By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. Proverbs 24:3-4
You are here.
Before I start on any project, I try to remember to take before and after photos. Sometimes several in between. You can see where you are starting, the encouraging progress, and how far you’ve traveled overall. This project isn’t any different.
For our house it is easy. I went around with the camera taking pictures of everything. Room by room I opened cabinets, closets, and drawers. I grabbed my favorite scarf, bundled up and took a stroll outside taking pictures of the exterior and the yard. I saved all of the pictures in a folder on my desktop labeled ‘Before’.
With all of the other categories, I couldn’t take actual pictures, but I could figure out a way to get a snapshot of the way things stood at this particular moment. First, I added 5 sections to my home management notebook. One for each category.
I spent all of my spare time last week documenting beforehand or baselines in each one.
Finances. Getting a snapshot of our finances took several small chunks of time over a couple of days. I used to be extremely diligent with our money and tracking it. When life brings on a bunch of rapid changes, being aware of the money is often one of the first things to slip through the cracks. If a lot of time passes, or if they get really out of control, the first step back can be pretty scary to face. Until you do face it, get that snapshot, the situation will never improve. Baby steps.
I pulled out all of our bills for last year. I separated them into fixed bills such as car payment, mortgage and insurance, semi-fixed such as utility bills, and the variable items including grocery, our credit cards and any other household expenses I could track down. I used a spreadsheet to come up with an average monthly payment for each item, listed the interest rates of each loan or credit line, and the minimum payment if it was different from the average payment. I printed the page out and placed it in the notebook. I also printed out a current statement of our checking and savings account.
Once you have this information in front of you, it seems you either get so wrapped up in trying to fix everything in one sitting or close your eyes and never look again. I had to keep remembering that I was just getting all the information I had available together to see a snapshot of the current big picture. I used up two full pages in the mind dump notebook writing down the things I had an urge to do next. Now that a few days have passed, I’ll take another look and move some of those things over to the master to-do list.
Health. We have all had fairly recent physicals, with the next set already scheduled. Apparently everything there was within range.
Other than doctor visits and trips to the drugstore for over the counter treatments, we really have taken our health for granted for quite awhile. There are a lot of numbers you could look at to determine if a person is healthy. There are also a lot that people pick that don’t really tell the whole story. Which do you choose? How many do you try to track? For them to work for our family, I had to choose things that would work for each of us individually and as a whole. I chose a few specific things I could fairly easily quantify over time for all of us that would tell a well rounded picture – weight, body measurements, and approximate daily hours of good energy levels.
Family and Friends. This one was sort of tricky. How do you get a baseline on the people in your life? How do you judge the health of your relationships?
I took inspiration from one of the teenager’s computer games. The Sims. I’m not a big fan of the game, but the general character relationship aspect is interesting and fairly true to life. In the game, the way I understand it, each relationship has its own heath meter. The health of the relationship is determined by how much interaction you have with each character and whether the interaction is is deemed appropriate based on how close every two characters are to one another.
If a Sim talks or hugs another Sim that it is close to, the relationship meter increases. The relationship is strengthened. If any two Sims interact fairly regularly, the relationship meter stays reasonably strong. If there is not any interaction for longer periods of time, two Sims will become estranged as the meter decreases on its own over time. If a Sim tries to hug another Sim it does not know or has become estranged with, the interaction is deemed negative (awkward) and causes the meter to decrease. Also, one Sim can seem to get a positive experience from an interaction while the other perceives it as neutral or negatively.
With those thoughts I sat down and just sort of jotted down the most recent date of a memory I had of spending time with each person in my circle including people I thought highly of but don’t really get the opportunity to see. If it was a positive experience, I had the approximate date and a plus sign, if it was a negative experience, I had the date and a minus sign.
Now I’m not so superficial to come back to this page each time I interact with someone I know. But I did get enough out of the experience to revisit the exercise once a year.
I was really surprised how many of what I consider close friends I could not come up with a date to write down. I was also surprised of the number of people I thought of that I would like to get to know better that came to mind yet I barely said more than “Hello, how are you?” whenever I happened to run into them.
It seems as we’ve gotten older, we spend more time one on one with individuals or with the same one or two couples. I miss intermingling with friends of friends and introducing my friends to each other. At the bottom of the list, I added some various groups. Immediate family, extended family, coworkers, etc. and tried the same for group activities instead of individual interactions. Pitiful. In no time at all I was easily able to come up with 15 actual or possible groups and only had three dates, two of which were far in the rear view mirror.
Spirit. Here is another area where writing out the starting point made me a bit angry with myself. The other day, I said that spirit referred to not only renewing a relationship with God, which is important to me, but also anything that refreshes or strengthens one’s self. Could include things like getting more sleep, waking earlier to guarantee quiet time, self-pampering, hobbies, education in new things or formal education, career goals…
This baseline was short and sour. I started making a list of all of the things I was currently actively doing to strengthen myself only to realize I’d been neglecting – maybe I should just say I’d been neglected.
How is it that we wish others to treat us with love, friendship, affection, attention… but so quickly forget to treat ourselves with the same regard?
Are you taking a look at where you are? Setting starting lines? What kind of things are surprising you?