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. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Adkins Arboretum

:: Adkins Arboretum :: 

We visited Adkins Arboretum last Saturday. It is very near where my husband grew up and spent time with his family. We picked up his dad for lunch and a trip to the arboretum. I had never visited this place before and didn't know how beautiful it was. It was amazing. The walking paths with some plaques describing trees, an outdoor sculpture gallery, and goats! It was one of those afternoons you want to bottle up and keep forever. It will definitely be worth another visit. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Three Thoughts on Thursday

:: Three Thoughts on Thursday ::

Oops! Tuesday was here and left before I could even put a post up. So here we are on Thursday already. The weather has been up and down all week so it throws me for a loop. I like rainy days but not several in a row. It really depletes my energy. Things have been calm this week in our home and I love it. Slow weeks are needed to catch up on just taking a moment to live. 

#1 Chocolate Cake 

My little ones have been begging for a chocolate cake for what seems like forever (not really, maybe just three days). We set out yesterday to bake a cake. I am on a bundt cake kick lately. I have really pretty pans and I love how easy they can be. No fussy middles or lining up layers. We picked out a recipe from Martha Stewart's website and off we went. Mixing, measuring, pouring, and spilling. I got the cake in the oven just in time to turn around and find our youngest guy covered in chocolate batter. He had taken the mixer paddle and began "cleaning" it for me. I usually don't mind if they taste it but the raw egg thing kind of worries me. So- we quickly cleaned up and set about making chocolate frosting because we go big in this house. The kids really enjoyed cooking and I did too. I have learned to relinquish some control when it comes to allowing the children to help. I used to try and control the mess but now we just go with it. They love to help in the kitchen and I don't want to turn them off to cooking. Let's face it, they will need to cook to live someday. It is one of those important life skills. The cake was great not as good as Ina Garten's: Beatty's Chocolate Cake. That is by far my favorite recipe. But I didn't hear any complaints from the family because who doesn't like cake. Our middle gal told me that I was the best mommy because I make cakes. Not a bad way to end the day. 

#2 Politics  

I make it a point never to talk about politics on my blog. It is not my thing. I have well-informed opinions about the direction of our country. I read newspapers, journals, and articles about different issues and I have a set of values that I try to use to navigate the ever dangerous waters of political conversation. I am not associated with a political party. I am not thrilled by my choices this fall. My candidate did not win the primary. I feel very hesitant to ever bring up politics around anyone because it is met with great debates and hard feelings about both candidates. I hear people say that they are looking for the person who will fix our problems. But there is no such person. We have to be the ones willing to work for change, fix the problems, and be the change we want to see. It is so much easier to sit back and tell someone else to fix it. That person will not be there in November. We have to be the change. I started to make myself a list of ways that I can be the change I want to see in my community. It is a work in progress and I know that I will fail at different times trying to achieve those goals but it is better than sitting back and waiting for some else to do it. 

#3 Trees 

Fall is here! Every day my trees in the backyard change a little bit. It is so wonderful to see the change of seasons. We are hoping to get a lot more hiking trips in over the next couple weeks. Autumn is our chance to marvel at the spectacular show nature has planned for us. It is also an excuse to get away from the busy nature of the world. I feel like this time of year inspires me to dream big and work on new things. It is so lovely to see the trees. They give so much and expect so little. I guess that is why some people just want to hug them. I might the next time I am out in the woods.