanting any and all kindnesses. It is hard work, but God never said it would be easy. There are secret silver linings behind all of his just dispensations, if we look for them. Our lot in life is hand-picked FOR us. Even if we COULD design our own lives, would we even WANT the job? Surely, with limited sight we would craft for ourselves bigger messeswith less noble outcomes.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Lifeless amusements

Sunday, 25. December 2016 by Renee Ellison

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An alarm: At a time of year when daylight is shorter and outdoor recreation opportunities are more restrictive, understanding some key principles could affect how much time you’ll let your little ones sit down in front of any type of visual media (TV, DVDs, movie theaters, YouTube videos, video games, etc). Get these insights under your belt and you’ll be less apt to be duped into passivity over this vital mental (and spiritual) issue.

Muse means “to think,” but “a-muse” means NOT “to think;” our families are dangerously swimming in long hours of such mindlessness. The alarm is that we think this is normal. This blog post is an attempt at tossing some life preservers into this tidal wave. When viewed historically, it becomes obvious that our modern proclivity for amusement is not normal—it has an insidious undertow. Consider these thoughts drawn from Neil Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death.

The problem:
  • Too often, entertainment does not lead to any meaningful action. Instead, it provides pointless quantity, and its audiences are overtaken by irrelevance and novelty.
  • We have almost an infinite appetite for distraction. We’re after applause, not reflection.
  • Standards have become a slippery slope of objective truth. One person’s PG-13 rating is another person’s R.
  • TV courtrooms are filled with—? Reading, on the other hand, trains us in delaying arriving at a verdict until the entire argument has been presented, from multiple sides. To be true, justice needs to abhor contradiction, be deductive, and have a tolerance for delayed responses. In other words: justice is the good fruit of jurors who are detached, analytical, and devoted to logic.
  • We are afflicted with pleasure (and with pleasure-seeking). We soothe the deep regions of our discontent with entertainment. Books, on the other hand, require quiet scrutiny; they even require something of our physical bodies. We have to sit long enough to read an argument through.
  • Pictures can never get at the larger abstractions of truth, honor, love, and falsehood.
  • Seeing, not reading (much less, thinking), has become the basis for believing.

Thinking:

  • “You press a button; we do the rest.” Such a phrase would have been unthinkable in our past history. What does this mean, really? Has media data, delivered in such a manner, actually told or taught us anything?
  • TV-disseminated information often is so random and disparate in scale and value as to be incoherent, even psychotic.
  • Entertainment offers fascination and triviality in place of complexity and coherence.
  • TV raised the image and instancy to a dangerous perfection, superseding rational thought.
  • The public has adjusted to incoherence and has been amused into indifference.
  • Information about celebrities and entertainers has become serious cultural content. Even politics and policy making has become entertainment. Too often, the populace has voted based on style, looks, and great one-liners, rather than judgment, justice, wisdom, discretion, rationality, deduction, inference, character, and a habit of being prudent. A mindless democracy could release an undisciplined individualism.

News:

  • We hear news without consequences. The “and NOW this” tells us that what we have JUST heard and seen has no relevance with what we are ABOUT to see and hear.
  • From media we get clues about how we are supposed to respond to the world around us. What sort of clues?
  • Endless pictures and imagery short-circuit introspection.
  • News commentators are overrun with ingratiating enthusiasms as they report on earthquakes and mass killings.
  • The viewer is not permitted to pay attention to a concept, a person, or problem for more than a few minutes (with the exception of politics, perhaps—and then it is an overdose, from one slant or another).

Media church:

  • The high praises of God are sandwiched between commercials. Huh?
  • People will eat, go to the bathroom and do push-ups during media church.
  • Alluring visual imagery replaces the Ten Commandments. Nothing is required of you; there are no demands.
  • A preacher’s close-up televised face makes idolatry a continual hazard. Despite the references to the great HE, the focus is on the “he” in front of you.
  • We have grown accustomed to receiving our politics, our news and our church all in the same way.
  • Edwards, Finney, Whitefield, on the other hand, spent long hours in their studies. Their sermons were so profound, they went past reason into regions of conscience. The modern tel-evangelist requires nothing of the watcher, no demands of the soul; no adherence to the Ten Commandments—only alluring visual imagery and modern sounds.

Merchandising:

  • For the sale of products, too often emotions rule over reason.
  • With the exception of store items online, decisions about advertised products tend to be made from images rather than from specs/facts/claims (tests of truth).
  • Capitalism used to be a rational market of mutual self-interest, but now we have shifted from product research to market research.

TV education:

  • Does away with sequence and continuity. Thou shalt have no prerequisites to your thinking.
  • Depends upon brevity of expression and instancy; it disdains exposition.
  • Reading and writing are exchanged for t-shirts and cookie-jars.
  • Media is all about the present, with no access to the past except when it is perverted to serve an agenda.
  • The modern mind has grown indifferent to history. We are distracted by trivia.
  • Education was always supposed to free the student from the tyranny of the present. Shows like Sesame Street, on the other hand, do not encourage children to love school, they encourage them to love TV.

Problem solving:

  • Uncertainty is intolerable in a culture that is dictated by the mass media.
  • All problems are solvable, they are solvable fast, and technology and chemistry are the only means of solving them. No reference is made to patience, prayer, delay, etc. as agents of problem solving. There are no photos of Abe Lincoln smiling. Perplexity and complexity are avoided, because they have become a superhighway to low ratings.
  • We believe that being sold solutions is better than being confronted with questions.

Intimacy:

  • The fiber-optic cable has replaced co-presence.
  • People don’t get to know their neighbors when they stop interacting face to face.
  • Social media has replaced large amounts of real sociability— particularly in our own families.


What’s the conclusion?
We have a problem. We’re sinking away from reality in our homes via this long hobnobbing with popular mass media. Think: as a result of the influence of the world’s media in our homes, is eternity a lesser reality or a greater reality for us? Where IS eternity in the media? Who is shaping the mental diet of our children? To what ends?


Suggested solutions:

Awake and see that our exposure to popular mass media is a problem. Most of our culture sees NO problem. For us, more time spent in the printed word and, especially, in HIS Word can insulate us from being totally taken underwater on this point. TV doesn’t ban books, it just displaces them. It encourages us to watch continually, rather than to evaluate, analyze, cogitate, pray…

Keep in mind that when you take away vast quantities of media you must fill the void with something better. Reading good missionary biographies and other histories is a good start. Indoor exercise bikes and little rebounders are also great productive uses of time, and promote health. Family cooking projects can be great sport and can provide togetherness. Entrepreneurial advances marshal stray hours into good purposes. Visiting the elderly —offering joy to someone else via your attentive listening—is a wonderful use of time. Playing a musical instrument (practicing stimulates the brain in meaningful ways) and family singing in parts is another positive avenue. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not have access to the media, and they did not die from its absence. They lived meaningfully and progressively under God’s good guidance. Enlarge your perspective and keep it enlarged; you’ll not regret it.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Steps for conquering sorting old family photos without feeling overwhelmed

Tuesday, 24. May 2016 by Renee Ellison

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Do you have boxes of old family photos that seem overwhelming for you or your aged family members to sort and identify? So it was for my mom, too—until we came up with a system for overcoming the overwhelmed feeling and plowing through the project to completion. These are the steps that worked for us.

# 1: I largely did the bulk of it for my elderly mom, and away from her, so she didn’t have to feel overwhelmed, even for one minute. I only asked her about two kinds of pictures:

1) about persons I couldn’t identify. If she couldn’t remember or didn’t know, we pitched those (figuring that if they weren’t meaningful to her, they wouldn’t be meaningful at all to her progeny). If she did recognize them and they were significant to the family tree, I wrote some brief identifications in pencil on the back of them.

2) about some select keystone pictures of her own childhood, so she could amplify the events and feelings around those pics. Mom enjoyed this part immensely. I only showed her a few of these pictures a day, so it didn’t feel rushed.

#2: I removed all of the photoprints from the old albums, because those old albums take up enormous space, the pages turn brittle, and the covers break off. I had to pull some of the photos out of decaying sleeves with a pair of small needle nosed pliers (this worked great, and was fast). I set all of them in shoe boxes; they condensed wonderfully down to manageable size. We went from large, heavy boxes of chaos down to super-organized little boxes, all neatly labeled and organized, that could be stored on a shelf in anyone’s hall closet.

#3: I threw out all pictures that were of only scenery or wild animals, or were far-away shots or cloudy and unclear and underexposed shots, or unfavorable shots of a person—a photo the person would feel embarrassed about or unflattered for posterity to see. Not all pictures taken are worth keeping; just because they exist doesn’t mean they have to remain existing and use up people’s time viewing them, down the road, in future generations.

#4: Next I went to a high-end shoe store and asked for as many shoe boxes as he would give me—boxes with removable lids on them—and sorted the pictures into those boxes by person. All pictures with only one person in them went in these boxes—each box labeled with only one person’s name on the outside, in huge print. All group pictures went into that particular family’s box.

#5: After all of the pictures were sorted I then arranged the contents of each box, further grouping those pictures by event or time period—filing them in the box by grouping events or time together—and then stuck 3x5 cards tall-ways with little titles on them stating what that section of pictures was about. The viewer then pulls just that section of loose pictures out of the box to view them, and then puts them right back in the box, under that section’s title.

#6: Mailed pictures (or full picture boxes) to each individual who would treasure them. (An option would have been to take a quick photo via cell phone, to email someone who could then reply if they wanted to have the originals.)

#7: I distributed the grandparent and great grandparent pictures to their descendants as evenly as I could, so each person had “roots” pictures. smile

#8: I collapsed—and rejoiced that it was done for all time and that the job was so meaningful.

For more on this topic, order our guide for preserving your family papers and photos.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Are commitments scary or sacred?

Friday, 25. March 2016 by Renee Ellison

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Apparently, making a commitment to anyone, in any direction, freaks out modern man. Engage in anything but a commitment. In effect, commitments seem to be generally regarded as tantamount to suicide, or at the very least, are viewed as traps to avoid. Note that all four of these categories of commitments are falling apart in our current society:

1. Commitment to marriage. We would rather cohabit indefinitely, or drop the difficult intimate relationships we have been in.
2. Commitment to parent children (or even to birth them). We find them a consummate irritation, from the womb to the tomb.
3. Commitment to eldercare. We prefer to abandon them.
4. Commitment to pay our bills. We prefer to make the other guy pick up our slack.

Our behaviors belie that we view commitments as downright scary, a wrong direction for the exertions of our wills. Modern man prefers the slushy place of ambiguity in relation to all other people and contracts.

Some people are apartment hoppers, living in rentals without paying rent just long enough to get kicked out, and then leaving to go do it again somewhere else, artfully escaping any fiscal responsibility. People shack up, or live in “open” marriages with several people, simultaneously. Students demand to go to colleges well beyond their means, get there at any cost, and are surprised and incensed when the bill comes due. Adult business bankruptcies abound. Parents give over their children to be raised and schooled by others. And we hide our elderly in institutions, abandoning them.

Anything goes. Parameters of any sort, in any direction, suffocate our “free” spirits. We want to be able to drink all we want, buy all we want, entertain ourselves all we want, play all we want, work to climb the corporate ladder, etc.—all without being tied down to any relationship, in any direction.

Why do we so desperately eschew commitments? What is it, exactly, that we are afraid of? We know full well that it is a commitment of our future self to a course of direction, and that seems insurmountable to the comforts of our immediate self and its increasing lust for self-soothing. We “handle” our future by refusing to go there—by buttressing ourselves with ways “out” in every direction.

Instinctively, we know that all commitments are a plunge into the unknown, and we simply have no faith in ourselves (and no God to help us, since we dispensed with Him) to “go there.” Instinctively, we know that it will require self-denial, at some level—and we must not deny ourselves.

The Enemy of our soul has broadcast nothing but bad press about commitment. He has convinced us not to go there. He has made “gulping at the thought” the correct response.

What, however, might be hidden in the idea and practice of commitment that was set there by the LOVER of our soul? Surely if it was built into the fabric of “the way life works” by the intelligent design of our Maker, if we jettison it might we lose something that is germane to our happinesses? What if we were to receive commitment as a gift from our God, and lean on Him for the power to do it, all the way through it?

Let’s hold on a minute with that idea of not wanting to deny ourselves. Strangely, if we look closely, we see that cities, communities, churches, marriages all grow out of the fertilizer of self-sacrifice. Without sacrifice we cannot have community. We won’t have any. We end up replacing all community with a dysfunctional conglomerate of isolated individuals, running helter-skelter in all directions at once, loaded with the baggage of endless “personal rights.”

When looked at a little closer, self-denying commitment has silver linings all over the place. When we embrace commitment as a necessary part of human life, we find that it gives us a clear and distinct GPS to one path—forsaking all others, for example—that in turn helps shore up and define our own identity. Conversely, traveling infinite paths in all directions eventually leads us to personal chaos and floundering, because soon we find multiple personal desires at cross-purposes. Falling in love with three people equally, at once, leads us into a nightmare of what to do with tonight. Wanting a relationship with a man but not with a pregnancy with his child leads us to confusion on the way to the abortion clinic. Wanting a classy car but disdaining the self-denial to achieve the finances to purchase one leaves us in a quandary of conflicting self. Wanting to belong to a family, but not wanting the family to belong to us when it ages, plunges us into conflict with ourselves.

When, alternatively, our paths are well-defined by our commitments, the question then becomes what will we do, given this course and no other? What our character is made of becomes evident when we take that path. Commitment brings self-realization; we discover who we really are. Modern man would rather stay out of that spotlight. We would rather walk in delusion about our true identity. We prefer to live in an opium den of what we might have been, rather than experience who we are.

The parameters of limited time, limited finances, limited space and limited relationships (we each have a web of individuals into which we were born, and into which circumstances thrust us) all force our personal priorities to be expressed. And, incomprehensibly, and progressively, somehow, someway, we emerge as better souls, now with depth, in the middle of such limitations. We become—we are in fact, actualized—amidst the limitations.

Of course, if we are not interested in “becoming” or “emerging”, we’ll prefer no fences, and no parameters. We’ll feast upon delusions and virtual realities and there we will sit, banqueting upon hot air, growing fatter, and fatter, and fatter, until we become big blobs of nothing.

Filed Under: Home management tips

The false promise of a mortgage

Tuesday, 02. February 2016 by Renee Ellison

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A mortgage is laced with a false promise. It purports to be doing one thing when in reality it is doing quite another. For the first decade or so, new homeowners come to realize slowly and gradually that their principal is hardly budging—despite their faithfulness month after month in paying what is required. The bottom line? The bank will get its money—by using yours. It is rigged to do that. Banks live on floating interest from one investment vehicle to another. But what about you?

Look at it this way. For a good long while, as a new homeowner who didn’t make much of a down payment, you will actually only be renting your house from the bank, with none of the freedoms normal renting allows. All of the house maintenance and improvement expenses will be yours. No one else will cover these costs for you. The yearly taxes and insurance will be yours as well. And you may find yourself trapped in immobility, if you should be offered a better job at more pay somewhere else, until you can sell the house.

In the end, when a “home owner” crunches the numbers on a 30 year fixed mortgage, he may be dismayed to discover that he has paid nearly double what his house originally sold for— because of this steady, relentless, compounded extraction of interest. Debt is never the best scenario—no matter what golden package it is presented in by our culture. The individual pays dearly for this false hope, and the country eventually collapses under it.

The American Dream based on these easily-acquired nothing-down “no collateral needed” mortgages has now turned into the American Nightmare, while a slew of investors became rich on derivatives—worthless mortgages re-packaged in bundles and re-sold. But now the false lie crumbles down around us like a house of cards. Now, as a country (and as individuals) we finally pay the piper. T’aint purty. Our economy is contracting by the day, and the stock market is staggering under the debt load.

So what is a young couple to do, who want to own their home? The only way you can work down that principal on a mortgage is by paying two payments a month. The first will satisfy the bank’s insatiable hungers; the second will apply directly to the principal. Banks won’t let you get at that principal-reduction any other way.

But what is an even better way? If the couple is willing to become “saving-money-maniacs” for a time, working hard, taking on one and a half to two-PLUS jobs each (i.e. working one of the weekend days, and working evenings for an hour or two) and living as frugally as is humanly possible (either in a rental, or in your folks’ driveway in an RV, or in the house that you are buying), not even buying such things as toothpaste or deodorant (make your own—you get the point) for four years, throwing $25,000 a year into savings from their combined earnings—at the end of those four years they can own a $100,000 house debt-free. This saves the couple $80,000 that would have otherwise been wasted in interest via a full term mortgage. Think of the vacations that could have been taken or the second house that could have been procured, that they could instead have re-invested in a second modest house that now earns them rental income for the remainder of their lives.

It is even better to begin this bull’s eye focus in your early teens, making every day count toward building this nest-egg of savings while still living for free in your folks’ home.

Either way, it is best to earn the money before you even make the house purchase. If, on the other hand, you were to follow the American Dream [Nightmare] and take on a mortgage to “buy” a $100,000 home before your four-year stint at “work-mania,” you must realize that you will waste something like four years of payments going only to interest. It is a wash either way, whether you buy or rent. You’ll lose the money both ways. Moreover, if you take the buying route you will incur hidden additional costs for upkeep and improvements—diminishing the speed at which you can save.

Of course, be extremely careful what you buy, keeping in mind these vital house purchase principles:

—Buy a house with a good foundation and roof—a structure that only needs cosmetic repairs. If, however, you are buying it only to improve it and flip it, earning profit from it, use your own free elbow grease to improve it. Concentrate on making the kitchen and bathrooms the best they can be. And put extra effort into making the yard gorgeous for curb appeal.

—Buy the poorest house on the block. That way you can improve it and not out-price it for that neighborhood to be sure to get your “improvement-monies” back when you re-sell it.

—Always counter-bid.

—Wait for a smoking deal. Don’t fall in love with any house emotionally. Stay detached until you get the “deal of the century.” Remember that there will always be another house and a better deal somewhere else. There is a house on every corner. Don’t rush to do this. Watch the market for a while—do research—knock on doors and ask the neighbors what they like and what they don’t like about that house and about their neighborhood—and keep your eyes peeled for the desperate homeowner who must unload his home quickly, at way below market value, because of extenuating circumstances.


Let’s crystalize even further what we are proposing is your best route to long-term financial success. A home mortgage can be a good investment tool IF:

You have the savings to afford it AND all the other expenses. You must be able to make a sizable down payment—i.e., at least a quarter of the total sale price of the house—and STILL have $1,000 saved for emergencies, PLUS all the money you expect to need to fix the house up, PLUS 3 months of living expenses. (If you don’t have enough savings to do all 4 of those, you are NOT ready to have a mortgage.)

You are able to negotiate a screaming deal. There’s a house on every corner, and in between—and you never can make as much money as on the day you make your house purchase, by agreeing on a price that is well below market value, after you have counter offered. Don’t fall in love with a house. Stay committed to your principles and look for God to honor your respect for His principles. Realtors and sellers are not focused at all on those principles. Of course they want you to fall in love with it and give them all your money—and then a lot more.

The house is in a highly re-sellable location, in a non-faltering economy. There are economies that are good to buy in and economies that are not good to buy in. It’s up to you to weigh the outside economic factors. If the stock market is tumbling day after day, that can burst a housing bubble in a hurry. In that scenario, people get stuck owing their bank more on their house than they can now sell it for. This has happened and does happen; you have to watch the news carefully. Remember, the root of the word MORTGAGE is mort (death) and gage (covenant or agreement). Once you sign on the dotted line you become a slave to that mortgage. Therefore, if you are going to have a mortgage you want it to be in an area where you have a high possibility of pulling your investment out of it if and when you must leave it.

You plan to stay there indefinitely—i.e. your income/employment situation there is very stable. Otherwise you get into the nightmare of needing to live somewhere else but you are straddled with a house you can’t sell.

• A building inspection is a necessity. Does it have a good roof and a good furnace? How solid is its foundation? How well is it insulated? Older houses tend to have very poor insulation, which means way higher heating and cooling bills. Ask to see the utility bills for the last three months; those can be hidden bills you didn’t anticipate. When you are a home owner you are on the line for all of these repairs: roof, foundation, etc.

Conclusion?
Work, and work hard while you are young and you’ll gain yourself elderly freedoms and financial advantage galore. Nearly all of your peers will not be on this fast track; most of them will spend a lifetime enslaved to someone else’s agenda for them.

To read more on this topic, read our 10 Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary People Who Got Free of House Debt and Sure Financial Steps for Beginners.

Filed Under: Home management tips

Can’t get on top of cleaning your house or office space?  Clutter got you down?

Friday, 18. December 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Cleaning up, organizing and de-cluttering your space can feel so good, it is like scratching your soul! Being able to see everything and grab everything (without digging) gives you instant power over your days and your activities. You start on top of life rather than scrounging around on the bottom, just trying to get up to see-level before you can even begin your trip to the top. You’ll be far more productive, sharper and more focused if you get your personal external world in order. Why? Because letting go of the grip of excess stuff helps define where you are headed (not where you’ve been) and releases all the attendant emotional life that went with that stuff.

Personal clutter (not someone else’s—that is a different problem) is often associated with two issues: 1) not saying NO to enough outside ACT-ivity to get command of your inside CON-nectivity, and 2) buried personal anxiety. It is important to take a look at those underlying emotional issues before cleaning and sorting down; otherwise you may find yourself buried in excess stuff, yet again, and soon.

Maintaining the wonderful new condition of your sorting/cleaning labor is solely the result of locating a permanent place for everything. And not just any place—your optimal organizing-aim is to find prime real estate for all of your prime stuff (frequently used objects). You don’t want to use prime real estate for sub-prime objects.

Thus, you’ll want to store frequently used objects close to where you use them. Conversely, put infrequently used objects in more out of the way places. But make sure that in both storage places, each object is instantly observable and easily grab-able. Just because you don’t use an object much doesn’t mean that when you do want to retrieve it you should have to go to herculean work and wasted time digging it out to procure it.

How do you achieve this with limited space? You apply one or more of the following remedies:

A.) Pare down further
Your stuff must fit in your house. As you know, to optimally organize, you’ll be wanting to find containers that fit in your shelving and drawer spaces. Accordingly, think one thought beyond that to remind yourself that your largest container is your house! We don’t have the luxury (or nightmare) of owning an infinite amount of stuff. There is a boundary to every person’s material world. You begin with your own parameters. Here’s a governing principle: if it won’t fit, I can’t have it.

B.) Within that larger context, if there is not enough room on your in-house shelves, for easy grab-ability of all objects, do one of three things:

1) Build or buy more shelves. If you do not have enough square footage on the ground for more shelving or drawers, then go up into the air! Install one continuous shelf above your door frames and along the ceiling of each room, with L brackets underneath, as needed, just one foot down from the ceiling. Banker’s boxes fit nicely in that ‘ceiling’ space. These large white cardboard banker’s boxes can then be filled with lighter weight stuff (off season clothing, bedding, etc.) and can be labeled clearly. This newly added one foot storage area is instant, rent free space! (If you are renting a storage unit someplace, do the math. You could probably re-BUY everything in it with the composite rental fee from over a year.) So you see, if you feel cramped, you may not need a bigger HOUSE, you just may need some more SHELVING—at one-one-thousandth the price!

2) Consider putting some stuff in containers under beds. Buy bed leg risers to make this possible.


Now that we’ve finished tackling the practical sorting steps, let’s examine your emotions in relation to clutter.

Compulsive buying (and sometimes going into debt to do it) and/or compulsive gathering can produce temporary emotional highs. To get a handle on this, examine what your emotional state is immediately prior to buying or collecting. Try to peg what stress or unresolved emotions the “high” is relieving. Identify that emotion, and embark on finding a better way to fill it.

Old habits are never beaten back by force of personal will. Self-will is no match for the bad habit’s power. Bad habits are so strong, they are beaten back only by replacement. What will the new “go-to” habit be? Determine this ahead of time.

Once your home/job space is uncluttered by finding and creating an exact spot for everything, there is strong evidence (via people who have done it well) that it will actually stay uncluttered.

An excessive hoarder brings items in one at a time and can’t let go of them. It becomes a defeating dynamic for such a person. An excessive spender may be looking to the actual act of buying, over and over, to gain an addict’s high to relieve subtle personal pain that has been caused by an unresolved dynamic.

Internal conflict can keep the would-be sorter/cleaner stuck in neutral for any one of these reasons:

1) The task seems too overwhelming.
Solution: break the task into bite-sized pieces.

2) No time to do it.
Solution: determine to say “NO” to other activities for a while.

3) Identity issues: “I’m just not WORTH having a clean house.”
Solution: remind yourself of the truth that every human being was made to enjoy order. You are no exception.

4) Perfectionism: “If I don’t know the PERFECT place to put something, I’ll do nothing.”
Solution: put it somewhere, and tell yourself that you can upgrade/tweak the arrangement later.

5) Indecision: thoughts like “this is too unique, too rare, to let go.”
Solution: recognize that your needs are more important than a thing’s needs.

6) Paralyzing grief: “I can’t let go of mom’s (hubby’s or child’s) stuff because that would feel like I was throwing him or her away.”
Solution: think instead, those objects served him/her well. They were personal picks of theirs. He/she contributed to my life; now it’s time to contribute to others’ lives, my way.

7) Stuck in the past?
Solution: remind yourself that the past no longer exists. Your life is in the present, only. How can you well-order your life to make it less chaotic? You only get one shot at this. Life is not a dress rehearsal. It is the real deal, passing by day by day. You can’t afford to be stuck.


P.S.: If the clutter is someone else’s issue, give them their own territory to do with as they will. Let them observe your joy over creating your own neatness. Inspiration happens in a person’s wake as they speed past—never by attempting to “whip” the other person into shape.

Filed Under: Home management tips

The anatomy of a mid-life crisis.  Want it?

Sunday, 13. December 2015 by Renee Ellison

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Many, many men go through a mid-life crisis. But, typically, not so many women go through this same sort of “hit-the-wall” passage in their middle adult years. Why? because women still garner tremendous meaning and significance through the raising of children and grandchildren. In fact, statistically, it has been shown that mothers of small children and women raising needy grandchildren have the lowest suicides rates of the total spectrum of humanity. Why? because they are needed.

Now back to the men—and women who suffer mid-life crises. What goes on here with this syndrome? Usually, it began in junior high and high school when we tended to grow outrageous fantasies about what life would deliver to us. Our illusions were grown in the fertile soil of media entertainment and storybooks, coupled with our own juvenile driving insistent inability to master any self-delay or self-denial in reference to our emerging self. Then, for years and years we fertilized our unrealities rather than weeding them out.

Then came the victimization stage. Out came the measuring sticks, and nothing, absolutely nothing measured up in our circumstances or relationships—not even close. Thus, loudly, our protestations began—the masked cries for help. “Hey, what I’m experiencing doesn’t fit with how life is supposed to be.” This was followed by the engulfing “me-ism”/entitlement/blame scenario. Rather than dump the illusion and recalibrate, we clutched the illusion even more vigorously. In order to make sense of it all, we pandered to self even more. “This is only happening to me; no one else goes through what I go through. Look at me. Take care of me.” As this unfolds, others tire of the myopia and generally withdraw. The resultant isolation makes the malcontent even more lonely and perplexed.

But finally, in some drowsy hour, often deep in the night when the noise stops, the truth wills out. The clutch is finally released. But is it over? In many cases, no, it is not. Often, depression marches right in to replace it. There’s your mid-life crisis.

So, what does the self-made “victim” DO? He/she frantically now sets out to RE-DO early life. Find a different spouse. Go out and change my CIRCUMSTANCES—find BETTER ones. For surely the right circumstances will deliver the right kind of life. The only problem is that now, as an older person, all the original plethora of potential spouses is gone—most of the options are used ones and/or defeated ones—and few and far between ones, at all. And one’s own fading beauty and fading energy make all the “catching a fairy-tale mate” far more sluggish. And when he thinks he finds one, he doesn’t count on the question of “what THEY will look like in old age?” or ACT like toward HIM in the final chapter? Is this BETTER than what I’ve got? Hmmm…I hadn’t thought about old age at all—only my immediate hour. I thought I could reject with impunity. “I’ll reject you, but you will feed me lunch!” Face absolute aloneness in my final hour? —hadn’t thought about that, either. The only important hour is this current one. Or be rejected by my grown children and spouse in response to my prior rejection of them? I thought that there was only ONE person who MATTERED in this story. Arrghh.

And how goes the self-crafting of new circumstances? Can we even do it? Or do we find dead ends at the end of every furtive, darting idea? In addition, we find to our own chagrin that we can’t even DEFINE what we want now—like trying to catch a butterfly. Every butterfly caught now immediately loses its magic and lies stiff at the bottom of our jar.

Then escapism must be the solution? Drink, drug, and bury oneself in entertainment? Embark, too, on enacting all kinds of little delicious suicides—like self-sabotage? Relationally increase methods of manipulation and control. Demand more. Or try on some type of adult screaming? i.e., louder self-made assertions about how life is supposed to be for me, wafted with more energy into mid-air. Or perhaps it is found in “buy, buy, buy,” like a maniac. Surely a new Lexus will do it. Debt or die. Is not such a life a catastrophe?

When the mid-life crisis disorder is looked at under eagle-eye scrutiny, we find that experiencing mid-life crises is a New World (a first world) problem. When we set it in its historical context we can identify different sorts of role models for weathering the mid-term storms. There, we find examples of nobility, courage, endurance, strangely cropping up in mid-life and old age. Honest earlier recalibration worked.

If we look even deeper at this modern syndrome, we can note that there is something even better than secular recalibration, engineered by our own wits, to weather mid-life. Could there be some spiritual answers? What if the disillusionment was planned by an all-knowing and all-wise God? Now, let’s back up and re-do this challenge as a believer—even as a backslidden follower of the Lord.

What if God takes every believer through a “world-let-down” on purpose? —insisting that He ALONE is our core? What if it is part of His school of discipleship for eternal people? What if it is His graduate school of maturation? If the job is done well on our behalf, we find, to our initial shock, that nothing in life is as we imagined it! Nothing.

In fact, Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his matchless little book, Life Together, asserts that every community of relationships, whether it be one’s family of origin, one’s marriage, one’s own family, one’s church, one’s neighborhood or job and work setting, has to crash—and with it, all the aspirations for perfect circumstances have to crash, too.

The restored objective, after falling through the fragile floor of worldliness, is to begin again on spiritual turf. Through gentle nudgings we now find that life is to be lived in the adoration of our Maker (habitual gratefulness for the smallest of graces—which then mushroom into thundering praises—living waters flowing out of us in torrents in eternity) and responding to His impulses for what to make of life, by our own exertions and influence, moment by moment. Only then do we step up to the wondrous platform of real life.

Far from demanding that life serve us, we find that the entrance level requirement to this far more fulfilling world is that we serve life. We begin by putting on the apron, and rolling up the sleeves. The hunt is on for the needs of others, this time—not the junior high scramble to make it into the in-crowd, myself. Getting outside of self is the bastion of fulfillment. How do we sustain it? By refueling at the throne—treasuring the infinite sweet embraces of our Maker. As the old hymn writer wrote: “Let me to THY bosom fly. Other succor have I NONE!” This, alone, is reality. And here, on this sure turf, there are no mid-life crises—nor, much to our wildest delight, are there any POST-life crises, either!

Filed Under: Home management tips