Happiness Project Month 5

When I started my happiness project back in January I was off on such a good foot. I really did spend the month organizing my life and making things work better for me, my family and my home. In February I focused on finances and a few road blocks and life circumstances threw me off. Now I feel like I’m playing catch up and trying to check all my unchecked items off my list whilst tackling my new month items.

In April I was supposed to focus on marriage and it didn’t quite go the way I wanted it to. Ironically Kyle and I had one of our biggest fights of our relationship that started over the dog eating Oliver’s Easter candy. Such a dumb fight. While we did do a good job getting out on dates and holding to our commitment of spending one-on-one time together, that’s about all I can give myself credit for. I may have sheepishly crossed off “being grateful for my husband everyday.” Technically true, I doubt I communicated those feelings to him. I’m happy that May’s focus piggy backs on April and gives me an opportunity for redemption while I focus my attitude.


APRIL - MARRIAGE

  • one date a week
  • make more time for sex
  • be grateful for my husband every day
  • let it go
  • don't pick fights
  • go out of my way to do acts of kindness

Photo by  Piero Istrice  on  Unsplash

MAY - ATTITUDE

  • start each morning with a 10 minute meditation, focusing on my outlook and attitude for the day
  • take mental note of negativity and complaining
  • resist raising my voice to my family
  • do an act of kindness each day
  • let it go. Whatever it is, let it go.
  • Do all things with love

Happiness Project Month 4

It is definitely a tough thing to keep the train moving through this Happiness Project thing. In case you missed it, I am undertaking a Happiness Project a la Gretchen Rubin. Instead of making a couple of New Years Resolutions, I picked an area of my life for each month, that I want to improve, and I spend the month focusing on that area. In January I was all about organization, and I did really well. In February I focused on finances and due to unforeseen circumstances I got off track. And in March I focused on my business. I’ll update you on that in a moment.

So theoretically the point of this exercise vs. making 10 New Years resolutions is that you really set your intention and focus hard each month on that specific area, and by the time the month is out you have built new habits that you will carry through the rest of the year and beyond. In her book Gretchen goes into great detail about her spread sheets and daily practices, and while I am an enneagram type 1, I have not been painstakingly logging my progress, thus it’s easy to let things go by the wayside. I do however like that I check in here once a month, which holds me accountable to be honest about my progress, or lack-thereof.


Photo by  Cathryn Lavery  on  Unsplash

In March I focused on business. I have a lot of half checked off items. I am absolutely in fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants mode. And have not been able to get ahead enough to feel like I have time to check the items off my list. But I’m sure that will never change, so I will need to make time or it will never get done.

I am working with my friend, Miranda Schroeder, from Thoughtful Thrifted, an amazing marking brain, to help me do a digital audit of my brand and come up with a go forward strategy. Yes! Professional help, people! Miranda also turned me on to Making Sense of Cents, an online affiliate marketing course. I am working my way though that content to learn to bring the best of what you want to make all this work worth my while as well.

So far my accounting system is a spread sheet, but it is not very organized and not something I could pass off to an accountant work with. Girl boss needs to get it together there!! I have started using Later to schedule my Instagram posts, which has been life changing. And I have also started using Tailwind to automate Pinterest, I’m still learning this one, but loving it! You can sign up for Tailwind here for a month free!

MARCH - BUSINESS

  • Consistently blog Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week in March
  • Create new opt-in freebies
  • Make a "do-plan" to increase efficiency of my business
  • Take affiliate and blogging income cources
  • Clean up Pinterest
  • Set-up accounting system

This month’s focus is close to my heart, but has not been an area of focus in a while. When Kyle and I got together, 10 years ago this summer (after being friends for 7 years prior), we made a “fun pact.” We saw the value of how we laughed together and always had fun. As happens with so many marriages, life gets monotonous, there are kids and yard work and dinner and bills and all the things that make adulthood no fun. But we realize, and admit, that we have to work at it. I know I have some work to do. I need to make a conscious effort to not nitpick on the dumb little stuff and to stop thinking and worrying about getting stuff done around the house for a few minutes to appreciate the amazing human that I have chosen to be my partner in life. So for April, I am renewing my commitment to the happiness project, because this relationship needs a little more love and attention.

APRIL - MARRIAGE

  • one date a week
  • make more time for sex
  • be grateful for my husband every day
  • let it go
  • don't pick fights
  • go out of my way to do acts of kindness

Happiness Project Month 3

Wow, did February slap me in the face. The month kicked off with two installations, and an e-design project on top of my part time jobs. I was riding high. Then I was let go from one of said jobs. Right smack in the middle of the month when I was supposed to be straightening out and getting on track with my finances. Guess that’s the lesson about life, nothing is certain but uncertainty. So needless to say, between the loss of income, all the projects, the multiple snow days and scrambling to find another way to collect a consistent pay check, I can’t say that I’m as happy with my results of my second month of my happiness project as I was with my first.

The loss of income however, really did give me new perspective on savings and having a cushion. I am reading Suze Orman’s book, Women and Money, exploring different budgeting apps, and have rescheduled my canceled appointment with my financial advisor.

Real Talk: Finance Wins and Losses

FEBRUARY - FINANCES

  • do a full asset/liability assessment

  • write down financial goals short and long term and align with Kyle

  • make a plan to pay down debts

  • start contributing to 401K again

  • make appointment with financial advisor

  • stick to budget 100%


This month I plan to focus on all things driving my business. On the wedding side, I want to refine workflow with new and potential clients. And on the blog side, I plan to continue creating new content, but also set up a system to share existing and evergreen content. I also plan to find better metrics by which to measure my progress. Only a few items, but so much to do to achieve them. Let’s do this!


MARCH - BUSINESS

  • Consistently blog Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week in March
  • Create new opt-in freebies
  • Make a "do-plan" to increase efficiency of my business
  • Take affiliate and blogging income cources
  • Clean up Pinterest
  • Set-up accounting system

Favorite Money Books and Podcasts

My happiness project focus this month is on money. And I have to admit, I have been slacking! I was tied up with so many projects, kind of still am, I haven’t done much of anything. I did download an audio book I’m slowly making my way though (it’s not on this list yet). I have been exploring some new money-centric podcasts, I signed up for Suze Orman’s online course and I have an appointment with our financial advisor. So I guess things are in the works, but haven’t actually done anything.

Anyhow, I have been trying to better myself on this topic for quite some time. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite resources.

Favorite Money Books and Podcasts

FAVORITE MONEY BOOKS

YOU ARE A BADASS AT MAKING MONEY - I absolutely love this book. It is not a tactical book. She is not telling you how to invest or what kind of 401K is right for you. Jen Sincero is getting you into the mindset to conquer all your money blocks. I have listened to this book no less than 5 times. Every time I need a money pep talk, it’s the first place I go. If you are having trouble or experiencing money blocks, I 100% recomend this book.


THE MONEY BOOK FOR THE YOUNG FABULOUS AND BROKE - I borrowed this book when I was about 25. I had gotten into a lot of credit card debt and living in New York City, I was alway stressing about money. After I read this, easy to digest book, I began preaching it to anyone that would listen and even gifted copies to friends and family starting their lives post collage.


WOMEN & MONEY - I have not actually read this book. I’ve been meaning to get to the library to check it out, but knowing how much I loved Suze’s other book (see above), I know that this one will be a great read.


FAVORITE MONEY PODCASTS

SO MONEY - I discovered Farnoosh a few years back on another podcast I listen to, but it wasn’t until I heard her on an episode of the Goop podcast that led me down the rabbit hole of So Money. Farnoosh gives down-to-earth advice on her daily half hour podcast and interviews all kinds of incredible guests.


SUZE ORMAN AT THE APOLLO, WOMEN & MONEY - Suze Orman is abrasive and no nonsense, but she is my money guru. Whatever she says, I listen. Suze was on an episode of Oprah’s Super Soul Podcast telling her story, talking about women and money, and answering all kinds of audience questions. It’s a two hour, two part episode that I’ve listened to more than once. She also references her online personal finance course, which you can take for free using the code “WOMEN.”


Favorite Money Podcasts

BAD WITH MONEY - Gaby Dunn is a funny millennial that makes money woes completely relatable. The first season is a great listen to come to terms with your money issues and start making tactical steps toward solving them. Seasons 2 and 3 explore more about the broken system, than the strategies to solve personal finance issues, but still super interesting and a good listen. Gabby also just released a Bad With Money book.


Do you have any favorite money books or podcasts?

Happiness Project Month 2

I am officially through one month of my happiness project. I feel like I am doing pretty well. I did not accomplish or tackle everything on my list, but I think I laid a really good foundation for the rest of the year in month one. January was all about organization. While there were several one-time tasks I did not get to, like clean off my computer, that I didn’t get to, but there were a lot of wins in the column of setting good organizational habits that I think I will keep.

There are several big things I began doing this month that I want to toot my horn about. I got into the habit of doing all the dishes after dinner and putting them away before bed, so in the morning and when I get home from work the counters are clean. I put a small trash can inside the entry closet to toss unwanted mail. And, I established a cleaning routine, every Sunday morning in January I spent about an hour and a half to two hours cleaning the house. I cleaned the bathrooms, vacuum, cleaned the kitchen, and every other week dusted or washed sheets. These three simple things have made my home and life seem to run a little more smoothly. I have been giving up my leisurely Sunday morning, but I’ve gained outer order and inner calm.

Here is the list of goals I set for myself at the beginning of the month. I crossed out the items I checked off my list.


JANUARY - Organization

  • devise a system for keeping counters clear

  • develop a cleaning routine

  • solve the mail sorting issues

  • finish organizing office

  • purge and complete closet organization

  • sort junk drawers

  • organize and delete computer files

  • clear desk top, digital and physical

  • delete photos and apps from phone

  • sell, donate or recycle unwanted clutter

  • do a time mapping exercise to best organize my time


Here are a few of my favorite organization products I picked up this month.

Now that January is in the books it’s time to look toward February. This month I’m focusing on finances. Talk about and “being good at” money has always been an Achilles heel. Hopefully this power month of thoughtful reflection and planning and discussing with my partner will kick my butt into gear!


FEBRUARY - Finances

  • do a full asset/liability assessment

  • write down financial goals short and long term and align with Kyle

  • make a plan to pay down debts

  • start contributing to 401K again

  • make appointment with financial advisor

  • stick to budget 100%

My Happiness Project

I am a resolution person. Like an over the top resolution maker. Sometimes I make a checklist of things I want to do, and sometimes they are more traditional resolutions, but each December, I stop, review my year and decide how I want to be different or better the following year. Of course, 2019 is no exception. This year I have decided to do a Happiness Project. I am a big fan of Gretchen Rubin. Her methods may not resonate with everyone, but I relate to her type-A tendencies and I find her advice helpful and useful in my life. I just reading Gretchen’s book “The Happiness Project,” have listened to her talk about the concept on her podcast for years, and I decided that there is no time like the present to tackle this endeavor.

What is a happiness project? It began as Gretchen’s quest to be happier, she dedicated a year to researching and implementing the practices she thought would boost her happiness. Gretchen dedicated a one month to 12 different areas she thought would contribute to her overall happiness. As she shared her progress on her blog, it turned into a movement and other’s began their own person quests. Everyone’s happiness project looks different. The difference between this and making big overarching resolutions is that you break them down into smaller, bite-size chunks that are easier to tackle and you can practice every single day for the month. The hope is that it becomes a habit and it carries forward to the next month.

Below I outline the areas I plan to tackle each month. My intention is at the beginning of each month share my wins and losses from the month prior and what I plan to tackle for the next month. I want to have a clean slate so in January I am focusing on organization.

Organization.jpg

photo

JANUARY - Organization

  • devise a system for keeping counters clear

  • develop a cleaning routine

  • solve the mail sorting issues

  • finish organizing office

  • purge and complete closet organization

  • sort junk drawers

  • organize and delete computer files

  • clear desk top, digital and physical

  • delete photos and apps from phone

  • sell, donate or recycle unwanted clutter

  • do a time mapping exercise to best organize my time



FEBRUARY - Finances

MARCH - Business

APRIL - Marriage

May - Attitude

JUNE - Friendship

JULY - Enjoy free time

AUGUST - Motherhood

SEPTEMBER - Putting Good things in and on my body

October - Taking care of the Earth

November - Gratitude

December - Self reflection


I am excited to share this journey with you. Follow along with me on Instagram and Instagram stories.

A BIG Happy Exciting Life Update!

Lauren Koster Creative

A lot has happened in the last month. A lot of really great things! In September I had been unemployed for two and a half months, we had been living with my in-laws for four months and desperation was starting to sink in. I wouldn’t say I was in a dark place, but I was on my way. The rejection gauntlet of unemployment can be very hurtful to the ego. And I was feeling bruised. And it all felt so naked going through it while living in someone else’s space. Then there was house hunting. finding a house we liked and could also get approved for on one salary was proving to be quite a challenge. So I did the logical thing, I decided to take on renovating my mom’s kitchen as a pet project. Lol. It has occupied my time and taken my mind off feeling less than in the past couple of months.

Then, in late September, a wonderful girl boss reached out to me. She got my resume from an old high school friend who saw a post on Facebook. A post that took a lot of courage for me to write, admitting finding a job in Michigan was much more challenging than I thought it would be, and leaning on my network to help. It worked! Because of that post, Rose found me. The moment I stepped into Conscious Clothing I knew it would be a great fit. I loved everything about the vibes I got. Their clothes are beautiful and their values are honorable. I am now working part time for an amazing company that makes sustainable clothes in a beautiful studio only a 10 minute commute away. I am stretching my legs and working on marketing and creative services. I am so excited because they not only have great product, but also such a good story to tell and I’m honored to help tell it.

Around the time that Rose found me, I wrote to my intuition to ask what I should do next. My intuition told me to reach out to someone I admired. I immediately decided to cold email KLH Custom Homes, an awesomely talented and forward thinking design and building company here in West Michigan. Their work is amazing and totally aligned with my design style. I cobbled together the interior work I have done into a portfolio. And the wonderful people at KLH decided they liked what they saw enough to take a chance on me! I start as an interior design assistant next week!

I am still moving forward with Lauren Koster Creative. I have a few weddings booked for 2019, I just did a bridal show and I am looking to book several more, as well as continuing to build my installation business. It all sounds like a lot and it is, but I used to blog and run my business after working 40+ hours a week and commuting an hour and a half each way. My new schedule is going to allow so much freedom and flexibility to spend time with my family and work on growing my business.

None of this is how I thought it would look. I pictured myself moving here and finding a full time job while keep Lauren Koster Creative as a side hustle for the time being. But I am so happy at the way things are unfolding. I am so thrilled to be stretching my legs in so many directions. And beyond excited to be working with two wonderful family-run local businesses.

Stay tuned for more news coming soon on the house front.

photo by: The Lipstick Lens / jumpsuit: Conscious Clothing / boots: Loeffler Randall

How I Manifested $12k to Pay Off Credit Debt In Less than Four Months

I've always wanted to talk about finances here, but have been way too scared to do so. Why is money such a taboo subject? Why do we cast judgement on so many aspects of it. We judge people because they have too much, pity people who (appear) to have too little. I have been ever so slowly trying to crack this egg. I am at such a weird place in my money life that I really want to open up and learn from you guys. 

How-To-Pay-Off-Credit-Cards

As you know, my family and I have moved to Michigan. One of the factors in moving was and is the cost of living. However, I had a good salary in New York. I am facing the possibility of a very significant pay cut here. I know finding a job that pays a New York salary would be next to impossible, but I also want to make what a professional with 12 years of experience is worth. Navigating the waters of what to ask for, what we need to live a comfortable life and how to save to invest in my business, have another baby, buy a house and contribute to retirement is a rough sea. 

Truth about our situation: I am currently unemployed, but am still in wedding season, so I do have a little coming in. Luckily my husband kept his remote job, so we have a single income. My husband is a contractor, so we had to purchase an insurance policy from the open market (not cheap!) and we are paying a good bit of cash to keep our stuff in storage. But, we are living rent-free with my in-laws and share a car. It sounds like a recipe to stock-pile some cash, but alas, somehow that's not really happening. 

I want to talk for a minute about our wins and about the concept of manifesting money. It sounds so woo-woo. I feel like a fraud saying it, but after I read (and reread and reread) "You Are A Badass At Making Money," I decided to test this concept out. In it author Jen Sincero tells a story about manifesting $80k to pay for a coach to kick her butt into gear and to help her get the results she truly desired. $80k! That's more than most people make in a year!!! After the third read of the book, I decided that I was going to manifest $100 a day to put toward my accumulating credit card debt, which at the time was about $12k. *Look at that, I told you my credit card debt number and I haven't burst into flames!!!* I know that $100/day seems crazy. I thought so too, but if Jen SIncero could manifest $80k, I could make a little magic of my own. So in mid-March, I started, with the goal of paying it off by the end of June.

  • I had already been paying about $500 - $600 a month, I upped $700 and that was a week out of the month marked off my calendar.
  • I do some freelance blogging that covered another 2 - 3 days
  • I got a bonus at work during that time, an other week or so worth of payments
  • I styled a shoot to earn $500 
  • Since we were moving, I sold some things on Craigslist 
  • Cleaned out my closet and sold items on Poshmark
  • I used cash from the sale of our house to pay a chunk
  • Right after we moved I was employed and living with our in-laws allowing me to contribute a larger chunk to this "bad debt"

I got there! or more truthfully, I practically got there, with about $600 still left on the card. I am so so proud of myself and it has left me wondering what else I can ask the universe for and work toward manifesting. I know my situation and life change helped me get to my goal, and not everybody is going to have the same experience, but the truth is I set out to eliminate this debt and I think I would have gotten there with or without the life change, because I was 100% focused and committed. Before we even saw the money from our house sale I had paid over $4k toward the debt. 

Next up, I am planning a month-long spending freeze in order to achieve our goals for the down payment on our new home. I am laying out my parameters here and will document my progress on my instagram stories

  • It's our anniversary on September 8, we plan to do something special to celebrate. 
  • I will allow myself to only purchase the amount of coffee on my Starbucks card
  • networking lunch or drinks are okay, but I will keep it economical 

Have you done a spending freeze? How did it go?