Searching for courage in all the right places

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The world is desperate for, even envious of, people living purposeful lives that are free from fear.

Jeff Goins

In a reflection about the past couple of years, I evaluated the heaping piles of reading material and bookmarked blog posts consumed on simplicity and minimalism. It’s quite impressive, really. When I am intrigued by something, somehow every orifice of the earth is excavated to hunt and gather books, movies, articles, websites and blogs that fill my internal subject file with wisdom. I’m stopping short of calling this simplicity quest an obsession, but lately as I scan my bookshelf, it feels it might be heading in the direction of “dog with a bone land”.

I decided to ask myself why.

Why do I feel compelled to read the thoughts of people who have successfully pursued a more simple lifestyle?

The simple answer…

I’m looking for courage.

I’m mining the minimalist masses for inspiration and stories of change that mattered.

I’m learning that people really can let go of the conventional and embrace the meaningful.

I’m understanding the degree of discipline and self-evaluation it requires.

Intention. Purpose. Meaning….these are new friends at my table, asking the hard questions, pointing to the places where courage lives and waiting for action.

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What it comes down to is this: I can do hard things.

In 43 years I have:

-Endured a whole heart surgery process with my first child

-Run four marathons

-Started over with my husband in New York with two toddlers in tow

-Started over again after we moved back to the Northwest

-Successfully dealt with eating issues in college that nearly broke my spirit

-Created a thriving photography business

-Published a book

-Met with my parents to talk about the damage of their divorce

-Dealt with and healed from said damage

-Re-entered teaching after 13 years and discovered the whole climate has changed.

 

I. Can. Do. Hard. Things.

 

Then…..why the heck is it so hard to hold up two shirts and decide which one needs to go?

Why does clearing out my attic in this house feel kin to building the Golden Gate?

Why do I get stomach flutters when faced with the neck-breaking pace of our week’s schedule?

It’s not rocket surgery, as my daughter likes to say…and although I know this, the process somehow has become a little more pie-in-the-sky than I’d prefer.

By reading stories from successful simplifiers, I think I’m looking for someone to make it look easy…and I might even be looking for permission, which seems ridiculous, given my can-do list above.

What is the metaphorical jack-knifed truck in my minimalist highway?

Fear that I might not succeed is one. What if the crapola in the attic never gets to a small manageable pile? What if I miss items that have been ruthlessly purged? What if my friends and family think I’ve lost it? What if I don’t appear minimalist enough to the community I write this blog for?

Yet…with every story of simplifying, I find a little smidgen of courage. With every blog post read over breakfast I gain a little more wisdom about why it’s important.

You know what?

I decided I’d like to provide that kind of inspiration for others on the fence. Sometimes it’s just plain awesome to read about someone else’s process and how they overcame their hard things.

There’s a book in the works. I’ve been chronicling this journey for awhile now. I’m diligently writing it for an hour and a half each morning before I leave for my 3rd grade classroom. It’s encouraging to read what I’ve written and discover that I’ve come a long way, baby.

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It also helps to chronicle what’s been done for change and what still needs to be done. Writing keeps me sane and I love it. I’ll keep you posted as to the when and where of it all.

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How ’bout you, friends? What gives you courage to move forward with something you know is needed in your life? What are your hard things?

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Four Questions for the Chronic Volunteer

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I’m convinced there are a lot of women sitting in meetings making grocery lists on scratch paper or daydreaming about sandy beach vacation induced naps. I also have on good authority that a woman’s schedule can quickly be overrun with countless organizational get-togethers and frenetic activity revolving around chronic volunteering.

Friends, this can quickly become breeding ground for some B & R: burn-out and resentment

I’m not sure there’s wisdom in creating a mental tally of gold stars for oneself simply because the calendar looks like a crossword puzzle. To be honest, I worry about women I know and love when they proudly list off a daily schedule of meeting to meeting schlepping , only to stop for a triple tall mochachino because their tank is completely dry. If a woman’s kitchen island is consistently covered in scraps for to-be-made school art projects while the minivan sits in the driveway stuffed with sports gear for a whole team…there needs to be a pause and an evaluation.

Believe me, I’m not picking on women who volunteer precious time to help with school and the community. As a teacher, I personally benefit from this selflessness.  I see the results of the same select few in my own town and am extremely grateful for their sacrifice. I enjoy the school book fair and library events as much as any mother in my area. I do feel these volunteers frequently for-go their own needs and secret desires because either a) an excessive volunteer schedule has been modeled for them by their own parents or b) they feel their own worth only when they are serving.

As women we naturally take a look around the “camp” and see the needs.

We are do-ers and problem solvers .

Many of us are first in line when it comes to bringing the chips and dip, chaperoning the annual aquarium fieldtrip, or addressing the gala invitations. We know that such tasks, events, projects and programs won’t just magically appear and run well without people there to create the magic. Yet, I challenge these service-minded women to identify the volunteer opportunities they feel deeply committed to, with a head and heart-filling connection. Now, I might be making the sorting of art supplies in your child’s Kindergarten class sound far more meaningful than it will ever be, but the main idea here is:

What matters most to you?

Let me dwell in a sea of honesty and self-deprecation and tell you that I am not first to raise my hand when the PTA comes a-callin’. I discovered years ago that this was not an environment where I thrive and present my best gifts. I also recognized that internal eye-rolling and nervous nail biting is not something that will help my kids’ school programs. There was some interior battle going on for awhile with those awful snotty mean girls living in my subconscious. They try their best to convince me that “good moms bring cookies to PTA meetings and they stay late”. I was finally led to the self-realization that I would be better off serving somewhere else.

What did I choose?

Women with breast cancer, dogs who need homes, a small school in middle-of-no-where Kenya, and a group of kids at a local high school who are risk of not graduating. In taking inventory, I found that my superpowers include capturing the spirit of people and animals with my camera, helping to create a fundraising event, writing, and building relationships to support growth. I will not be found alphabetizing novels in my kids’ classroom (much to their relief, I’m sure) or cold calling people for donations. It’s taken me years to recognize my “triangular shape peg-ness” when faced with circular shaped holes in the land of volunteerism. It’s taken even longer to not feel guilty about it. We should serve with joy and an excited heart…I believe this happens when we recognize that the gifts we possess are specific…diverse abilities and talents are poured into chosen people for a reason.

Yet, I will say that everyone can wash dishes, put away chairs, serve at a shelter, or cook for a neighbor in need. These circumstances pop up all over the place (especially when you’re part of a church community) and such serving is joyful, fulfilling and valuable. Whether a person chooses to wash dishes at every church picnic depends on their burning desire to serve in this area. It’s possible to have a running schedule for a cause you believe in and sprinkle in the occasional Sunday school teaching opportunity. Yet, trouble brews when the list of causes and occasional opportunities overshadow a day-to-day existence and already-packed schedule. Visualize the Sunday school gig being parlay-ed into  a month-long thing because there’s a constant need and someone is not able to say “no”.

Are you that woman?

That selfless, I’m-here-to-help, whatever-you-need, “Oh, it’s no trouble”, “I don’t mind at all” sweetheart whose volunteer list is rolled out on the floor like a roll of Brawny paper towels? Do you ever ask why this is? Do you kick yourself around the block for over-committing yourself?  Is there exhaustion, resentment, complaining…burn-out …loitering in your heart? This is a good time to grab your own lapels (hard to do, but so effective)….

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1) Which of these volunteer opportunities have significant meaning and personal investment in my life?

2) Which of these opportunities would be the easiest to let go of?

3) What will I say when I tell this organization that I’m no longer going to be volunteering?

4) How will I keep myself from taking on more opportunities to serve when I’m trying to pare down?

It’s a cycle friends…even (gasp!) an addiction of being available to do what others ask of you 24/7. Own your gifts (maybe that’s the first step—really identifying what those are) and then plugging into a few places that fit into your life. Pray and ask for opportunities to jump in your path that will Lego themselves into your gifts without force. We’re not talking about wedging yet one more commitment into your schedule like stuffing a pro wrestler into a pair of Spanx. It shouldn’t be stressful and a source of moaning and complaining (that’s your first clue that it might be best to let it go).

If you’re smiling and humming while driving to volunteer somewhere, that’s a good sign.

Go with it…and don’t obsess that you can’t fit in more.

More does not prove your worthiness.

You are worthy simply because you are.

Part of that worthiness lives in the gifts you use to serve others.

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4 Ways to make family travel a priority

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via Travis Allen Photography

Fantasy Land is where I’ve been living lately.

I find myself waxing poetic about our Airstream holidays, somehow willing them to be cause for a great escape of sorts…a Vagabond Family type of deal. I’ve come to terms that this is not going to happen while our kids are in high school, athletes and academics that they are. I’m proud of them and love that our school district provides everything they need for success (and what I need too, as I teach in the same district). Entre’ the AIRSTREAM WEEKEND ADVENTURES to be wedged in every nook and cranny of our schedule. I’m itching for the open road and have the bins of pots, pans, towels and rugs at the ready to prove it.

Hitchin’ up and gettin’ out of Dodge never sounded so good!

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via.FB

While I’m sketching out these excursions online, I’m fascinated by people I’ve found who are living the Airstream Dream in full throttle:

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Airstream Family

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Wandering with Purpose

They are fearless folks who’ve got life by the tail and I admire them for it. U.S. travel really wraps your head around what this country is made of. Sitting with folks in their own local diners, Main street groceries and parks is such a dreamlike experience. The Open Road has a quiet little bell that rings for me more than I care to admit.

I also always thought that I would live overseas with my family at some point, knowing that exposing offspring to the world at large is one of the best things for their future. I lived in Germany as child, and although I was small,  my fond memories planted some kind of wanderlust seed in my heart.  I look back at my 1988 AFS experience in Tunisia as a turning point for becoming the person I am now.

It was magic and I want that for my girls.

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So…like I mentioned, knowing the life we’ve chosen is not going to amp up any big let’s-rent-out-our-house-and-be-adventurers kind of six month mystery tour, I’ve been percolating on the possibility of fitting in every kind of trip I can muster. One of my financial goals in this whole simplicity process is to create a little squirrel’s nest travel fund. Stealing away to yonder-ville on a whim always sounds like a good idea to me. The job thing...well, yeah, that’s an added obstacle in the trek of the wanderer…but I’m feeling convicted in my ideas about showing young minds what’s out there.

(Love this article about why family travel is so important)

I am now aware that in this busy time of child rearing, a proactive stance is the only way to get everybody on board. It’s so easy to over-schedule our lives and let those weekends slip by…Time is too short, and the memories that wait are too precious to allow that to happen. I simply won’t do it.

“If I only had a plan”, she said, while rubbing her hands together.

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4 Ways to make family travel a priority

1) Have the gear bins packed and at-the-ready so that come Friday afternoon at 4:00 we are out the door and on the road.

2) Leave margin in our weekend plans, so that if the adventure bug takes over, we’ve got space to just go.

3) Put a map in the utility room with pushpins on every spot we want to see. Allow every family member to pick their desired destination.

4) Discuss world travel dreams openly at the dinner table, atlas layed out in full.

5) When dinner guests are visiting, add their dream destinations to the list

6) Leave books about travel with enticing covers all around the house

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Once the momentum of getting out there and seeing new things revs up, I believe it creates an excitement…a buzz of sorts…in our daily lives. This kind of unified plotting and scheming can also bring a family closer. I’m betting on it.

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How do you get your family out the door? What are you dream plans of travel?

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This week on my SIMPLICITY RADAR

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Good reads:

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Dan and Vanessa Hayes have written a book for moms….and friends, it’s a great one. If you’ve ever tried to be SUPERMOM instead of a super mom, this one is for you. So many  useful tips and lots of great videos and links. They poured their hearts into this project and it shows.

For the next two days, a pdf of the “Super mom vs. Supermom” will be available on the Edit and Forget it page on Facebook. You can request to be a member through this link. After that, I’m assuming it will be available on their site.

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Thank you, Jen Hatmaker, for completely obliterating existence as I know it in the Blair abode.

If simplifying, sorting and tossing were Olympic sports, you would’ve watched me on TV last month, instead of the crazy people on death defying jumps and small skirted cuties scraping ice chips off their tushes in the rink.

I am on a mission, friends, (hence the debut of c’est blog).

Mrs. Hatmaker is a personal hero of mine. In her latest book, Seven, Jen’s family identified seven areas of excess and in seven months fought against “modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence”. This woman makes me think—seriously think (and laugh out loud too, because she’s hilarious) about our own family ways. I feel a surge well up from deep down that has been festering like an active volcano with an eruption plan.

The good news is there are a lot of people who are stopping and redirecting themselves…and their families…just like the Hatmakers.

There is hope for our excess-filled nation. The promise of a new awakening to Less is More excites me to no end and books like this one push the movement further into view. Thank goodness for that.

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Documentaries:

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I have Amazon Prime and watch lots of documentaries for free. Stumbled on this one somewhere and I found it hopeful for a generation who might be changing the game.

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Blogs:

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For the design obsessed there’s Home Adore They feature many small dwellings that are loaded with good design and space efficiency.

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For the tiny house obsessed (raising my hand over here in Washington):

Small House Swoon

and

Tiny House Swoon

provide some dreams for what may be possible someday.

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Project 333 wardrobe additions:

After purging random multi-colored items that never seemed to go with anything, I have assembled quite the widow wardrobe. I found the perfect addition to my summer capsule items:

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Lovely for day or night (just add wedges and a sassy scarf). It is made of swimsuit material, so if you wanted to spontaneously hurl yourself into the waves, it would most definitely be okay.

Speaking of sassy scarves, I’ve been turned on to a wonderful company that creates the most beautiful accessories (and all for a fabulous cause):

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I figure this will be my go-to scarf for all of spring and summer. It’s light, neutral and goes with everything.

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‘Hope you find some of these helpful. Thank you for being here as I blissfully blog away the ideas scampering through my busy brain.

I’m uncovering a whole-lotta awesome in this quest for less.

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Project 333 ~ My closet struggle

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It’s a closet Johnny Cash would feel comfortable with. Minus the jeggings and striped pink sweater.

Have you ever seen so much black on one shelf?

So after reading about Project 333 for months now, I finally body-checked my resistance and started some serious sorting and pitching. My beloved calls this “playing closet”. It’s a quirky thing, but I only felt comfortable pulling the essentials out with all of my other clothes staying put on the left side…with a sheet over them…Casper-style. Yes, it looks like I’ve got a shower stall in there, but the whole point is that I can’t see them, right? Out of sight (or under sheet), out of mind.

It really does feel a lot more relaxed getting dressed in the morning. I can see what can mix and match so much easier, and I’m not overwhelmed with a sea of color and patterns. It’s no surprise that black dominates here, and I have the accusing teens to prove it..”Maaa-ooom, you look funeral bound 80% of the time!” Oh, well. It’s slimming, chic, doesn’t show our dog’s hair, and I happen to really like Johnny Cash.

I perused people’s wardrobe capsules while trolling online for Project 333 inspiration, and I found that many of them were just too monochromatic or one-color-heavy. The Northwest is a dark and rainy place…I’m desperate for many colors…like Joseph and his fancy dreamcoat. I have my Frenchie days where I just want to wear my BlackbootsBlackDressBlackcardigan. Then there are the days that only a bright multicolored sweater and sparkly Converse will do. It’s just. enough. variety.

I’m feeling like I should have done this long ago! Looking forward to the ease of having my wardrobe be an uncomplicated activity.

If you’re taking this project on, I’d love to hear how it’s going!

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Hoo-boy! Hardest thing I’ve ever done, eating-wise. I’m doin’ it, though and following the darn rules. It started February 10th.

The positives:

-Skin is clear and a bit glowey…really enjoying that

-Bloat is gone and although theWhole30 folks recommend not measuring/weighing oneself until Day 31, I believe I’ve lost some cm in the waist

The Sugar Dragon is close to being kicked to the curb (don’t test me with gummy cokes, though…they’re a weakness)

-I discovered that alcohol does not need to play a part in my nightly ritual

The negatives:

-I’ve been cranky and short with my offspring

-I had a couple of days where emotions took over and I felt a bit out-of-body, and not in a good way

-My energy didn’t go up to the high level it is now until Day 18

-I experienced the “kill all things” stage for one day too long

*Looking forward to eating a bowl of Kashi (of all things!) on the 11th. Even though my spouse thinks it “tastes like the front yard”, I miss my sticks and twigs.*

Have a wonderful week, friends!

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What I learned about consumerism from a retro banana phone

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Yes, friends…this is indeed a taxi yellow retro headset for my cell phone. You know…a basic need for most smart phone users.

At times in my life I have fallen trap to the belief that part of living an ExtraOrdinary life is owning ExtraOrdinary things. I have never been a label-looking-Jones-keeper-upper, but I do like owning something that’s unusual, original and fun. As in, “What is that? And where did you get it?” Enter said retro banana phone. It seemed like a good idea at the time as my finger hovered above the Go To Cart button. The truth is it’s a pain in the tuckus because it takes up valuable real estate in my already heavy purse. Also, the sound is not particularly clear when talking to someone. Novelty aside, it was a silly purchase. Now, as I troll my home for equally superfluous Goodwill-bound faire, I am painfully aware of the waste.

I am also noticing how past beliefs about stuff have clouded an attempt at a simpler existence.

I can’t help but wonder why this realization didn’t bonk me on the head earlier. It seems strange that in midlife I’m just beginning to see the literal and figurative cost of spending hard earned moo-la on such items. Maybe it’s because I’m starting to recognize the same pattern in my teen girls. There’s my oldest’s strip mall monologue of why the ridiculous Chihuahua-faced hoodie would be a good edition to a 13-year-old’s closet….there’s my youngest’s 56th pair of novelty socks (bacon patterned!)…there’s the set of IKEA baskets which will be a magnet for more small doo-dad collections that fall prey to my hungry vacuum. It’s funny, because I don’t see a whole lot of difference between their materialistic fluff and mine. It’s time to set an example, but honestly, I’m just starting to get serious about this on my own. Here’s hoping I can teach the lessons to my offspring as I learn them myself.

My 5 step plan to quell the purchase of THINGS I DON’T NEED:

1.     Go cold turkey with a no spending policyIt’s good to shock the system into obedience, right? Worked with sugar. Why not shopping? I’m going for it in my Project Enough this month.

2.     Install a waiting period before making unnecessary purchases. I know Leo says 30 days…but I’m thinking more like two weeks. My self-monitoring has proven that 14 days is quite enough to completely dismiss an idea and move on. Squirrel!

3.     Avoid stores and cyberspace hot spots that provoke materialistic yearnings. I know that Anthropologie (home of interesting and ExtraOrdinary design) is a consumer trap for me. I also know that a mall trip is flat out inviting my daughters’ gimmees to take center stage. I don’t spend money in either of these places when I am not there. Funny how that happens.

4.     Build a nest egg for travel. One of the core values in our family revolves around travel and adventure. Every time I forgo an unnecessary purchase, my bank account wins one for experience instead of materialism.

5.     Practice gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. So cliché’ these days, but oh-so-true. A daily dose of it works to combat the need for stuff. I’m finding myself more and more grateful for the blessings that have been heaped on this family the more and more I record them and share them.

I guess you could call me a recovering consumer. 

I think most of my gimmees fall in the category of home design (need to toss the West Elm catalog before cracking it open) and supplies for a very creative life (my art closet used to be obscene). The song I’m beginning to see the light is the background music to the minimalist stirrings of my heart. Of course, once I started down this path, I stumbled upon a whole host of simplicity blogs and people on the same quest for less and meaning. I take that back—I don’t think there was any stumbling involved there. I think this is a case of (as I’ve said before) when the student is ready to learn the lesson, the teachers show up. There are days I get down on the process because I feel that we’ll never get there. And then there are times I feel that moving into a 600 square foot home is totally doable after my kids leave for college (in just five short years). In this state I feel the power surge to be the person who can let go of stuff, embrace experiences and travel the world with the man I love. How does one get to this point? I’m not sure….

…..but I’m willing to walk to the edge.

Releasing my grip on material things, I’m finally ready to fully invest in what’s important (and it ain’t a banana phone, I can tell you that).

Is there a particular material thing that you find hard to let go of? If so, how did you manage to stop the madness?

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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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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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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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