Small house, Big Style ~ Part One

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via. Minimallisimo

Part One: Dreaming about it.

I’m obsessed with small dwellings that exhibit extremely good design. I’m not talking good design in terms of efficiency & good use of space. That’s a given.  I’m talking beautiful lines, lotsa light, simple & sleek finishes, minimalist furniture and a few eclectic pieces original to the designer. No plywood here…just tons of thought put into a space unique to its owner.

I have my favorites.

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via Sunset.

I have my Pinterest image arsenal that fuels my desire for small and lovely.

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Via. Urlaubsarchitektur

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via. Olson Kundig

I have my small dwelling dreams in place.

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I believe I could live in a 800 square foot space if it had high ceiling and tall windows.

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via Jose Campos

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via. HighestHeels

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Via ArchDaily

It’s always been about the light for me. Being a Northwest girl, I crave sunshine most of the year, but will settle for gray window light. I like viewing the world outside as a part of the inside world. That connection is happiness to me. I used to think I needed the space to twirl (you know…flailing about to Earth, Wind & Fire while dusting), but now I think I could live in a small space if it was designed with light in mind.

I also love landscaping that doesn’t require a lot of upkeep.

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via Boutique homes.

Currently, the hub spends countless hours mowing acreage at the Blair Abode and I’ve groused more than once about it eating up the few sunny days we have for fun & frolic. Not to mention the fact that he is looks like a sci-fi character with his huge goggles, bunny suit and face mask (he’s an allergy nightmare). It’s that whole own your space, don’t let it own you deal. My dream of a high desert lot in Bend, Oregon lives on (above). Pretty, but easy.

It’s true that we fill the space we live in.

Smaller space, fewer spots for Crap We Don’t Need. The small space in our Airstream, The Twinkie, is so fun to navigate when we travel. I really love having everything within arm’s reach.  I even like how the small closet forces me to choose a few favorite clothing items for a trip. ‘Simple living at its best.  It has me daydreaming about cross country road trips in retirement. Being a teacher, I realize that for now these trips will be summer excursions…practice runs for when we’re gone months at a time. It has me wondering why we didn’t do this as a family before the kids went to high school. I know the rational answers, of course, but there were days when it could’ve happened and practicality won out.

That’s a whole other post for another day….Part Two comin’ at ya soon.

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P.S. Dan Hayes, from Simple Life Together, recommended a great Youtube vlogger for some small dwelling entertainment. Good stuff!

On my Simplicity Mission Radar

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Beyond excited to be the first guest post over at SimpleLifeTogether! Love those Hayes folks…just good people with a very important message. I am incredibly honored to be on their blog this week. It gave me a chance to hammer out how this whole thing ignited for me. I even learned a few things by getting it all down.

Thanks, Dan and Vanessa!

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Good Reads…

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I love it when passionate, smart people share their journey with the rest of us…and I think it’s cool that all three authors are in different stages of life.

1) Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus (two hip, single men on the road trip of life) tell the story of an incredible journey towards minimalism.

2) Courtney Carver, veteran minimalist and an incredibly pure voice on the internet for many of us, compiled some terrific articles that are great to read one at a time (for maximum chewing 🙂 )

3) Allison Vesterfelt, newly married and settling down, chronicles her “letting it all go and heading out” tale of adventure.

Inspiring, indeed.

~  Last week I did a separate post on Clutter free with Kids, Joshua Becker’s newest book. I’ve read it twice. What can I say? I’m on a mission! ~

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I’m a documentary junkie.

I could watch one every day. I find it helpful to be informed on all kinds of random topics.

These were my favorites recently:

1) Hungry For Change – terrific and inspiring when you’re on the path to good health (I’m doing theWhole30 at the moment and this keeps me keepin’ on when I’d kill for a bagel)

2) Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (okay..so I’ve watched this 2 times) – I’m a juicing believer and benefactor…I haven’t been sick in 6 months, and I’m a 3rd grade teacher, for cryin’ out loud! Can you say petri dish?

3) Sprawling From Grace – What the heck is happening to America? Sad, but also hopeful little tale of woe.

4) Happy – Funny how this movie really emphasizes relationships and giving to create happiness  (in fact, owning a lot of stuff proved the opposite)

5) Tiny – I can’t find this on Amazon, but I can’t wait to see it. I’m a bit of a tiny house stalker, even though you could place one in my living room.

6) Wal-mart, The High Cost of Low Price – Okay, so this one just made me MAD. I can’t even drive by that store without having a reaction. My kids watched it with me and they said, “Mom, how can people shop there, knowing all of the bad business they practice?” I had no answer…except to tell the world to watch more documentaries.

7) Kids + Money – Another one the kidlets agreed was a source of good info. We’re really working to teach them smart money practices and this one put it into kid language.

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New blog find…

I’m a bit of a Hawaii fanatic.

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As in, I never miss Hawaii Life on HGTV  (“Don’t bother me, kids…mom’s daydreaming”) and I have a drawer of sand and shells under my desk to put my feet in when it is a rainy, sloppy mess here in the Pacific Northwest.

Exhibit A:

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Yes, I’m aware that this is weird and pathetic…

YET, it’s all part of my plan to will my life there in retirement with my Hawaii-loving spouse. Seriously, I will settle for a shack on the center divider of the King Kamehameah Highway.

I digress.

MauiShopGirl is my new spot to visit and it’s almost as good as putting my feet in the little sand shoebox! Hooray for me, strange teacher-tropics-obsessive-lady!

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Tania Ginoza’s interview on the Hayes’ podcast was terrific–‘loved it.

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Okay, friends.That’s it for this week. My head is swirling with all kinds of things I’m learning and experimenting with. So excited to have a spot to put it all! I’ m working on a good/but simple design post for a simplified home. I’m a recovering interior design magazine addict, but it did help me learn the basics to put it all together, minus the multitudes of STUFF.

I really appreciate you being here. Have a fabulous week!

Thank you!

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ProjectEnough

Enough  \i-ˈnəf, ē-, ə-\ :   equal to what is needed

This word has lost meaning for me along the way.

I’ve been trying to reacquaint myself with the concept and have identified several opportunities to embrace it. As an American accustomed to a certain lifestyle, I’ve become lazy about challenging myself to stay within the confines of enough. I realize that enough means many things to different people, but I do know what it should look like for my family and me…and I hafta admit…

This

ain’t

it.

Although I’m thoroughly fascinated by the Joy of One concept…and I love the idea of Project 333.…and I covet the Tiny House People’s simplified existence…I’m still tuning in to what enough looks like in my home and in my own head.

I’ve identified the areas where I’ve wandered off the enough path.

I’m aware that it’s best to focus on one goal at a time (for maximum success), so the plan is to be aware and purposeful in one area for a month at a time.

February ~ Enough is Enough….Commitment to maximum health with TheWhole30

March ~ Enough Stuff….A moratorium on buying anything new

April ~ ‘Enough Said….Listening more/Talking less

May ~ Enough Already….A mass media hiatus

June ~ I am enough/You are enough….Only allowing positive things to be said about myself and others

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My February focus, Enough is enough, is already underway (started this in late Jan.) and that’s another whole post in itself.  Hoo-boy! It is really clearing my head (and my tummy issues–bonus!) and I think I might be walking into a way of eating that will stick with me for the long haul. The positives are too plentiful to ignore the fact that TheWhole30 is one amazing thing to do for your body and future longevity. I finish the month of protein/vege/fruit/fats intake (with no other carbs) on March 10th and will do a re-cap of how I redirected my meals…it’s not easy, to be sure…but really, really worth it.

March brings a hold on my Amazon.com problem. By problem, I mean my weekly visits to get “just one more book”…be it for my job as a teacher or for my own development (nonfiction are my favorite), I can spot something worth throwing in the ‘ole cart every visit. Yes, I always buy used, but friends…like anything else, these items add to a whole lotta crazy wallet drainage…not to mention the space these books take up in my home has become an issue. Avoiding the mall and other places of temptation will not be hard and I’ve pitched any kind of catalog temptation, so we’re good there, but the cyber-shopping? Good grief, I need some awareness! I think just using the computer for blogging and work will be in order.

April is when I will hyper-focus on what people have to say…and when I do speak, I’m hoping it will consist of mostly questions about what the other person has shared. I notice that with my 3rd graders, they are usually thinking about what they want to say when someone else is talking. This is normal when you’re eight…not so much at 43. Being present and really hearing another’s words is important and I’d like to be better at it.

May will bring some solitude, I believe. Although I’m not a big TV watcher (2-3 recorded HGTV segments are my “shows”), the commercials I’m fast forwarding through are still seeping in. I’m also witness to the materialism when it’s blaring in the background with someone else plopped in front of it. We’ve done a pretty good job of limiting mindless screen domination…funny thing, my kids’ favorite is The Brady Bunch series on Netflix. ‘Watched it twice! We’re deliberate about what we DVR and make a date to watch it…but those damn commercials…the more is better message is definitely affecting me and the little people in our house. I’m over it. In fact, I’d love to see this month’s project turn into a step toward getting rid of it all together. It’s not just TV, of course, when dealing with the effects of advertising. I’m banishing magazines and ad-heavy internet content as well. Pinterest is a black hole I seem to fall into when it comes to seeing how others live (particularly with home design). I think the first step of enough and being content, is not having the superfluous, excessive more, more, more that creeps in through the media.

June is a month to really think before I speak. There is so much negativity floating in our country’s air. I’m always surprised at the outright meanie pants folks on the web who use the guise of anonymous to crucify someone with their words. I’m shocked by how brutal the media is with dissecting the lives of people trying to find their way. I’m not a person who feels compelled to give my opinion on others’ decisions and lifestyles…in fact, I was brought up to love and accept, which for the most part, I feel I do pretty well. But, there is always that less-than-loving thing that can escape from my lips…sometimes it’s about the woman yelling at her child in line at the grocery store…sometimes it’s the guy who’s signaling to me in sign language as he cuts me off…and sometimes it’s just quiet judgment as I watch people at a safe distance. I realize it’s all the same…it’s ugly and dark…not a place I’d like to dwell. I will reel in positivity in the beginning of summer! It’s a good time for it.

Do you ever create little projects for yourself to improve your life? I’m interested.

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Five things to do to help your kids declutter

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Before I wax poetic about closet clutter and the kidlet dilemma, I’d like to point out the resource that supplied my simplifying race car fuel this week. Joshua Becker, a dad and husband and rational minimalism extraordinaire, tells us how to unclutter with our offspring. In a very succinct way, Becker gives advice about each area in the kid declutter journey, but her also reminds us why this process (and all of the other jewels that come with minimalizing our lives) is important. Good stuff, friends.

Helping my kids LET GO.

After reading Joshua’s book I took a good long look at the Scary Abyss, otherwise knows as my teen girls’ closets. I have epic avoidance strategies when it comes to anything closet-related, so overcoming my fear was the first step. Considering I’m as welcome in their rooms as a toddler in a glassware store (they know my intentions after all), it has been challenging to get my hot little hands on the excess. The clothes and shoes remind me of a layer of newspaper in our old guinea pig’s cage…what color is the carpet again? And why is every school paper received this year being horded in a ball the size of Texas? It was clear that both of my lovelies were growing wary of wading through ill-fitting jeans, worn discarded shoes, and sentimental stuffed animals to get dressed in the morning. I do believe the attachment to younger-year-items has waned enough to start the process of letting go, but they weren’t thrilled about trading in a Saturday afternoon for it…until….I did five things:

1) Put on some tunes. Their tunes, specifically. Once we got bopping to some Top 40 and I told them that we could get this thing done in 15 t0 20 songs, it didn’t seem so bad. The energy in the room changed.

2) Let them be in charge. I backed off and sat on their beds, allowing them to pick up each item and hold it up like Simba in the African savannah and we made a group decision about whether it was allowed to take up closet real estate. I allowed the other daughter (the one not in the hot seat) to make creative signs for our carpet piles (“No…Crap I shouldn’t have bought is not acceptable…change, please”) and allowed items to switch from one to the other without protest.

3) Let them pick the charity to receive their clothing. They’ve been watching me deconstruct the house and noted who has inherited our wares. I think it’s more meaningful when they physically walk the bags-‘o-stuff into charitable organizations….especially the toys that have been cleaned, ready for new sets of little hands in shelters and daycare centers.

4) Ask them to try on items in question. Somehow the act of sliding their long legs into high-water pants gets the message home that they are indeed bigger now. Holding on to clothes that don’t fit clouds the good stuff and propels the “I have nothing to wear” state of mind.

5) Know when to quit. Once we finished the closet, I was ready to attack my youngest’s yard sale of a desk. I had a gleam in my eye that must’ve frightened her, because she yawned (twice) and said she was “done for now”. I didn’t push it. If this process was ever going to happen again, I needed to acknowledge the backing off boundary.

The good news is both of my darlings said they felt good about their “new” closets. I believe the word light was uttered in there somewhere, which made my simplifying yearning heart pound like a jackrabbit.

We learned some important lessons in the process as well:

The Mall Crawl (shopping trips that involve meandering without purpose) frequently results in impulse purchases that are destined for the give-away pile after few wearings (i.e., poor use of family funds).

-The 80/20 rule still stands in teen closets…they really do only don 20% of their favorite old standbys.

-Having all items hanging in categories makes it much easier to get dressed.

So….the desks and shelves are next, but I will revel in the glow of their clutter-free closets until it’s time to go at it again…ipod and trash bags in hand.

What are your strategies for clearing out with your kids? I’d love to hear!

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Simplified Food/Fitness and the Whole30

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MyFitnessPal is not a friend of mine.

We were introduced on New Year’s Eve…me, wedged between couch cushions (bloated with the aftermath of celebratory, poor food choices)…him, quietly downloading his little App self into my unsuspecting world.

It was a good relationship for approximately nine days until we spiraled our way into an argument of wills. He brazenly projected his bright red -400 calories back to me after a day of failed restraint. I felt awful.

We broke up.

I finally had to admit it was a “It’s not you, it’s me” scenario. Calorie counting has never been a happy thing for me, although in the context of US eating habits, I’m a healthy eater (it’s an annoying portion size deal). Why would it magically jumpstart good eating decisions on the dawn of a new year (in my 40’s no less)?

At the risk of goin’ Oprah on you, I decided to write down what I knew for sure about what my body needs to be in a happy place…not to mention what my head needs as well, as it attached to said body.

So, big surprise, I found the needs to be simple. I raised my white flag in the face of a very un-simple method that was filled with enemy phone apps and cereal that tasted like the front yard.

1)      Drinking 64 oz of water a day (no small feat when you’re in a classroom all day) strangely always helps with bloat

2)      Not eating after 7:00 works for weight maintenance

3)      Running not only works, but it clears my head in the doldrums of winter

4)      If it doesn’t live in my pantry, I won’t think to eat it

5)      Green smoothies are a wonderful way to get my veges, but also a vehicle for avoiding fattening teacher lounge snacks after the students leave

6)      I cannot be trusted with chips and salsa anywhere in a one mile radius

7)      My Italian-loving palette can be fooled by zucchini noodles

8)      I feel like a wildebeest if my morning exercise routine is skipped

9)      A raw food diet makes my skin glow and I get the “zing-ees” (incredible alertness at  the usual slump hour of 4 pm)

10)   Protein/Vege meals solve my stomach IBS issues and I feel uber-good.

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I’m getting it now that simpler is better when it comes to maintaining a fitness plan as well.

I discovered at age 22 that running agreed with me and the very act of strapping on the Nikes provides momentum to get out there on the trail. I also found 20 minutes, some simple weights, a post-it note of cardio/ab/strength moves, and a swept garage is all I need to do the rest. The mound of work-out videos (a smirking Jillian Michaels at the top of it) loitering in my utility room just reminds me daily of what I’m not doing. Frankly, less has got to be more when it comes to making a commitment at 5:00 am, my work-out time of choice. If it’s not simple I will find every excuse (lint rolling a fleece jacket, anyone?) to avoid getting out there and gettin’ er done.

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In my cyberspace stumbling, I have uncovered a wonderful place.

The Whole 30 has descended into my home and I have been reading like crazy. I’ve dabbled in Paleo over the years, but could never find the strength to completely clean sweep the pantry of snack foods disguised in green and brown packaging with ORGANIC sprawled across the front. THEY ARE STILL SALTY CHIPS (even though 4 out of 5 healthy eaters find them to be a good substitute for the usual chip/salsa fare). The premise of the Whole30 is to eat only raw foods (avoiding carbs) for 30 days. These are the guidelines.  Judging by the forum comments about the degree of detox on specific days (i.e., Day 5: “I want to kill everything”), I’m a bit scared of how I will feel, but I’m going for it as of February 10th. Totally random start date, I realize, but for various reasons, that’s the day. I’m gearing up by eating mostly proteins/veges/fruits/nuts up until then—the hardest part (sadly) is giving up my sweet little glass of wine I enjoy while I’m cooking dinner every night. I feel some self-examination coming on the face of this challenge, and honestly, I could use it. It’s clear that separating the emotional part of eating from “food is fuel” is a hard road for so many of us, but I’m ready to explore the contentment and sanity this view can bring.

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I’m also cracking open this book by the same folks to jumpstart this whole shebang. The science part always resonates with me.

I’m looking forward to the simplicity with this way of eating more than anything. I find that when food choices get complicated (especially when I’m standing in front my open fridge), I get flustered. I don’t want to spend so much time mapping out what goes into my mouth…it’s exhausting. Yes, there will be a fair amount of planning, shopping and pre-cooking items for this upcoming 30 day sojourn, yet I have found that Sunday afternoon works great for that. I like throwing things in my teacher lunchbox on Monday morning, knowing that I have all the snackage I need to get from 8-4. The C.Y.A. factor in my sugary treat laden workplace is KEY.

I’ll keep you posted as to how this little experiment goes. I’m hopeful that it will shut down some old habits and the murky film over my food attitude will be wiped away. I would like to see a simple diet add to the overall simplicity quest in my life in ways I never imagined.

How ’bout you? What do you think of a 30 day challenge of this magnitude?

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The Stuff Dilemma

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It seems that many people numb themselves with stuff.

By numbing, I mean finding comfort and temporary joy in acquiring things (a boat/fancier car/club memberships/a TV in every room/Imelda Marcos shoe collection/etc) instead of facing the music on what is missing or present (i.e., the elephant in the living room). The gamut of American dysfunction comes in many forms, but what I’ve seen swirling around me is loveless marriages, depression, spoiled children, drug and alcohol dependency, debt, insecurity and loneliness. Not to get all “Why are we in this hand basket and where are we going?” on you, but I’m guessing if it’s that visible in my own small corner of the world, it’s running like rampant rats in all areas.  It seems that the rug where all the ick is being swept is beginning to bulge and buckle. At some point the ick needs to be dealt with or it will wedge itself deep into the grooves. A trip to Europe and a new motorcycle will never be enough to patch a major hole that starts to unravel in the family fabric.

Where do we get these messages that stuff will pave the way to a satisfying existence?

And why do so many folks practice score keeping when it comes to said stuff? Pulling up in the school drop-off zone in a Texas-sized SUV with more chrome than an appliance store may create a puffed up “I totally rock this” feeling, but it doesn’t make the man (or woman).  We know this, don’t we? Somehow the mom cliché’ “If your friend jumps off a bridge, would you jump off a bridge too?” comes to mind with such unnecessary purchases. Sleeping under a wool debt blanket eventually causes one to suffocate…hence the disaster we’ve been recovering from in what appears to be a society of broken hearts and wallets.

I am guilty.  I do know “thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s pink travel trailer”, but I couldn’t sleep until we found the perfect Airstream for the Blair Bunch. It wasn’t necessary, of course, but I did have intentions of family bonding and travel adventures when we pulled it into the driveway…you know..next to all the other stuff in the garage. Yet, I have been practicing restraint this year more than any other. I’m well aware there are children in Africa who don’t eat for days—I know this because I’ve been looking at the sweet faces of the Ameena School in Kenya we support on my laptop wallpaper. Their hollow eyes bore into my heart, asking me to examine where my loyalties lie and what I’m going to do about it. The fundraiser we hosted at our home was great, but it has to go beyond one night of money-raising. It has to slip under my daily habitual living like a pea under a pile of mattresses and eventually become un-ignorable.

First, there is purging.

If you walked past my house in the past month you would be in danger of being nailed by jeans and outgrown shoes flung out of windows.  I actually brought coffee to my new friends at the Goodwill drop-off station. I’ve since learned that purposeful giving is far more effective for the recipients, and not to mention, happier for the giver. My girls and I have been dodging Dr. Seuss-looking mile high pile of kids’ books and women’s clothes that continue to be spread around local charities. The best part of this process is that my children actually see where their discarded, sometimes unused, items have value.  It’s sickening how much gear has been placed in the “don’t want this anymore” section of our utility room dropping zone! We’re not a buy-a-Hummer-love-me-some-bling family, but we have an insane amount of stuff that seems to multiply like amorous rabbits.

I’m kickin’ some consumerism tail and takin’ names.

Rather than my first inclination to become a surly recluse and never leave the house again, I’ve decided to put the ky-bash on purchasing anything that isn’t necessary. For my youngest, the necessity of uber-fancy-running shoes from a certain coveted shoe company is not up for debate—thus begins the negotiations of how much she’s willing to contribute. The “We’ll put in a reasonable amount of  $_________ towards this item and you will need to come up with  $________” seems to decrease the perceived value of spendy (read: ridiculously overpriced, cheaply made) foot coverings.

That’s another thing: sense of entitlement.

I’m not just referring to overindulged kidlets, either. Americans in general—we seem to feel that we deserve certain things (even if they live outside of the budget). In the past month I have found unexpected rewards with pitching my glossies and curbing TV watching and blog reading. Fancy shmancy décor magazines and design blogs give me the gimmees…ugly little buggers that create a false sense of “if I don’t buy this rug, I may never complete the shangri-la that is my well decorated home”. It’s embarrassing, actually– something I don’t even feel comfortable admitting. I know some of you folks are with me on this—the gimmees wrestle common sense with an aggressive take-down move that borders on violent. Stand baaaack, Pinterest.

Banishing the visuals of what I’m missing seems to take care of wanting unnecessary things.

I’ve pretty much been having a Serious Talk with myself about how these changes are going to stick. ‘Wanting so much to make these days count with healthy hearts living in simplified homes…people on a quest to make a difference and have experiences together that shape a content, satisfying existence.

‘No need for numbing because they are truly living in a state of joy.

I’m not going militant with a decision to own only 100 things (good grief, how do people do that?) or moving to a tiny (and very, very cute) house behind my parents’ property, but I can tell that the tide of change has come in and I’m up to my knees in it.  I’m willing to go completely under, even if it gets a little chilly.

How about you? What is your heart crying out for these days? And what are you doing about it?

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It’s time.

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Using a sleek modern chair as visual inspiration, I’m reconstructing a world that is simpler, streamlined and lovely.

It’s no easy task. Frankly, I’d rather take out my own spleen with an oyster fork than declutter the garage…but (sigh) I know what I have to do….and I’m well aware that the declutter part is only the top layer of this journey.

I’ve been churning on this for awhile in my very colorful, complicated life. I do love the color in this vida loca, but I’ve also been craving some serious white space.

I will be looking at simplifying my wardrobe, design in my home, diet and fitness, and most importantly…family life. I am determined to temper the ridiculous schedule we’ve been maintaining. There has to be another way and I’m ready to find it!

Our family has found a wonderful escape in the form of a silver bullet we call The Twinkie.

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Our Airstream has already brought a great deal of adventure and fun into our lives. It will be a blast to show what on-the-open-road excursions can do for one’s state of mind….as well as squabbling siblings.

You can read more about my ever-evolving tale of suburban woe here.

‘Looking forward to sharing what I’m learning and what is inspiring this quest! I’m also ready to hear what works for you in your journey.

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 **A major shout-out and hearty thank you to the following smart humans who have led the way…I’m so grateful I found your message**

Becoming Minimalist

Be More with Less

Simple Life Together

The Minimalists

Rowdy Kittens