Category Archives: Counter Culture

Capsule Wardrobe Lessons: Love yourself

Its November and I am in the last month of my 2nd capsule wardrobe. But before we can talk about the 2nd go I want to share a recap. In September I completed my first capsule wardrobe challenge. This year I’ve really enjoyed taking on these monthly challenges. It’s an organized way to try something new, and usually it’s really fun too.

So what’s the benefit of a capsule wardrobe? How many items do you get? Is it going to benefit you financially? and most importantly what did you wear these past 3 months?

1st capsule outfits, Summer 2015

I’m so glad you asked. Well start with the easy one. Below you’ll find a collage of my outfits. At work I wear a uniform (self imposed) which falls outside of my main pieces. This mean that I had a more unique situation going on where I wasn’t really relying on my capsule for 7 days a week.  So I really only needed to rely on my capsule during the weekends.

Traveling wallet, Capsule wardrobe, mom style

My first capsule was for summer and it ran from June until the end of August. We spent lots of time, off at the beach on the weekends but also attended a wedding. I needed very casual clothes but some other items I could dress up for a wedding.


  •  38 items for my main capsule.
  •  63 items total including work clothes and lounge ware.
  • $0 spent on 1st capsule
  • Purged over 24 items at the start.

Trying out a capsule wardrobe was a fun experiment, but I also learned a few valuable lessons.

Money money money

I know I had moments in my past where I had a closet full of clothes but still felt like I had nothing to wear. ( I even posted a comment to that affect on facebook and had many female friends echo the same feeling).

Its that feeling that probably pushes you out the door in search of a new outfit. Even when you feel like ” I know I own something that is great” The difficulty of finding it in the plethora of items in your closet still pushes you out the door with money or credit card in hand.

In the beginning of this challenge you do lots of work sorting through your items. But its worth it because you take time to clear out all the crud and leave only things that fit or that you like.   You purge the bad, keep the good and hide the maybes. Clearing up your closet. The clothes you leave out for the season fit you so you shouldn’t ever be shopping because you feel like you need to.  Feelings of chaos and dread,  that you have nothing to wear will be replaced by creativity and exploration.

If you do find a hole in your wardrobe you can write the item down and use your competitive spirit to accept the challenge in its fullest. See if you can stick to the rule that says no shopping for the entire capsule wardrobe season. Save any purchases until the end of the challenge. In that way you save money.

You save money when you know what you have. You save money when what you have fits you and makes you feel good. But most importantly you save money when you can retrieve and don those items without having to go hunting.

More Creativity

Something I found myself doing through out this experience multiple times was growing.

No, no .no …. not physically but creatively.

As I would get dressed I would look at my clothes and new ideas about how to wear an item with another would constantly be popping into my head.

Clothes might seem like a trivial thing to look at, but if you get down to the root of what was really happening it would look like this.

I was breaking down rules, and thinking outside the boxes I had created, where I would assume this only goes with that.

It was fun saying hey I can make this dress a skirt by paring it with this top. Or any other such thoughts and ideas. The point is my mind was working and popping out ideas.  An improvement to the previous routine of trying to subdue frustrations.

Get more comfortable in your skin

When you capsule you are by design limited in choices, you have to work with what you have.

When you capsule you keep what you really like so its a big confidence boost to put any item on and have all of them fit you well and make you feel good. There isn’t a single item in there that makes you feel uncomfortable in your skin. That’s a great thing! to feel comfortable in your skin.

This challenge really pushed me to get comfortable not just with my skin but with my beliefs too.

You see I hate shaving my legs. Its the most annoying thing we are taught to do as women….why? Because its never ending and it serves no purpose… I mean think about it. If you want to be silky smooth all the time, it just never stops. But I have out grown the ritual & commitment it requires.  This meant that I use to confine myself to wearing long dresses or pants. Or some how I would muster up the motivation to either wax or shave.

But that motivation has dwindled and dwindled. It’s hard to waste time doing something you don’t believe in.

Tomboy Capsule wardrobe ideas
My most boyish looks.

So I decided I needed to at least try to remove this barrier. The one that limited my choices just because of how I looked.

I wore my shorts first, with a tiny bit of apprehension. “These are actual boy shorts” I thought to myself “and I am kind of a Tomboy. So in a way leg hair makes sense.” It was a safety blanket I felt I could use to explain away any quizzical looks or questions.

Skirts, shorts, leg hair
Rocking my natural self.

The real test came when it was time to wear a shorter skirt or dress… Dresses are the epitome of femininity. Leg hair, mmm,  not so much… But slowly I  challenge myself to wear it if I wanted. But I told myself I could always just wear nylons if I really felt uncomfortable and wanted to hide it.

But with sweltering heat here in California nylons didn’t make sense. Long story short I pushed through.

I got more comfortable in my skin and didn’t limit what I wore due to my bodies current state. And you know what?

The more I did it the more it felt fine, the more it felt normal.  I wondered why I cared or was so worried to begin with.

I was worried about what people would say. I was worried about what people would think. But no one said anything. In the end I realized I really didn’t care what anyone though specially if they kept it to themselves. I realized in my core I don’t believe or approve of this message we give females. Women or young girls, and that while some might be judging me, I was also hopefully inadvertently giving others courage.

This is me. And I’m ok with that.

Capsule wardrobe for a healthy body image.  Now that’s meaningful change.

Will everyone feel better in their skin after a capsule? I hope so.

Finally here are my individual items. I was super nervous about my choices at first but I think it turned out. 🙂

2015 summer capsule
All the items in my capsule 1.

The capsule challenge really surprised me. I learned a lot. I pushed through lots of barriers that I had myself put up. My world doesn’t revolve around fashion but I’m glad I took the challenge to simplify my wardrobe.

Have you taken a capsule wardrobe challenge? What did you learn from it?

The Roamer traveling wallet



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A year off from work, Why? & How?

I have been wanting to take a year off from work for a very long time. As the year gets closer to its end I have a lot to contemplate.

A young mother

The whole idea started after giving birth to my son, he’s 7 now. See I got pregnant while attending university and due to the situation I didn’t even take my full 6 weeks off to recoup. I had deadlines and metrics to meet if I wasn’t going to become another drop out statistic.

There were plenty of breaks thanks to the academic school term and because of how close I live to campus I spent lots of time back home with my baby. But I still felt I was missing a lot.

I remember telling my significant other ” You are going to have to make enough money to support us for a year, because for my next one I am going to take a whole year off. I’m not going to miss anything in that first year”

Well I have 2 babies now and that goal never came to pass. Though by that time, I had put in enough time to qualify for PFL, FMLA, CFRA and all those pro family programs it was still a limited amount of time. 6 weeks. A consolation prize compared to a year. But I took it and even optimized it. ( Another post I’m eager to write).

So I missed it, the goal but I still held out hope.

A year off, are you sure?

I still wanted a year off. But with debt and bills and by the way we have “free” childcare. There wasn’t a lot of support for the idea.

It’s a big mistake older women advised.

“You’ll lose financial security and be dependent on the man. ”

“It’ll kill your career”

“Why would you want to stay home, I couldn’t do that”

It wasn’t so much the career suicide comments that deterred me as much as the money. A lot of that debt was mine not my husband’s and I wanted to pay it off myself. I suffer from pride and stubbornness and wanted to prove “hey I got myself in this mess and I can get myself out”.

But I still wanted to take a year off.

Revised Goal

So I accepted the fact I probably wasn’t going to take the first year off. I asked myself what my goal was really.

Minnie Roamer

Simply I wanted to raise my kids but more specially be the one to imprint onto my daughter in her early years. I wanted to be a key player. Not the alternate. I know there are sentiments against this after all many household are now dual income, farming out the majority of childcare.


There is no argument in my mind that there are certain things you just won’t learn without putting in the time.

” Quality time happens with quantity time”

So with this I decided that I could still take a year off soon, but there was a limited window.

I only had until she turned 4. That would give me a year before she started school and she herself became less available.

So I started a count down, literally on excel.

Minnie Roamer is 2 now and Jr is 7. And it’s looking like next year will finally be the year.

Preparation for a year off

If you are in a dual income household* there are some steps that need to be taken. (* these same steps could also be applied if you are a single parent but you will probably need to make some adjustments)

Taking a year off from work is going to impact a lot on your household from schedules to routines. While those also need to be address the main and first thing is the math needs to make sense.

Financially it needs to work for a year off to happen.

  1. You need to understand your financial situation. As in you need to know how much debt you have and how much you have in savings and other liquid (easily accessible cash) assets. I would recommend having enough savings to cover 6 months* of all your spending.(* if your single you will clearly need to save over a years worth of spending )
  2. You need to know your cash flow. How much money is coming in? How much money is going out? In other words what are you earning and what are you spending.
  3. Identify the Gap. This is where you analyze the earnings with the spending and identify how much excess you have. This is the equivalent of when you hear someone say. I only live off 75% of my take home pay. That means they could function normally losing the extra 25% of income. You want that gap to equal your entire paycheck if possible. This will look different for everyone. For example if you are both equal earners you want the gap to be 50%. But if your spouse bring in 75% of the income then a 25% gap should equal your entire paycheck and you should be good

When your gap is good & savings are met , financially the math makes sense to take a year off. (High five)


What if your saving don’t add up to 6 months and your gap is very small?

Then you need to make a plan to cut your spending. (This should be a post on its own ) Here are some things to consider.

  1. Pay off your debt. Simplistic yes, but this can have a big impact in both how much you need to save and your gap. How? Here’s a table below.Quick analyses of the spending changes and impacts
  2. Reduce any other type of spending. Reducing your spending anywhere else will have the same affect as the above. The less you spend the bigger the gap and the less you need to save to cover you for 6 months.

If you spend $5,000 a month then you need $30,000 saved up to cover 6 months. If you only spend $3,000 then you’ll need $18,000 for 6 months. I’m sure you can guess that getting to $18k will be quicker then $30k.

This was pretty much the scenario for us. After we paid off all the student loans and the car loans our cash flow took a big hike up. As in the gap increased. Then we also realized that what we had saved( without adding anymore) covered more months then it had before.

Family plan

But its not just about the money. Other things should also be discussed.

  1. Agree to have a spouse that keeps working. As in if the job starts to suck, they need to just stick it out or secure another job before quitting. ( At the very least agree to discuss options, I  would want to avoid any disruptions in income)
  2. Make a schedule of things you want to Do. The new schedule is going to be strange and having an idea of why you wanted the time off to begin with will help you not feel antsy about it.
  3. Discuss changes in division of household tasks. But agree to post pone changes and expectations until after 6 weeks pass.
  4. Take 6 weeks to get use to new tempo.  During my maternity leave this is how long it took me to finally find my groove at home. You will feel doubt, again the changes are going to feel weird.
  5. Finally let your mind stop working and decompress.
  6. Schedule to revisit situation, (finances, feeling, expectations) each quarter.

Just in case you are wondering, yes these are all thing we have done. Specifically the financial planning. I have had up to 8 weeks off of work continuously for maternity leave but I’m sure there’s other things that will come up mentally/ emotionally that I currently can’t foresee.

Have you ever thought about taking a year off of work? Maybe it was to be a full time parent maybe something else. How would you go about preparing for it?

The Roamer traveling wallet



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Weekend Wanderings #4: Tiny House for the Win

I’m over hear doting on tiny houses and their many upsides.While everyone is thinking bigger, and bigger.  What’s up with that?

A Note to New Readers: My Weekend Wandering series is a time I take to wander off the main focus of this blog and discuss any other topic.  Usually including videos that I found inspirational, informative or controversial. But if you'd like to talk about money read about how we obliterated debt in just 3 years.

FYI, this post does dive into money, so stick around.

Like all my weekend wandering posts this one is going to be chock-full of videos and the idea is that you watch them and be inspired. I won’t be summarizing their awesomeness. Today I am wandering into the realm of tiny houses.

I have gotten quite infatuated with the idea of tiny living and these videos should show you why, but just in case it isn’t crystal clear I’ll specify why I would really enjoy it for me and my family. That’s right, I’m talking about a family, of 4 no less.

First of all, I don’t support or understand this new trend that every kid needs their own bedroom. Seriously, can some one explain to me this thought? See I was raised different in a lot of ways and its because of my heritage. So honestly why does each kid need their own bedroom? Leave me a comment below to cue me in to this practice. It’s super foreign to me.

Its an important question to ask because tiny house living isn’t likely to support that requirement. Making good use of space means bunking together, bunk bedding that is. The first video is a single guy but I could easily see my family in the unit.

If I had to say one thing about it, it would be. “Can I move in and try this out, like now!”

All right now that you’ve watched that video lets get this discussion started.

Cost, starts high gets low

Now this first video is a great way to start the discussion on cost. The owner had a lot of specialty items, that means big $$ up front. Even so, tiny homes are still much more affordable. You just have to have a long term investment mentality. Get the good stuff now and pay less over your lifetime. For example it might cost you more to get your tiny home all set , then most people put down as a standard down payment. but then you get to enjoy all the perks.

How exactly will you save money after the purchase?

Small space, means no room to store unneeded items. Most tiny home dwellers report having to become  more intentional about their lifestyles. This translates into their purchases because it all ends up back in the house. Cutting the volume of the items you buy will undoubtedly lead to a smaller overall costs.  Hooray! for saving money.

Small Space, means small utility usage. Another perk reported is the wonderful side effect of lower monthly bills. Smaller square footage means less energy spent on heating and cooling. Bye Bye big electric/ gas bill.

Small space, means smaller over all cost of purchase. Like I said  earlier there are throngs of people buying houses without putting much money down. Not even 20%, but knowing you could buy a tiny home out right if you save might be motivation enough to accumulate enough to pay in cash. Can you say paying cash means hundreds of thousands of dollars saved in interest over the course of a standard 30 yr mortgage. THAT IS BIG $$$$$. I’m seeing hearts and stars just thinking about it.

Small space, means smaller tax burden. Okay I am making some assumptions here, but it is my understanding that the yearly tax of a house is based on the value of the house. Tiny homes cost less so that means they are worth less (not worthless, I’d say this makes them near priceless). But comment below if you do real estate and set me straight.

Finally for us, and to be more specific when it comes to the 2 mobile houses below. It is no small thing to say that if we were willing to give it a go, we could own one out right . Right now! Seriously at 30 – 40 K we could own it already. After all just this year we are setting aside 30K for a down payment on a more standard house. Like I said above stars and hearts people.


I included lots of different possibilities for Tiny House living (and you can binge watch more if you just keep watching all the attached videos). Not all offer this perk but oh how my heart sings at the idea. The video above and below show case yet another feature. Flexibility, with a capital F.

I am the Roamer, this is the Traveling Wallet, if you still can’t guess I have a deep rooted desire to travel. I know, its my fault I haven’t screamed it from the mountains. But I do, and the idea that these homes let me, you, go where ever the wind takes you. Well sign me up.

For me this also screams upgrade. I know that’s hard to understand when you are sitting in a 2,000 sqft house but hear me out.

You see I have this desire to do what some would call crazy travel. Living out of a suitcase travel. Camping in tents with nothing but the stuff on our backs. Much like this amazingly inspiring family has done.

A portable tiny house would be a great way to make sure we always have somewhere to stay and have our stuff with us. Compared to tents a tiny house is huge. It’s also a huge upgrade in comfort and amenities. You see what I’m saying now.

This following video really make tiny house living look so good.

Okay so what did you think?

Me in one sentence ” I can have a full kitchen? Man this just keep getting better and better” okay that was more then one sentence.

As I was doing research for this post I just came across so many, many videos with so many different floor plans and options.  It truly is an amazing and inspiring lifestyle for me.

Mr. Roamer doesn’t think this is very feasible for us right now, with 2 small children. He does say once they are grown he could see the allure and would be willing to try it. I say great. Being open to the idea is already a good sign. 

Ready to question the status quo of home buying?

Instead of planning your purchase with the thought of hosting Thanksgiving dinner once a year and hosting a couple of friends. How about asking what is my daily life going to look like here.

Most of us don’t really use all the space we have.  By asking what is my daily life going to look like you are asking, “What is the use of this home 80% of the time?”

I am planning my home by my 80%. Not my 20%. 80% is what I want to cover. For the less usual 20% I’ll get creative.

So, do families really need 4,000 sq ft for a family of 4? Did you know that homes in the past housed more people but where smaller in foot print?

Now a days we call those homes starter homes and we think that each kid need their own bedroom. ( I don’t understand this idea as my family (5 people) was raised in a 2 bedroom house from age 10 until 18.) Even now my family of 4 lives in a 950 sq ft apartment.

So if you’re going to say… But Roamer how will you have guests stay over or even dinner parties. Honestly that is not my life 80% of the time. If we do have visitors I would gladly offer them the space we do have.

And we do that even now. Making it a house of 6 for up to 10 days.

We have air mattresses and space enough to lay them out. If that doesn’t suit them they can always say no thank you. But it just doesn’t make sense to me to buy a 3 bedroom house just to have a guest room for the few and far in between times that does happen.

Did you know that even if you house guest for a whole month… That’s right 31 days, its still less then 10% of the planned yearly usage of your home.


Well what about big 10 people dinner parties. My reply to you would be.. did watch the first video? Seriously how sick was the dinning table.

So what do you think? Are you tearing down those old ingrained ideas of good, bad… normal? That is my goal for my weekend wanderings. To make you think outside the box.

So could you live in a tiny home? What about just down sizing?

The Roamer traveling wallet



Videos by:

Please visit these sites for more tiny home inspiration. Also check out life edited.

A Loan on Life: Helping someone out

How helping someone can go completely against good financial advice. And how it can change lives.

I had messed up. I hadn’t done my best. I hadn’t tried my hardest. Maybe I hadn’t taken it seriously from the get go. But there I was needing to take more classes and having just lost a big financial aid scholarship. $12,600 if I remember correctly. The scholarship was only good for the standard time to complete the degree. Me, I had just failed to do that.

Why did I even go to college?

You see my parents didn’t go to college right after high school in fact my dad never even graduated. My mom finish high school and was shipped off to American from her central American home. My dad dropped out of a high school in California.

But even with that, college always felt like something that I was supposed to do.

While we grew up my mom started taking classes for architecture and even as I got older my father too signed up for classes at the local community college.

We grew up attending community college classes sitting at the back of the room being quite. Or running around the hallways trying to entertain ourselves while my mom took her classes.

After we got a bit older we even wandered into empty rooms all 3 of us and played school. Taking turns teaching something. But usually my older sister teaching us something she was learning. ( It’s how I picked up a bit of french)

College was part of our lives and it was fun. Why wouldn’t we go?

So as I got into high school I new I was going. My first college search freshman year yielded interest in an art school in the Boston. But through out the rest of  high school I discovered engineering a happy marriage of my 2 strongest subject matters. Math and science.

Earlier I said maybe I just didn’t take it seriously from the get go. And looking back that definitely seems like the case. You see after the discovery I had the subject matter I wanted to study: Engineering. I also knew there was no way I was going to the local community college. Even near by universities were ruled out because of the simple fact that I didn’t want living at home to be an option. Far in another state would be ideal. To that effect I received lots of pamphlet and application information in the mail from all across the US for different universities I could attend.

And even though I read through most of them( and had never heard of most of them before). Even though I kept narrowing them down. You know what happened? I’ll tell you what happened. I missed the application deadline. I mean how in the hell do you miss the application deadline if you’re serious about going to college.

Thinking back that shows that I wasn’t taking it seriously to begin with.

But you know what? I decided to not give up I rifled through some papers and found universities with rolling admissions or later deadlines.

I found some and applied.

Honestly even though university was expected, if I think back,  my real motivations weren’t the desire to get an amazing degree to secure an amazing job. It wasn’t to be better off then my parents. It wasn’t to be the trailblazer. The first of the family to receive a prestigious degree. (Well maybe it was a little bit of that! It comes with bragging rights!) It was because I wanted to get out of my house. The only way someone of my age and my economical disposition gets to leave home and be on their own is by going away to college. The farther the better. And that desire to flee was strongly coupled by a desire to travel. The only way someone like me could travel was by going off to college and then participating in the study abroad program. That is why I wanted to go to college. ( you know what? in the end I didn’t even get to study abroad, oh the irony)

Those don’t seem to be good enough reasons to attend university and it showed up in my work.

University for me was about the experience, and it showed up in my work.

I got A’s ,I got B’s, I got C’s ,Ds and went through class withdrawals.

I started needing to retake classes. Eventually resulting in pushing out my graduation date.

Then something happened. That could have derailed my graduation indefinitely.

I got pregnant.

You know, I always though of myself as the black sheep of the family. But really? This? How could I let this happen to me? At 20 I was only halfway through the degree program. And I wasn’t keeping up.

It was a wake up call.

I didn’t  want to become another statistic. I’m latina. And even though I was past being a teen mom. I didn’t want to be a drop out.

Ugh… how disgusting and shameful. How culturally common.  A drop out with a kid.

The thought of having debt I wouldn’t be able to pay off didn’t even cross my mind.

It was all about not becoming a drop out. Taking time off even just one semester for me would mean setting myself up for never returning.

As I thought of it more I realized that the only way I would survive this was to keep going to school. You see. I attended a school that required working a co-op. A paid working experience. Where I earned real money. $15/hr.

Nowhere could I make that kind of money with no degree. And now it wasn’t just about me.

So I didn’t take a break I went back to school and took back to back school terms while pregnant.

A funny thing happened. Those were my best semester through my college career. Somehow managing a full school load, I was able to balance everything with a work study , increasing doctors visits and the ever ever present need to frequently excuse myself from class to go pee. My time management skills flourished due to necessity.

It was good but not good enough.  I couldn’t pull in my graduation date.

Though I survived the rest of the time and classes after the birth. The day came when it was clear I would need to take more time to finish.

But how would I do that having lost my biggest scholarship.

I talk to people and knew of so many people having dropped out because of lack of funding. With 1 year left. They were so close. I was so close.

But I didn’t have the money. The money I made during my 6 month co-op was all going to living expenses for the whole year. I was already stretching.

So I did the only thing I could. I maxed all my loans out. But it still wasn’t enough.

I tried taking out a loan in my name, it was denied.

I tried having family cosign. No dice. My family couldn’t provide any financial support.

I had gotten far since the news of my pregnancy. But the thought of not dropping out jumped into my mind like I had made the resolution yesterday.

It was so close but farther then ever.

Then I decided I just needed to throw a wider net.

But I could only think of one person, a fellow student, who I felt comfortable asking for help.

I was asking him to help me. To give me a chance at finishing my degree. I was asking him to cosign a $10,000 loan at an absurdly horrible rate 10.75%. To go against all financial advise that says you should never, Never do that.

For some reason. He agreed. He agreed to expose himself financially and give me an amazing gift.

This friend I can only assume believed in me.

But we never really talked about it again. So I never knew why?

All I knew was that he didn’t want me talking about it. He was naturally concerned about how others might interpret the situation. He didn’t want other people expecting the same thing.

After graduation it was the 1st loan I focused on and the first loan I killed.

But I still wonder Why? Why Did he do such a thing? And I’ve wondered it on many occasions.

I want to understand because I want to give someone that gift too. A life changing gift. I want to know how he knew he wasn’t going to get  burned. Or why if he did it was worth the risk.

His help changed my life. It gave me the chance to finish.

I don’t know if it was Mr.1500’s post of pivotal life events. But this one post  just flowed out of me.

Jr Roamer current day. Likes to climb stuff. Life changing.
Jr Roamer current day.
Likes to climb stuff. Life changing.

Getting pregnant with Jr Roamer was one of those moments. And a few years later, so was this amazing friends life changing financial gift.

People say you can get where ever you want if you just work hard. But some of it does seem to be just good fortune. I was fortunate to have meet this person.  With out the luck of meeting him I wouldn’t have been able to ask for his help in the first place.

So the things I want you to think about is. Sometimes breaking sound financial advice can really help someone.*

I want you to think about moments in your life that helped you get where you are today.

But mostly I want you to realize that even though I made so many “mistakes”. I am in an amazing place right now. So you can overcome too.

And if you feel inclined share with me how this post made you feel? And whether there is some financial advice worth breaking.




* That is not to say to start loaning and cosigning left and right. Like I said I still don’t understand his thought process.

When Life happens TO You

You know when life happens to you…. When you wake up one morning and you can’t believe you are in a certain situation…

How did this happen?… How is it that I am still stuck in this dead end job. Or what happen to my dream of roughing it abroad…

Life happens when you let go of the wheel …. When you stop being intentional and just go with the flow..

Going with the flow can be fine if that’s truly who you are . but if you wake up one day and you don’t know how you got to that point, then it means you flowed to much off track…

I keep hearing this term thrown around and with out any follow up research I can say I’m probably very type A.*

Yet sometimes even I (type A person) still have moments when I ask myself… What am I doing with this one life.

Its a big deal to me because I don’t believe in an after life… This is it! There is no gold pot at the end of the rainbow.

Not a dress rehearsal as they say.

So I and maybe you need to ask ourselves. What do we want out of life? In the core of our being what do we value? Are we living that life?

What can we do to get there? I’m nearing my 30s and I don’t want to wake up 10 yrs from now wondering how I got to that point.

Be intentional. . that doesn’t mean just making decisions. You can make decisions based on laziness or routine. Make decisions that are pulled back to your core values. Then you’ll be steering in the direction you want to go.

A midlife crisis I now understand can happen at any moment. That moment, is when you realize somehow you let go of the wheel.

We all probably try to exert some control over our lives and  the problem could be we are focusing on inconsequential things like matching shoes and shirts for an outfit. These small things make us feel like we are in control but then we let the important stuff just pass us by.

Those small little instances of control hide the fact that we aren’t taking control of the big picture. This is a constant struggle for me.

That is why I make life plans, even though they change as time goes on I want to keep it in my mind that this is something important. That I need to take time and think about it.


So take some time today and visualize the future. Imagine yourself 10 years older. What do you want to have accomplished. Where do you want to be standing. Are those congruent with your inner most values? Then take it a step further into the future maybe on your deathbed. What would you want your life to have been?

Maybe even do this exercise.

Think deeply with no distractions and write your top 5 values.

Think deeply again. what preoccupies your time, thoughts and actions most of the days? Write the top 5.

Then compare both lists. Are the thing you think about, and act on tied to what you value?

Here’s one of mine. I value building stronger relationships with my family. Yet most of my thoughts and days revolve around work products.  If you aren’t specific enough you might say family and then say work. Yes, work helps me support my family so it makes sense. Yes, work does help me support my family, but in the vein of building stronger relationships with them, work actually conflicts with what I value most. Its takes time away from them.

So you have to be careful and you have to be specific. Or you might convince yourself that something makes sense, when in actuality it is contradicting your values not supporting them.

– The Roamer 

Do you ever feel like you are really adamant about making small decisions but feel overwhelmed when faced with a life changing one? Did you do the exercise. Did your lists match or where there conflicts?

* ok I had to do some research before posting. Type A. High stress, push themselves with deadlines. take on too much. Sound to me like people who like to be in control.

5S : Continuously Improving your living space

Maybe you’re new here. Maybe I just haven’t talked much about work. ( why would I? after all I am here to try and escape it) yet with my avid distaste for corporate schedules and time restrictions even I have to admit I’ve learned quite a bit. Welcome to Lean.

My trade for most of my working career was in Lean Manufacturing, also known as Industrial Engineering, or Continuous Improvement. Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t. In a nutshell my job was to analyze processes and remove waste. Removing waste is very important in a business. Its what keeps you profitable. Yet what really amazed me as I learned more was how these philosophies and their application were so widely applicable. Even at home.

I’ve read finance blogs and I’ve heard that J.D. Roth said you should run your finances like a business. And I completely agree. But you can apply so much more then just how businesses balance their books. Lean is one of those things. When I learned different tools in lean I couldn’t stop them from permeating into my home life.

If I sound a little starstruck its because I am. The ideals and job title had so much potential. It was the lack of commitment from the company to the tools that was dragging me down. But I digress.

5S A foundational tool in lean

So today I want to introduce you to 5S one of lean’s foundational tools.

The purpose of 5S is multiple fold.  Strip away waste, asses the area. Improve. Implement controls, and plan for sustainability.

How will this help you at home? Well minimalism is picking up steam and this is a great technique to use. But even if you have no desire to be a minimalist lots of us still suffer from random stuff accumulation.

There is a whole thriving industry dedicated to our feeling of being overwhelmed with stuff. But instead of removing it from our lives we just remove it from our homes. Keeping everything and paying a premium for the privilege. Ahh how the mighty have fallen and how the storage unit reigns supreme.

Now in a community of financially minded people most of us would rather drown in our stuff then pay someone else to keep it. We know we have too much, we know its clutter. We know its a nuisance. But going through it is extremely overwhelming. So we pick stuff out here and there and really don’t feel like we are making much progress. Sporadic, unorganized, unplanned events though great in an adventure situation rarely yield amazing results in the home improvement front.

So here they are the 5S’s

  • Sort
  • Straighten
  • Shine
  • Standardize
  • Sustain

There you see 5S.

Now let’s dig in a little deeper


Sort is the first step and here you are taking inventory of everything in the area. If you pick your closet like I just did, then what you want to do is pull everything out. I mean everything.

Its too confusing to try and organize stuff around other stuff. Unless your putting go, no go sticker on everything you touch there is high chance that you are going to miss something. Only when your closet is bare-boned will you know that you are addressing every item that is going back in.

Here you identify if something is needed and kept, or not needed and thrown out (donated?). Well that’s easier said then done right?

You’re right, deciding on stuff can be very difficult when we don’t know what we are measuring for. Here ( and in most things actually) we are measuring usage. So ask yourself these questions.

  • Why am I keeping this here?
  • When was the last time I used it?
  • How often do I use it?
  • Is it working? Functional right now?

Lots of times we have things were they don’t belong. Then we have things we never use. Then we have things mixed between stuff we use everyday and stuff we use once a year. Finally we keep things that are broken, or just not functional in some other way. Like a deck of cards with just one card missing… Wanna play solitaire… Good luck with that deck.

Now you’ll have stuff in piles. To make sure you don’t get side tracked make sure you have an empty box handy to place all the items that don’t belong. Don’t take walks to return stuff to their proper place as you find them. Just place them in the box, and return after you finish the sort phase.


A place for everything and everything in its place. The focus here is the actual organization process. This is when you decide where you are going to keep what you decided is needed.

You really want to address the frequency question up above as it will guide you in your straightening effort. You see you want to organize by usage. With the most used items easiest to access and your least use items organized a little further away. In other words the prime real estate in any area is for the highest used items. For example in our kitchen the easiest cabinets to access should contain our dishes. We use those everyday. But our cake pan is stored somewhere more out of reach because we use it less frequently. Doesn’t it make you smile to realize you do practice 5S already :)… The thing is we don’t practice that in all parts of our home. So that is what we are going to do.  Apply it everywhere we can.

At this point I’d like to point out that these are not just 5 steps. They are 5 consecutive steps. Where you must do the previous one to really benefit and move on tho the next.

This is where most of us go wrong. We feel our home is a mess. So what do we do. We fix it. Pick up, fold, rearrange. And if we are tight on space we buy organizational kits. Bins, shelving, and cute little boxes.

In 5S you never, and I mean NEVER organize ( straighten) before you sort. Never….

Can any of you tell me why?


Shine this is where we make everything look and work as good as new.

You see we naturally respond to our surroundings. It causes us to behave differently. Have you ever gone into a bathroom that is a disaster.  You shoot your paper towel to the trash can and miss. What do you do if there is a pile of paper towels on the floor already. Sometimes you might go pick it up but your also likely to just walk away, and sometimes I do too. But if I’m at the Hilton with cloth towels and I happen to miss the basket well… that towel is screaming in my face. Its clearly out of place and has broken the harmony of the space, the wrongness prompts me into action.

That is exactly what you want to create. We become desensitized to things we see everyday. If there is always one article on clothing on the floor all day everyday you are less likely to notice when there are 2 or 3. It won’t be until its ground zero of some laundry explosion that you act. If we really do get accustomed to our surroundings get accustomed to pristine. Then you’ll be catapulted into action when something breaks the harmony of the space.

In shine you want to deep clean the area, get it to the ideal state.


Here you need to be honest with yourself. Why? because its on the 4th and 5th S where you make it or break it. Doing these next steps correctly will help you maintain your improvement or see it slip back into the chasm of chaos.  I’ve seen it all too often at work. Its not pretty, and its frustrating as hell.

Round 2 , this checklist keeps me accountable and gives me hard data for how to improve
Round 2 , this checklist keeps me accountable and gives me hard data for how to improve

In standardize you are trying to create a system to control the area. We are trying to cut out perceptions and deal with facts. For example I just finished round 2 on the minimalist games.  I like checklists they help me know what is going on.  If I was a naturally optimistic person and had no checklist I would have assumed I got rid of close to 800 items.  If I was a pessimist I would think I only got rid of 100… Maybe. We see things as we are, not as they are. So standardize is here to help you know what is going on, so you can control the outcome better.

The reason we make change is because we want something that is different then what normally happens. But we have to acknowledge that just because we clean off the counter doesn’t mean that we now have the habit to maintain it that way.

Standardize is to help you build the habit, checklists are usually a great way to do so.

Make a check sheet that has you audit the area every day. You need to do it frequently at first. Then as you start to get use to the new norm you can do it less often until it becomes a habit. The honesty part I was talking about was admitting that our improvements wont last unless we are proactive about maintaining them.


Sustain is at the end but really its something you should be considering through out.

When I think about sustain I am thinking. “How can I make doing it the right way easier then doing it the wrong way.”

We all suffer from laziness when we are talking about something our world doesn’t revolve around. Unless you are a clean freak you aren’t thinking about the state of your home 24/7. Unless you are in love with saving you aren’t always thinking about ways to save. The creation of automatic withdrawals is a practice in sustainability. It might be a pain to set it up but then it just happens and you have to put more effort to stop the savings then to just let them happen.

That is a perfect example of making the right thing easier then the wrong thing.

I’ll be honest I can’t prescribe anything specific but what you are trying to do is give yourself a chance for it to become natural, habitual. We are trying to remove barriers to maintain improvement.

So let’s say you have a junk drawer. But all you want to do is keep the scissors in that drawer, that’s it. Well to make it easy to sustain you could put in a space filler block. Something that will block all the excess space. Now the drawer wont be able to get full with junk.

Get started on a 5S event

Now before you jump in, there is a little pre-work that needs to be done. Like a project at work you need to set parameters. What area are you going to focus on? Pick one area and make it manageable. Pick how much time you’ll dedicate. You need to decide what your goal is. Your broad goal is to keep only what is needed in that specific area. 


Let’s talk more about that. In lean there is a general understanding that if something is important you need to make it a priority. Which means you need to set aside the time to make it successful. 15 min here 15 min there just isn’t going to cut it. You’ll lose steam because you’ll be going too slow to see results. And  the lack of results will shake your already weak commitment ( 15 min is a weak commitment). At work we schedule 3-5 days, attempt to pull everyone off their day job ( this is were I got frustrated at my companies lack of commitment)  and focus solely on the task at hand.

3 to 5 days might be a bit much depending on the space but remember you need to go through all the 5S steps. So the bigger the space the more time you’ll need. You should be planning in hours or days not minutes.

I love lean, I really do. I love it so much I think it should be taught to high schoolers right along side of personal finance.

Don’t forget. Tell me why you never straighten before you sort?


Biking with Kids: Our 1st Trip to School

We are on our way to Badassity. Monday we move on to a new challenge. Biking long distances with kids on a time constraint schedule with only one parent! The time part  and the 1 parent here is the new piece.

We spent time preparing for this trip by talking about it for a few weeks before hand and getting some of the logistical information. Like is there even a bike rack at the school?Answer. YES.

Minnie Roamer letting me know she is ready to ride her own bike.
Minnie Roamer letting me know she is ready to ride her own bike.

So we woke up early got ready and set out. We rode the route we usually drive since it has a bike lane in some areas. The only adjustment we made was taking some different streets so we wouldn’t have to take on the lows and the highs of an underpass.

Trip Stats

:) :) :) all smiles
🙂 🙂 🙂 all smiles
  • 4 mile bike ride to school each way.
  • Ride took about 50 min one way.
  • School starts at 7:30 am
  • Left home at 6:50 am
  • Arrived at about 7:37
  • No stopping( except for lights) but did slow down pace
  • Mixed riding:  street and sidewalk

Ride back

As I rode back lots of thoughts ran through my head. I was happy we made it. I was bummed we were late. I was trying to think of ways to facilitate future trips. Which led to a train of thoughts.

  • I should check out other routes.
  • I can try again to see if I can transfer him to the other closer elementary school which also offers the DLI program.
  • We can move closer to the school and shorten the route
  • We really should just be moving closer to work ( over 10 miles away)
  • Ugh if I didn’t care about the DLI program we could move closer to work and enroll him into the closest school too.

All these thoughts cause me to not peek back at the trailer as often as normal. When I finally did look back at Minnie Roamer I nearly had

A small heart attack

Minnie Roamer had Houdini escaped her straps. She was sitting in the foot nook in the trailer looking out the cover. The top cover is held in place by Velcro so pretty much she was not safe. Hence small heart attack. I was shocked and scared by the sight. I stopped and took her out. Looked at the straps and was confused to find them still buckled.

Minnie Roamer now Minnie Houdini
Minnie Roamer now Minnie Houdini

I understand Minnie Roamer’s motivation, I mean she had been stuck in there for over an hour. Still I don’t understand how she got out. Specially with her helmet on. So now a shorter trip is important for multiple reasons and I also need to worry about Minnie’s safety during these adventures.

After some free movements on the sidewalk I strapped her in, gave her a talking too and proceeded with the trip. She endured the rest of her captivity much better, but still managed to wriggle her arms free. This could pose a problem.


Monday will be our biking day. This allows me to get to sleep early to be able to handle waking up early. As we get better I might test out doing it an additional day. I’m probably going to be the one holding us back on that since all other weekdays I am pretty exhausted from getting to bed around 1 am.

As of today my son has said biking to school is his favorite thing and that “its so fun”.

Guess what?

Writing this post actually prompted me to do some research. What I found out was that because I wanted to use the bike lane I knew existed I was adding over half a mile to my route. Now I will reassess our route so that we can arrive to school earlier. Next Monday we will try the suggested route and see if it makes sense for the bike trailer.

You might not believe this but there is some poor planning where sidewalks are reduce to a persons shoulder length. Much too small for a bike trailer.

I try to ride on the street and I am trying to get my son comfortable with the idea but it’s not always feasible. So like I said earlier we do mixed riding. Street and sidewalk for us.Roamer boy bike

Well this was fun, and doing it, even though we did get to school late, just reinforces how we don’t really need to drive there. It was a new challenge and we took the first step and got it done. Now we just need to tweak it and optimize.

It’s a win win win. We save up on money and wear and tear on the cars, we get to exercise, we all have fun.( well maybe except for Minnie Roamer)

Now its your turn

Do you ride with your kids long distances? What is the best placing with only one parent and a trailer in tow? Behind you? In front? next to you? Seriously tell me everything! I want to hear from you.

Raw and unfiltered: I want more

It’s the year of more says Ramit

Do you want more?


I do want more. More me time, more free time, more travel, more calm, more balance.

But I don’t want more jewelry, more clothes, more bills, more clutter, more dinners out , more Jones’ or fake friends.


I do want more snuggling, more sleeping, more kids time, more roaming, more wandering, more adventure.

I don’t want more nail polish, or more make up, more stress, more demanding people.


I could use more money, more freedom, more passive income.

I don’t need more stereotypes, more restrictions, I don’t need more problems or why it won’t work.


I do want more solutions, more innovation, more education , more reading.

I don’t want more late nights at work , more pointless ladders to climb.


I do want to have time for more giving , more service, more creating, more tumbleweed cottages. More investing.


Yes, Ramit I do want more , its just not the usual more .

 What’s up with More

This year I finally started reading Ramit and this year its his year of MORE campaign. At first it rubbed me the wrong way. But the truth is I do want more.

Its just different.

I do want to earn more money, so that I can turn around and save more and buy more of my time and life back. More of my freedom.

Life has gotten crazy. More money for more time for more freedom sound like the ticket right now. Because I’d much rather be home kissing and snuggling my husband then working 2nd shift.

The Little Roamers enjoying a tent in the living room. Something I now miss out on.
The Little Roamers enjoying a tent in the living room. Something I now miss out on.

 More of this vs. More of that

I am making sacrifices right now to build my more, but in turn I am getting less. Less time with mi esposo ( that means my husband), less sleep.

I think someone said it but I can’t remember who, every thing is a trade off. That when you prioritize something you are taking something else off the table. There is just not enough time to do everything.

What do you want more of? What are you taking off the table to get it?  Sometimes what you take off is not a sacrifice. For me that’s make up or nail polish. The products, the chemicals, the effort…. I ain’t got time for that. Other times it is a sacrifice. Working for the dollars but losing time with the kids or the husband.

Leave a comment below and I ask you again. What do you want MORE of? What are you trading for it? Is it no biggie or is it a sacrifice?


Weekend Wanderings #3: Breaking Down Barriers

New Readers Note: My Weekend Wandering series is a time I take to wander off the main focus of this blog and discuss any other topic. Usually including videos that I found inspirational, informative or controversial. But if you'd like to talk about money read about how we obliterated debt in just 3 years.

Work has gotten crazy busy in the new year and if you read my first Weekend Wandering post then you know that Fridays is the day I set aside some time to be inspired and engaged.  With the crazyness at work I had no time. Until last Friday!

The videos I watched did not disappoint. Not me at least.

The first video that caught my eye had the words tolerance and tourism in the title.

hmm that sounds interesting.

Check it out.

Yes! that is the kind of travel that I want to do. It’s the whole reason that I want to travel. To meet new people to expand my horizons my understanding. To be immersed in the local culture not just to see it, but to feel it, to taste it.

In case you didn’t catch it he said he started a company call Medji Tours.

Have you used this service? Please tell me about your experience in the comments.


To me its an amazing goal to position travel as a way to break down those cultural barriers.

To hear stories of people letting go of ingrained beliefs, to open the doors to these strangers, these”enemies”.  I think this in honorable work.

On the topic of taring down walls and barriers the following video shows us how we don’t have to travel anywhere else to experience other cultures. To confront ingrained biases. That we can have the experiences talked about in the first video, where we connect with others right here at home.

Watch the following video.

Did you watch it all the way through? Or did you stop when you noticed her main topic was black men?

I’m not black and I’m not a man, but that didn’t stop me from associating with the message. I take great pride in knowing myself and as she spoke I identified with many things. My biases… my weakness.

She focused on black men but its not just about black people
It’s about Latinos
It’s about Asians
It’s about Religions
It’s about Gender
It’s about your sexual preferences

It’s about admitting that we do not see things as they are. We see them as we are. Unfortunately most of us aren’t objective all the time. We need to admit it.

I know I have some biases I need to work on. I admit I suffer from them and yes they were scripted into me. My parents surely suffered from it, likely it was scripted into them as well. For being Latina and a minority for having biases nailed on me I don’t want to do that to others.

So you don’t have to travel to break down those barrier. In America (specially California) we have a multitude of cultures available to us right at our door step, we just have to walk towards them. I was really touched by this talk. I would have cried if I wasn’t at work that is how intensely I felt it. I felt the tightness in my chest and back when I’m holding emotions back.

Yes, I have been on the receiving end and I could relate and though its hard to admit I have been on the delivering end also.

I don’t want to teach that to my children.

I want my children to have a different script… one of understanding.

I honestly believe travel is a great way to do it. I completely agree with the first talk.

In my about me page I tell you I want to ask you questions that cause you to think. I hope this wandering has done that, made you pause and question the “norm”.

If you haven’t discovered the wonders of TED or TEDx talks I HIGHLY recommend it.

The Roamer