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.