January Sum-Up

Cocooning (Photo: Veronique Cloutier website)

January was a welcome month of hibernation. My out-of-house activities were work, fitness, grocery shopping and visiting parents. That’s it!

In the few days after New Year’s, I bought 2 coffee and a muffin while I was at work. I didn’t want to keep spending money on take-out all month, so I stopped. My habit is to bring a Thermos of coffee to work every day. I had a bit of a crisis – I bought a large bag of coffee on sale, and didn’t like it. I suffered through it for the whole month, and was glad to see the end of it. I won’t be doing that again! I’ve accepted that coffee is too important to me to settle for inferior beans.

In the meanwhile, a more serious problem arose – my home espresso maker quit! It is 10 years old but only used on weekends. I was researching brands and trying to decide how much to spend on a replacement. I cleaned the old machine thoroughly and gave it one last go, and it kicked back to life. Ahh! Still going.

Last year I finally switched to noting meetings and appointments on my phone rather than in a planner (notebook). I loved the alarms and reminders, but I missed something: I had also used my planner to keep a record of work accomplishments. So far, I haven’t found a good way to do that on a smartphone. I’m sure there are nice integrated apps? It’s so easy to see everything at a glance on a printed calendar or page-a-day format.

I use the iPhone Calendar app for meetings and appointments, the reminder app for time-sensitive notes to self, Evernote for lists, Fitbit for workout tracking, and Goodreads and Letterboxd for recording books and movies. While they’re all easily accessible on my phone, I have to open 6 different apps, as opposed to seeing everything at a glance on a page. They’re all searchable, though. No easy answer. Maybe start a bullet journal and make it prettier? I tried to create my own journal format last January but I wasn’t motivated enough to continue with it.

All this to get around to saying, I also bought a planner this month, and I still use it to document work activities after they have taken place.

From the depths of my virtual cave, my discretionary spending was at an all-time low in January. The 2 coffees and a muffin and the planner. Plus a de-salting car wash on a less-freezing day.

Our grocery spending was at an all-time low of $334 for the month, or $83.50 a week including cleaning supplies, paper goods and personal care. We had NO restaurant meals in January (gasp!)

Rom Kondo-ing. He is keeping the “3 Inches of Blood” band T-shirt…

Rom and I watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix. I had read her first book in 2015 but at that point I had already inventoried the house and done the most serious decluttering. Lo and behold, the Netflix series wildly inspired Rom and he spent three weekends decluttering his stuff! I could not have been more surprised. He discarded half of his magazines and a few computer books, went through all the clothes in his closet, and literally looked at every receipt and piece of paper he had haphazardly hoarded. Rom moved to Canada 10 years ago; he is getting to the point where he thinks of his time in the UK as a previous life, for which he no longer has to keep every shred of evidence. I was most impressed with his work. I think it really helped that the TV series treated men as equal partners in organizing and maintaining the home (even though that was aspirational for some).

Kondo Family

Our favourite moment in the series is when a couple asks Marie what she does when her own kids mess up her tidying work. Through her (very cool) translator, she says, “I scold them.” You can tell the family she’s working for never “scold” their kids!

I spent one day going through my own clothes and I edited them down to 157 items. That includes tops, pants, dresses and skirts (ha), footwear, outerwear and workout wear; but not socks, underwear, nightwear, scarves, hats and gloves. For a few years I’ve been trying to stay at about 150, so I am comfortably in the “150-ish” range. I have a few items tagged for follow-up. I’ll donate them if not used this year.

When we travelled to Bath last summer, I saw DVD movies of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion available in the Austen Centre gift shop and craved them madly. They were from the ITV television movie series and they starred Felicity Jones and Sally Hawkins respectively, two of my favourite actors. I was interested in these titles from the series since I had read both novels recently, prior to visiting Bath. When I returned home, I saw they were both available from my public library. I watched Persuasion this month, and although it was not a lavish production, it did make the story and setting come alive. The pivotal scene was rather undramatic, but I’m still glad I got to see it. Now I will need to watch the 1995 BBC version. And while I’m at it, watch Sense and Sensibility again to revisit Emma Thompson’s performance, which I loved.

Lady Bird (2018)

At the end of the month, I watched Lady Bird which was wonderful! Now I want to watch Saoirse Ronan in everything she’s done. Upon checking her list of credits, I found I had heard her in two voice roles, in Arriety and in Loving Vincent.

As you may have guessed upon seeing my Health Blitz post, I loved the documentary Notorious RBG, and will need to see On the Basis of Sex (Felicity Jones!)

I have made good progress on Reading Down the House (in which I make a point of reading books that have piled up at home) and I’ll post about that soon.

After gorging on holiday chocolates and treats for a month, it was hard to retreat, especially when holed up in the house with books and movies. In the past 10 days I have cut back on snacks and amped up my fitness so I’m no longer in a “daily maintenance” phase. My goal for the spring is to have visible abs again. I have a long way to go! This week I rediscovered Jillian Michaels and did her 30 Minute Shred DVD (ouch!) I guess I need her Six Week Six Pack one next 😊

Over all, I was very happy on a low budget this month, but I’m well aware of our ongoing lifestyle and in-home entertainment expenses. We long since cut cable TV, but we have good Internet service. Rom pays for Netflix and YouTube Premium. I have Apple Music and a gym membership. (I could work out at home but I like swimming too much). Such are the costs of rarely going out!

How was January for you? Did you hide away from the cold (or heat)?



  1. Travel at the beginning of the month (to see family) and a nonstop work schedule (two 12-day stretches) have left little time for hibernating, though the idea is appealing!

    I went through my closet mid-month, organized what I was keeping, and donated several items. There’s a secondhand clothing shop near me that functions a bit like consignment, in that they operate on cash-or-trade. So some of my better things went there, and I came home with some new (used, but new-to-me!) items in exchange, which are already getting wear. Perhaps the most fun of which is a pair of pink combat-style rain boots! 🙂

  2. NicolaB

    I love that Marie Kondo inspired Rom to go through all of his things! I have enjoyed watching her show, and I noticed the ‘I scold them’ comment and reaction too.

    I’m going to count my clothes- I have no idea how many I have! I’ve moved some to one side of the wardrobe because they don’t ‘spark joy’. I am considering making really small work and home capsule wardrobes and putting everything else to one side (in case I do actually need more clothes than I think!) pretty certain I wear the same things over and over…

    • Since I have clothes for 3 seasons (winter, spring/fall, and summer), I really only have a small wardrobe for each, and I do wear the same things often. But to be honest, I don’t mind that much!

  3. All I can say about my January’s finances is “dental work surprise”.

    • That is the kind of surprise no one needs! But I love that Viv at “wherethejourneytakesme” says she loves Jane Austen’s Georgian society but wouldn’t want to live without modern dentistry 🙂

  4. I tried digital diaries and apps to record meetings. One I thought would be great. It integrated appointments with ability to take notes, add pictures, draw on the screen. But I just didn’t like it.

    Like you I like the paper diary to record notes.

    I put my appointments on outlook. Syncs with my phone so I can add appointments when out and about. People can send meeting invites.

    I am going to checkout the movie recording app. I want one like GR. Is it as good?

    • I like Letterboxd. It’s similar to Goodreads in that you type the name of a film and choose a match. It links to a record describing the film and giving a cast list. You can show the main image (poster/DVD cover) of every movie you watched, all on one page (like in Goodreads) and sort them by date released, date watched, etc. You can add reviews, read other people’s reviews, create lists, etc. Their mailing list sends out good content if you want it. So, I recommend it! The only negative compared to Goodreads is that many of the movie reviewers are not nearly as literate, haha!

  5. I wish for visible abs too. It’s about getting my fat % down, and that’s tricky. Today is day one of a new challenge (for 8 weeks) which should include no caffeine for the first two weeks. I’m back at a ‘new’ (old) gym and I confessed my coffee. I love (sarcasm) being told that starting on the coffee side of the challenge tomorrow isn’t quite what they intended. Sure, but it’s also my LAST day at my work cafe cause of work ending.

    I have a smart phone but have relished a journal, and sure, I duplicate some lists, but I quite like it.

    Go Rom, I’d be proud of him too. I’m short on a number of clothing categories, since culling things I didn’t want to move/didn’t ‘spark joy’. I haven’t ironed since moving, and I was running short on weather appropriate options today for work, but I made do!

    • I don’t realistically expect to see abs for many months but I have to start somewhere!

      I hope your last day of work went as well as could be expected. You won’t miss the bureaucracy there. Onwards to new things!

  6. I can happily say that you alone are spending time with Jillian!! lol I read Marie Kondo’s book a few years ago and used it to reduce my books and clothes. Will need to spend more time decluttering as I was no where near complete. Good that the series inspired Rom to go through his stuff. Notorious RBG is on my list of watch.

  7. I had to laugh at Rom being inspired by the film to tidy up – but as they say whatever it takes! I could not be bothered messing about with phone apps – I think I will always be paper. I love museums that display old accounting books and housekeeping notes – they will be a thing of the past soon when the digital generation grow up. Do any of them even keep a diary. I often wonder if our Queen who writes a daily journal still does it on paper.
    Love all and any of the Austen books and films – I was definitely born in the wrong era although I do value modern dentistry – would hate to have had toothache or an operation back then!
    That was a good January for you spending wise – I am not doing too badly but it was a heavy month on the car bills. DH would like to win the lottery so he doesn’t have to think about how the money is being spent anymore – that would be difficult as we don’t play, but like Rom he has suddenly got into the challenge now and when we go out he is the master of the picnic preparations!

    • When we were in Bristol there was a good local history museum called M Shed that focused on social history including a lot of household items and personal writings; I loved it. I don’t think anyone will have a signature in the future because kids don’t write cursive any more! Like you, I wonder what kinds of non-electronic writing will survive. Good to hear that your DH has got into the spirit!

  8. Fiona

    That’s an amazing record on discretionary spending for a month! I feel like the quest for a perfect planning system is the search for the Holy Grail: maybe Konmari can write her next book on that! I actually hadn’t seen her series or read the book. But at the hairdresser on Saturday, an epic group conversation erupted on the topic. Then I saw your post and I finally succumbed and book the book. I *love* it, haha! Good for Rom getting so organised!

    • I really enjoyed reading the book although I didn’t take it very seriously. I expect she is a keen business person who is well aware of her brand (and more power to her). I think she hit the zeitgeist just right on mindfulness and minimalism. I am a Kondo fan!

  9. Ugh. I am working my way through a bag of terrible coffee, too. I bought it for cheap at the close-out store. I just can’t help myself, and throwing it out would be a “waste.” It’s supposed to be gingerbread, but it smells awful.

    I use Letterboxd and GoodReads, too. Do you use anything for tv shows? I just started using TVTime and found it helps remember what episode number I’m on, what series I’ve been meaning to finish, etc.

    I’ve read the Marie Kondo book and watched two episodes. I think she has some good tips and I find her fascinating, but I also think she’s bats**t insane, which doesn’t come through on the tv show like it does in the book. I wonder how many clothing items I have. I would think less than 150. I did just come back from a trip and somehow lost a cardigan, so that’s at least -1.

    • Now that I have proper coffee, I feel like a new person 🙂 I haven’t got the TV bug so I don’t watch enough shows to track. I miss a lot of good series, and someday I’d like to correct that. In the Kondo book I found it amusing that she was organizing-obsessed since childhood. As an adult, I think she has the savvy to play up her eccentricities and build her business empire.

  10. Jamie

    Going on the five years we’ve lived here, we usually have one “heatwave” per summer here in the Snowy Mountains where it gets to over 35C for a few days. So far this summer we’ve already had three!

    In the past the children and I have managed without air conditioning by closing up the house before the heat comes, using pedestal fans to move the air, and taking things easy in the afternoon. This year my husband was home more on the hot days and that combined with the sheer number of hot days made us feel very unproductive. We had serious discussions about getting an air conditioner installed, but baulked at the energy usage and environmental cost.

    Despite all of these afternoons of lazing about (and watching both seasons of Stranger Things, plus KonMarie), I managed to complete another subject at uni (still awaiting the final assessment results…) and do some tidying using the post-KonMarie motivation. I’ve also managed to sort through most of our photos from the last 3 years and get my favourites printed. I’m halfway through my mobile photos that I transferred to our old desktop, but we had a lightning storm the other day that blew up two routers. I’ve been too scared so far to check on the state of the desktop….

    Now the heatwaves (and lightning storms) are over, this morning I’m writing to you snuggled up on the lounge under a blanket with a hot cup of tea, thinking about getting out my ugg boots and a tracksuit!

  11. Quite the weather extremes! I marvel that you can be so productive. Would love to hear more about your progress on the uni courses and what your goal is? I can’t fathom not having AC where you live, even in the mountains – to me, that would be like living in Canada without central heating! Do you have kids old enough to watch Stranger Things with you, or was that adult time?

    • Jamie

      I’m studying to be a librarian. I think I’ve just completed my 16th subject and have 10 more to go. I’m just ticking away at it slowly while homeschooling our three kids. Do you need a Masters degree to be a librarian in Canada? You can do it with a Bachelor here in Australia, but I think I will probably end up doing the Masters.

      Heating is something you couldn’t live without in our area, but it is a different style of heating to what I hear of in a North American climate. We have a wood fire, plus a portable gas heater for back up. Sometimes we run an oil-filled column heater in the front room if the boys are spending a lot of time in there on a particular day, but usually we just heat half the house over winter (no heating in bedrooms, or the front room). We don’t heat the house overnight or if we are out. It can be 5C in the house when we get up in the morning after a night of no heating (and down to around -11C outside) Occasionally the pipes will freeze, but we don’t seem to have the problems or considerations I read about online (eg. I don’t know anyone who would consider draining their pipes if they were going away in the winter).

      Our daughter turns 16 next week, so we watched Stranger Things together. It was really nice to be able to spend that time together and have something to discuss. She really enjoys the privileges that come from being the eldest.

      • Jamie, how did I not know you are studying library science! Yes, a Master’s is the standard in Canada and the US. The school I went to long ago has converted the program into a Master of Information Studies. There are several “tracks” within the program including libraries, archives, and information management. It’s 2 years full time study and has 16 courses. You can also combine it with a degree in law (4 years total) or public administration (3 years total).

        When I was a kid I always wished I’d get privileges for being the eldest, but since we were all so close in age, we were treated as a pack 🙂

  12. I couldn’t stop laughing when you described how you suffered through bad coffee because I can relate. A few months ago I purchased a huge bag on sale thinking I was getting a deal and the beans tasted really off, but like you I decided since I wasted the money on it that I would see it through. What torture!

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