Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Hello. Again.

Hello. Again. 

It has been almost six months since I wrote anything on this blog. Six months of life has come and gone. Winter and the new year, gave way to spring and the busyness of life. Now, here we are sitting on the cusp of June and summer vacation. I let the blog go for awhile because I began to feel that whatever I was saying just didn't seem important anymore. I had nothing exciting to say or share. I was feeling sorry for myself. Our house buying mission had stalled out, dailiness of life ticked by, and I felt like the blog had lived out its life. I think the bigger problem is that I began to compare my life to other people and their lives. They may be having babies, moving, traveling, or homeschooling and I wasn't doing any of those things. I fell victim to the comparison monster. 

However, just recently I had a change of heart. A come to Jesus moment if you will. We had placed an offer on a home that we found out had many little problems that would be big problems later on. Even all the pretty appliances, paint, and fancy counters could not cover up our growing sense of weariness when it came to this home. We walked away. We picked up our pride about homeownership and what we "should" be doing and made a run for it. After many late night and early morning talks, my husband and I decided that we wanted more than just a house in a neighborhood. We want and have always wanted a homestead. A farmette. A little piece of the agrarian heaven. So, that is where we are. We hurried up to stand still. We are getting our lives in order to step into something greater. It may take six months to a year but we set ourselves upon this road to our dream. Where will it be? Good question. That will make itself apparent as we begin the search in a few months.

The homeschooling and more babies will happen in the future or they won't. My kids are so fortunate to be in a elementary school that promotes all that I think is important. And when they fail to do something I think is important  then we do it at home. One part public school and two parts mama-school. As far as babies go- I will leave that door open and see what God wants of us. 

Long story short, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and I have a lot to say and share with the larger blogging community. But with that comes the realization that one thing I do not have time for anymore is comparing and worrying where we are supposed to as compared to everyone else. My daughter recently proposed that we live a screen-free summer. A summer with limited use of screens in our home. I couldn't believe it. Why didn't I think of that? She is pretty darn smart for an eight year old girl who has limited use of screens as it is. I have been deciding what/how I want to use my time on the internet. I love to share stories, ideas, writing, and thoughts on my blog. I also love looking at lovely pictures on Instagram. So, that is where I will dedicate allotted screen time this summer. I said good-bye to Facebook. I am not sure how much I will miss it. I have a feeling it won't be very much. 

Here we are. Back into blogging. How have you been? 

Monday, January 02, 2017

Resolutions in 2017

:: Resolutions in 2017 ::

                       The new year is finally here after a roller coaster of a year for many including myself. The past year in many respects has felt like round after round of whirling drama, anger, sadness, and general meanness in our country. I know my soul is weary from the past year for many reasons. I know the souls of family  and friends are tired from their own trials and tribulations. It was a year of difficulties for many but I cannot help but think that this past year may have made me stronger in my soul and mind. The tough situations that I face are brought to me to make me stronger. My husband uses the phrase "adapt and overcome". Adapt to the changes in my home and life by growing in who I am as an individual. And then, overcome the fears and difficulties of the past year so that this year can be used for doing good in my home, community, and world. 

I love the new year. I love the freshness of beginning again and trying to be a better version of myself than last year. I love making resolutions and seeing if throughout this new year I can achieve my goals. I love making a list of little projects and milestones I hope to achieve. Each year on this earth is a gift that I am given and I do not want to squander that gift to achieve my goals for the new year. I love to make and share my resolutions for the year as it will hold me accountable. 

My 5 Resolutions for 2017: 

Resolution #1: find our home.

This year will be our biggest year yet. The prospect of buying a home is around the corner and that comes with very big decisions to be made. Decisions about where to buy, what to buy, and the schooling of the children. We thought that last year would be the year and it just wasn't the right time. It was hard to accept the fact that we just were not finding the right home for our family especially when everyone you know owns a home. It took me a while to realize that we are not like anyone we know in our small town. We were a newly separated military family who has lived in many places and moved many times. We had moved and made sacrifices in our life that many don't know anything about.  So, this year I am taking off the comparison "glasses" and not worry about keeping up with everyone else. The right home is out there and we will find it. 

Resolution #2: time in mediation and prayer. 

It goes without saying that I do not spend as much time as I would like just sitting and being present in my body and mind. I do not sit down and really pray to God as much as I would like. I do not meditate on life as much as I would like. I will do more of this in the new year because when it does happen I walk away from it feeling refreshed and renewed. A very cheap way to give my soul a facelift. 

Resolutions # 3 through 5: Read, Create, and Travel

Read more books. 
Write on this blog. 
Share my talents and work with others. 
Get stuff made. 
Get writing published. 
Go see the country ( I would say the world but with three children we might just stick to the country for the next couple years). 

I like to choose a word or words to carry me through the year. This year I chose "Love".

A pure, unbiased, unflinching love for others. The kind that carries those who stumble and embolden those who waiver. The kind that gives you courage and ignites your heart. Choosing to love others instead of fearing or disliking them. The love that you have to sometimes work at to get right. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Part 3 of Having More and Owning Less: Clearing out the Clutter

:: Clearing Out the Clutter :: 

The idea of having more by owning less is one of those ideas that seem great in theory. Oh yes, I can do this. Let's buy a home that fits our budget. Easy. But when it comes down to the nitty gritty of going through your belongings and actually letting go of what you do not need, it can become difficult. This part of living in a minimalistic state of mind is where I am still working and will continue to work the rest of my life. It is a place where I have to sit and think about what is actually important to my daily life. I will break it down into three parts. These three parts are what I am doing each month to clear the clutter. 

First: Clothing

I am a self-confessed clothes hoarder. In my closet I had clothes dating back 10 years. That is not good fashion sense (trust me- the early 2000's look dated). I had clothes with tags still on them. I bought them thinking that I like it and some day I will wear it. I had clothes that I bought on a whim or thought I might need several colors. I had clothes that were not flattering to my body type. A month ago, those clothes left my closet in SEVEN big bags. Clothes, shoes, purses, belts, and outerwear. They were loving folded, packed, and set up on the doorstep to give to the Green Drop pick up service. Then they went on their merry way to The Order of the Purple Heart to be donated. Two things happened after that: 

#1 - I could actually walk in my closet and see all that I had nicely hung on hangers or folded on shelves. I saw clothes not a massive heap of fabric. I saw the clothes that made me feel attractive and flattered my figure. I saw what was missing to an essential basic wardrobe. A good black dress. A good pair of brown leather boots. A good wool coat. I never knew that I was missing those things that enhance a look because there was too much clutter in my closet. Now, I can actually find my clothes and wear them. 

#2- I realized how silly it is to buy clothes that aren't made well or don't flatter me. I have had three children and my body type has changed but it doesn't mean I have to hide under a burlap sack. It is time to mature my wardrobe and really buy the clothes that make me feel good. No more giving in to internet sales and email coupons. Buy with purpose and for quality. Owning less but having more.

My husband is happy too. He actually gets more closet space. 

Second: General Household 

This is a lot easier for me. Clothes are hard because I link my identity to what I am wearing. However, household goods are just that: tools of the home. I have made a point over the last year to decrease the number of linens by getting rid of the tattered looking ones and only replacing what needs to be replaced. The kitchen got a total overhaul and a lot of dish ware and cookware left the kitchen. I kept what I use regularly and make me feel like a real chef. Books that have been read went on along with craft items that weren't getting used. Even some furniture that was hiding out in the storage unit will be on its merry way soon. My new mantra is get rid of one old thing and replace with one new.  If something leaves the house then something new can come into the house. It does not work all the time because there are special circumstances but mostly it has decreased the clutter. Example: We do not need six sets of bath towels for the kids. Three are rotated and used in a  four -five day cycle. When they wear out then I will replace. I have found that by keeping only what is useful and meaningful in our home it allows us to live an less cluttered and happier life. (Also- it is much easier to clean the house now) 

Third: Toys

This is a hard one. Children do not like to be told that they will have to go through their toys and get rid of broken or unused toys. I know, I tried it. We recently cleaned the play area and organized all the bins and cubbies by putting all of the same toys in individual bins and throwing out broken toys along with giving old unused toys to charity. It was a trial and error experience that was met with much wailing about how they would have no toys. Not true, they have plenty. Instead of giving up, we talked about what toys we loved and played with the most. They would stay and if it was something that longer kept our interest then maybe some other child might like it. Now, that the play area is organized and clean. The important part in this clutter free zone will be Christmas. My approach in the past few years has been to find toys that will be educational, thought-provoking, imaginative, and fun. To ask my children what is fun for them and try to find toys that will fit what they are thinking. It takes a lot more time to find those special gifts but they are so well used and loved by my children that I feel it was worth the work. 

By clearing the clutter- it has made me a more thoughtful shopper. I am becoming aware of the rampant attempts to get me to buy, buy, buy! I am working hard to keep those tricky attempts at bay by obeying my instincts to keep my home clutter free and my wallet full for adventures. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Our Home

The first light of the day is just reaching out above the tree-line and from where I sit and write this post. I can see the darkened silhouettes of those trees and the stray cloud that lingers waiting to be burnt off by the sun. I try and spend a few quiet moments looking out our back slider each morning, surveying how the trees have changed from the day before. The seasons coming and going changing the wooded landscape behind our rental home. This is a ritual that I do in every single home that we have lived. 

A little background; we have lived in seven different homes - six of those were rental homes. We have had many opportunities to live in homes and figure out what we need, want, and dislike. For us, it is a lesson in buying exactly what we need, and knowing that just because we can, doesn't mean we should. We made the big decision to stay well below our limit and find a home that fits our budget, not a budget to fit a home. For us, saving money each month for the future is very important. But there is something else that we learned is very important to us. The freedom to go. We are a family that loves to go places. If you know us or have read this blog for any length of time then you know that we are always on the go. It has enriched our lives and the lives of our children. That is why we are choosing to buy small and stay small. 

"Small" and "inexpensive" are relative terms. We live outside an area of the country that is expensive. So, our budget looks very different than that of someone who may be buying a home in Montana. ( I've looked, such a pretty place.) As a result, our "small" is different than someone else's "small". We worked out the budget and know the limitations of our family. By knowing our limitations our biggest obstacle is overcome. We hope that by purchasing a home that is "less expensive" (relative term alert) we will be able to do more as a family. It might owning less but we will have more time and flexibility to travel.

By using the idea of staying "small" I have found that what is inside the home is as equally as important the size of the home. We are a family and a family needs basic things on a day-to-day basis. We also need to utilize the space we have, not wasting an inch. Here is where the work still needs to be done. We are constantly adjusting and changing how we use the space.

I have broken our home into three levels:

Upstairs/The Quiet Space: bedrooms and bathrooms. This space is where we sleep and prepare for the day. It is also now our quiet space. Our bedroom doubles as a studio/office space for my husband and I to work when we desire. The children use their bedrooms as a quiet space to read. We moved Legos upstairs too. We have found that from time to time our kids need to have some alone time. Just them being independent.

The mid-level/The sometimes noisy area: kitchen and living space. I love all those magazines that have the perfect living rooms with white sofas. Oh, to have a pristine white sofa! But I have three kids. No white sofa. We have a sitting area with a sofa and chair along with some bookshelves and a cabinet for my "fancy" dishes (as the girls say). We also divided that room into two parts. The living space for adults and then a table and chair set and small bookshelf for learning time. I homeschool through pre-k and we need that little corner for quiet learning time. We use our coat closet for coats and a small shelf of art supplies. Again, trying to use every space. The kitchen is for everyone. The centerpiece of our home. Everyone helps cook and clean up so it is a place that is accessible to everyone. My most loved piece of furniture is our kitchen table. We spend more time there eating, crafting, doing homework, or chatting with visitors then anywhere else. It is the heart of our home and it is where we are a family. So, the noise level and craziness on this floor can vary depending on what we are doing.

The downstairs/The kids zone aka FREEDOM!: our cozy place. All the toys and the television ( we only have one) are down here. It is where we spend time as a family. The kids have most of the space and are able to play, pretend, and imagine with freedom.

I found that if I organized everything in our home this way then we can all be content. This also meant really deciding on what needs to go in each room and letting some things go. We also started a little thing where if we want to bring something new into the home then it needs to replace something else that is leaving. It is hard because we are battling the urge to buy some thing new to enhance (or so we think) our home. A perfect example would be our living room, I want to buy another chair but I took a step back and realized that we were really fine with what we had right now. The biggest step is finding contentment in what we have.

The perk of having less furniture and more open space is that I am not cleaning as long. Anyone who knows us knows that we keep a really tidy home. But I have found that with less furniture I have more time to do the things I want and not fuss over the tidying up.

Our needs will change as our children grow and we know that we will have to adjust accordingly but that is in the future and we are here, now. Our biggest lesson in looking for a home is that we have to be content no matter where we live. A home that will be our base as we go into the world and experience life. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A 4-part series on Owning Less but "Having" More

Over the last two years we have transitioned as a family from a military lifestyle to a civilian lifestyle. For most people who have not experienced a life of deployments, seabags by the door, homecomings, new friends, new places, and moving, it may not seem like a hard transition. However, leaving one life behind for another is hard on everyone in the family all the way down to our little two year old. We have always lugged our things behind us in U-Haul trucks or followed big 18-wheelers loaded down with our belongings to our new home. This last series of moves involved moving from one rental to another for 8 months while my husband finished his final duties as a Naval Officer in Washington DC. Then we moved into our current rental as we began our search for a home. During this time of packing and unpacking I began to realize one important thing. We have TOO much stuff. Our closets are teeming with clothes, we have furniture that has sat in storage and not been used for over a year, and we have books, so very many books. These things were beginning weigh us down both physically and mentally. It made me feel resentful and a bit stressed about where everything would once go as we moved into a 2,100 sq. foot home. 

I would like to claim that it was this grand light bulb moment where I had this life altering epiphany that we should own less things but it was not that. It was and is a series of fits and starts where in one moment I am clinging to everything and saying "Oh, we will use it again" and in other moments I am having surges of "we must purge this house!!" We are not the perfect family of minimalists. We are renting a storage unit for goodness sakes! It is a journey of finding the balance of things and life. 

Here is where we started, my husband and I asked ourselves a series of important questions. 

1. What do we need to live and raise a family? 

2. What is our family code? Our morals? Values? What things do we place importance on? 

3. How much money will we need to live comfortably by our aforementioned values? 

4. How do we want to spend our time? (travelers or homebodies)

5. What do our things say about us? What do we WANT our things to say about us?

6. What do we want our future to look like? 

7. What are we willing do to achieve the lifestyle we want? 

8. (The big one) Are we happy right now? What would we change? 

These answers came out over time and many discussions over the dinner table or in the evening after the babes were asleep. They sometimes change too. That is definitely okay with us. Some of the answers were already in front of us we just had to see them. 

I am hoping to write this week and probably next (because let's face it, I have three children and sometimes the blogging just does not happen) about our journey through owning less but having more. We are not a success story but more of a story in the making.

** Disclaimer: I do not claim this as a blueprint for success or what will work for every family. I fully acknowledge that everyone is in a different situation and have different responsibilities.  Rather this will serve as an inspirational narrative for those seeking some help navigating the world of things.