Wednesday, December 4, 2013

10 Steps to a More Creative (and frugal!) You

I'm pretty frugal but not as creative as I would like to be.  I know there is always more I can do but I'm just lazy sometimes. I say that because if I was to say I am too busy then that would be an excuse.  I teach my girls to not give excuses so I'm taking my own advise.

Inspired by my favorite book The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn, I have decided to try and be more creative.  Christmas is coming very soon and I need to save money where I can.  I know I'm not the only one out there so enjoy these steps Amy has outlined in her book. I have quoted from her book and added a few personal notes after each one.

Ten Steps To A More Creative You

Step 1. Realize that you are creative.  Look for it in your daily life and nature that part of yourself.

My Note-I worked at a craft store for 10 years there is no excuse why I'm not creative. Just need to implement it into my regular life.

Step 2.  Give yourself mental space, a clear field.  We tend to fill up our days with TV, car radio, reading the paper, chats with friends on the phone.  Instead do that "mindless task" in quiet time.  This type of activity dominates my life……housework, mowing the lawn, scraping paints.  Boredom never strikes, as the mental gears whirl continually.  I write only after mentally rehearsing paragraphs a dozen times.  When someone says, "I'm just not creative like you." I reply "No, I just thought about it longer."

My Note- I can honestly say I have been doing this.  Ive been watching less TV and less radio.  Lately I've had Christmas music playing on my record player and the TV turned off.  In the car I've even stopped listening to the radio.  Since I have 4 daughters my life is filled with little girl voices 24/7.  So when I'm not around them I have been enjoying the silence.  The one thing I need to work on is thinking a little more before I act.  I have a very hard time with this. Once I get something into my mind I have to do it.  Reminds me of a piece of advise someone once told me.  If you feel you need to buy something just wait 24 hours. Usually you don't actually need the item and you save yourself some money by not buying it.  Need to remember this more.

Step 3.  Never ever compare yourself to others, but rather enjoy your own innovations.  I stumble over this block working in the shadow of many award winning designers.  No matter how good I  could become there would still be someone better.  Later I realized that no matter how bad I was there was always someone worse.  Compare yourself only to yourself.  "This is how good I am today.  I am better than yesterday and I will be better tomorrow."

My Note-Ive actually never compared myself or my design to others. I am personally eclectic and so is our style.  Others prefer cookie cutter looking interior designs.  Me I prefer vintage, good quality and natural color things.  Our furniture is new but our decorations are all 2nd hand thrift shop finds.  Our kitchen table is 2nd hand but the matching chairs we salvaged from our old set and repainted.  I like our taste.  Mostly because no one else has it.  Yeah for me having one less step!

Step 4.  I use a strategy I call "putting the problem into the mental computer."  your brain functions continually, even as you sleep.  Study the parameters of your problem and then let it rest for a few days.  Very often your mental computer will spit out the solution unexpectedly as you shower or drive to work.  This works much better than trying to perform as the clock ticks away.  If you are trying to come up with a great party idea, give yourself a couple of months of mental back burner time.

My Note-This is a great step.  I find myself doing this often especially when it comes to Christmas gifts.  I have a few things and think about what to do with them.  Sometimes it takes me a week to figure something out.  Most the time I have an idea and just need to narrow it down to details.  The end result isn't at all what the beginning thought was.

Step 5.  Brainstorm.  Toss the idea around with another person.  Be flexible and say or write down every "stupid" thought that comes.  Very often another person can take your idea and add a twist that makes it great.  Jim is my brainstorming partner.  he is very good at telling me when my idea is good and I should run with it.  Sometimes something isn't working just right and he can look at it and come up with a better sentence or illustration idea.

My Note-Another step I'm pretty good at.  I talk with my husband about a project I'm working on and he usually has another good idea.  He's a honey do husband and grew up in the sticks where you have to be creative because town was too far away and a waste of gas.  You either fix it or your stuck.  I grew up very poor and my mama had to be creative when it came to food and clothing us.  This makes us a great team.  Its one thing I love about my marriage. We make such a great team.

Step 6.  Find a springboard, a starting place.  For the tightwad this usually means determining which resources are cheap or in surplus.  Build from that point.

My Note- I love this step.  Since we do 99% of everything ourselves we always have left over wood or hardware.  For example I wanted more garden beds that I could move around.  My husband had built our deck and had plenty of left over unstained wood on the side of our house.  I just used his ends and pieces to put together some small frames.  I use these in my front yard each year to grow lots of things.  They are small and only about 6 inches tall so they are easily movable.  I get bored and change my mind all the time when it comes to my garden and its design.  I took my idea and used what we had.

Step 7.  Do not share your creative ideas with anyone who continually tells you they are dumb.  This is often a spouse or parent.  Professionally I should have switched jobs until I found an art director who shared a similar creative style.  The art directors that didn't like my ideas were not more creative than me.  Often they were less creative.  Mostly it was a matter of seeing things differently.  But, the constant message that I was doing it wrong took its toll.  A mouse does not go down the same hole over and over if he fails to find the cheese.

My Note-My husband often things some of my garden ideas are not good.  In my head I know how things grow and how things will change. He doesn't because he doesn't help me with the garden.  When I roll a idea past him he sometimes doesn't agree with me. Not because he things they are dumb but he doesn't see why it matters. Since I am the gardener I know why it matters.  Our ideas clash sometimes.  So most the time I go with my own ideas and don't even talk to him about it.  Sometimes he things they look ugly but most the time he likes the ideas.  Years ago he didn't want me to garden in the front yard. Over time he has not cared and now I garden in the front yard as much as I garden in the actual garden.  It's all pretty if you ask me.

Step 8.  Practice.   As with any skill, accessing your creative ability improves the more you do it.  You will develop your own methods and strategies to fall back on when tackling new problems.

My Note-As any gardener knows its never perfect.  The more you garden the better you get.  Some plants need more sun and some need less sun.  I'm consistently changing things up to have a better outcome.  Same with my food budget.  Every once in a while I get lazy and buy things that are easier to make. I always see myself spending more money and go back to my old frugal ways.  There is always room for improvement and I never stick to the same thing. Always change things up and alter your choices.

Step 9.  Avoid negative stress.  This also tends to block creativity, as your mind focuses on that problem instead.  Try to limit contact with individuals who bring on these problems.  If it is one within your household, try to limit your reaction to their actions.

My Note- I FAIL FAIL FAIL when it comes to this step.  I'm a high stressed person naturally and need to handle it better.  For example right now its Christmas time (my favorite!!!!!) and I have all these great ideas in my head.  Just the other day I pulled all our decorations out and set aside time for the girls and I do decorate.  Well my oldest was in her room except for 5 minutes to set up her nutcrackers. My middle daughter was more interested in her iPod and my twins only wanted to play with the wooden reindeer decorations and nothing else.  I was getting upset which got them upset.  I felt like my whole day was ruined by their lack of wanting to do anything.  In my head I had this perfect idea and it didn't go as planned.  I know I need to limit myself and my ideas with them. I know its mostly me thats upset. They were just as happy to play with the wooden reindeer or with their own things than to decorate with me. I need to not have these high expectations and feel sad when they are not met.  If they are happy I should be happy.  But honestly having hot cocoa. listening to Christmas music and putting up decorations is so much fun to me!  One day I hope they feel the same way.

Step 10.  Start small.  When you bite off more than you can chew you set yourself up for failure. instead set small easily attainable goals to build a sense of success.  in subsequent projects stretch yourself to slightly more ambitious undertakings.  Sometimes as you were reading the beginning of
this place you thought, "What the heck does creativity have to do with thrifty?"  Tighwaddery without creativity is deprivation.  When there is a lack of resourcefulness, inventiveness and innovation, thrift means doing without.  When creativity combines with thrift you may be doing it without money, but you are not doing without.

My Note-I need to work on this one a little more.  Usually I put everything off to the last minute. This year I had to plan a tea party birthday party for my twins. Sad because its probably the last little girl birthday part I will every get to throw. They are big girls now (sad mama!).  I planned several decorations and party supplies.  For weeks I hunted in thrift shops for things. And when I had no more time I bought what we needed which wasn't much.  I took time each day to complete different task. one day it was pretty paper cones filled with fake pretty flowers.  One day it was a happy birthday garland made from paper doilies and ribbon.  I felt less stressed and did manage to get it all done in time.  In the end I saved enough money to afford to take them to the mall to spend some birthday money.

To find out more amazing information head to your local library to snag these amazing books written by Amy Dacyczyn

Tightwad Gazette

Tightwad Gazette 2

Tightwad Gazette 3

Amazon has the set, Ebay,, Barns and Noble and Powell's all have these books.

Or maybe your as lucky as me and scored yours at a thrift store.

Don't want to buy? Ask your friends and family if you can borrow theirs!

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